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Inventor | Thoughts from the Weekend Frame Design

This weekend I needed a quick wooden frame worked out. Autodesk Inventor’s Frame Generator has always been one of my favorite tools and  I remembered how nicely last year’s frame jobs turned out, and thought I’d crank it up.  When I look at the cut sheet after all is said and done, I remember the things that were useful in getting the job done quickly, and though I’d pass them on for some new guys.

Autodesk Inventor Frame Generator Project

A Good Skeleton

imageA good simplified skeleton really is the key to a successful frame design. I like to use surfaces to create the shapes that I need to frame up around. Using the outside edges is so easy, and no additional sketches are required.

When bracing is needed, some sketches can be added to guide the basic shapes. If you develop the skeleton properly, changes made to parameters will update in the frame members accordingly.

Customizing the Desktop Content Center

The 2010 product line gave us the option to install the Inventor Content Center as a Vault client, or without vault as a desktop solution. If you need the power of Vault, editing is still the same. However, if you do not require a Vault Server, then the 2011 Content Center changes are gonna make you smile. On this laptop I am using the desktop content, and it is so easy to install and maintain. There is no more ADMS, so customizing it is a breeze compared to the Vault version. You can literally add a new read-write library, copy a family, and edit the sizes and materials in less than 10 minutes. Making the Read-Write Library is handled completely through the Project editor dialog.

End Treatments

Frame Generator really saves time in a couple areas. One of these is with end treatments. The Trim – Extend to Face function is the hardest working tool in the package, and I use it for everything. I don’t know of any specific improvements to the notch tool in 2011, but using it went without a hitch.

image image

The treatment features are collected in the browser under each frame component. This make it really easy to delete specific frame member’s treatments without losing them all. As expected, picking the treatment highlights the affected members in the Graphics View Area.


There were a few things that I needed to do in order to get the flexibility in my drawings that I needed. First thing was creating View Representations in the main assembly to help make things less cluttered. In the image to the left, I used this awesome feature to direct what I did and did not want in specific view. Certain frame members were turned off in the ‘NoSides’ representation, and the side panels were turned translucent. Subsequent changes to the View Representation automatically update in the view.


Another nice inclusion was the ‘Include All Surfaces’ that is individually selectable for each object in a drawing view. On the right, I used it to depict the outline of the tanks to give a bit more understanding in the overall view, without a great deal more work.

imageFor those who are new to drawings, it is important to remember that the Parts Lists are generated from the Bill Of Materials. I did not need any structuring of sub-assembly components, and so I choose the Parts Only option from the BOM View selection as the List was being created. This gave me a simple list of the components without any additional formatting.


I had a lot of fun developing this model. It is designed flexible so that I can make adjustments to the tank arrangement, and the cut sheets will update. The Frame Generator is a powerful tool, and even with all the awesome new functionality in Inventor 2011, the Frame Generator is still one of my favorite tools.

  • kman

    You only left one part out – show us the finished product! The proof is in cutting all the pieces and having it all fit without issue. I did a complex gate in CAD one time, it was a big leap of faith to cut all the pieces and have it all fit – thankfully it did!

  • John Evans

    I have to say, I have never had a Frame Generator failure. Everything has gone together well…provided I double checked my inputs

  • Will

    Any problems making new part revision inside frame generator assembly?

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