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SolidWorks - Templates and Properties

posted Dec 30, 2013, 10:44 PM by Sean M. Messenger   [ updated Dec 30, 2013, 10:47 PM ]

Background

I have had struggles with Autodesk Inventor and SolidWorks. Long story short, revisions and drawings are hard! I stopped using Inventor and picked up SolidWorks when I started college. This tutorial is about using templates for parts and drawings to make your life immensely easier.

Why should I use templates, you might ask. Well, because it handles all the repetitive tasks if you do the same thing every time you open a part or make a drawing. If you don't do the same (or similar) things when you open a part or make a drawing and don't have templates, you are missing out! Tired of being stuck in ISO/First Angle/Metric instead of ASME/Third Angle/Imperial? These can be set as defaults in templates as well.

There are some great tutorial videos on YouTube, so I'm not going to go super in-depth here. I just want to show you some of the things that are possible and energize you to go mess around beyond this intro tutorial.

I have several files provided at the bottom of the page. There is a part file, a part template, a drawing file, a drawing template, and a PDF of the output drawing. 

Starter Files

My templates center around the use of properties. Each part has properties that you can access, fill in, or otherwise use. When you make drawings, fields can be autofilled using these properties. Here are the properties I have in all my parts:
  • Part Group
  • Part Name
  • Revision
  • Creator/Drafted By
  • Creation Date
  • Last Modified Date
  • Finish
  • Final
I have another writeup that goes into detail on naming conventions and version tracking for SolidWorks. For this article, just consider it would be beneficial to track some of these properties, and especially so to have them available and automatically included in drawings!

Open up the sample PDF. The title block has all of the fields autofilled from the properties in the part file. You don't have to worry about updating the drawing when something changes in the part -- it does that for you! Your drawings can include comments and you can still specify dimensions, but this provides nice extras and eliminates repetition. 

All parts have properties. Chances are you just haven't been aware or using them. You can open the Properties menu in a part by going to File --> Properties. I have this hotkeyed to 'P'. So for example, open up the sample bulkhead_payloadRetainer.SLDPRT. Go into Properties, and see the fields. These are specific to the part, and are fields that can be pulled into a drawing when you make one for the part. Now if you have the drawing bulkhead_payloadRetainer.SLDDRW in the same folder you should be able to open that and have all the fields autofilled and look like bulkhead_payloadRetainer_R2-2.pdf. The file name, author, dates, version, revision, weight, etc. are all pulled from the part automatically. Convenience!

Creating Templates

You can make this standard by setting up a Template file that you use as your default part. Basically, you start a new file that is identical to the Template whenever you make a new part (or drawing if you have a drawing Template). My two templates that started these parts are also attached. You can have templates specific to a project, workplace, or just for personal feel.

When you open the template files, they just appear like blank/empty parts or drawings. To open, you need to change the filetype of the file you are trying to open to either All Files or Templates. My templates (and by default all for SolidWorks 2012 are) stored at C:\ProgramData\SolidWorks\SolidWorks 2012\templates

Properties in Templates

You can just create a new part, add Properties fields, and save it as a template in that location (or actually anywhere) and use that as the starting point for all new parts from then on. This helps with linking, particularly for the drawings and similarly in assemblies.

Any default value will autofill when you make a new part from the template. For example, since I would also be the creator of a part that is made using my templates (except, I guess, when I share my templates...), I have that filled as Text "Sean M. Messenger". Revision starts out at 1.0 and I manually update that as changes are made. Final is a boolean that I only change to Yes when I am done with a part and have confirmed it is ready for production. Have fun, there is a lot you can do.

Using Part Properties in Drawings

Now how do you get drawings to use these properties? Simple, they are just variables that you have access to! Make sure you have the part template done when you start on the drawing, or else you will be doing a lot of back and forth. 

Go ahead and make a new drawing template. That is, make a drawing file from a part that was made using your new part template. They can (and both should) be blank. Then right click on the sheet and select "Edit Sheet Format." Now you can move title block lines and fields around, insert pictures, and do all sorts of formatting that is not going to interfere with your part schematic. You can pull up properties from the part by using the syntax

$PRPSHEET:{Material}

where "Material" would be the property name you want inserted at that spot. These can be done in annotations, or you can search for and insert the properties directly.

Templates are fun!
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smessengerSolidWorksTemplates.zip
(366k)
Sean M. Messenger,
Dec 30, 2013, 10:45 PM