Why You Should Be Using Sketch Blocks in Solidworks
Sketch Blocks within your SolidWorks sketches provide a simple, but powerful method of grouping objects together. Blocks are manipulated as one object, including constraining and dimensioning as other sketch entities. They provide a great way of dealing with imported geometry, especially when you have a lot of objects and you do not want to be concerned about constraining each entity. More than just for grouping, blocks also provide the ability to perform conceptual type design, really testing the function before committing to the form.
Creating Sketch Blocks
Sketch Blocks require objects, so the first step is creating the sketch objects. As you will be grouping them into a single entity they do not need to be dimensioned or constrained. From the Tools menu > Blocks flyout select Make. In the graphics window select the desired objects for the block.
The selected objects appear in the PropertyManager. To add additional objects just keep picking within the graphics window. To remove an object, select it within the PropertyManager and press the Delete key (or right-click and select Delete). To remove all selected objects right-click within the objects listing (PropertyManager) and select Clear Selections.
The insertion point is where your cursor will be when you insert instances of the block into your sketches. It is advantageous to adjust this location within the block as it makes it easier for placement. To adjust the insertion point, click-and-drag the manipulator to the desired location.
With the objects selected and the insertion point location set, press the green check mark at the top of the PropertyManager to create the block. Blocks behave as any other sketch entity, meaning you can dimension and constrain them to other blocks and objects.
TIP: Blocks can be nested within other blocks by editing an existing block and following the same Make Block process as described above.
Selecting a block activates the Block PropertyManager. The Existing Relations sections lists all applied relations on the selected block, but can also be used to remove relations (right-click). Use the Add Relations section to apply additional relationships between the block and other objects in the sketch.
Within the Parameters section adjust the scale and angle of the block. The default scale value is 1, meaning entering a value bigger than one increases the size of the block and a number less than one decreases the size of the block. Enable Lock angle to prevent the block from rotating. You can still drag the block, but the angle remains fixed.
The Definition section works with changing the block’s definition, including editing and adjusting the insertion point. Changes made to the definition impacts all inserted instances of the blocks. Enable Link to link the block to an external file, replacing the current definition (and all instances) with the selected file.
Editing Sketch Blocks
All blocks are listed within the FeatureManager tree. Double clicking slowly on any of the blocks to rename. Double-clicking the block puts you into Edit mode, meaning you can make changes to the block including adjusting geometry, adding dimensions / relationships, and adding/removing objects. When done editing, click the green checkmark in the upper left corner of the graphics window. Also, note that by editing a block the Blocks toolbar becomes available along the side of the browser.
The Blocks toolbar contains the same features as the Blocks menu (in Tools) but provides quicker access. It includes Make and Edit Block, Rebuild, and Explode. Use Rebuild to update parent sketches affected by the changes you’ve made to the block. Use Explode to remove the block grouping, returning the objects to individual entities.
After seleting a block within the FeatureManager, use Add/Remove Entities to remove objects from the block, promoting them to the next level. Add/Remove is also used to add objects to the selected blocks. This is especially useful when you’ve imported geometry and you want to use specific entities as blocks within your sketch.
To adjust the colour of the block, select it within the browser. From the Edit menu, Appearance flyout, select Sketch/Curve Color. Select the desired colour from the PropertiesManager and apply the changes.This color remains set on the block even if it is exported.
Importing and Exporting Sketch Blocks
Blocks are not limitied to the active file… if you’ve made the world’s greatest block, why not share it to be used in other sketches? Save Block writes the currently selected block (in the FeatureManager) out as a Block file to the location you choose. With this feature you can easily start building up a block library to provide a resource not only for yourself but others within your organization. Blocks are saved with SLDBLK extensions.
But wait, it gets better…. even entire sketches can be saved as blocks, skipping the block creation process within the active file. In the FeatureManager select the sketch and in the Design Library, click Add to Library In the PropertyManager, set the name and location for the block and click save to commit. The sketch is now available as a block to any of your part files.
Feature Image “Electric Cheetah Restaurant Dinner September 19, 201110” by Steven Depolo