Copying Configurations – Yes You CAN!

How many times have you been asked to make a new part with the same features as an older, existing part? No problem, right? Just do a Save As and create a new part file. Easy-peasy.

What about those times when you’re asked to copy a configuration from one file into another? This gets a little more involved. Sure, you could always just re-create everything from scratch, but who has the time or patience—especially if there are a large number of features or they are a more difficult variety.

This isn’t something anybody really wants to do. Plus, think about the potential for introducing errors. Any time something is repeated, particularly if you aren’t the one who originally created the file, the possibility exists that you’ll do something different and perhaps makes an error.

It happens to us all. In those times, it would be much nicer if we could just hit a magic button and POOF!—a perfect copy of our file would appear, like the classic “Control + Drag and Drop.” Well, I have a way to do exactly that.

Copying Configurations into Another File

It’s not exactly a magic button I’m going to share, and “Control + Drag and Drop” is not actually the way to do it (although maybe it should be).

This method is a fairly easy way to take a workable configuration and copy it into another file—or even into the same file, which can be equally necessary.

Read on for 10 steps to copying your configurations.

Step 1

Go to the file you want the new configuration to be in. We’ll call this the “Receiving File.” It can be a separate file, or the same file in which the configuration you want already exists.

Why would you want to do that? Say your part is something like a tube. In the real, physical world, you would buy a big old spool of tubing from which you would cut several lengths suitable for your purpose. This is standard practice in manufacturing, as an example. Your tubes can be of different lengths, and they can also be twisted and turned differently depending on how they are used.

Imagine you need a flat, “laid out” tubing assembly (to clearly identify the parts and overall lengths of the assembly). Chances are you’re going to also need a coiled assembly, perhaps for a packaging assembly. Next, you are going to need an “As Used” assembly, because you’re going to want to show someone how they’re used. That’s three potentially very different configurations for just one part.

So for this step, create a configuration named whatever you need it to be, ideally something descriptive so you’ll know how to find it the next time you need it. A lot of companies have designated naming conventions, as well. Either way, create a new configuration—or more than one, if the previous example is what you need. Then, figure out what you need to have in your new configuration.

Step 2

Go to the file containing the configuration you want to copy. We’ll call this the “Donor File.” If it’s the same file, that’s great. You’re already there. Even if it’s a different file, the process is still the same.

Click “Save As” and choose somewhere you have access to, such as your desktop. I typically tell people they shouldn’t use their desktops or C: drive as a storage facility. It’s generally not a good practice to leave things there for very long. If you’re modeling and have a network that gets backed up every night, you should be using a network folder to store your files. Better yet, using a PDM system offers even greater protection against inadvertent mistakes than a manual system.

However, in this case we’re not creating something that will hang around very long. We’re only looking for a temporary parking spot while our file is under construction.

When you assign the new file a name, make it as short as you can. (You’ll thank me later.)

This will be your new donor file.

Step 3

Open the new donor file and eliminate anything and everything that you don’t want in your new configuration. Leave only what you want. Take it down to the smallest number of items that you can, then save the file.

Step 4

Now go back to the receiving file and activate the configuration you created where you want the new stuff to reside. Then go to the Feature Manager and suppress everything that has nothing to do with your new configuration. Basically, that will be everything in the file. You want to start with a clean slate.

Step 5

Go to Insert and select Part. Navigate to your new donor file and select it. When you hit OK, you will see a menu asking what you want to insert, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Select the sketches so the features will have all their parameters.

Check off Solid Bodies, Axes, Planes, Absorbed Sketches and Unabsorbed Sketches.

Do not check Custom Properties. Doing so will result in “fromparent+” being added to nearly every value. If you do checkmark Custom Properties, you will have to go into each and every value to eliminate all those extra “fromparent+”—which is not my idea of time well spent.

When you click “Accept,” the donor file will be imported into your receiving file in the configuration you specified. Your job is almost done.

Step 6

The previous step will result in an external reference part feature with the donor part’s filename. External references are all well and good when you are designing a part, but when you move further down the design path and enter the documentation station, they can get in the way pretty quickly.

Do yourself a favor and get rid of these external references as soon as you can, because they have a limited useful lifespan.

To get rid of the reference, right-click the new part feature and select “List External Refs.” This will bring up another menu (see Figure 2) where you will want to select “Insert the features of original part(s) if references are broken.”

Figure 2. External references are handy but need to be removed once they’ve done what they need to.

Then, select “Break All.” A warning will pop up (see Figure 3) telling you that if you do, you will break all ties to the donor part, and you may not be able to undo. Both are fine. Click OK on the warning and watch the magic happen.

Figure 3. Not all warnings in SOLIDWORKS are bad. You don’t have anything to worry about with this one.

Step 7

You will now see a folder named after the donor file, and a folder containing sketches. This is where you will be glad you named your donor files with short names.

If you expand the folders, you will see your donor features, each named after the donor file. If you want, you can leave them that way. If not, go ahead and rename them.

Delete any features and sketches not used in the desired configuration. You can also delete the folder that just contains sketches. They aren’t tied to anything and have no children in your receiving file, so you don’t need to keep them.

Step 8

Rename the folder with the name of the new configuration. You should always properly name everything you can; it’s always helpful, and worth your time.

Step 9

Select everything remaining of what you imported, right-click on the new features and then select Configure feature (see Figure 4). Check all the boxes except those of the active (bold) configuration, hit “Apply” and then “OK.”

Figure 4. Make sure you apply the changes before hitting OK.

Step 10

Rinse and repeat for each new configuration you want to bring to your receiving part.

There you have it! Go out and copy the world!

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