4.5 Configurations and Design Tables
A family of parts is a natural outcome from the concept of parametric solid modeling. Defining a solid (part) in a sketch by parameters (dimensions are values for the parameters) enables us to modify the dimensions and create a similar but different-size replica of the part with a click of a button. We refer to these replicas as a family of parts. SolidWorks calls them configurations. You can also create configurations of assemblies. The configurations are created by changing the dimensions of some key parameters of the part or assembly. The configurations have the same topology as the original but different geometry. For example, consider a two-feature part: a base block and a shaft boss. You configure the part into a square block and a skinny long boss or a rectangle block and short fat boss.
You use design tables to help create and control configurations in three ways: change sizes, change configurations of components, and/or suppress/unsuppress features. SolidWorks uses a Microsoft Excel sheet as its design table. You can insert a design table into an open part or assembly by clicking this sequence: Insert (menu) > Tables > Design Table. This opens the Design Table under the PropertyManager tab on the left pane, as shown in Figure 4.8. You can specify one of the three sources shown to create the design table. When you click the green checkmark to finish, SolidWorks acts accordingly. For example, if you select the Auto-create (default) option, SolidWorks displays a list of the open part dimensions and asks you to select some to include in the design table. The table is created with the current values of the part dimensions as the default configuration. The configuration appears as a row in the table. You can add other rows with different values for dimensions. Each row is a different configuration. The Design Table is saved under the ConfigurationManager tab.
Figure 4.8 Design table