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Category Archives: Management

@%#&! Autodesk Vault just overwrote my file

Recover Overwritten Vault CAD FilesIf you’ve used Autodesk Vault at any time, then its highly likely you have downloaded a file you already have checked out and overwrote a chunk of your work. Unfortunately that’s just one of several scenarios, which can result in you losing your work. The real trick to preventing this of course, is to check your work into Vault every couple of hours (similar to continually saving within your CAD application). Nevertheless, there could be a number of reasons why checking in your work continuously isn’t feasible. I often hear the comment “I wish Vault had a recycle bin”, I’ve even murmured those words myself and you know what it’s a reasonable request. Why can’t Vault create an old version of the files it’s overwriting? Although its likely possible, it could get mighty confusing.

Just over a year ago, one of my staff downloaded a skeletal / master model from Vault while trying to work around a problem he had, the problem was he already had it checked out, but worse he hadn’t checked in the file for a couple of days. He had created components, built a main assembly and even produced a drawing. Needless to say overwriting his skeletal model with what was essentially a template file, was highly undesirable. Don’t judge him though, he’s new to this Autodesk Inventor / Vault game, all while dealing with a temperamental VPN connection & a new replicated Vault, so he’s been doing a grand job. All of my staff and myself have all made this mistake once or twice.

Autodesk Vault Inventor Project File Old Versions Setting

In the past the Inventor Old Versions folder has been our first port of call, depending on how your Inventor Project File is setup, these folders can be a gold mine during these arse puckering moments. The project file setting I am referring to is shown in the image above, I like to set Old Versions To Keep On Save to equal 5 on all Vault project files. Of course, this tactic is of no use to AutoCAD users, but it does have some of it’s own backup treasures which may or may not be useful within any given situation.

This time however, I’m glad he made the mistake, because it prompted me to ponder if some of the new Windows Explorer features in Windows 7 on wards would help out here. The particular feature which inspired me to Google for a solution, was the undo tool. In Windows 7 or 8 if you delete a file in a folder, then press Ctrl + Z, it will undo the delete command and restore the file. In this case the file had been overwritten by an application and not as a result of the user interacting directly with the folder. So I took a punt and searched for:

“Recovering an overwritten file”

The first search return took me to this site. Method 3 of 4 was a particular surprise, I couldn’t believe it, I’d seen this tab in the Windows 7 Property menu before but I’d never realized it’s impact. The command worked perfectly, the 2 days of lost work was returned thanks to this hidden gem. You can even open or copy the previous version to a different location if you aren’t confident it’s the right way to go. Be warned though, this isn’t a fail safe, but this is always worth a check in this situation. The best part though? This is handy for all Windows users, not just Vault users.

Windows 7 Restore Previous Version Tab

Then I went and took a look at Windows 8 to make sure this behaviour still existed, it turns out it doesn’t and this article explains why. Thankfully Microsoft just improved it out right, the only catch is you have to enable it and point it to a non system drive. Take a look at this well written article explaining how to do that. Another bit of good news is Windows 10 has maintained the same system as Windows 8, so we are looking good into the future. If you are the owner of your Autodesk software, then you could re-purpose your Autodesk USB installation media, to leverage this native Windows benefit.

These tools for Windows 7 & 8 are cracking little gems, lurking in the background, rarely used but invaluable all the same just waiting for the opportunity to shine and save your butt. The best part is they can be used on any file stored on your hard drive and not just those your use for CAD. Check them out and if you need to, enable it. With respect to the title of this post, I haven’t really shown you how to prevent it happening in the first place, I will do this in an upcoming post covering dialog and prompt suppression within Vault and it’s application add-ins.

Stratasys Agrees to Buy GrabCAD

Earlier this mornng, Stratasys issued a press release stating that it has “entered into a definitive agreement to acquire privately-held GrabCAD, Inc.”. The sale is expected to be completed by the end of September, 2014.

GrabCAD Purchased by Stratasys

We’ve kept a close eye on GrabCAD since its public launch in 2010, watching it grow with impressive direction and capabilities. Hardi Meybaum, the company CEO may not know exactly which initiative (or combination thereof) sparked the recent surge in interest from the design and engineering industries, but he has demonstrated vision and a consistent winning strategy. Their most recent achievement, the cloud-based Workbench Product Data Management (PDM) software is maturing nicely and has great potential to streamline (and possibly redefine) the needs of small-medium sized (SMB) design/engineering data sharing and collaboration. Its 3D-CAD model viewing (Parasolid) and unbelievably easy to use and secure client space features are some of the factors that increase the company’s value.

