Nate Holt's Blog

May 9, 2010

Tutorial- Setting up new device “Pin List” – AutoCAD Electrical

Filed under: Electrical, Tutorials — nateholt @ 11:02 pm

Step-by-step implementation of a relay or contactor “pin list” into AutoCAD Electrical.

Autodesk’s Nathan Eliason hosted a webcast last month that focused on AutoCAD Electrical’s contact and pin assignment tracking features. I helped put the demo together and was responsible for the real-time Q & A support while Nathan was “on stage”.  

This posting is a brief summary of what Nathan demonstrated about half way through the webcast. It might serve as a simple tutorial of the basics of this AutoCAD Electrical feature.  

Related tutorials: Tutorial – AutoCAD Electrical and Contact Pin Assignments, Off-beat Uses of Toggle NO/NC Command


In the previous tutorial, we touched on AutoCAD Electrical’s “Pin List” feature and showed it in operation. We saw how coil and child contact pin assignments are annotated and tracked automatically. Powerful… and a big helping hand as we do our controls design with AutoCAD Electrical.

Next, in this short tutorial, let’s dig a bit deeper into this Pin List feature. We’ll go through and example of adding a brand-new component’s reference into this feature.

Adding a new component’s Pin List info

Let’s add schematic and BOM support for a brand-new (hypothetical) “Safety Contactor” device.

It’s a two-step process. 1) Add the new catalog part number to the catalog lookup database, 2) Add the catalog part number’s “Pin List” information to the database.

This first task is pretty simple and we won’t take time to go step-by-step here. We’ll just assume that we’ve added our new “ACME” brand safety relay to the motor/contactor table of AutoCAD Electrical’s catalog lookup database.

What this buys us is that when we pop in a motor/contractor parent “coil” symbol and do a “Lookup” for part number assignment, we’ll now have an option to pick “ACME” brand and choose this particular part number. Our selection will then show up in various BOM reports and such.

 Now on to what we really want to illustrate… setting up this component’s “Pin List” information.

Here is the new part (below) that needs the pin list information added to our AutoCAD Electrical parts database. There are a total of four N.O. contacts (3 power + 1 auxiliary) and four auxiliary N.C. contacts.

Our first step is to find and launch the “Pin List Database Editor” tool. This is going to provide a UI into a set of “Pin List” tables held in the normal default catalog lookup file.

Launching the Pin List Database Editor will prompt us to select the “Manufacturer” name. Select from the pull-down list.

In our example here we have nothing in our pin list database related to stuff from our example “Acme” company. So we add a new ACME table to our pin list database.

This creates a new table called _PINLIST_ACME in our normal catalog lookup database file.

Begin to fill in the form for the new Pin List record for the “ACME” table.

Wild-cards are supported for the catalog number. This is useful for groups of catalog numbers that all have the same pin list information.

 For example, a 4-pole N.O. relay might have a dozen different part numbers, one part number for each possible coil voltage. But the pin list numbers and contact count are exactly the same for all. If the part number can be wild-carded, then only a single entry in the table can accommodate all the different voltage relays.

The device’s “coil” pins are pretty easy…

This is where is gets a bit more cryptic… but once you get the hang of it, it goes along smoothly.

The idea is that each contact is encoded into three pieces of comma-delimited data. The first is a code identifying the contact type. In our example, 1 = N.O. contact type and 2 = N.C. contact type.

 The 2nd and 3rd pieces of data in each encoded group give the pin number annotation.

 Each group of three pieces of data are then strung together, semi-colon-delimited, into one long string of data in the PINLIST edit box. The next few images will illustrate.


Below is the encoding of the main three power contacts. Note that each comma-delimited grouping begins with a “1” indicating contact type “N.O.”  And each grouping is separated from the next by a semi-colon.

The four N.C. auxiliary contacts are now added to the encoded string. Each N.C. entry begins with a “2” where “2” = type “N.C”

Finally one more N.O. contact added to the string.

Note: grouping order is not critical but does influence the default order that AutoCAD Electrical will use when making assignments. In the example shown here, the last N.O. contact pin pair group, “1,13,14”, will get assigned by default after the first three N.O. contacts have been assigned elsewhere in the design.

Two Types of N.O. Contacts on same device – Potential Source for Error

Here is a potential source of confusion for a user… when a parent device has multiple types of a given contact type. Here, on this Safety Contactor symbol, there are two types of “N.O” contacts. One type is appropriate for high current / high power. The other type (the single N.O auxiliary contact) is only rated for low control current levels.

 But both types are listed together in the “NO Pairs” selection window because they are all type “N.O.”

There is an enhancement we can make.

 Reopen the PINLIST record for this ACME catalog part number. We can  enhance the record include some extra label text to guide the user.

With the existing record displayed, take a close look at the encoding of the first three N.O. contacts. These are the three “power” contacts of the ACME Safety Contactor.

 Add a suffix to each… a comma, an asterisk, and the letters “PWR” as shown here.


AutoCAD Electrical, when it reads the PINLIST data, will consider an asterisk-entry found at the end of a pin list group to be a label/comment. This label will be displayed as shown here…

Now, inserting a single N.O. motor/contactor contact and “Parent/Sibling” to the Safety Relay, and hitting “List” button in bottom right-hand corner of the Insert/Edit dialog, we should see the extra label information show up as shown here.

Now we have the information we need to make an informed decision on which pair of pin numbers to assign to our auxiliary N.O. contact (i.e. we do NOT pick a “PWR” pair… we pick the “13/14” unmarked pin pair).


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