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    By Luke Davenport 

    Problem:

    When creating a sheet metal part, you’d like the convenience of modelling an overall solid body shape first, and simply ‘shelling’ it out to the correct thickness, and then unfolding it. Is this possible?

    Solution:

    Well, there’s no magic bullet Inventor tool that will auto-convert a solid part to a sheet part, and add all the bends in for you. One method that is often suggested is to use the Shell tool, and then apply bends and corner seams to the edges. Call me a numpty, but I’ve never been able to get decent results with this method, except for the simplest of simple box shapes.

    But with the new(ish) Direct Editing tools in Inventor, we should have enough tricks up our sleeve to do a bit better than that. 

    In an nutshell, this is the method: 

    • Create your overall solid body shape.
    • Apply fillets to the solid body, where there will eventually be sheet metal bends. (these don’t strictly have to be the right size, as we’ll be using the sheet metal bend tool to ensure the bends are correct later on).
    • Convert to sheet metal, applying the right sheet metal rule.
    • Use the thicken tool to thicken the main sheet metal face (that the flanges will be joined to). Make it a new solid body.
    • Use the thicken tool to thicken each of the flanges that will be joined to the main face. Make each one a new solid body.
    • Perform direct edit ‘move’ operations on the edges of the thickened flanges to give the required clearance.
    • Apply a sheet metal bend between each of the thickened flanges and the main face.
    • Mirror if required.
    • Job done.

    It sounds more complicated than it is, honest. The video below shows each step clearly (with audio). I hope this helps you. 

    You can also download the Inventor part HERE

    (please note – it’s an Inventor 2016 part so you won’t be able to open it in previous releases)