Nate Holt's Blog

February 16, 2011

Tutorial – Save Circuit / Insert Circuit from Icon Menu – AutoCAD Electrical

Filed under: Electrical, Tutorials — nateholt @ 3:17 pm

Save partial or complete schematic circuits to the AutoCAD Electrical icon menu for pick and placement at any time into the current design.

Autodesk’s Nathan Eliason hosted a webcast today (February 16, 2011) that was an introduction to the Circuit Builder tool built into AutoCAD Electrical. I helped put the demo together and was responsible for real-time Q & A support while Nathan was “on stage”.

Note: this posting is a summary of what Nathan covered in the first part of his presentation, prior to introduction of the Circuit Builder tool.

Save Circuit / Insert Circuit from Icon Menu

This is the original circuit toolset that’s been around for a very long time. And there are two versions that ultimately do the same thing, that is, allow you to save partial or complete circuits and then, at any time, pop in copies of them for re-use.

For example, on the circled part of the circuit shown above… let’s say we have designed a basic 3-phase motor control circuit with isolated control transformer and control circuit. We’ve built it up using AutoCAD Electrical, inserting wires and components. But we want to be able to quickly re-use this circuit and other circuits like this so we don’t have to create each future instance “from scratch”. Again, we’re talking about the original save/insert circuit capabilities that have been in AutoCAD Electrical for a long time…

1st method: Saving a Circuit using AutoCAD WBLOCK command

So, the first approach is to use the generic AutoCAD WBLOCK command and window the circuit or sub-circuit and save it to disk, perhaps in some folder structure you set up on a shared network drive. Maybe a folder for motor circuits, another for safety circuits, another for controllers, etc. Use WBLOCK command, select the components and wiring and an insertion point, give it a file name, and push it out to your custom “library” of circuits.

2nd method: Saving a Circuit to the Icon Menu

The second approach long supported by AutoCAD Electrical is using the “Save Circuit to Icon Menu”. You window the circuit or sub-circuit you want to save for later re-use. AutoCAD Electrical WBLOCKs out the circuit to disk, same as before… except that it gives you a bonus. It adds a convenient link to the circuit right on the schematic icon menu.

Let’s quickly walk through an example of this second approach, the “Save Circuit to Icon Menu”…

Let’s say we’re going to be inserting quite a few 3-phase motor symbols with each one attached to a 3-pole safety switch.

1. We can draw this one time.
2. Then we can save this out as a “saved circuit” to our icon menu
3. Then, any time we need this, we can select it from the normal schematic icon menu and pop it in.

Here’s  how…

1. Assume we’ve initially drawn the circuit.
2. Now ZOOM in on what is to be included in the saved circuit.
3. Then select the “Save Circuit to Icon Menu” command as shown below.

AutoCAD Electrical flips into its “Icon Menu Wizard” mode and jumps to the page dealing with saved “user circuits”.

4.  Right-click in an empty spot in the icon area of the dialog.
5.  Select “Add icon” à “New circuit…” which then pops up a “Create New Circuit” properties form for the new icon…

6. Fill in the form above. The first line is the text that you want to show up below the icon. Here we’ll just enter something like “DS and 3PH Motor”. Toggle the “Create PNG from current screen image” to capture the active drawing’s current state. This will become the actual icon graphics that show up in the button. Enter any file name in the middle and bottom edit boxes. Hit “OK”.

7.  With the icon defined, the final step is to select the components and wiring that are to be WBLOCKed out as this circuit along with the insertion base point.

That’s it. Now it’s ready for re-use…  at any time we can insert the previously saved circuit into the active drawing schematic.

We can use the Insert Wblocked Circuit command (shown in blue below) and browse to the saved circuit’s “.dwg” file, then pop it in and auto-connect to out active drawing’s wiring. Or, in our example since we used the “Save Circuit to Icon Menu” approach (shown in red below), we can pick on the new icon…

Inserting a saved circuit previously saved to an icon menu button reference

1.Select the “Insert Saved Circuit” button as shown in red below.

2.This immediately pops open the schematic icon menu and jumps to “User circuit” page.
3.Pick on the new circuit icon. Pop the circuit into position on the active drawing. There it is!
Note: If you can’t remember how to find the “Insert Saved Circuit” button on the ribbon, just select the Schematic icon menu. Pick “Miscellaneous” à “User Circuits”, and there it is… the new “DS and 3PH Motor” icon. Just pick on it at any time and pop in a copy of the saved circuit into the active drawing.
No matter which approach you use, the INSERT CIRCUIT command or the INSERT FROM ICON MENU command, the circuit pops in and…
1. Wires attempt to trim/reconnect to the drawing’s existing connections
2. Parent components attempt to re-tag appropriately
3. Child components that came in with the inserted circuit attempt to link to re-tagged parents that came in with the circuit

And there’s nothing stopping us from WBLOCKing out complete circuits, such as this 3-phase motor start/stop circuit. We can browse to the folder where we’ve WBLOCKed it or we pick it from the Icon menu if we’ve saved it with the “Save Circuit to Icon Menu” command… and pop it in. Component re-tag automatically, child contacts cross-reference, and wires re-connect.

Pretty cool… but actually there are some basic limitations… 


Which will lead to a future posting on the second, newer method. It made its appearance in ACE2009 and is called “Circuit Builder”.

The Circuit Builder tool comes preinstalled with an Excel data file to build and annotate a sampling of motor control circuits and power feed circuits. It includes three-phase, single-phase, and one-line circuit representations. Each circuit is built dynamically with the following features:

  • Connects to an adjacent power bus.
  • Adds wiring between components.
  • Annotates selected components with suggested values based upon the selected load.
  • Each time a circuit is configured, it is added to a history list of circuits. This list provides for quick re-insertion at a later time.
  • Driven from an editable Excel spreadsheet

 For the above, click on “Introduction to Circuit Builder” posted here.


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