Sketcher Micro Tutorial - Constraint Practices

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Base ExampleCommandModel.png Tutorial
Topic
Sketcher
Level
Beginner
Time to complete
30 minutes
Authors
Mark Stephen (Quick61) and vocx
FreeCAD version
0.19
Example files
Sketcher Constraints practices


Introduction

This tutorial was originally written by Quick61, and it was rewritten and reillustrated by vocx.

This tutorial is designed to help the new user become familiar with the best practices of constraining a Sketch in the workflow of the Workbench Sketcher.svg Sketcher Workbench.

There is a general rule with constraints: the fewer amount of datum constraints (dimensions), the better.

It is preferable to use a geometric constraint in place of a dimensional one if possible. This has to do with the internal workings of the Sketcher's constraint solver.

Setup

1. Open FreeCAD, create a new empty document with File → Std New.svg New.

1.1. Switch to the Sketcher Workbench from the workbench selector, or the menu View → Workbench → Sketcher.

Some actions to remember:

  • Press the right mouse button, or press Esc in the keyboard once, to deselect the active tool in edit mode.
  • To exit the sketch edit mode, press the Close button in the task panel, or press Esc twice in the keyboard.
  • To enter again edit mode, double click on the sketch in the tree view, or select it, and then click on Sketcher EditSketch.svg Edit sketch.

Create a sketch

2. Click on Sketcher NewSketch.svg New sketch.

2.1. Choose the sketch orientation, that is, one of the base XY, XZ, or YZ planes. We will use the default plane and options.
2.2. Click OK to start constructing the sketch.

Note: in the task panel expand the Edit controls section, and make sure the Auto constraints option is disabled. Also turn off the grid snap, and hide the grid.

First approach: datum constraints

3. We will draw a fully constrained square, centered at the origin.

3.1. Click on Sketcher CreatePolyline.svg Create polyline, then trace four lines in the general shape of a rectangle around the origin.

01a Sk02 Sketcher Rectangle unconstrained.png

Unconstrained rectangular sketch.


3.2. Select one horizontal line, and press Constraint HorizontalDistance.svg Horizontal distance, then enter 20 mm.
3.3. Select the other horizontal line, and repeat the constraint with the same distance.
3.4. Select one vertical line, and press Constraint VerticalDistance.svg Vertical distance, then enter 20 mm.
3.5. Select the other vertical line, and repeat the constraint with the same distance.
3.6. Select one bottom corner point (a), and the origin of the sketch, and press Constraint HorizontalDistance.svg Horizontal distance, then enter 10 mm.
3.7. Select the top corner point (b) above the previous corner point (a), and the origin of the sketch, and repeat the horizontal constraint with the same distance.
3.8. Select the other bottom corner point (c), and the origin of the sketch, and press Constraint VerticalDistance.svg Vertical distance, then enter 10 mm.
3.9. Select the top corner point (b) again, and the origin of the sketch, and repeat the vertical constraint with the same distance.

01b Sk02 Sketcher Rectangle constrained lengths 1.png 01c Sk02 Sketcher Rectangle constrained lengths 2.png

Left: datum constraints for the sides. Right: additional datum constraints for the interior distances.


Looking at the Constraints section in the task panel, we see that the constraints are too many; they also clutter the view of the sketch. These constraints are also computationally intensive for the solver; while this is not an issue with a simple shape, it can become one with more complex shapes.

A better way: datum and geometric constraints

4. We will draw the same square fully constrained, and centered at the origin. When you create the new sketch, make sure the Auto constraints option is disabled.

4.1. Click on Sketcher CreatePolyline.svg Create polyline, then trace four lines in the general shape of a rectangle around the origin.
4.2. Select one horizontal line, and press Constraint Horizontal.svg Horizontal.
4.3. Select the other horizontal line, and repeat the constraint.
4.4. Select one vertical line, and press Constraint Vertical.svg Vertical.
4.5. Select the other vertical line, and repeat the constraint.

02a Sk02 Sketcher Rectangle constrained horizontal-vertical.png

Geometrical horizontal and vertical constraints.


4.6. Select one horizontal line, and press Constraint HorizontalDistance.svg Horizontal distance, then enter 20 mm. We see that the other horizontal line changes size at the same time.
4.7. Select one vertical line, and press Constraint VerticalDistance.svg Vertical distance, then enter 20 mm. We see that the other vertical line changes size at the same time.
4.8. Select one bottom corner point (a), and the origin of the sketch, and press Constraint HorizontalDistance.svg Horizontal distance, then enter 10 mm.
4.9. Select the top corner point (b) above the previous corner point (a), and the origin of the sketch, and press Constraint VerticalDistance.svg Vertical distance, then enter 10 mm.

02b Sk02 Sketcher Rectangle constrained lengths 1.png 02c Sk02 Sketcher Rectangle constrained lengths 2.png

Left: datum constraints for only two sides. Right: additional datum constraints for only two interior distances.


This is a better constrained sketch than the first one. The horizontal and vertical geometric constraints allow us to use fewer datum constraints, so our sketch looks less cluttered.

Optimum scheme: mostly geometric constraints

5. We will draw the same square fully constrained, and centered at the origin. When you create the new sketch, make sure the Auto constraints option is disabled.

5.1. Click on Sketcher CreatePolyline.svg Create polyline, then trace four lines in the general shape of a rectangle around the origin.
5.2. Select one horizontal line, and press Constraint Horizontal.svg Horizontal.
5.3. Select the other horizontal line, and repeat the constraint.
5.4. Select one vertical line, and press Constraint Vertical.svg Vertical.
5.5. Select the other vertical line, and repeat the constraint.

03a Sk02 Sketcher Rectangle constrained horizontal-vertical.png

Geometrical horizontal and vertical constraints.


5.6. Select one bottom corner point (a), then the top corner point that is diagonally opposite, and then the origin of the sketch; then press Constraint Symmetric.svg Symmetric. The two selected points will be equidistant from the origin.
5.7. Select two adjacent sides of the rectangle (connected at one corner), and press Constraint EqualLength.svg Equal length. Notice that due to the symmetry of the corner points, all sides are now of the same size.

03b Sk02 Sketcher Rectangle constrained symmetric.png 03c Sk02 Sketcher Rectangle constrained equal length.png

Left: symmetric constraint for only two corner points. Right: additional equal length distances for only two adjacent sides.


5.8. Select one horizontal line, and press Constraint HorizontalDistance.svg Horizontal distance, then enter 20 mm. Due to the symmetric and length equality constraints previously added, we see that all sides become equal at the same time.

03d Sk02 Sketcher Rectangle constrained length.png

All geometric constraints applied, and a single datum constraint for a side.


This is the best way to constrain this sketch, as we only used one datum (dimensional) constraint.

Additional resources