How to Quickly Create a Symbol in SOLIDWORKS Electrical Schematic

   By Tim Pulaski on March 6, 2023

Having a robust library of schematic symbols is crucial to maintaining your productivity in electrical schematic design and documentation, regardless of the software you’re using. SOLIDWORKS Electrical boasts over 2,500 ANSI and IEC standard symbols out-of-the-box, as well as powerful methods of importing symbols from DWG/DXF sources. Even still, there will be situations when you need a more specialized symbol – right away – and you don’t want to spend the next hour trying to find one on the web. (if it even exists!) What can you do?

Today, I want to share a method of creating symbols I personally use to quickly augment my library with custom symbols on-the-fly while creating my drawings.

not the traditional way to create symbols in solidworks electrical

This blog will not be about how to create symbols in a more “traditional” sense using the Library Symbols Manager. This method is already well documented, both in the SOLIDWORKS Electrical Schematic training course and in other blogs.

Challenges with “Traditional” Symbol Creation

To start, let’s take a step back and lay out some of the challenges we face when creating electrical symbols.

Size/Scale

When creating a new symbol from scratch, it can be difficult and tedious to ensure the size of the symbol matches your expectations for the intended drawing format.

size and scale in solidworks electrical

Snap/Grid Alignment

Spacing out connection points according to a consistent spacing standard can be problematic with a large number of connection points, especially if their positions about the symbol are not uniform.

snap grid alignment for solidworks electrical

Attribute Selection

Symbol attributes often use unfamiliar names and callouts in the symbol editor, which makes it hard to guarantee the correct manufacturer data will populate the intended fields.

attribute selections in solidworks electrical

A Different Approach to Create a Symbol in SOLIDWORKS Electrical Schematic

a different approach to create a symbol in solidworks electrical

To address these common challenges, it can be beneficial to begin a new symbol using something called a “Black Box” symbol. A Black Box symbol is one of the few dynamic symbols available within the program, which means it can be resized even after being placed in a drawing. Moreover, it can be automatically annotated with attributes and connections to any wires that pass through its boundary.

To create a black box symbol:

  1. Prepare the schematic drawing by drafting any wires you anticipate forming a connection to the device you intend to create.

create a black box symbol

  1. Select the Insert Black Box command from the Schematic tab of the command ribbon.

insert black box in solidworks electrical

  1. Click once to define the position of the upper-left corner of the symbol and again to define the bottom-right position. Make sure the box is adjacent to or on top of the wires to form connection points.

how to create a symbol in solidworks electrical

  1. At a minimum, define the Class of the intended symbol, then click OK.

define the class of intended symbol

  1. If you missed any connection points, simply draw a new wire that intersects the black box. Then, right-click the black box symbol and select Update Black Box to add the point.

update black box in solidworks to create symbol

Converting the Black Box into a “Normal” Symbol

Converting the Black Box into a “Normal” Symbol
Once you have confirmed the black box is the correct size and has all the required elements, you can convert it to a traditional symbol in your library. To do this, right-click the Black Box and select Symbol > Add to Library. When prompted, select Create a New Symbol; then, select Save as Multiwire Symbol. Last, give the new symbol a unique name within the library and click OK to save.

The symbol editor will launch, allowing you to adjust the style, attribute position, and add supplemental text/geometry. Once you are satisfied, the Black Box within the drawing may be deleted and replaced with the library symbol.

A Better Start

While beginning a new symbol using a Black Box does not completely automate the process, it does greatly improve the experience and helps minimize or even eliminate many of the common challenges users run up against when initially using the Symbol Editor.

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Tim Pulaski

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