Inline Work Features (Avatech Tricks Tutorial)

31 May, 2008 By: Erik Kurek

Autodesk Inventor includes new functionality with Inline Work features and WorkPoints.

Editor's note: This tutorial courtesy of Avatech Solutions.

A few years back I wrote a tutorial on using Inline Work Features in Autodesk Inventor. Although the process hasn't changed much since then, a few functions have been added to make life easier.


Fig. 1. WorkAxis Tool is started.

Work Features are points, lines, and planes created for a variety of reasons. They are used for things from placing 3D lines to creating sketches on curved surfaces to putting holes where the user can control the radial and linear placement.

Sometimes you need to create a Work Feature, but the expected entry is not available. This is where Inline Works Features come into play.


Fig. 2. Inline Work Features as displayed in browser.

While using a Work Feature tool in a part, you can create an Inline Work Feature when a point, line, or plane is needed. Inline Work Features are used to help create other Work Features. They are displayed as children of the parent Work Feature in the browser.

As an example of this, you can create a WorkAxis between two work points that do not yet exist before you start the WorkAxis tool. The work points could easily be created on-the-fly when the WorkAxis tool is active.


Fig. 3. Pick to create a WorkPoint.

Right-click and select the appropriate Work Feature on the menu. The Work Feature tool terminates after you create the feature and will continue to create the original Work Feature.


Fig. 4. Finish off the Work Feature and continue.

This process is designed to keep focus on the design and allows the user to save time from constantly having to stop and create missing Work Features.

Now that you have an idea of what defines Work Features, let's take a look at two practical applications. In the first scenario, we are required to place a hole in the outer face of the dial caliper model shown below. Now we know that we can use a WorkPoint to place the hole, but what we need to do is create a WorkPoint on the face and control not only the depth that the hole is placed, but also the angle at which the hole is placed.


Fig. 5. Place a hole controlling the depth and the angle.

To create a hole as a final result, a point must be created first and then the hole can be placed on that point. Two work planes can be used to control the depth that the hole goes into and the angle at which it is inserted. A WorkPoint is created when an edge or line crosses a face, which is better known as a WorkAxis. Since a WorkAxis is created where two WorkPlane cross, we can create an offset WorkPlane and an angled WorkPlane to ultimately create a WorkAxis. Use that WorkAxis to create the WorkPoint where the WorkAxis crosses the outer face of the holder.

This sounds complicated, but it really is not as long as you watch what Autodesk Inventor is telling you to do and where you are. The best way is to look at the mouse cursor and it will tell you what is going on in Autodesk Inventor.


Fig. 6. Autodesk Inventor mouse glyphs.

These glyphs show up frequently to assist the user on understanding where they are and which tool is currently activated.


Fig. 7. Create WorkAxis from the WorkPoint tool.

The first thing we need to do is start the WorkPoint tool. The simplest way is to use the shortcut, which is the period key on your keyboard (.). When we do this a little circle shows up next to the mouse cursor indicating that we are in the WorkPoint tool.


Fig. 8. Create WorkPlane from the WorkAxis tool.

Next, we need a WorkAxis. Simply right-click in any blank area of the modeling section and select Create Axis. Immediately, the mouse cursor glyph indicates that we are now creating a WorkAxis. Now the rule to create the WorkAxis is that it can be defined by the crossing of two planes. We will create the offset plane first.

To do this we need to be in the WorkPlane tool, so once again right-click and select Create Plane in the context menu that pops up.


Fig. 9. Click hold and drag to create the Offset WorkPlane.

Now you should see the WorkPlane glyph next to the mouse in the graphics window. To create the first WorkPlane, select the front face of the dial housing with the left mouse button, and hold it down. Drag away from the face and an Offset dialog box will pop up. Enter the distance of -0.5 in. Again, Inventor is ready for input; you do not have to select anything just type and press Enter. This will create the first WorkPlane and take you back to making a WorkAxis.

Repeat the last step by right-clicking again in the window and selecting Create WorkPlane. This time, you will need to create a WorkAxis through the center cylinder. Right-click and create another WorkAxis. Select the face of the cylinder to set the WorkAxis, then a planer face to measure the angle of the plane and enter the angle in the dialog box; let's say 15°.


Fig. 10. The selections to create the Angle WorkPlane.

This completes the second plane, which also completes the WorkAxis, so all that is left is to select the outside face of the cylindrical surface to complete the WorkPoint.

To put this in a better perspective, here is what just occurred. In a graphical layout, the process looks like the illustration below.


Fig. 11. WorkPoint Creation Recap.

Now you can place the hole using the WorkPoint and the face of the dial to control the direction. If you look at the browser, you will see how the four Work Features needed to create this get rolled up or consumed by the WorkPoint. This keeps your browser a lot less cluttered with features that are not needed.


Fig. 12. Create Hole on point selecting the WorkPoint and WorkAxis.

The Work Features visibility is also turned off which keeps the graphics area cleaner too. But the features are still selectable even though they are not visible.

Create the Hole Feature on point by selecting the WorkPoint in the graphics area and the consumed WorkAxis in the browser. Then to change the depth, simply double-click the first WorkPlane in the browser. Edit and update and do the same to the second WorkPlane and change the angle to update the part.

New Functionality with Placing a WorkPoint
Sometimes it would be nice to be able to quickly place a WorkPoint in the center of a face or edge or in the center of a volume. This now can be accomplished very quickly using the Loop Select or Chain Select option in the WorkPoint tool context menu.

Let's say we want to put a hole in the center of the base. In the past you had to create a sketch and place a point with the dimension of the edges, or place Work Feature after Work Feature to place a hole. Now all that is needed is to right-click while in the WorkPoint tool and select the Loop Select option.


Fig. 13. Creating a WorkPoint in the center of a face using Loop Select option.

Let's say you would like to create a WorkPoint in the center of the opening. Using the Chain Select option will allow you to select the indicated edges. Upon selecting the last edge to closes the loop, right-click again and chose Continue to place the WorkPoint.


Fig. 14. Creating a WorkPoint in the center of a volume using Chain Select option.

As you can see, there are numerous ways to place Work Features in our models. Using Inline Work Features helps you to focus on the design task instead of the functionality of the software. Inline Work Features also help to streamline your browser and your graphics area by rolling up excess features into their parents and by turning off the child features needed to create the main feature.

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