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Etching: Line Entity Types, Layers, and Custom Cut Extrude

Question asked by Brian Smith on Nov 4, 2017

o I have been writing simple macros for a little while and I have brain storming this problem my company has for a while. Most of our work is with sheet metal and whenever we want to do an etch into a sheet metal part we have to jump through a ton of hoops. Our current process goes something like.


1. Design part in SolidWorks with Sheetmetal features

2. Do a shallow cut-extrude (shallow to indicate what face of the part needs the etch / forcing it to be shown up later)

3. Add part to a SLDDRW drawing with the etch'ed side shown up

4. Save the SLDDRW as a DXF/DWG (because that is the only format our laser cut vendors accept)

5. Open the DXF and manually change the layer to the "etch" layer so the laser cutter can read it


There is a lot of potential for error with the above, most typically with step 3 and 5. We've had parts with the wrong face shown up on the SLDDRW meaning the etches are missed completely and we've had many parts with what was intended to be etched, cut through the part. We make about ~1000 unique parts per project with 20-30 projects per year. While no part is complex, many small things get missed when you are trying to get that many parts through design in a short lead time. So more automation is key in reducing errors.


One tool was use when saving a DXF/DWG is the SolidWorks layer mapping tool:

The issue with this tool for us is that those shallow cuts that are meant to be etches show up as geometry (or part edges) and those get mapped to the Profiles Layer.


So my idea:

1. Create a "etch cut-extrude" that does a split face or shallow cut onto a part face.

2. The edges created with the above tool are put on their own unique entity/line type called "etch"

3. Upon completing the split/cut, it changes the up face in the flat pattern feature to be updated relative to the face selected with the "etch cut-extrude" or warns you that you have multiple

4. Somehow add the new type entity to the SolidWorks to DXF/DWG Mapping tool



My main question is this feasible? The biggest issue I see is adding a entity/line type to the default list of line entity/line types and making a cut-extrude that makes those edges on that type. Alternatively I can pick a relatively unused entity/line type and have the new cut-extrude put those edge on that entity/line type.


Like I said in the beginning, I've only really made simple macros using VBA. I have only recently installed VS and feel like this is required for this project. Is it even possible to add something to this kind of list in SolidWorks? Do I need to supersede one of their DLLs?


Any other ideas, comments, or alternatively solutions to the problem would also be very helpful and appreciated.