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Parametric CAD Sketch Design using Alibre

Welcome, this tutorial is based on Alibre Design version 12.1. For any additional information such as installation, registration or upgrading, Please contact via email. In Australia a free trial download for Alibre Design Professional is available HERE.


As you start up Alibre Design, you will note that there are 5 large icons which appear on your home page of Alibre Design. The icons from left to right are as follows. The first icon is the primary part window which automatically loads up a new part’s window. This is where designing of your part starts from 2D sketch to 3D extruding and cutting. The second icon is for sheet metal design. Here you will be able to create sheetmetal designs from making flanges, die pressing and flattening the pattern. The Third icon direct the user to an assembly window where previous design parts can be fitted together with set constraints to orientate the parts in the desired manner. The Forth icon is the billing of materials, this is where a list of materials and parts required for your assembly can be calculated based on your inputs in your parts and assembly designs. Finally the fifth (last icon) is your drawing window. This allows for the user to introduce their designs in part form or assembly to be laid out into a technical drawing sheet. You may note that by running your cursor over the icons, a description of each of the icons function is listen on the bottom of the appropriate icon. Also that are two additional small icons above the parts icon. These icons allow for the opening and importing of files into Alibre Design.

Now viewing the main window that Alibre has opened up for us, the following image has been labelled accordingly to help us navigate through window in which the designing process will take place.

Alibre Design Program window with Toolbars and Design Explorer opened

The drop menus are the list of menus in which you can find various commands to 2D, 3D sketching, features and dimensioning options to use in Alibre Design as well as the various functions of editing, viewing and controlling your designs that you will be working with. The Insert, Sketch,3D sketch and features menus are the most commonly used drop menus to gain access to the different designing function at your disposal with Alibre Design. As we go down further in the image from the drop menus, there are list of icons where are all shortcuts various and commonly used functions in Alibre Design. This is known as the toolbars. Here you can save, create, orientation, views and other various design feature functions as well. Note that the Toolbars can be customised accordingly to be either shown or hidden under the drop menus or on the right hand side of the window. To do this right click where the toolbar is and select the appropriate toolbars you require. Orientating the toolbars is a simple matter of dragging and dropping as the toolbars snap into position. Note that the toolbars on the right hand side are shortcuts to the 2D and 3D sketch features which can be used in the designing process.The left hand side of the window is occupied with the design explorer. This is a very integral part of the designing process of model part since that it shows all the feature changes of the design as well as the orientations which are saved by the user. Note this were changes to the features can be edited here as well as hide to show specific areas of the design. Next is the work area which occupies majority of the space in which the designing of the part will take place. At the very bottom of the window is where the message bar is located. The message bar will tell you of your progress of saves and regeneration of the design.     

2D Sketching in Alibre Design

Before starting out into sketch mode, Alibre Design has specific parameters which need to be setup at the beginning of each model design to ensure that the materials, and unit system used is correct. Note that this process also removes the additional steps when moving your 3D design over to drawing layout. This is done by going to the drop menu of file >Design properties. Here a dialogue box like the following will appear. Note that the tabs on the top will allow you to select the various different options in Alibre Design such as Units used, Material used in the design, how dimensions are to be displayed as well as the part name and information on it

Alibre Design Properties Control Window for Design a New Part

In the work area, you have noticed that there are large square with and XY inscription on the top right hand corner. This large square is known as a plane in which face you will be drawing your design on. As you can see also there are two lines forming a cross through the middle of the square with a small crosshair in the very middle where these line intersect. These lines are your axis in which your design will be oriented on. Note that there are three axis X,Y and Z as well as three planes as well XY, YZ and ZX. One the first right hand side toolbar, on the top has an icon in which you can switch between 2D mode and 3D mode.

Alibre Design 2d Sketch bar which appears in 2D sketch mode

 To start drawing or sketching your primary part start by clicking on this icon and a dialogue box will appear with options of drawing grid settings. When you are satisfied with the settings provided or have entered click apply and the plane you want to work in. The plane will snap in position and you can start drawing your 2D sketch for your design.





