Inventor

Part Lists and Balloons (From the Trenches AutoCAD Tutorial)

1 Jul, 2004 By: Todd Hudgins

Work around Inventor's automatic part numbering practices.


Autodesk inventor uses parts lists as a reference when it generates part balloons in the drawing file environment. This tip works with Inventor 8 and earlier. Inventor 9 will let you assign the ballons directly to the part number property. In general, parts lists usually follow an ascending part-numbering method with this pattern:



To get Inventor to produce part balloons using this numbering method, you must edit the automatically generated parts list. Inventor uses the Item column to generate the part balloons. The item numbers in a parts list start at 1 and continue in ascending order. The item numbers start with any subassemblies (parts made up of other parts) and then number the rest of the parts in the order you inserted them into the assembly file.

Figure 1 shows an assembly file view with an unaltered parts list and the balloons generated from that parts list using the Item numbers.

 Figure 1. An assembly file view with unaltered parts list and balloons.
Figure 1. An assembly file view with unaltered parts list and balloons.

Inventor's Item list mixes all the different types of part groups within the parts list. You want your list to be more orderly and segregated.

Once you place a parts list in a drawing file, you can edit it and manually change the Item column to reflect any type of part numbering desired. To change the Item number in the Edit Parts List dialog box, highlight the item number and replace it with the desired value (figure 2). Once you edit the parts list item numbers, sort the part list by the Item column.

The Problem

In this example, the number of parts involved is small, so it's relatively easy to renumber the parts manually. However, in most design situations, assemblies contain many subassemblies and components. Typically, the part number assignment is part of the design process. It would be time consuming to try to remember all the assembly and subassembly part numbers needed to manually renumber the parts lists once the assembly views are created.

You can facilitate part number assignment to components and subassemblies during the design process. Each Inventor assembly and part file has inherent properties that you can assign to carry this type of information. The standard properties in an Inventor file can hold many types of information such as part number, description, vendor, and price. A custom properties area lets you define additional information. By using available properties, you can set Inventor up to easily produce well-organized and segregated parts lists. From these parts lists, you can then attach balloons to the views to produce an assembly detail.

The Procedure

I'll show you how to assign properties for each component as you create them. By using the inherent properties found in every Inventor file, you can simplify the assignment of part numbers in any design.
Figure 2. In the Edit Parts List dialog box, you can change the item number to a different value.
Figure 2. In the Edit Parts List dialog box, you can change the item number to a different value.

Access the component file properties. After you create a component, assign the properties of the file by right-clicking on the filename in the Browser Bar and choosing Properties from the popup menu.

Assign component file properties (Project tab). Under the Properties tab, choose the Project tab (figure 3) and assign a Part Number and Description. You can define other properties such as Estimated Cost and Vendor if you need to record that information in the parts list.

Figure 3. You can assign part numbers in the Project tab of the Properties dialog box.
Figure 3. You can assign part numbers in the Project tab of the Properties dialog box.

Assign component file properties (Custom tab). In the Properties menu, choose the Custom tab. Here you define user properties that are not automatically available in Inventor. You can define and include any number or type of properties in a parts list. I add three properties:

  • 1. COMMENTS: Vendor name (purchased parts), special processes (made parts)
  • 2. MATERIAL: Assignment of materials for made parts
  • 3. MFG PART NO: Assignment of the manufacturer's part number for purchased parts

Place a parts list in a drawing file. Once you place an assembly view into a drawing file, you can associate a parts list with that view. To begin, highlight the source view and select the Parts List button on the Drawing Annotation Panel (figure 4). Now the Parts List - Item Numbering dialog box appears, showing the default. Select OK to see the associated parts list.

Figure 4. Produce a parts list associated with a view.
Figure 4. Produce a parts list associated with a view.

Figure 5 shows an associated parts list before editing. Notice that Inventor is set up to use the five previously defined component properties in the parts list: Part Number, Part Name (which is Description from the component properties), Material, Mfg Part No, and Comments. Also in this setup, I renamed the Item column header to P/N.

Figure 5. A parts list before editing.
Figure 5. A parts list before editing.

Edit the parts list. To begin editing a parts list, double-click on it. The Edit Parts List dialog box appears. Using the Part Number column as a visual aid, edit the P/N column to match the Part Number column (figure 6).

Figure 6. Use the Edit Parts List dialog box to edit part details.
Figure 6. Use the Edit Parts List dialog box to edit part details.

Once all the values in the P/N column match the Part Number column, the Part Number column is no longer needed in the parts list. To remove it, select the Column Chooser button on the tool bar at the top of the Edit Parts List dialog box. The Parts List Column Chooser dialog box (figure 7) shows the available properties for the parts list on the left and the properties already in the parts list on the right. Select the Part Number property on the right, press the Remove button, then select OK.



Once back in the Edit Parts List dialog box, sort the parts list by selecting the Sort button on the toolbar at the top of the Edit Parts List dialog box. Under the Sort By drop-down box, select P/N and then pick Ascending. Select OK, and the parts list sorts by these parameters.

Figure 7. In the Parts List Column Chooser, you select properties for your parts list.
Figure 7. In the Parts List Column Chooser, you select properties for your parts list.

With the edited parts list, you can now attach part balloons to the associated view that reflect the part numbers in this well-organized and segregated parts list (figure 8).

Figure 8. The final result-an easy-to-read parts list.
Figure 8. The final result-an easy-to-read parts list.

VBA Macro to Edit Parts List

I wrote the VBA macro on p. 52 to facilitate the exchange of the Part Number column values into the P/N column. Download the code in jul04.zip at www.cadalyst.com. This macro doesn't look at the values of the columns that it's exchanging. It just makes the values of the first column in a parts list match the values of the second column.

Todd Hudgins is a manufacturing engineer at Canon Virginia. He has 14 years of mechanical design and CAD management experience.


About the Author: Todd Hudgins


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