Avatech Tricks: Add Smart Blocks to AutoCAD Electrical

14 Apr, 2005 By: R. Eric France Cadalyst

Your Proprietary Components not in AutoCAD Electrical? Use the Black Box Builder to Add Them.

Anyone who has seen a demo of AutoCAD Electrical can tell you how impressive the software is and how quickly and accurately an electrical designer can use it to get work done. The library of standard electrical symbols and the catalogs of manufacturers' components are sizable and well suited to documenting machine controls designs. However, what if you have critical components that aren't in the library? Black Box Builder to the rescue!

Dispelling the Mystery
In AutoCAD Electrical, a block needs certain attributes to interact effectively with the utilities provided in the software. While you can add those attributes with the normal AutoCAD methods of creating attributes, the Black Box Builder provides a concise checklist to guarantee the blocks will work. The process is simply a matter of selecting the block entities, adding standard attributes and wire connection points and WBlocking out to the default User folder. Let's take a look at how this is done.

Explode Your Block

Figure 1. Here is a proprietary component after it has been exploded.
To define a block using the Black Box Builder, first Explode the block in AutoCAD. Any text that you want to retain in the block can stay as is. Any text or attributes that you want to edit using the Insert/Edit Component utility can also stay, but you'll adjust it using the Black Box Builder. It's beneficial to have text or attributes already in place when converting to a Smart block, so attribute selection and placement is simplified. Figure 1 shows an example of a proprietary component block after it has been Exploded.

Into the Black Box
Initiate the Black Box Builder from the Components pull-down under Symbol Library or from the Miscellaneous button on the Main Electrical 2 toolbar and the Schematic Tool Palette. Once started, the command prompts you to select the block geometry, and if no Component attributes are found (i.e., Tag1, Tag2, etc.), asks you to select the type of symbol you are creating. Most custom symbols will likely be Parent symbols, for example an Aux. Contact would be a Child symbol.

Add Standard Attributes
Next, add standard attributes by selecting the Standard button. Here you find the most likely attributes needed for AutoCAD Electrical to interact with your block. Tag1 identifies this as a Parent symbol. Mfg, Cat and Assycode store catalog information. Desc1-3, Inst and Loc let you identify how and where this component will be used. Family tells the software which table to find the component in the catalog database. Place these attributes in your block using the Insert Attribute button at the bottom of the dialog. Most let you adjust height and justification, but some are normally invisible and do not. A Pick Text button converts existing Text or Attributes into the standard ones that AutoCAD Electrical expects. When you've finished placing all the standard attributes you want in your block, select Back to Main Menu.

Add Wire Connections

Figure 2. You add standard and wire connection attributes to your block via the Wire Connections dialog box.
One of the best benefits of using Smart blocks is their ability to trim the wire on which you're placing the component. To add this capability to your custom block, choose the Wire Connections button from the Main Menu dialog. With the Wire Connections dialog box, you define which direction the wire comes in from. You can place multiple connections from the same direction, as well as place Pin Descriptions alongside the wire connections. Once you finish placing wire connections and descriptions, again select Back to Main Menu. Figure 2 shows an example proprietary component block after the standard and wire connection attributes have been added.

Add More Attributes and WBlocking
Finally, consider if any of the other attributes are needed, such as Dashed Link Line connection points, Rating or Position attributes, etc. If not, you're ready to WBlock your updated custom block. Selecting the WBlock button prompts you for a name and location of your block, with the User folder being the default location.

Naming conventions in AutoCAD Electrical dictate the following: the first character is H or V (for horizontal or vertical orientation of the wire it is being placed on), the second and third characters are the 2-digit family code, the fourth character is a 1 for a

Figure 3. After completing and naming your component, you can place it into a drawing. Here is a completed proprietary component inserted into an AutoCAD Electrical circuit.
parent symbol and a 2 for a child, and the fifth is used by a child contact symbol designating N.O. (1) or N.C. (2). I'll call our example symbol HAV1.DWG because it's an Avatech Parent Symbol that goes on a horizontal wire. You are then prompted to select an Insertion Point and can now place a copy in your drawing (figure 3).

Icon Menu Wizard and Catalog Editing
Now that you created your proprietary component block, you can use the Icon Menu Wizard to add your block to the Insert Component menu. You can also add a table to the DEFAULT_CAT.MDB for your AV Family and store the manufacturer and catalog information for this component to show up on a bill of materials report for a later project. While both of these are possible, they are beyond the scope of this article. Good Luck in all your custom Smart block creation endeavors!

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About the Author: R. Eric France

R. Eric France

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