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I am suprised that you are expected to supply flat pattern information.
Mostly when working with suppliers I would expect only to supply the finished folded parts required.
In order to acheive an accurate flat pattern, you will need to know all the sheet metal parameters for your parts from your suppliers.
Sheet metal parameters are material & tooling specific. Internal radius dimensions, and bend allowances (k factors) vary depending on the press brake used.
It is possible to use aproximate figures but this will limit the accuracy of the finished components.
You then may be able to supply a separate flat pattern part model based on a flat pattern configuration of your part .
The major point is to liase closly with your suppliers!
Not quite what i was talking about, so i will try and explain again (sorry for the confusion)
if we send a solidworks sheet metal part to our supplier they cannot open it.
if we send an IGES file to them then they can open it but as far as i am aware that is it, the part i just an imported 3d image it cannot be flattened, therefore no information can be used from it, other than reverse engineering it, is this not the case?
I don't have great news. SW06 does not have a tool to directly export parametric models to Catia. I think I understand that you want to provide your supplier with a SolidWorks model that they can unfold with Catia. That probably isn't going to happen.
However, you can send them useful information in the form of a flattened part. It puts a bit of extra work on your desk, but I think it might be productive. My reasoning is convoluted, so hang in there.
In the attached zip file (SW06), I included a simple demo bracket. It uses a gauge table that has proven to work with one of my sheet metal suppliers. I'd recommend that you exchange something like this simple part with your supplier to get the wrinkles ironed out of the communication first. Then launch into production parts.
As Martin indicated, each shop thinks they have "the" information on how to do a flat layout, so you need to talk with them about what K-factors they prefer for each material. If they use bend deductions, you'll want to develop corresponding K-factors. Bend deductions are dependent upon the bend angle; K-factors are not dependent upon bend angle. Thus, you can safely use a K-factor in any sheet metal part. BD's can ruin your day - you have to manually set the BD for each bend angle in your part, something that is easy to forget or overlook.
With the perfect K-factor information from your supplier, edit the sample gauge tables I've offered and save them so you know which shop they are for. (I'd be surprised if these sample gauge tables aren't pretty close. Unless of course you're working in metric - then there is a bit of a scramble to do the conversion.)
Once you have functional gauge tables, you will always use them when setting up a sheet metal part. It is very convenient and easy to do. The SW help file discusses this. My sample part is an exhibit of how it works.
To export the flat part, you have 2 options. 1) Create a slddrw with the flat pattern in it (scaled 1:1) and save that as a DXF or 2) Switch the part to a flat configuration and save that as an IGS. The IGS will give the supplier a 3d model of the flat part. The DXF is probably what they want for the CNC programming step anyway, so I'm anticipating that the IGS will be forgotten.
You might also try sending them a parasolid. I don't know anything about Catia, but they might be able to use the parasolid to create a parametric model that they can unfold.
Reading between the lines, I suspect that you already have most of this figured out, but I like to take any opportunity to promote gauge tables.
I also think it is productive for you to be able to generate an accurate flat layout. Knowing that the part will unfold without any surprises (corner treatment, features suppressed in various configurations, impossible features, etc.) is a good thing. Having a tight relationship with your supplier is also a blessing. They can help you design for efficient fabrication. You capture some coup by consistently supplying good flat layouts. (Coup is only useful to egomaniacs like me.) If you can shorten the time that it takes to generate a cost estimate and CNC program, that translates into good things, too.
MANY THANKS GERALD I WILL GIVE THIS A GO AND SEE HOW IT COMES OUT, I WILL ALSO TRY AND SOURCE SOME OF THE TRANSLATION SOFTWARE THAT IS ABOUT.