Stratasys is one of the premier innovators in the 3D Printing industry, with nearly $2.8 Billion USD in total assets. David Reis, Stratasys Chief Executive Officer was quoted stating that,

“By increasing the collaboration and accessibility of 3D CAD files, we believe we can further accelerate the adoption of 3D printing solutions and Stratasys’ product offerings.”

The company stated that GrabCAD would continue to operate from within the Stratasys Global Products and Technology Group, with Hardi continuing as the company leader. What we don’t know yet: The terms of the sale, how this will change Hardi Meybaun’s strategies, and what direction GrabCAD and its Workbench software will take under Stratasys leadership.

Will GrabCAD Workbench prove to be as effective a platform as Stratasys is betting? It could, but that brings numerous concerns into focus. The biggest one in my mind is, “Exactly how much PDM/PLM does Stratasys need for its own sharing platform vision?” Probably not nearly as much as we need in the general design and engineering industry, and perhaps not even as much as the initiatives we were waiting for in FY15 (These initiatives were under strict non-disclosure agreements between GrabCAD and Design & Motion, but did represent good direction for more down-to-earth needs of designers and engineers in cloud storage, PDM, and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) functionality.)

It would be a great loss for many if Workbench development was halted, however there is some positive potential now that they have a parent company with cash. Stratasys spent about $50 Million USD in R&D last year, and a good boost from Stratasys could really allow GrabCAD to finish the job it started.

I still have hope in the overall mission of GrabCAD. If that mission still exists, remains to be seen.

An Electrifying Threesome – AutoCAD Electrical 2015, Office & Access 2010

Office 2010 32 bit AutoCAD Electrical 64 bit not supported

Microsoft Office 2010 is supported they say, 64 or 32 bit they say… hmm I say. What am I banging on about you say? Well, if you have a 64 bit Operating System installed, which is highly likely if you are running Windows 7 or 8.1. Then when you install the Autodesk Product Design Suite, AutoCAD Electrical or any other Autodesk product that installs the Microsoft Access 2010 Runtime, it will install the 64 bit version of both the CAD applications and the Access Runtime. HOWEVER, if you already have the 32 bit version of Office 2010 installed, then the install will fail. OR if you try to install Office 2010 32 bit AFTER you have install the Autodesk software, then the Office installation will fail.

Office 2013 32 bit 64 bit installation error

Here’s the thing, Microsoft are very clear about wanting people to install the 32 bit version of Office. The 64 bit version is only intended for developers to use. There are far too many conflicts between Office 64 bit and other applications which rely on Office components. SO, the only way you can use Office 2010 with 2015 Autodesk products which have an Access 2010 Runtime prerequisite, is to install the 64 bit version of Office and risk all the issues that come with it. I’m not a database guy, so I can only assume the AutoCAD electrical development team have been forced into using the 64 bit version with 64 bit AutoCAD and the 32 bit version with 32 bit AutoCAD.

OK, so what about Office 2013? That is fine for now, you can happily install 32 & 64 bit versions of Office as long as they are different releases. I’m running Office 2013 32 bit, and AutoCAD Electrical installed Access 2010 Runtime 64 bit on my laptop. So I have two requests of Autodesk:

  1. Please don’t produce 2016 products requiring Access 2013!
  2. Please update your System Requirements for any CAD products requiring Access 2010 Runtime, that also includes the Suites System Requirements.

Design Highlights for August

NASA Develops Multi-Alloy 3D Printing Process – RT.com

August 3rd, 2014. image Researchers at NASA’s Pasadena based Jet Propulsion Lab are actively working with a process that 3D prints an object composed of more than one metal alloy. The team has been working on the project since 2010, after being inspired by wanting to improve on methods of combining parts made from different materials. The team has developed a method of changing the metal powder at will, and using a customized laser sintering process that adds layers tangentially on a rotating shaft. The article noted gradient alloy objects have been developed in the past, but not with definitive separate parts in a single mass. Some possible uses were proposed such as an object with different melting temperatures, densities and even magnetic properties.

