With every new release of SOLIDWORKS, we see a lot of improved and added functionality. This year, with the release of SOLIDWORKS 2015, we saw a lot of improvements that focused on patterning. In this short tech tip, I will talk about new options added to the Linear Pattern tool and how you can leverage them in your designs.
In SOLIDWORKS 2014 and older, linear patterns were created by specifying (1) the feature or body to pattern, (2) up to two directions, (3) the number of total instances, and (4) the spacing ‘between instances. We could also skip instances and preview our patterns before applying them. Even with all of this functionality available, SOLIDWORKS developers have managed to make some major improvements to this feature in SOLIDWORKS 2015.
In SOLIDWORKS 2015, we now have even more control over linear patterns with Up to reference and Instances to Vary. With these two options combined, we now have the flexibility to create complex and dynamic patterns that fit our needs more quickly and easily than ever before.
Up to reference
Linear pattern can still be used in the normal way using Spacing and instances, but we now have an additional option: Up to reference.
Activating this radio button allows us to select a vertex, edge, face, or plane that we want to use as an end reference for our pattern as well as an offset distance from this end feature and a seed, or starting, reference. We can then select whether we want to keep the spacing or the total number of instances constant.
This feature is particularly useful if we have multiple configurations and multiple sizes of a part. Using a linear pattern with Up to reference gives us the freedom to create the feature once and then leave it alone; it will adjust with the size of the part as long as the correct faces are selected.
One example of this is a duct with fingers. As the length of the duct changes, the number of fingers should increase or decrease with it. Using a simple linear pattern with Up to reference selected along with Set spacing, this is not only possible, but easy as well.
Note: You can still do this if you are running SOLIDWORKS 2014, but you will need to use equations
<Equally Spacing a Linear Pattern Using Equations>
Instances to vary
Also new in SOLIDWORKS 2015, we can choose specific instances and vary the dimensions of those instances or simply increment/decrement a specific dimension that drives a feature.
To use this functionality, simply check the box next to Instances to Vary. Then click in the box below to specify which dimensions in your model you want to alter. Once you’ve picked the dimensions you want to vary, you can either:
- increment by specifying the amount to increment by the box at the top of the section, or
- modify specific pattern instances by right-clicking on the instance Modify Instance
Using the second option of the two allows you to modify multiple dimensions for specific pattern instances, giving you complete control of the way you pattern.
One example of a linear pattern with Instances to Vary is a piano keyboard. Leveraging this functionality, the keyboard can be created in a single linear pattern instead of two. In the model below, I simply used Instances to Vary and I modified three of the defining dimensions for the two black keys in the center.
Using these features in combination gives our linear patterns a huge amount of flexibility. Many parts that we would normally create with 5 or 10 features can now be created in 2 or 3. This is a great time saver and a great way of simplifying the way we look at our designs.