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Creating different configurations with different length sheet metal parts

Question asked by Jason Hoag on Jul 10, 2013
Latest reply on Jul 18, 2013 by Jason Hoag

Hello everyone, this is my first post, so I apologize if I make any faux pas.


I am modifying a large conveyor belt assembly (600 parts) which consists of 5 sheet metal rails that run the length of the conveyor.  These rails are attached to each other to create the support structure, and lots of components are attached along the length of the rails for the functioning of the conveyor (motors, PLCs, photo eyes etc.).  I have been asked to create 3 different length configurations of this conveyor that we can quickly switch between which will switch out these 5 rails with 5 nearly identical rails that have been stretched at a point along the length of the rails.


Here are the requirements I have been given:


1. Each of the rails must be it's own unique part number in our vault with its own drawing so that we can send the drawing to the manufacturer. (i.e. I can't create 3 different configurations of the 5 rail parts and change those out.)


2. The only part references that are allowed to change when switching between configurations are the 5 rails.  (i.e. I can't create 3 totally different conveyor assemblies and supress the two that are not in use. This is done because we may wind up with several more different length configurations, and if we replace a part that is used in all the the different length belts (i.e. a motor), we would have to swap the part out in every one of the different assemblies.)


3.  All of the mates must remain intact when switching between configurations.  (i.e. the drive shafts at each end of the conveyor must align with their respective holes at each end of the rail regardless of which configuration is active also, all of the PLC's motors.)


4.  I need to be able to create other configurations besides the 3 I mentioned fairly quickly.  In order to do this, I need to be able to retain the mates from part to part (redoing the 1200ish mates each time we need a new length conveyor is a HUGE pain.)




Things I've done so far:


1. Extended each of the rails and saved them as unique parts.


2. Created each of the 3 different length conveyors in their entirety using replace component for all 5 rails.  However, they are in separate assembly files and I can only have one assembly file (see requirement #2).  The ony way I know of doing this is by having all 3 versions of the 5 parts in the same assembly and suppressing the 2 that are not active.


***If there is a method that replaces a component in only one of the configuration versions, while leaving that component unchanged in the other configurations, this would be perfect.  However, as far as I can tell, when you use replace component in an assembly,  it replaces that component in ALL of the configurations.



3.  I've tried using "copy with mates" to create a second part, and then using replace components to swap out the  new component and selecting re-attach mates check box.  This works great, except "copy with mates" appearently only copies up to 12 mates and each of these rails has 200+ mates.  I get the message "this part contains more than 12 mates, the remaing mates will be ignored."



4.  I've tried creating an assembly file for each of the rails and adding the 3 different versions in as parts.  I then tried using replace components in the main assembly to swap out one rail with an assembly of 3 different versions of that rail.  This kept the mates for one of the versions of the rails, but the other two versions did not have any mates.



Nothing I've done has worked, and I'm a little lost as to what to try next.  Any help would be greatly appreciated!


Thank you in advance.