Getting to the Good Parts

1 Apr, 2004 By: Kevin Schneider

Autodesk Inventor tools help you find specific components quickly

Do you need to get to a small number of parts in your large 3D assembly? You might be in a design review, need to run an idea by a manager, or have to process an urgent ECO. Locating parts is an important part of everyone's design process. The easier it is to get to the ones you need, the faster you can get products to market -- and use the "good parts" of successful designs again and again.

Autodesk Inventor offers dedicated tools to help you find and organize important components. Assembly Find and Component Select tools solve the challenge of searching for and locating parts.

Assembly Find
Using Assembly Find is a lot like working with familiar search tools in the Windows environment. Assembly Find is located in the Edit pull-down menu.

Advanced tip! Use the <Ctrl>F keyboard shortcut to get to Find quickly. Build a search by selecting the Inventor file property you want from the combo box. Refine the search using conditions such as greater than, less than, equal to, and more. Finally, define which value you seek.

Properties that can make your queries more effective include:

  • Design State: Find parts that are marked Work in Progress, Pending, or Released.
  • Needs Migration: Find parts that were last saved in an older release of Inventor.
  • File Classification: Find parts from Inventor's Standard Part Libraries.
  • File Specialization: Find parts made using Inventor's Welding, Sheetmetal, or MDT Translation tools.
  • Custom Properties: Find custom file properties created to store component information. Type into the Property field the name of the property you want to find instead of using the combo box (figure 1).

Figure 1. To search on a custom property, enter the custom property name as shown.

Once you create a query that works for you, you may want to use it for other designs. Use the Save Search and Open Search commands to manage your important queries. Over time you'll find these tools indispensable for working with assemblies.

Component Select
Component Select is a new tool in Autodesk Inventor Series 8. It lets you choose components based on concepts best described with graphics instead of text.

Figure 2. Assembly Select tools appear under the Select tool on the standard toolbar.

Find the Assembly Select tools under the Select tool on the standard toolbar (figure 2). They are:

  • Constrained To: Find all parts constrained to a given component. Select the first part you need in the graphics window and use the right-mouse-click menu to select Component Selection, then Constrained To. Inventor selects all the components that have constraints to the first part you selected.
    Advanced tip! Use the Constrained To command multiple times to increase the number of selected components. This way you can traverse the chain of part-to-part constraint relationships.
  • Component Size: Find all parts of a given volume. Select a part that is the smallest size you want to keep. Use the right-mouse-click menu to choose Component Selection, then Component Size. Autodesk Inventor selects all the components that have a volume equal to or less than the component you selected.
  • Component Offset and Sphere Offset: Select components that are near a chosen component. Component Offset allows you to drag a preview box to select components. Sphere Offset lets you drag a sphere. A small dialog box pops up, where you can tweak your selection criteria. An important option is the check box to Include Partial Contained. With this capability turned on, the system selects all components within and crossing the previewed selection boundary. Component Offset and Sphere Offset commands are the fastest ways to focus on a group of colocated parts.

Figure 3. Component Offset tool is used to select by a bounding box. You can drag the translucent box preview to increase the offset size used for selection. In this example, Include Partial Contained is active, selecting all parts in and crossing the preview.

When using Component Select in large assemblies, you may want to control how the tool interacts with subassemblies. The Select tool on the standard toolbar has two functions that Component Select accommodates. Leaf Priority selects only the individual parts, even if they are many levels deep in a subassembly. Component Priority selects the first subassembly that contains the needed component. Advanced tip! You can change select priority by holding the Shift key and clicking the right mouse button.

What Next?
Both Assembly Find and Component Select tools locate a group of parts. The browser and the graphics window display the results. Now you have powerful tools for new activities, including:

  • Demote: Create a new subassembly from the selected parts.
  • Invert Selection: Switch from selected parts to unselected parts.
  • Isolate: Turn off all parts except those selected.
  • Create Design Views: Design Views help save and restore the visibility and loading information of custom groups of parts. Remember, you can use Design Views when you open or place an assembly, create assembly presentations (exploded views), and generate hidden-line drawings.
Using Autodesk Inventor and these two assembly technologies, you can always work with the right parts at the right time. When you can focus on the design instead of the design tool, you make better engineering decisions.

About the Author: Kevin Schneider

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