Edit:

A far more detailed review was found at Design Engineering.com, discussing the linear process that has been developed, some drawbacks with brittleness and their workarounds. Additionally, Design Engineering pointed to the full scientific report on the radial deposit process.

The Diverging State of PDM – Lifecycle Insights

By Chad Jackson on Friday, March 28th, 2014. image I enjoyed reading Chad Jackson’s take on the changes that are taking place in the data management space especially after we did our look to 2015. Chad noted how the Product Data Management (PDM) across the industry began to more towards the cloud in a similar path, but sometimes different methodologies. The thing that was significant to all is that everyone was moving together in a common direction. However since 2013 things have begun to fragment, and Chad discusses specific examples of how this is starting to occur, and what the strategies are behind these diverging methodologies. I liked Chad’s statement here:

“This stands as the antithesis of Autodesk’s and Dassault Systèmes approach, which is the automate the manage and tracking of changes as much as possible. GrabCAD’s approach is to give the market what they want. The approach for Autodesk’s and Dassault Systèmes is to be more visionary. [SIC]“

Siemens CAE & Test Symposium 2014 – Siemens

“Smarter Decisions, Better Products” image Siemens has announced their CAE & Test Symposium that is planned for October 22-23, 2014 on a boat of all things – Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. This is the former NX CAE Symposium. Siemens has rebranded the symposium to reflect their expanded capabilities especially after the purchase of LMS International NV in 2012. This should represent the entire lineup of testing and simulation software under their roof. LMS, by the way, was a strategic acquisition and gave Siemens some well-regarded capabilities. Here is a quote from the Siemens 2012 press release: “Siemens will become the first product lifecycle management (PLM) software company to provide a closed-loop systems-driven product development solution extending all the way to integrated test management.” I’d really like to attend this symposium to see how they intent on moving forward with all the luggage they are now carrying.

The One True Part Number System – GrabCAD

By Ed Lopategui on August 5th, 2014. imageEd did a great job on this somewhat humorous write-up, looking at the differences between people’s (often heated) arguments over structured vs. non-structured part numbers. There is significant truth in both arguments, but Ed called for a balance and flexibility that allowed for things to work together. Some items he suggested are:

  • A temporary pool of simple numbers in early-stage design
  • Easy re-identification
  • Gaps in numbering to permit grouping
  • Numbers evolve as the design matures
  • Include only the minimum information, and decide how much that will be.

What is interesting is that these might be considered what GrabCAD has in the works for their Workbench service, which is rapidly evolving as we speak, and has a lot of eyes on it (including my own).

Small Business Design Management Needs

Creativity and CollaborationWe have been reviewing our options for collaborative space and data management needs for business, design, and simulation. I wanted to take a look at how the cloud is enabling the lightweight collaborative design data management needs of some SMBs, and later, try to point out what to watch for in the near future.

Summary of the SMB Design Management Review

SMB Design Management at Autodesk

SMB Design Management Vendors and 2015

Why Collaborative Design Data Management?

Product Lifecycle Management – PLM

Product Design Management – PDM

Enterprise Resource Planning – ERP

Customer Relations Management – CRM

Document Management System – DMS

…and on and on.

The list is endless and quite likely you need some form of most of these in your day to day work. The problem is that the really useful tools are part of very large expensive systems developed by only a handful of vendors, who by virtue of their vast market share, have defined the way we are expected to behave around design data.

New collaborative needs and incredible cost have forced many small businesses to rely on less capable systems, terrible data workflows, and limited features.

Which Features are Important?

That is the crux of the entire issue, and being asked by the wrong people, namely you. In this market it should be the other way around.

Data management software is typically either too vague about how it organizes data, or too specific to one particular industry or another, and all of them require some tuning and programming to get the software to match the way you work.

…and no one wants to do all the customization.

If you are still playing ‘Hansel and Gretel’ data discovery with MS Office and Windows Explorer you are not alone. So why don’t we all just jump out and get some data management?

One important factor is the short period between the emergence and focus on SMB PLM needs, and the sudden upswing in collaborative possibilities. “I need some PLM and PDM, but how do I include collaboration?”

Team Lift, Design, Collaboration

Let’s take a moment and completely jumble everything up. Growing trends in collaboration and market globalization, fueled by accessibility of the internet are pouring in data from all angles and unthought-of workflows. We don’t quite know how to deal with it all yet, and neither do the data management vendors.

