When working in assemblies, especially electrically focused ones, as I often find myself in, I spend more time worrying about making sure mates are correct, than the accuracy of my routes. SOLIDWORKS Electrical uses the Electrical Component Wizard to aid in mating components more easily to DIN rails and doors. But this functionality is certainly not limited to Electrical. It is a feature for all SOLIDWORKS users. We will go through the 4 steps that are required to generate automatic mates in an assembly.
Step 1: Edit the Jack
Let’s look at a PCB component that has been added to a board (left). It is a male jack that was soldered onto our board. We want to be able to quickly add a female connector to slide onto this part. We will need to edit this existing part to add some mate references that our connector can find. From the assembly, we can open up the part to edit it (middle). Inside the part, we want to add a Mate Reference (Insert -> Reference Geometry -> Mate Reference). The Mate Reference dialogue will ask for a Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Reference Entity, along with the desired mate type of each entity (right). The Mate options will vary dependent on the type of entity selected (face, edge, vertex or plane). The final selection is our mate alignment choice, between aligned (where normal vectors of faces point in the same direction) or anti-aligned (where the vectors point in opposite directions and the faces butt up to one another). For our male jack, our primary reference will be the front face of the block we want to plug our connector into. We will use secondary and tertiary to help further align our connector.
Step 2: Repeat for Connector
We want to follow all the same commands from Step 1, but this time we are applying our Mate References to the connector. Comparing the photo on the left below to the photo on the right above, we can start to understand how this connector will mate to the jack. One thing to note, the creation of Mate References will add a folder to our Feature Tree. We can name our specific Mate References if we want to apply multiple automatic mates depending on the assembly creation. We can also right click the Mate Reference to edit the definition we had previously set up.
Step 3: Add Connector to Design Library
Our automatic mates will be triggered during the drag and drop process of a part into an assembly. The easiest way to use drag and drop is to add a part to a design library. In the connector part file we had open in Step 2, select the file name in the top of the feature tree and drag it over to the folder in the design library. An “Add to Library” command prompt will appear and allow us to edit the file name and description to be added to the Design Library.
Step 4: Test and Use
The final step is to make sure our Reference Mates and alignments are going to work in our assembly. By selecting our connector from the Design Library and dragging it near to our Jack counterpart, we can see that it snaps right to its spot. Also, all three mates are defined along with the placement. I used appearances for our two components to highlight our References Entities.
Hope this helps save some time when dealing with repetitive mates in assemblies.