Creative Curves (Alibre Options Tutorial)

30 Apr, 2007 By: Michael Todd

Use the new FreeDimension module to create complex curvature in Alibre Design.

Alibre has a new surfacing tool available called FreeDimension that lets users create complex curvature that previously was impossible with most CAD products. This month, we'll go over how to navigate the module, set up custom toolbar settings and do a few other basics in FreeDimension.

Set up Toolbars
Below is the default workspace. Right-click on the row of toolbars and select Customize. This window lets you turn standard toolbars on and off and make new custom toolbars, as well as create custom keyboard shortcuts.

FreeDimension's default startup screen.

To turn your toolbars on and off you can go to the Toolbars tab and simply check them on or off.

The Toolbar Customization Window is easy to use.

In the Customize window you can also insert new custom toolbars by selecting the new button. A new toolbar, ToolBar1, is automatically added to your list of toolbars. You can change the name of the toolbar by clicking on it and changing the name under the toolbar name field.

To add icons to your custom toolbar, check the box by the toolbar to make it visible. Next go to the Commands tab and select Icons by Category. Drag the commands you want to add to your newly created toolbar.

Keyboard Shortcuts
Keyboard shortcuts save you time, so be sure to set up your own customizations. In the Customize window, select the Keys tab. Next select the category and command you want to create a shortcut for. Click in the Press new shortcut keys field and press the keys on your keyboard that you want to use as a shortcut and select Assign.

Use the Keyboard Shortcut window to set up your customized keyboard shortcuts.

Power Shapes
The easiest way to show all power shapes is to go to View and check All Power Shapes.

You can also right-click on a curve and choose to turn on a single curve's curve handles and curve sliders. Right-clicking on the curve also lets you insert curve handles.

A curve handle has two components: a tie or slider and the magnitude arrow or handle. Extending the length of the handle by clicking on it and dragging increases the magnitude of that curve in the direction in which the arrow is pointing. You can left-click and drag the handle to increase or decrease the magnitude of the curve handle, or you can right-click on the handle and go to Properties then change the scale, which refers to the length and magnitude of the curve handle.

The default curve handle position.

Upper left-hand curve handle with increased magnitude.

Insert Curves & Convert Ties to Sliders
To insert a curve, hold down CTRL and left-click on at least two curves to connect. You may also click on points on the surface between the two curves to insert additional curve handles on the curve you are creating.

An example of point placement for curve insertion.

Place your points to go to the Curves icon and in the drop-down menu and then select Curve.

An inserted curve.

You can see that the base of the top curve handle you just created looks like a sleeve. This is called a slider. You can move it back and forth along its curve by left-clicking and dragging. Notice that this doesn't change the geometry of the curve, just the position of the end point.

A repositioned slider.

If you right-click on the slider and select Convert to Tie, it locks the point to the curve so you can drag that point to change the geometry of the curve.

Converting a slider to a tie.

Change Magnitude and Position
To change the length and magnitude of a curve handle, right-click on the arrowhead and select the Orientation tab to adjust the scale up or down. This increases and decreases the magnitude of that curve handle. You also can change the angle of the arrow in relation to the straight lines attached to it by changing the X, Y and Z angles. If there are no straight lines connected to the tie of the curve handle, you won't see the Angle field.

To change the position of the arrowhead through X, Y and Z coordinates, click on the Position tab and enter the coordinates accordingly.

You also can right-click on the ties and sliders to set their position in a similar manner.

Merge Curves
To merge two curves into one, hold CTRL down and left-click on both curves. Then go to Tools/Merge Curves. This connects the two curves so that a slider can move from one curve to an adjacent curve.

Selecting adjacent curves to merge them.

Move the slider along the merged curve.

Continuing to move the slider along the merged curve. Notice the orange area that shows an invalid solid.

Notice that in the picture above, part of the surface has turned orange. This represents one surface protruding through another making it an invalid solid. By dragging the slider back toward its first position, you can correct the part and make the orange section disappear. This is good news, because when there are no orange sections, you have a valid solid.

Good luck getting started with FreeDimension. For more advanced tutorials or a 15-day trial, please visit

About the Author: Michael Todd

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