Adding a Column to Content Center Steel Families

By Michael Jones


We will be adding transverse hole spacing to the top and bottom flange of the content center wide flange family.  We will be extracting the transverse hole spacing data from the 15th edition of the AISC Excel workbook. 

In structural steel detailing, gage is shorthand for the transverse hole spacing.  Using the recommended transverse hole spacing ensures that there will be adequate clearance for fastening tools and proper edge distance for bolts.


We have broken the process down to four steps.

  1. Adding New Column
  2. Inserting AISC Gage Data
  3. Updating the Template Part
  4. Validation and Verification

Adding New Column

To add a column to a content center library, the library should be a copy of a standard content center library and cannot be a read-only family.

Open the content center editor.

To add the column for the new feature, <Right-Click> on the family and open the family table.

Select the add column function

Name the column, be sure to provide a memorable caption.

Ignore the error dialog, as we are going to complete the data entry via Excel.

Inserting AISC Gage Data

After the new column has been added to the table, the table can be opened in Excel and the data from the AISC Excel workbook can be integrated into the content center workbook.

Next comes the tedious part…completing the data entry.  I have a daughter (11 years old as of 2020) who types much faster than I, unfortunately, she is not in the office with me, and we will need to use an alternative solution.

As stated at the start, the required data is in the AISC Excel workbook. We need to compare the two Excel workbooks to verify that the rows are matching.  The Inventor content center data does not match the current AISC database.  The Inventor library contains section sizes which are no longer produced and is missing a few sections.

The AISC Excel workbook contains multiple steel section types, not just the wide flange shapes. There are 166 columns in the workbook, some of which are not applicable to the wide flange family.

The gage data is in a column named WGi.  The column WGo is for wider sections where you can have four holes across the width of the flanges.  We will also need to add in a second custom column and then enter the data for the 62 sections which have adequate width for four holes, but that task for for another time, another day.

We are attaching the Excel workbook in which we added checking columns to ensure we are matching data.

We will leverage the AISC-shapes-database to extract the data.

Add an index column to the AISC workbook to assist in bringing the data into the content center Excel workbook.  The index column is created by concatenating the section and the gage.

Copy the column from the AISC Excel workbook into the content center family workbook

Create a validation column, or check column, to ensure the rows are matching.

After creating a validation column to compare the two datasets you realize that the Inventor content center family is not up to date.

The rows with a 0 will need to be completed by hand to ensure that the sketches in the content center template will not throw an error.  There are several of the heavier sections which are just slightly different than 15th edition.  You can either edit or add in a row for the updated sections.

After the data has been entered into the table you will need to edit the family template to add in the parameter so it can be mapped into the family.

Updating the Template Part

Save a CUSTOM content center generated part into a folder and then open the part file and add in the required sketches and parameters.

As we may need holes on both the top and bottom flange, we will need to add a sketch to go along with the new parameter. Be sure to create the user work-plane from the origin planes.

New parameters for the top and bottom flange holes

After setting up the top and bottom flange sketches with the new user parameters save the template and return to the content center editor and replace the template file with the modified part file.

<Right Click> on the family icon (Make sure your library view is NOT set to Merged View!).

The dialog box you should see after the new template has been published successfully.

Now we can link the new column with the parameter in the model.

Validation and Verification

Now you need to verify that the new parameter has been linked correctly.

Here we have a W30x99, which has a workable gage of 5.5 inches

Change size to a W21x57, which has a workable gage of 3.5 inches.

Now we can edit the starting sketches on the top and bottom flange and easily add holes with the proper gage.

Phase 2 will include adding in the parameter and column for the outer gage (WGo) and updating the jumbo sections to match the 15th edition of the AISC Steel Construction manual.

Thank you for your time.

About the Author:

Just a guy with a penchant for fast motorcycles and slow computers.  One wife, two daughters, and a dog. 

Started using AutoCAD way back when, finally transitioned to Inventor in 2015. 

Enjoy porting VBA programs to and trying to see how many functions can be placed into an iLogic rule.

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