SOLIDWORKS has a tool for its problem solving user that even Sherlock Holmes would be jealous of! It’s called the Magnifying Glass and it helps users view intricate details of their models and make selection easier. Let’s investigate a model I created of the famous Sherlock Holmes smoking pipe, using the magnifying glass!

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First, this amazing detective tool needs be activated and there are a couple of ways to do this depending on the version of the software. In 2014 and earlier versions, the magnifying glass is only available by using a keyboard shortcut. By default the tool is assigned to G; however, the user can customize this to be any key. Turning off the magnifying glass can be as simple as activating the shortcut key again, hitting escape, or clicking the left mouse button.

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In 2015, SOLIDWORKS changed the name of the magnifying glass to more accurately reflect its capability and make the tool more accessible. The tool name was changed to the Magnification Selection tool and it turns on the magnification glass. This tool can be found in the Menu Bar under Tools, in the Standard toolbar under the Selection flyout menu, in the context toolbar by clicking on empty space in the graphics area, and lastly, in customize where the user can add it anywhere. The heads up toolbar would be great example.

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Once the tool is activated, we can get started! The pipe has some detailing around the band, which cannot be made out. Through the magnifying glass we can zoom in or out on a model by scrolling the middle mouse button. While the tool will scale the model inside the magnifying glass accordingly, the model outside the window will remain unaffected. Zooming in we can see the detail wrapping around the band reads CADimensions.

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It is hard to tell from the current angle if the detailing is an emboss or deboss. The pipe will need to be repositioned for a better view. The user can also rotate the model through the magnifying glass by holding down the middle mouse as well; however, unlike the zoom command, the model outside the window will be affected. Repositioning the model, we can see that the lettering detail is sticking out off of the model, which would be an emboss.

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Now, let’s move away from the band and up to the bit. When the magnifying glass has been turned on, it initially locates its centers on the cursor; however neither the cursor nor the magnifying glass is locked in place. The cursor is free to move anywhere inside the magnifying glass. The magnifying glass is free to move anywhere in the graphics area and is done so by pushing its edges with the cursor or by holding down Ctrl and the middle mouse button to pan.

Once the magnifying glass is positioned over the bit, I’m curious to see the inside profile of the airway. A section view can be used inside the magnifying glass by holding down alt and scrolling the middle mouse button to control the depth of the cut. The section view will be based on a plane normal to the magnifying glass. Rotating the model the cutting plane will remain stationary while the model moves and the section view will update accordingly. I then used the section tool to cut into the center of my pipe to see the airway. I can even pan the magnifying glass along stem to the stummel to show the entire airway. With all this viewing capability nothing can hide from this tool.

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Now that we have the ability to see our model better through the magnifying glass, selecting can become easier as well. The magnifying glass can be used in sketches, parts, and assemblies. In a sketch the user can select multiple entities without holding down the control key. In parts and assemblies, selecting a single entity will automatically close the magnifying glass. To keep the magnifying glass open while selecting a single or multiple entities, the user can hold down the control button. Releasing the control button the items will remain selected.

With entities selected there are several tools or actions that the magnification tool can make easier. Two great examples are the measurement tool or adding mates. These tools or actions can be accessed with the magnification tool turned on or off. To access them with the magnifying glass on the user can start the shortcut toolbar by hitting the S key or a right button mouse click. I might be interested in the wall thickness around the bowl for example.

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Is the Magnifying Glass the tool for you? It’s elementary my dear Watson…


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