What is SolidWorks resolution and why should I worry about it?

When working with large SolidWorks models you may experience unwanted display issues that are related to the resolution settings. This tutorial explains what can happen, why it happens and how to deal with these issues.

  1. Step 1:

    When building and rendering my model HMS Dreadnought
    Battleship HMS Dreadnought - Update 3
    I started to notice some odd behaviour. Two of the issues are complementary to each other; some areas of the model look fine in the graphics area (RealView), but renders with errors (artefacts), while other areas have errors in the graphics area, but render without issues.

    Take a look at this side scuttle (porthole). It is mated concentric to a hole in the hull and sits inside the solid hull, but the graphics area shows it partly on the outside. When previewed or rendered with PhotoView 360 everything is okay and it is clear that the part is located correctly.

  2. Step 2:

    In contrast, the battleship deck looks fine in the graphics area, but when rendered with PhotoView360 some odd grey splotches appear several places. This happens because the grey colour of the part is visible through the deck appearance, which is a label that represents planks and caulking. The label is being mapped differently when rendered than the deck itself, so the deck part ‘peeks through’ the label several places.

  3. Step 3:

    The resolution for this (pun intended) is to increase the resolution of the deck part which means increasing the resolution of the hull part, the main component of the battleship.

    The resolution setting is located under Tools->Options->Document Properties->Image Quality (or you can click the shortcut in the menu bar)

  4. Step 4:

    The setting we are interested in is the ‘Shaded and draft quality HLR/HLV resolution’ (HLR means Hidden Lines Removed, HLV means Hidden Lines Visible). This slider has an effect on both the graphics area view and on PhotoView360 renders.

  5. Step 5:

    The initial setting is pretty low, with the slider being in the middle, so I’ll move it nearly all the way to the right to just outside the red zone.

  6. Step 6:

    A quick look at the model with PhotoView 360 preview enabled shows that the artefacts are still present, so I need to move the resolution slider into the RED ZONE.

  7. Step 7:

    Moving the slider into the RED ZONE activates a little warning, that file size will be larger, graphics performance will be slower and memory usage will increase substantially; and never have truer words been written, which I will demonstrate as we progress :-)

  8. Step 8:

    This did the trick – the PhotoView 360 problem disappeared.

  9. Step 9:

    The artefacts on the deck are no longer present in PhotoView 360 and the side scuttle is located correctly inside the hull. But there is still a display problem with the model: The seam lines on the outside of the hull are broken in the graphics area and are being rendered as wavy lines in PhotoView 360 where they should be absolutely straight.

  10. Step 10:

    Can I fix this? The seams are located in the part file: ‘Hull Seams.sldprt’, so I open this part and move the slider into the RED ZONE. Now the PC is starting to struggle, because for a long time nothing happens and everything thereafter goes very slow.

    Result: We have nice unbroken black lines in the graphics area:

  11. Step 11:

    But the PhotoView 360 render still displays wavy lines :-(

    And this is a bit strange since both major parts (hull and hull seams) are at max. resolution.

  12. Step 12:

    I must try to increase the resolution of the main assembly file, but this PC won’t be able to do the job because the 6GB RAM is maxed out:

  13. Step 13:

    So I try again on a 16GB, i7 4790K machine. The file sizes before I increase the resolution;
    Main assembly file: 53MB
    Hull part: 75MB
    Hull seams part: 35MB

  14. Step 14:

    The file sizes after I increase the resolution into the RED ZONE and save the files;
    Main assembly file: 909MB (1615% increase)
    Hull part: 135MB (80% increase)
    Hull seams part: 64MB (83% increase)

  15. Step 15:

    The memory used by SolidWorks alone after I increase the resolution into the RED ZONE;
    9590MB or 73% of total RAM. This is not good, because PhotoView runs concurrently with SolidWorks and wants to have a similar amount of RAM, and even with 16GB installed there is not enough available.

  16. Step 16:

    SolidWorks and PhotoView 360 fight for the RAM and the machine slows to a crawl. I gave up trying to render the model in RED ZONE settings.

  17. Step 17:

    But I was able to make a new assembly and import the hull part and the hull-seam part and render them in perfect quality with RED ZONE settings, so maybe it is possible to render the full model with all details with 32GB of RAM?

  18. Step 18:

    So, in conclusion, sometimes you need to increase the resolution in order to resolve graphics display problems and/or render problems; but your PC may not be up to the task.