Creating furniture using Inventor
Autodesk’s Inventor is great for designing complicated assemblies for manufacturing and engineering, but often, niche fields such as woodwork aren’t so easily adapted to Inventor’s workflow.
The reason for this is simply that these niche fields often have special requirements that are integral to the design process. These may include:
- Unique parts such as dowels, dominoes or hinges
- Unique geometry such as grooves or pockets
- Unique materials and joining methods
Absent some dedicated Woodworking software that integrates with your CAD software (eg. Woodwork for Inventor), this can be quite tricky to achieve with your standard Inventor CAM and Nesting packages included in your Product Design & Manufacturing collection.
So, in this two-part blog post, we will discuss ways we can create furniture using Inventor CAM and Inventor nesting only. We will go from start to finish, taking you though the design as well as the setup and machining and hopefully show you some pics of the finished product at the end.
Designing your furniture
This process can be fairly straightforward. Design your pieces individually or using multi-body modelling and create components from the solids you have created. The latter may be easier for building up piece of furniture from scratch and help you cut out holes and joinery easier using the combine feature, but it will also create a unique component for each solid, which might upset your BOM requirements if some solid bodies are repeated (i.e. the same part).
Prepping your design for Nesting
Working with Inventor Nesting Utility can be tricky. Be sure to suppress any dowels or attachment components before you create a new nest. Alternatively you can create a new nest without suppressing parts and simply delete the sources that aren’t applicable from the Nesting Sources dialogue box.
If the sources are not importing or it gives you errors, you can simply manually retrieve all the relevant pieces by clicking the “sources” button on the top left.
Once done, you should see something like this:
Notice however, that you will get 2 different board thickness, which is not ideal since we want to nest it all on the same Panel. So why does this happen?
Well, in my case, the offending parts have grooves in them, I added grooves for plastic shelves that I wanted to add in later.
This confuses Inventors algorithms as it expects uniform thickness and tries to find an outline around a single thickness type. When it sees the groove, it thinks it needs to move the piece to a board of different thickness, thus giving the issue above.
However, we can fix this using a feature of Inventor that not many know about. Here are the steps:
- Open the offending part separately
- Start a sketch and project the outline of the shape you want to cut and finish sketch.
- Right click on the sketch and select “Use for Nesting”
This will allow us to use that outline when the source is imported into Nesting Utility, thus bypassing Inventor’s check of board thickness.
Now we can import without issue.