As mentioned previously in this tutorial, the right hand toolbars are set for 2D and 3D feature Shortcuts for the user to use in their design quickly and effectively. Note that there are tutorials available to explain how each function works. The help files can be found on the last option on the drop down menu or alternatively you can press F1 for the help menu. In this tutorial, we will be looking at a few of the features, where people get confused in using.

 Adding Constraints

Alibre design flyout for constriants

Constraints is a concept which many people who start out in learning how to use CAD software difficult. The concept for constraints in CAD systems are limits or rules set by the user to limit a specific part of the design. This can include the size, shape, orientation or any other relationships with other 2d sketches or 3d models. Constraints in Alibre design can be added very readily and can be manipulated to be able to design so that the figure itself matches the required constraint.

Here are the list of possible constraints which Alibre has to offer:

Fixed constraint - This fixes or locks the 2d figure into its orientation and position in the sketch area.  If this constraint is applied to the 2d figure, the figure can not be edited nor moved from its location. To move or adjust the figure again, the fixed constraint must be removed first.

Vertical constraint -  This constraint forces all lines or nodes be vertically aligned. This can be applied to any two lines to make them vertically constrained or nodes as well in the sketch figure.

Horizontal constraint -  Similar principle to the Vertical Constraint, but inversely horizontally.

Intersection constraint - Allows for more than one figure to intersect with one another at a point in the sketch area.

Symmetric constraint - This constraint forces any line or shape to have the same aspect and length as the previously selected line or figure. Example of this is two uneven lengths on a box figure. By highlighting a smaller side of the box, the symmetric constraint will force the the large line to be redrawn to the same equal length as the highlighted line. Constraints only work if they are highlighted in the correct manner.

Coradial constraint - Figures can be constrained if they have the same centre point as well as the same radius. This constraint can be applied to circles and arcs.

Concentric constraint - Figures can be organised into concentric circles if they are constricted to share the same centre point. The concentric constraint can be applied to not only circles but arcs as well.

Co linear constraint - This constraint make sure that all the figures that are selected remain in the same line. Lines can be constrained in a Co-linear Fashion as soon as they are drawn by the user automatically.

Coincident constraint - This constraint make sure that the selected point is constrained to lie within in the figure selected. This constraint can be applied to any point within a figure.

Midline Constraint - As its name suggest that a Point node can be Fixed into a position where it lines in the middle of the line. this can be applied to lines, circles and arcs as well within the sketch area.

Equal Constraint - Figures can be constrained to have equal size on their edges to one another. This can be applied automatically within the  sketch design as the lines are drawn in by the user.

Tangent Constraint - Constraint allows for a Selected Circle to form a tangent with another line that is selected afterwards and will resize the radius of the circle to form the tangent.

Perpendicular Constraint - Lines within the figure can be constrained with this function to allow them to form Perpendicular angles with the previous selected line. This can be applied to lines and Circles as well as circular arcs.

Parallel Constraints -  This creates a parallel constrain in the selected figure its edges. this can only applied to lines.

Applying these Constraints can be done by selected the Option made available on the right toolbar. By selecting the desired constraint, and the applying to the two edges or figures that is required will apply the constraint. To remove, simply by selecting the constraint icon on the figure itself on the sketching area with the selection icon and pressing delete.

Adding Dimensions

Alibre Design Dimensions icon Figure This feature very easy to use and will be required later if you want to edit various dimensions of the Model that you are creating. It will also allow for you to create and resize your model in various parts that are required to do so. To enable this feature, you will need to make sure you have setup your Properties settings for the model design. Please refer to the first page for this information. Now there are three way to do this, firstly by right clicking and going to the dimensions. This will enable the Dimension icon to be enabled and click the side you want the dimensions for, or the two points where you want to show the dimensions for. Note the dimensions will not be shown in 3D sketches, since that you can use the 3D Measurement tool. It is wise to be using this Feature on various areas that you will be requiring a lot of editing or changes to the design. The second method you can use alternative is that you use the side toolbar to access the dimension icon. here you will be able to select the side u need the measurements for and placing the measurement in an appropriate area. Now with The dimensions Box opening up like the one below here, you are free to edit the dimensions on the sides of your model to fit specifications required. And with the same way, you can come back and reedit the dimensions here as well.

