Alibre Options: Creating and Using Custom Symbols

14 Nov, 2005 By: Michael Todd Cadalyst

Alibre Design can create, store and modify symbols to save you time.

When creating drawings in Alibre Design, you can save valuable time by using the custom symbols functionality to store and retrieve widely used symbols. Alibre Design can create symbols, store symbols so that they are available to all users and modify existing symbols, which means you don't need to recreate symbols as production standards change.

Creating and Using Custom Symbols in Alibre Design Drawings
To simplify this tech tip I have provided a sample drawing. To follow along, download and extract the drawing file from this ZIP file.

Step 1: In the Alibre Design home window, select File / Import and select the FILE SIDE PANEL DRAWING.AD_DRW (figure 1).

Figure 1. I'll use elements of the sample drawing to demonstrate the use and creation of custom symbols.

The side panel drawing contains many holes, and is a perfect example of the benefits of using custom symbols to convey the design information for the various holes.

You can create a custom symbol in an existing drawing or a blank drawing workspace. In this exercise, I will create a hole table in the drawing and save it as a custom symbol. Then I can insert it into any drawing workspace.

Step 2: Zoom in (figure 2).

Figure 2. Use a blank area on the drawing to create a symbol.

Step 3: To create a custom symbol, you can use any sketch feature as well as the Sketch / Text / Field or Label commands. Right-click in the workspace and choose Activate Sketch on the sheet. Using the dimensions shown in figure 3, create a shape. Select the Line tool to create the lines and the Dimension tool to apply the measurements and modify the overall shape.

Figure 3. Use the line tool to create the table layout.

Step 4: You can't use Insert / Annotation / Note to create text in custom symbols. They will not become part of the custom symbol. In addition, creating custom templates requires the Sketch Text command.

For the text, use Sketch / Text / Field or Label commands. Field text prompts you for input when inserted into a drawing, while Label text is static.

  • From the menu bar, select Sketch / Text / Label. A dialog box opens.
  • Type Label and then click in the X value text area of the dialog box to activate the label placement.
  • Click in the work area where you want the text to appear (figure 4).
  • To adjust the placement, continue to click the work area.
  • Click OK to complete the operation.

To change options such as placement, font and rotation angle, double click the dialog box.

Figure 4. To place the text labels for the table, click the appropriate table cell.

Step 5: Select Sketch / Text / Label from the menu bar and insert the text QTY.

Step 6: Select Sketch / Text / Label again from the menu bar and insert the text Hole Type. Label text won't prompt you for input when inserted into the drawing. It is static text.

Step 7: For the next row in the table, I will use field text. Select Sketch / Text / Field from the menu bar. This dialog box is quite different from the one for label text. In the Name section of the dialog box, type Label. In the Prompt area of the dialog box, type Insert Label ID. Insert X for the default value.

Figure 5. The Field Text dialog box provides more options, and it prompts you for information when you use this custom symbol.

With the three selections set, the name of the field text is Label, and it prompts the user to "Insert Label ID" when the custom symbol is inserted. The default value is X.

Step 8: Select Sketch / Text / Field again from the menu bar. In the Name section of the dialog box, type Quantity. In the Prompt area of the dialog box, type Number of Holes. Insert X for the default value. Remember to click the screen to place and reposition the field text.

Step 9: Select Sketch / Text / Field again from the menu bar. In the Name section of the dialog box, type Hole. In the Prompt area of the dialog box, type What Type of Hole. For the default value insert Line 1, and then on the keyboard hold down Ctrl + Enter to add Line 2. Click the screen to place the text (figure 6). For this exercise, I only added one line of information to save time. Click OK.

Figure 6. The custom symbol table shown with a title row and a row of data.

Step 10: Select File / Save from the menu bar. Name the drawing Custom Symbol Exercise and save the file to the Windows file system.

Step 11: Because the dimensions are not part of the custom symbol, it's best to delete them. To delete the dimensions, roll the cursor over each; when the dimension lines turn red, right-click and choose Delete.

Step 12: Select the contents of the custom symbol. Right-click in the drawing work area, and choose Activate Sketch on Sheet. Click to the upper right of the table, hold the mouse button and drag a selection box around the table. Release the mouse, and you should see all of the objects in the table highlighted in blue to signify that they were selected.

Figure 7. The selected objects pre-populate the Create Custom Symbol dialog box.

Step 13: From the menu bar, select Sketch / Create Custom Symbol. The Create Custom Symbol dialog box appears pre-populated with the selected objects. Now it's only necessary to define the insertion point. To insert the custom symbol from the lower left, click once in the X value area of the dialog box; then click the lower left corner of the table lines. Click OK.

Step 14: Select a location to save the custom symbol in the Repository or Windows file system, and name the custom symbol HOLE TABLE SYMBOL. Click Save.

Step 15: Re-select the objects that you used to create the custom symbol and delete them. Use the Zoom To Fit tool to see the entire drawing. You can now insert the custom symbol that you created into this drawing to see how it will work.

Step 16: From the menu bar, select Sketch / Insert Custom Symbol. The Select Custom Symbol dialog box appears.

Step 17: Select the HOLE TABLE SYMBOL file that you created, click OK; then click once on the drawing sheet. We will modify the placement later.

Use the Edit Text Fields dialog box to insert values defined during the creation process. Notice in figure 8 that the Select Tag Field contains three entries. These are the three field text entries that we defined. By clicking each one, we can input the appropriate information.

Figure 8. You can now populate the values with information relevant to this drawing.

Note: To edit the values entered in the custom symbol, double click it to access the Edit Text Fields dialog box.

Step 18: Click Label. Notice that the prompts you entered in steps 7 - 9 appear above the text insertion area. Click each tag field and replace the default values as follows:

  • Click Label; then replace X with A.
  • Click Quantity; then replace X with 8.
  • Click Hole; then replace Line 1 with 8-32 UNC. Then click the symbol palette icon in the upper right of the dialog box. Select the depth symbol and click Close. Type Thru.
  • Highlight Line 2; click the symbol palette icon and insert the countersink symbol and the diameter symbol; then click Close. Type 250 X 90; and select the symbol palette icon and insert the degree symbol. Click Close.
  • Click OK.

Step 19: Notice that the text for the hole type is off-center (figure 9). To correct this, right-click on the custom symbol; then choose Explode Symbol. Adjust the text elements as needed.

Figure 9. The values entered in the dialog box now populate the custom symbol.

Step 20: If you are not in sketch mode, right-click the sheet and select Activate Sketch on Sheet. Click and drag to select the entire custom symbol; then choose Sketch / Create Custom Symbol. Remember to define a insertion point; then click OK.

Step 21: Name the new custom symbol HOLE TABLE SYMBOL1, and save to the location of your choice. Delete the custom symbol from the drawing and click Zoom To Fit.

Step 22: Make sure you are in sketch mode; then select Sketch / Insert Custom Symbol. Choose HOLE TABLE SYMBOL1, click the sheet and insert per steps 17 and 18.

You can also add more information simply by exploding the symbol and inserting Sketch / Text / Field or Label. Next month we'll explore using Boolean operations in a part workspace. Until then, look for me as the Alibre Assistant online in Alibre Design.

About the Author: Michael Todd