Setting up CUSTOMTOOLS for File Conversion in SOLIDWORKS

In my previous article I covered how you can create a new profile in CUSTOMTOOLS for SOLIDWORKS and how to get started with property features.

In this article, we will learn about using CUSTOMTOOLS as a conversion tool.

Same Old Story or…?

When you need a PDF of a drawing in SOLIDWORKS, you have two options: either use the Save As New command or, if you have multiple PDFs to make, use the SOLIDWORKS Task Scheduler.

While these well-tested methods work and get the job done, they can be very time consuming — and you might miss a drawing or two.

You can also use PDM to create your PDFs, but if you want to create a DXF, you need to have PDM Professional.

CUSTOMTOOLS presents a cool alternative to all those methods, and it is easy to set up and use.

Setting up the File Converter

The File Converter in CUSTOMTOOLS can automatically start the process of creating an entire set of drawings. This means that you can go from an assembly and start the process of creating PDFs or DXFs, such as of all drawings of all sheet metal parts.

In this example, we will assume that you are using the Blank Profile which I started setting up in my previous article.

Start SOLIDWORKS with your CUSTOMTOOLS add-in turned on, and find the Print/Convert button.

As we have not set up any Converter rules, the “Print/Convert” appears as shown above.

Click the “Print/Convert” button, and since no file conversion rules have been made, the Print/Convert wizard will appear.

As you can see, we can set up a printing rule and a convert rule.

If we start with the print rule:

Select the default printer, paper source, size, orientation and whether you want to scale the drawing.

You can add multiple printers if you want to. If you have been printing in SOLIDWORKS, much of this might already be familiar. In the sheet size, you can set up what printer and the specific sheet sizes that will be used.

But what if we want to save paper and create PDFs and DXFs? In that case, you press Cancel and restart the wizard by clicking the Print/Convert button again and pressing Convert.

This section helps you to set up the rules for converting your files to other files.

First you need to decide if you want to convert parts, assemblies or drawings.

For this example, we are going to create PDFs of our drawings, so we are going to select the Drawings (step 1 shown below) and select PDF (2) and press Next (3).

In the next section, select the Save location as well as the name of the file. In the setup wizard, the naming rules are very limited. We will learn later how you can modify the name and have more naming options.

You can also elect to have all sheets in a drawing put into separate sheets (1) or, if you have an assembly, put all drawings in one file (2).

Either way you will see an example of the PDF’s file location and name (3). Press Next.

Next, you need to name the rule.

That’s it! You are ready to use the file conversion tool, by clicking the File/Convert button.

If you select Batch Conversion” (1) button, you can start the wizard by selecting Create New (2).

When creating a DXF conversion rule, start the wizard, click Part, select DXF and press Next.

Again, we have to decide the name of the file. For sheet metal parts, you can add thickness and material to the file name.

Once again, name the conversion rule. We are almost ready.

Modify File Name

Before we proceed, we want to change the output file name of the PDF.

First open the batch convert window, right click on Drawings to PDF and select Advanced Edit.

A new window appears with the all the conversion options.

Within the Conversion options are a few more options for converting files.

Let’s start with the name. Pressing the arrow in on the right gives you a lot of different naming options for the drawing.

For instance, you can use your model properties, which could allow you to use the revision in the file name.

Just remember that “\” will automatically create a new folder so be careful putting that in the name.

Export Bill of Material.

Before we start exporting, we should set up the Export to BOM. This allows us to export our BOM to an Excel sheet with the click of a button.

Again, we are going to use the wizard to help us create the file.

First click Export.

This will start the wizard, where the first page explains what the export does. Press next.

First you need to select what sort of structure you want to export: parts only, or all assemblies and subassemblies. If you select “Full structure,” you can also include the cut list Items. And you should also decide which configuration should be part of the export.

Now it is time to decide what columns you want to be part of the export. You do this by simply dragging the properties you want to appear in the list.

Note that the column called Preview (1) includes a thumbnail image of the model.

Note that in the export wizard it is not possible to change the name or the save location.

To change the save location, you must open the CUSTOMTOOLS options.

Click on the Export Profiles tab (1), select the newly created Excel Structure (2) and click on Edit… (3).

In here, it is possible to change the output path.

It is possible to change other things in the task, but we won’t cover that here.

Running the Tasks

Before you can run either task, you need to ensure that the file is saved.

We’ll start with the File Conversion by pressing the Print/Convert button once again and selecting the Batch Conversion option. On the right side of the pop up menu, you get an overview of the model.

Pressing the Drawing to PDF will select all the drawings and none of the models.

However, pressing Parts to DXF will select all parts, including the parts that are not sheet metal. Sheet Metal components can easily be Identified by looking in the third column (marked with a blue square).

If Part to DXF task was started, the following error message will appear:

The DXF has been created for the sheet metal parts but these parts are not sheet metal and a DXF is not created. While the task works as intended, the best thing is to make sure that non sheet metal components are not selected for this task.

The convert task is still active and should look something like this:

To make sure that only sheet metal parts are selected, press Filter, which brings up a filter wizard.

Press Next and the definition appears. Here a file can be selected if a specific condition is fulfilled. In this case, the file is selected if File Type (1) is a sheet metal part (2).

It is possible to add multiple rules in the filter, for instance property rules.

Note that a selection filter only applies to this particular task. Afterwards the filter can be applied permanently to the task.

After saving the filter, the task looks like this:

Note that only sheet metal parts are selected. Do not worry about all the entries in red. They will not be in red when you restart the task.

Note the filter icon next to the task.

The Export task is run a bit differently. First, you click the Export button.

You can either run the newly created Export task or create a new one.

Let’s run the Excel – Structure task.

An overview of the information gathered appears and to export it to an Excel sheet, you simply press Export and the file will be created and will open looking something like this:

The Excel sheet can be customized to your company’s needs, but that is a more advanced use of CUSTOMTOOLS. These two articles have been meant merely as an introduction. I recommend you give CUSTOMTOOLS a try. You can get a trial serial number or contact your reseller.

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