Here’s an overview of how we prepare documentation and source files for the fabrication of EuroRack frontpanels and other sheet metal enclosure parts here at LZX.
It all starts in Adobe Illustrator, where we do all our brainstorm work. Many weeks of moving things around, spacing out artwork, and creating vector illustrations of components we’ve selected leads up to a final design. We are a very visual team (haha!) and like to see a polished presentation during development. Often electronics design and PCB layout happen concurrently with this process, making Adobe Illustrator & Diptrace Schematic & PCB Layout the two most frequently used applications in our process.
As we begin to prepare formal documentation, all part locations and dimensions are triple checked and a cut lines layer is created over the frontpanel mockup. (This art is in progress.)
The outlines layer from Adobe Illustrator is exported as an Autocad DXF file. This is then imported into Autodesk Inventor, into a new 2D sketch.
The sketch is then extruded to make a 3D model of the part. In this case, it’s a very simple single step! When we do sheet metal boxes with bends and folds, such as we did with Vidiot and Vessel, the process gets more involved.
The resulting frontpanel part is then imported into an Autodesk Inventor assembly file. Buried standoff parts from the Inventor parts library are then imported and aligned with their installation locations. In this case, we have three different lengths of M2.5 standoffs (6mm, 10mm, and 18mm.) Memory Palace is a complex assembly, which makes 3D CAD essential for virtual test fitting of all the pieces.
We then create a DWG drawing in Inventor, which is derived from the assembly as a source file. The outlines of the cutouts and the installed parts are imported automatically and maintain a hierarchical relationship.
Inventor’s annotation features are used to add a BOM and markings for dimensional data and standoff installation.
It’s important to include as many details as possible, but no extraneous or confusing information. The PDF export of the drawing (along with DXF source files and a 3D model) are added to a zip file package for the quoting process. The goal is to include all the details a fabricator will need to make the part in this zip file, no more and no less. We e-mail this file to our vendor contacts and ask for price quotes at different order quantities. For Memory Palace, we’ll be asking for quotes for 50, 100, and 200 pieces. How many we end up purchasing will depend on the cost breakdowns, the purchasing needs at the time across all our projects, and how much we save by purchasing more than we need.
I really enjoy sharing process and workflow. I taught myself all the applications you see here with no formal training – it is not difficult! If you have any questions or I can help you learn something, I look forward to hearing from you.