CATIA 3DEXPERIENCE: Working with Large Assemblies

December 7, 2023 Iouri Apanovitch

Working with large assemblies has always been a problem in CAD. As the number of parts to open increases into hundreds and thousands, so does the time to load all the part files into the computer memory. As well, the graphic performance drops, when rotating, panning, or zooming on the model.

3DEXPERIENCE has been designed to work with large assemblies by using a two-layer approach:

  • Explore layer: Only light-weight visual representations of the parts are loaded. Data cannot be edited in the Explore layer
  • Authoring layer: Full part models are opened. Data can be fully investigated and/or edited

Also, the product structure opened in the Explore layer can be filtered based on the required context, further reducing the number of parts to open into the Authoring layer.

Here’s the recommended process:

  • Explore first! Open your assembly into the Explore layer and look for the parts you want to work with
  • Filter the product structure. This will help you find the parts you’re looking for
  • Once you found the parts you want, open them into the Authoring layer

To open the assembly in the Explore layer, search for it, right-click, and select Explore.

Figure 1

The assembly will open either in Turntable mode, or in In-Place mode. You can swap the visualization mode by clicking  (Swap Turntable/In-Place) icon in the View section of the Action Bar.

Figure 2

Now, for very large assemblies, such as an entire car, or an aircraft, loading even light-weight visual representations for all the parts can be prohibitively expensive. To open the product tree only, without loading visual representations, go to App Preferences > Social and Collaborative > Global Design Management > Product Find Classic > Visualization, and toggle on the Never display geometry option.

Figure 3

Once you have product structure loaded, now you can expand the tree and locate the parts you’re looking for. Once found, right-click the part and select Open to open it in the Authoring layer.

Figure 4

Still, working with very large product structures introduces new challenges. Hand-picking parts might be tolerable on smaller assemblies but becomes quite laborious as the assembly size increases.

Fortunately, 3DEXPERIENCE provides filtering tools that allow you to automate the part selection process. The following filtering options are available:

  • From Selection: Manually pick which components should be kept or removed
  • Attributes: Uses attributes such as Name, Title, Revision, etc.
  • Volume: Creates a filter based on the location in 3D
  • Engineering: Filter is based on pre-defined configurations

As an example, let’s create a volume filter to find parts in proximity to the ball at the tip of the lever in the assembly shown in Figure 2.

Select   ( (Filter) in the Navigation section of the Action Bar. Right-click Volume and select New 3D Proximity Volume.

Figure 5

An error message appears, requesting you to activate the Expand Accelerator mode.

Figure 6

Without closing the Filter dialog box, toggle on the   (Expand accelerator mode) in the Action Bar. Right-click Volume and select New 3D Proximity Volume filter again. Once the Proximity definition dialog box opens, select the Ball Lever part either in the tree on in the preview, enter 45mm as the Clearance, and click OK.

Figure 7

The new volume filter is displayed in the Filter dialog box.

Figure 8

Click OK and refresh the tree.

Figure 9

Expand the tree. Now the model only displays three parts – the ball as well as two other parts that are within the 45mm distance from the ball. The tree also displays a small “funnel” symbol, indicating that the product structure has been filtered.

Figure 10

To open the filtered assembly, use the Open Advanced option.

Figure 11

The assembly with the three parts opens into the Authoring layer, so you can review and/or modify the design if required.

Figure 12

Lastly, to un-filter the product tree, in the Filter dialog box select the root, right-click and select Reset. This will remove all the filters. And don’t forget to refresh the product tree!

Figure 13

If you have any questions or would like to explore more 3DEXPERIENCE features, feel free to contact us at

About the Author

Iouri Apanovitch

Senior Technical Training Engineer<br><br>As a senior member of the Rand 3D team with a doctorate degree in Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and over 35 years of experience, Iouri provides design, consulting, and training services to those in the aerospace, automotive, electronics, and consumer goods industries. Iouri is a seasoned pro in 3D parametric design and prototyping using knowledge-based engineering methods, and has worked on a wide range of projects including BOM automation, CMM points generation, automated 3D annotation creation, and die tooling automation design. He is also a sought-after instructor and holds the designations of both CATIA Certified Professional (Expert level) and CATIA Certified Instructor.

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