  Alibre Design Dimensions Step 2Alibre Design Dimensions Step 3

Now there is another way in which you are able to adding dimensions without having to go through the whole process manually and adding the necessary dimensions on the figure itself. By going into the 2D sketch function and then selecting the Auto dimension Function, this will create multiple dimensions on the figure that is required.


The third method was introduced into Alibre Design Version 12, make the dimensioning system faster and efficient. This is known as Real time dimensioning. This option needs to be enabled before it can be used. This will enable for any 2D feature to be draw at it first point, a dialogue box for the dimensions will appear allowing you to define it as your draw.


Sketching Shapes

Alibre Design comes pre configured with a set of shapes which can be used in the design sketch. there are two Options in which this Option to be accessed. The first way you can do this is through the right hand side sketch toolbar. Then select the sketch the shape Option which should look something similar to the image above. Another way to access this Option is by going to the sketch menu on the top of the window and selecting Shape Option there and then selecting the specific shape that is required. There are 7 different shapes in which can be used within your design. To apply any of the shapes simple click in the sketch space and then edit accordingly to the shape that is to be used.

Alibre design sketching shapes opinions animation

Circle, Square  - very straightforward in applying the shape into the sketch. The diameter can a value and adjust to fit the specifications that are required. Same with the square instead of the diameter, the length of the side needs to be enter to complete the sizing of the shape.

Oblong, Rectangle - There are three dimensions here which are required to filled in for the shape to take form. The Diagram on your left will instruct where the sides dimension that is to be modified by the user. XL dimension is the long side of the oblong shape, YL gives the the dimension for the depth of the shape and A is the degree that the shape is tilted in a clockwise position. For the rectangle it is the same procedure.

Rectangle with R corner shape - This method is pretty much the same as the rectangle and oblong. The dimensions are need to be placed in their appropriate fields. The only difference is that that there is an additional field where the radius of the rounded corner. This needs to be field in before the shape is adjusted to the correct field.

Single and Double D Shape - Same as the oblong and rectangle. The curve of the shape is determined by the difference of the length and the depth of the shape.

Now there is additional Options which are given with each of these shape placements as seen in the previous images above. There is a Set pattern which is available for the repetition of the shape through the sketch. By selecting any of the other patterns besides the single will open up additional Options based of the pattern layout. These include:

Alibre design sketching shapes patterns opinions animation

Linear - As the name suggest, the shapes will be placed in a linear fashion. With additional Options such as pitch which will determine the space between each of the shapes that are placed down in a linear fashion. The Pattern angle and determine the orientation of the linear curve. Also the number of the shapes within the figure can also be edited as well.

Arc - The pattern that the name suggest is that the laying out the pattern in a arc like fashion. The distance from a centre point can be changed as well as the number of the shape can be edited similarly to a linear fashion. The difference between the two is that the starting angle which can be prescribed and the pitch of the angle which is the next positional angle of the next Shape in the arc pattern. All the values are related with lettering next the description of each Dimension Field.

Circle -  Same as the Arc Pattern, but can be orientated  differently based on the starting angle of the first shape. This will result with a staggered circular start as shown here with the difference of the two.

Grid -  This pattern commonly used if required multiple areas with the same shape and can be edited later to fit the prescribed design. There are multiple fields which are assigned key letters which will help orientate the pattern for the shape to be assigned to as shown in the following diagram.

Adding 2D Fillets and 2D Chamfer  By adding a Fillet to a model will remove a corner and replace with a rounded corner where as Chamfer will just remove the corner itself with just a straight line as shown here. To apply any of these Options by selecting the feature through the right sketch panel or through the 2D sketch Option. Once selected, highlight the required corners for the adding or either the fillets or the chamfers. Click okay to apply the function.

