Jump-starting Custom Features with Library Mindset
The Design Library in SOLIDWORKS is a great way to save time and standardize, but what may not be explicitly obvious is the possibility to use similar library features to jumpstart the design of custom features.
Say your customer requests an undercut using tooling that your shop doesn’t typically use. Well, your library feature was developed with the standard tooling in mind so there is a discrepancy. At first glance it looks like you might need to manually develop all the reference geometry, sketches and revolves needed for this feature… but actually you can use your standard undercut library feature to automatically insert all those pre-requisites and then edit as needed. This will drastically reduce the amount of manual labor required. Plus, once you edit that feature you can save it again and iterate until you have a library folder of ALL that customer’s undercuts.
Let me show you how you could tackle a situation like this in 4 simple steps!
1. Insert your library feature into your workpiece
Start off by inserting your Library Feature. This is simple enough, it’s just a drag and drop. If you get confused on what exactly you need to pick for proper placement of the feature, just take a look at the pop up window. It will highlight exactly what part references are needed.
Since we will be editing the feature to a non-standard configuration, make sure that the checkbox “Link to Library Part” is unchecked before you accept the library feature.
Now, not only do you already have the feature in your FeatureManager Tree, but also all the reference geometry required.
2. Edit sketch to the custom dimensions
Now that you have the feature in your current part, expand the Library Feature in the FeatureManager tree and select the sketch to be edited for the custom dimensions. Select “Edit Sketch” and change the sketch dimensions accordingly.
If you get a warning like this:
The “Link to library part” checkbox is still checked and you will not be able to edit the sketch as you need. No worries! You can unlink the feature after it has been inserted into the part as well. Just right click the Library Feature in the tree and select “Edit Feature”. You can uncheck that link option here and freely edit the library feature.
3. Dissolve Library Feature
By right clicking on the library feature in the FeatureManager and selecting “Dissolve Library feature” you can integrate the features directly into the current workpieces FeatureManager Tree. This readies the features to be resaved as a new Library Feature in step 4, since existing Library components cannot be part of a new Library feature.
4. Save new feature as customer specific Library Feature
Now that you have developed this custom feature for your customer, don’t let all that hard work go to waste! Save this new feature in the same way that you saved the original Library Feature but under a new name such as “CustomerName_SpecialUndercut” and you will never have to manually develop that feature again.
The Library Mindset
As you can see from the above workflow, the design library builds upon itself. Now next time I get another custom undercut from that customer, I can iterate my new CustomerName_SpecialUndercut, and this workflow, to continue to grow my library. Eventually, I will have all the library assets needed.
This comes with a change in mindset from “How do I model this now?” to “How do I model this just once?”. Stay on the lookout for reusable features (or parts) to implement this workflow.
How’s that old adage go?… “Work smarter not harder”?
Check out my video below to learn a bit more about the design library.
Computer Aided Technology, Inc.