How to Maximize Autodesk Inventor 9's Content Library, Part II

14 Oct, 2004 By: Kevin Schneider Cadalyst

Create your own database of standard parts

Last month, I talked about how to use Autodesk Inventor 9 tools to create a Content Library of standard parts. Picking up where I left off, this month I'll show you how to tailor your library to your specific needs. We'll add new sizes, remove part families, and add properties to existing parts. These steps save time and automate tasks that you often have to do manually when you use 2D or other noncustomizable standard part libraries.

Most importantly, customizing the Content Library can help design teams limit the use of standard parts to an approved list that you prepopulate with manufacturing, purchasing, and assembly information. This helps the design team reduce the number of parts the company needs to keep in stock, thereby reducing costs. Customization also lets you increase the amount of information you can include automatically in the design's bill of materials, which benefits the manufacturing and purchasing departments.

Remove Parts Families from the Library
To begin, launch Autodesk Inventor 9 and open a new, empty assembly. The first change you'll make to the Content Library is to remove some parts families you don't want the design team to use.

Switch to the Library browser pane in the Autodesk Inventor browser bar (figure 1).

Figure 1. Switch to the library browser pane.

Now find the part family from which you want to remove parts -- in this example, a washer. Start navigating to the Content Library, choose the Library pane and click Standard Parts | Fasteners | Plain | DIN 125-1 A, the part to be removed (figure 2).

Figure 2. Find the part you want to remove from the Content Library.

Click on the Edit button in the bottom right of the Content Library pane to bring up the table editor for this part (figure 3).

What do you do if the Edit button is not enabled? At installation, Autodesk Inventor includes an option to prevent access to the Content Library editing tools. To prevent inadvertent edits to the library, it may be prudent to designate the CAD administrator or a single member of the design team as the only individual permitted to change the Content Library.

If the Edit button is not enabled in your installation, contact your CAD or IT administrator. If you installed the application, reinstall it. When the installer prompts for the option to enable editing of the Content Library, accept Yes, the default option.

Figure 3. The Content Library editor.

The dialog box in the Content Library editing table lets you change all aspects of the part and its sizes. The dialog box also shows useful information about where the family is found in the Content Library catalog structure.

In this example, let's say you want to cut the list of available washers down to just a few. In the bottom grid of the Content Library editor, click on the line of each part you wish to hide. As with many editing functions, here you can highlight a group of items by clicking on the first item in the group, holding down the key, then clicking on the last item. Now right-click and select Suppress (figure 4). This hides the selected sizes from future use.

Figure 4. Suppress selected items from use.

Continue this process until you have suppressed all the parts you wish to remove from the list. The remaining parts are those that users will be able to choose from the Content Library.

Change Part Properties
You can also change property information for the washers that you permit. From the pull-down menu at the top left of the Content Library editor box, select iProperties Columns Only. This displays a different set of columns in the grid at the bottom of the Content Library editor. In this example, you're going to input your own custom part numbers. Simply click in the part number cell for each unsuppressed row and enter the new part number (figure 5).

Figure 5. Enter a new part number.

Once you enter the numbers, click Apply. Remember, you're now making permanent edits to the library database. To return the old values, you must manually type in the old values.

Making these changes is quite easy, but what if you need to edit hundreds of part numbers? Using Microsoft Excel makes short work of this. Select all rows and columns you want to edit and press -C to copy the data. Launch Microsoft Excel and paste the data into the spreadsheet. You can now use Excel's tools to make numerous changes quickly. When you're finished, simply select the edited rows and columns in Excel and copy and paste them back into the Autodesk Inventor Content Library editor.

Customize Parts with New Materials
The last change to make is to customize the library with choices of parts made of different materials. Start by duplicating the part that will have multiple materials. Select the location in the list where you'd like to insert the new part, and click on the row below it. This example (figure 6), shows adding an item immediately before line 80. Select row 80, right-click, and select Insert. Now, select and copy the details of the part you wish to duplicate, in this case line 70, and paste it into the newly inserted row. Enter a unique part number for the new part.

Figure 6. Add parts with custom materials into the Content Library.

Now double-click in the Material cell for row 70 and select a material as shown. Repeat and select a different material for the new row. The materials displayed come directly from the material styles available. Finish by clicking the Apply button. Now exit the Content Library editor and return to the Content Library browser pane, and the Content Library shows your changes (figure 7).

Figure 7. The Content Library reflects the new materials options you added.

When you select the edited washer, you now see a choice for selecting a custom material. When you use this part family, your design is also assigned the custom part number automatically. More importantly, when you create a bill of materials, it automatically includes this custom information (figure 8).

Figure 8. Parts lists automatically include the description of custom materials.

Get the Most Out of Inventor
Customizing the Content Library is an important step in getting the most out of your investment in Autodesk Inventor. The benefits of customizing the part families and adding your own unique property data result in time and money saved, not to mention more accurate designs and bills of materials.

About the Author: Kevin Schneider

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