Alibre Design Filling with window opinions  

Alibre Design Chamfer with window opinions


Offsetting a Sketch

Offsetting will allow for the model to draw a smaller model of itself within the sketch itself. The distance in which the offset is performed can be altered as in the offsetting menu box. To apply, select the function, highlight the areas in model required for the offsetting and then put in a value for the offset.

Alibre Design offsetting sketch window

A note to remember is that the offsetting function will not work if the offsetting model has small feature within itself and having very little space of the offset to be shown in the model. Example can be seen here:


Mirroring as the name suggest, will allow you to create a mirror of the sketch in 2D. This function is also available to be done in 3D mode as well. The only requirement for the Mirroring is that a plane must be next to the model or sketch itself as shown here. To add planes, simple select the insert plane Option on the top toolbar or Insert menu and go to insert plane. Select the required face and set a distance of the plane if desired. Once completed click okay and a plane will be made parallel to the face model. Then you can mirror the model by selecting mirror Option and then the plane in which you want to form the mirror on ( most likely the plane nearest to the face which you created earlier). If you look at the drawing screen you should be able to see the projected mirror model.

 Alibre design Mirroring opinion window

To do this in 2D mode with a sketch, you need to create an axis in which the model can be mirrored off. To do this, select create Axis and the highlight the edge in which the sketch would like to be mirrored off. Once completed select okay. Next go to the mirror Option and fill in the correct parameters. Finish by Clicking okay and the Sketch should mirror.

Working Around Design Explorer

As you progress through Alibre Design, you will start to take note that design Explorer is tracking all the changes made to the model and keeps tabs on where you are working at as well as what area in the model design that you are looking at as well. If look closely to the Tree diagram, will note that most of your work will be located under feature, with all the changes as well as the functions that your have applied to the design listed there. Now for people who would like to use Alibre design to correct previous design, by selecting the name of the model or design and then right clicking, an Option for colour properties should be available. Select the Colour Properties and this will give the designer the Options to change the colour of the model, edges, the opacity (transparency of the model) and reflectivity (how much light is reflected off the model). By using the transparency bar, you can make the model fade out of view to show other moving parts in the design which will covered in the next tutorial.

Alibre design Explorer window

This is part of Alibre Design were you can go back and edit various parts of the design model and see it take effect across the entire design. Simple by selecting one of the features or the sketch designs, right click and select edit to change the size shape or even the whole design of that specific part. Now provided that you have ensured the use of the the Analyse function and it has come back with no problems found, by pressing F5 or go to feature and select regenerate All function, this will tell the program to take all the changes made and remake a previous model with all the new changes.

Alibre design Pulldown Feature for regeneration

Another Option which can be useful for redesigning parts of your model is the suppression function. This will force that part of the model disappear from the drawing window which allows you to force on the specific area where the changes are needed. Take note that the feature of the suppression can be removed by right clicking the part and then un-ticking the suppression Option. Parts can be suppress automatically by simply by double clicking the previous feature, but this doesn't allow for selectively suppress different features. this method will suppress everything else between the previous items between the most recent to the selected feature which was double clicked.

Alibre design design explorer with suppressed features

Rescaling the model of the model as it name suggest is to keep the model the way it is in a much larger size desired based on the needs of the designer. Now to do this, there are two ways. One is by going to the Features Menu or by going to the toolbars on the right and selecting the scaling icon as shown here. Now once you have open up scaling you will notice that there are few Options here. The scale factors are based of decimals as 1.0 is being 100%. Now by going to to 1.1 in retrospect, will increase the size of the model by additional 10%( 110%). Now you can change any of the these factors in the x, y and z axis. Note that if you change only of these factors alone, e.g X = 1.0, Y=1.1 and Z= 1.0, then everything in the y axis will gain the 10% increase in size and skewing your model in the y axis.

Alibre design scaling box

However if you want to change the model in proportions that the is currently in, select Uniform and the Options for the X, Y, Z scales should disappear and only allow for one scale factor field. Now on the very top of the scaling window, there is a field for scale type. There are only two scale types available. The first one will scale from origin which is the true origin in the drawing area itself. the second Option will give a scale from centre of the model which is the centre of the model itself.

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