Alibre Options: Introduction to Design Configurations in Alibre Design v9

11 Apr, 2006 By: Michael Todd

Now a single part or assembly file can contain multiple versions of a design.

The flashiest new function in Alibre Design Professional v9 is Design Configurations. With Design Configurations a single part or assembly file can contain multiple versions of a design. Design Configurations essentially is a productivity feature that speeds up the overall design time.

Consider the familiar concept of using a calculator versus a computer spreadsheet. If you need just a simple one-time calculation, then the calculator is the tool to use. But if your results are dependent upon various inputs and change often, then a spreadsheet will greatly improve your performance. You could do each calculation with a calculator, but the answers in spreadsheets can change automatically depending upon the previous values.

Design Configurations work in a similar fashion: if you just need to design one or two similar parts, you may not need this function. But if you need to design several parts that have the same basic features that all need updating when those features change, Design Configurations will save you time and simplify your work.

Let's see how Design Configurations works with a simple sheet metal part that I set up with three distinct configurations.

First, a little background: When getting started, all models have one configuration in the Design Explorer, Config <1>, by default. When creating a new configuration, first select the existing configuration you want it based on. Then select the options you want locked, if any.

Figure 1. The New Configuration dialog box for part files.

If an option is unlocked, then the features or properties indicated will update if changed in another configuration. If an option is locked, then those features or properties will not change when other configurations are modified--it is separate from the other configurations. For example, if Feature Suppression is unlocked, the program will add any features inserted in any other configuration to that one.

Let's take a look at how this translates to the model visually.

I designed three electrical boxes as part of the same file (figure 2); the differences in each are controlled by the options chosen in each configuration.

Figure 2. Electrical box configuration 1 (gold), 2 (green) and 3 (blue).

Feature suppression--The top of the box in configuration 2 is open because the bend in the flange was suppressed whereas in the other two configurations it is not suppressed.

Parameter Values--This option allows variations in the sketch dimensions that create the 3D features. It allows the difference in the length of each box. In addition, the side holes vary in number depending upon the length of each electrical box.

Color Properties--Each configuration has its own unique color properties; so when these electrical boxes are inserted into an assembly, they are easily distinguishable from one another.

Active Section View--I applied a section view in configuration 3 that is not used in the others.

Note: When creating a new configuration, select the existing configuration that most closely resembles the final state you need. You can then determine which options in the model you want to vary by locking the appropriate options.

As you can see, Design Configurations allow you to create a part and then quickly make modifications to create new parts. If features need to stay constant in some or all versions of the design, it is possible. You can make changes in one configuration that reflect in the others automatically or not--it's your choice. Why make what is essentially the same part multiple times if only a couple of changes distinguish each from the other? The Design Configurations tool makes creating versions of a part simple and managing them even more convenient.

The Design Configurations tool is supported in all areas of Alibre Design Professional and Expert. Similar options exist to create assembly configurations. You may insert more than one configuration of a part or assembly into an assembly, drawing or BOM (bill of materials). But those subjects are topics for future tech tips. Until next time, look for me as the Alibre Assistant online in Alibre Design.

About the Author: Michael Todd

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