Ever since my initial post discussing the use of Inventor for woodworking I’ve been planning on writing a tool to help laying out the individual parts onto stock so you know how to cut them out. I’ve a design in mind for an add-in that would have some nice features for this but unfortunately haven’t been able to get going beyond some initial design. That’s the problem with making the project too big to begin with.
Right now I’m in the middle of a new woodworking project at home and could use my non-existent add-in to layout my boards for cutting. Instead of waiting for my add-in that may never show up I decided to do some quick and dirty coding that would do some of the work and should still be a lot better than nothing. It ended up working pretty good, for at least what I used it for. I thought I would go ahead and share it with the rest of you and hopefully you can get some use out of it to.
Here’s my latest project, a vanity for a bathroom that I’m remodeling. I’ve constructed it completely in Inventor. That’s the first step, to get a complete and accurate digital prototype. Here’s a picture of my project rendered with Inventor Studio.
The programs to help with the layout are small VBA macros and are available here. The link is for a text file that you can copy and paste the contents of into your VBA application project. The first macro is called LayoutParts. To use this have your assembly open (in my case the vanity assembly shown above) and run the macro. After running this macro with my assembly I see the result shown below. A new assembly was created and every part is layed out flat on the assembly x-y plane. An assumption made by the program is that when the board parts were created that they lie flat on the x-y plane of the part coordinate system. It’s beneficial to have each material you’re using colored in an obvious way so you can easily tell the differenced. The program also constrains the part x-y work plane to the assembly x-y work plane so they can easily be moved around in that plane.
Next, I created a sketch in the assembly that represented my stock boards. In my case I have some cherry stock that is of various widths. I drew a sketch that contained all of these boards butted up to each other since I knew I would have to do some glue-ups. With this sketch I then manually did some nesting by dragging the parts around to see where they would best fit. While doing this I found I needed some additional capability to rotate the parts and to flip them over. This resulted in the creation of the three other macros; FlipPart, Rotate90, and Rotate180. After a few minutes of this manual nesting process I ended up with what’s shown below.
I inserted this assembly into a drawing, added a few overall dimensions to some of the boards, printed out the drawing and then started laying out my project on the actual boards using chalk. I’ll keep this layout drawing handy while I’m doing the glue-up and actual cutting.
I’m still hoping to write the bigger program some day, but these simple macros ended up providing a good share of the capabilities I needed. Hopefully they can help someone else too. I’ll post a picture of the real vanity once I get it finished.