4.4 Design Library and Library Features
Design reuse and using off-the-shelf standard components are important concepts that speed up design and thus make it less expensive. The field of mechanical design has many standard parts that designers use every day in their designs (e.g., fasteners [nuts and bolts], gears, bearings). While these parts are universally standard, a company may have some parts that are unique and reusable only in that company’s designs. SolidWorks provides the concepts of design library and library features to enable designers to reuse off-the-shelf components.
A library feature is a part that you create once and save in a library for reuse in the future. This library is known as the design library. You may save a library feature with the .sldprt or .sldlfp extension. Most of the time library features are inserted into assemblies as components or inserted into new empty (blank) parts. Commonly used library features include holes and slots. Using several library features to construct a single part saves time and also ensures consistency in your CAD models.
Using library features is easy: You drag a library feature from the design library and drop it onto the open part or assembly. SolidWorks asks you if you want to insert a copy or instance (derived part) of the part, as shown in Figure 4.6. If you select Yes, it inserts the copy in the open part. If you select No, it opens a blank part and inserts it there.
Figure 4.6 Using a library feature
You save library features in a design library, which you can organize into folders. The path to the SolidWorks design library folder is C:\Program Data\SolidWorks\SolidWorks version\design library. (Make sure that hidden files are visible in Windows to see the Program Data folder.) Click the Design Library tab in the SolidWorks Task Pane (on the right of the screen), as shown in Figure 4.7A, to open the design library. The library is organized into folders, and you can add new custom folders to the library. You should save your library features into the SolidWorks design library to have them accessible. If you do not, you have to navigate to the folder where you saved the features. The most commonly used SolidWorks library is Toolbox, shown in Figure 4.7B. Expand the Toolbox node and investigate its contents.
Figure 4.7 SolidWorks Design Library