In my "year review" post I mentioned reading SolidWorks blogs. Although I don't use it understanding the "other side" is handy when you're trying to share data. It paid off recently when I needed to create models for our store plans for fittings from a supplier who uses SolidWorks. I know little about SolidWorks and it seemed they knew little about sharing with other systems. A post on SolidSmack was a great help in suggesting the best method for conversion:
SolidWorks Tutorial to Protect 3D Model Data | SolidSmack.com
Save as Part: You may know you can save an assembly as a part file (AWESOME), but what you can also do is select what you want to show in the part (SUPER AWESOME). You have the option to show only Exterior Face, Exterior Components, or All Component.
The supplier sent an ACIS(.sat) file but also a SolidWorks Part (.sldprt) using the "Exterior Components" option. It removed a lot of hidden detail I didn't need but retained the object part structure. This made deleting removing unseen components and detail like nuts, bolts and other components much simpler than dealing with thousands of faces the Exterior Face option generates.
Into AutoCAD, direct or via Inventor LT:
The .sat file imported into AutoCAD fine and could have been used without further processing. However, I also tried importing the SolidWorks Part file into Inventor LT. One advantage of Parts you have much smaller files to email (approx 50% .sat). You also get discrete components but no feature detail so you can't delete holes etc (which is what I was hoping). One advantage of this intermediate step was I could do further clean-up and export my own .sat files without annoying the supplier.
It was also a chance to learn a little more about Inventor LT! Having done the tutorials I had some idea how to attack it but there is nothing like mucking around with your own model. Like most applications many concepts are common but the little changes, like differences in WCS orientation & Zoom/Pan, that catch you out. I found the appropriate options to match AutoCAD which made life easier.
And finally the AEC Object model:
For our purposes you still need to further reduce detail but having a model to base things on saves a lot of effort. Below you see the original 1.9mb of SolidWorks data dumbed down to less than 200kb of AEC Mass objects. Using the original SolidWorks geometry as a guide, or basis for AEC conversion, makes creating an accurate lightweight model much easier (shaded transparency below). However, it's a pity there isn't a better way to remove unnecessary detail like hollow steel sections and threads without remodelling.
I wrote this draft several weeks ago, currently many of my SolidWorks blogger mates are at SolidWorks World in Orlando (it's like Autodesk University for SolidWorks). I'm sure they'll chime in if they escape from Disneyworld.