Inventor

Create Custom Autodesk Inventor Part Templates

28 Mar, 2013 By: Rusty Belcher

IMAGINiT Tricks Tutorial: Instead of starting from scratch whenever you need a common part, save yourself some modeling time with custom templates.


Editor's Note: This tutorial courtesy of IMAGINiT Technologies.

If you create the same type of part numerous times each day, and the part has a different file name for each instance, you can save yourself quite a bit of time by using custom part templates. Why start from scratch each time you begin a part? You can have the majority of the work accomplished and saved in a custom template file. This will allow you to start a new component, fill in the missing information, and save the design anywhere you wish. In the following tutorial, I will outline the process of creating a custom Autodesk Inventor part template and discuss several options for including additional functionality.

Inventor Libraries vs. Custom Part Templates

The process of working with custom part templates is new for many users. Standard parts are usually stored in a library, or iParts are created for common tasks. These sections will provide a general definition for a library component (or iPart) and a custom part template.

Library Components

Components stored in an Inventor library have several common characteristics:

  • A model used in several designs
  • A model with a finite number of variations
  • A model that has predefined file name
  • A model with a predefined storage location
  • A model of a finished design (The likelihood of change is extremely low)

Examples:

  • Motors
  • Fasteners
  • Bearings

Custom Part Templates

Components created with custom part templates have several common characteristics:

  • A model used numerous times each day
  • A model with an infinite number of variations
  • A model that does not have a predefined file name
  • A model that does not have a predefined storage location
  • A model with a variable design (The likelihood of change is very high)

Examples:

  • Structural members: Tee bars, square tube, gusset, etc.
  • Stock source material: 2x4, 4'x8' sheet of plywood

Examples of Custom Part Templates

Any part you use on a regular basis is a candidate for a custom part template. Simple parts (such as a structural gusset, shown at left in the image below) or complex parts (like the ladder below) can be developed using custom part templates. Custom templates can also be set up to display the stock material source. If you work with wooden parts, you can set up a custom part template containing a 4'x8' sheet of plywood (shown below at right). This allows you to lay out and cut your plywood components directly from a stock sheet, just as the builders in the field will do.



Working with Custom Part Templates

Creating a part from a custom part template is very easy; most of the work has already been accomplished. You'll start a new part in the same manner you always have, but instead of selecting a standard inch or metric template, you will choose your custom part template.

The image below shows you the new part dialog at the Select a Template stage. Notice that this dialog has several additional tabs offering various custom templates. For this example, we will start a new file based on the Gusset template.

 

This template has a predefined gusset feature. The defining sketch is visible and available for edit.



We can simply modify the sketch dimensions to create any shaped gusset we need.



Once the part is modified we can save it with any file name, and to any location desired.

Create a Custom Part Template

The process for creating a custom template is fairly simple: Create the desired model using your standard processes. Model the component to the point where the major changes can easily be made. Try to imagine all the necessary changes that you might make to this part in the future. Build in as many parametric or geometric controls as needed to quickly modify and update the component. Make sure to fill out the necessary iProperty attributes; you can also create custom iProperty fields for unique information.

When the model is complete, use the Save Copy as Template command (located under the application icon). You can create a separate folder in your template location to store your custom templates. This folder will show up as a separate tab in the Create New Part dialog.



Tips for Creating Custom Part Templates

Adaptivity. Build in adaptive features when necessary. If you don’t know the length of a component, set up an adaptive feature that allows the part to stretch to suit.

For example, the mounting platform shown in the image below was created from an adaptive custom part template. The component is mounted in place below three electrical panels. The adaptive features of the template allow us to easily resize the mount to match the electrical panels.

 

Note that if you use a reference dimension on the adaptive feature, you can access it in the bill of materials or parts list. This will allow you to harvest things like the cut-length of steel shapes or the area of a sheet metal flat pattern.

iMates. Several constraints are required to locate most parts properly. You should include iMates on your custom part template for easy placement in an assembly. IMates are included in the Gusset template shown below.



Visible Sketches

If you know controlling dimensions need to be modified each time the custom template is used, you can leave the controlling sketches visible. Users can then double-click and modify the desired dimensions. Please make sure you turn off the visibility of the sketches when you are finished with the part; the gusset template shown here has the controlling sketches set to visible by default.



Controlling Points

If you want to simply drag a component to an approximate length, you can include a controlling point in the base sketch. In this modeling process the initial controlling sketch is never consumed by a feature. All dynamic features are projected from the controlling base sketch. The base sketch is left visible for easy access to the controlling point. When the user drags the controlling point to a new location, the model updates to suit.

For example, the ladder (1) and handrail (2) templates below have controlling points that allow users to modify the height and length, respectively. The custom NURB template (3) has several control points that allow users to mold the lofted feature like clay.

 

Sheet Metal

Sheet Metal components are excellent candidates for custom part templates. Variable parameters can be preset so the user only needs to modify a few dimensions to create a flanged box or flat oval. Rectangular to circular transitions are also excellent candidates for custom part templates.



iLogic

ILogic allows us to create incredibly intelligent parts. You can use iLogic to control parameters, materials, standard sizes, custom lengths, material types, and many more values. You can also build customized forms to easily update your components.

The image below shows a common board template enhanced with iLogic. When you use this template, you are immediately prompted for the size, length, and type of board you need.



Conclusion

Many of us work with parts similar to those shown in this document. We can’t afford the time necessary to start from scratch each time we need another common component. The ability to create custom part templates allows us to reduce our model time because 80 to 90% of the work has already been accomplished. We can also enhance our workflow by utilizing templates with our standard processes already built in.


About the Author: Rusty Belcher

Rusty Belcher

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