I need to catalogue…:

  • Information, instructions, correspondence, and specifications for clients, subcontractors and manufacturers
  • Proposals, agreements, and correspondence
  • Design and non-design data, including iterations, versions, and revisions
  • Industry / company standards and compliance
  • Visualization data
  • The almighty BOM(s)
  • Subcontractor orders, inspections, and correspondence
  • Deliverables
  • Municipal and organizational review comments
  • Supplies
  • Analysis data and reports

 

This scenario represents the least common denominator of many company’s needs, regardless of size. All of this information must be tied together in a project type relevance, but also permitted to associate with other data inherently. This information needs to be discoverable in a myriad of ways, and it needs to be accessible, and easy to use.

The trick is that we also need this data to be compiled between multiple collaborators that are all part of the common design process, on a globally accessible, but relatively light-weight framework.

So, which software serves SMB design firms best? 

Take a look at how Autodesk is changing their management and collaboration software solutions.

We’d love to hear from everyone about what has been going right for you, and what has not. Are there holes in your data management setup, or do you have the magic balance of management and collaboration? Leave a comment and let us know what you’ve discovered.

Image Credit: Norman Lear Center – Flickr

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Small Business Design Management at Autodesk

The Cloud IronyDid you know that the very same Cloud that was demonized by so many design firms resistant to any change, is the same platform that is making possible the cost effective, flexible management systems that the same SMB firms desperately need? Irony.

* Software as a Service (Saas)

* Platform as a service (PaaS)

* Integration as a Service (IaaS)

The cloud solves many issues including infrastructure and platform at a substantially reduced price. All you really need to do is access the software and make it work for you.

What Software?

There are a few companies that are working hard to fill the void.

These include Autodesk PLM 360, Microsoft Office 365 and Sharepoint, Arena PLM, Aras PLM, Ally PLM, Kenesto, Siemens Solid Edge SP, CADAC Organice, Autodesk 360, GrabCAD, and more.

Almost all of these have one factor in common. They were built for companies in the SMB space to fit a wide array of workflows and needs. All have very interesting strong points, but none fit the small, but broad range of needs. Today I want to review what Autodesk has been doing.

The Fusion Platform

I’d like to mention Autodesk’s Fusion /Sim/CAM 360. The entire data framework was built on PLM 360 platform, enabling a single, true source for all software to interact with. Managed data would no longer require aggregation from multiple design sources. They truly have a really good overall plan to integrate all these collaborative data management needs in a lightweight framework. The raw data is not accessible enough, nor are there instrumental workflow features yet, but I love the concept and wanted to give them an honorable mention here.

Jitterbit

Jitterbit (not affiliated with Autodesk) has a wonderful service that connects you’re a-la-carte datasets in a fluid manner, but at a substantial premium. Each paid connection increases the price and brings us right back to data management costing way too much for small companies. I mentioned them here because they have a great partnership with Autodesk for connecting Vault and PLM 360.

Autodesk PLM 360

Autodesk went after the overall need to manage data, developing a reasonably customizable framework and really did provide a good value and easy-to-adapt data management tool. The problem was that while they included some great design workflows and controls, there are some basic refinements that need to be fulfilled, and Autodesk completely left out the design data part. There is just no realistic method to store and catalogue CAD data on their cloud.

This is understandable as Autodesk already offers CAD PDM, Autodesk Vault, to their customers. Remember SMB data management is now a-la-carte. Jitterbit will gladly connect these two, but at an annual cost, and without any collaborative features. Viewing this from the perspective of a company who has purchased Vault Professional, it does seem weird that Autodesk expects customers used to transferring complex data between their CAD applications for free, to pay a significant annual fee to transfer metadata between their PDM and PLM products.

Autodesk 360 is getting an Overhaul

This product many of you know has been developed as a collaborative storage space. CAD

data is easily accessed by Autodesk CAD software, and people can be invited into the space to collaborate and discuss the design. There are numerous problems from a productive design platform perspective, including the fact that the files are not well discoverable, nor is there any method to catalogue data, and no real management. It’s simply storage and collaboration, and it’s not really comfortable to work in.

I sat in on a meeting with Sheila Wakida, Autodesk’s Sr. product manager for the cloud, who discussed the changes that are taking place in the Autodesk 360 platform. She discussed the timeline for the year and what the company was doing with Autodesk 360.

 The New Plans in Autodesk 360

Better model viewing capabilities, CAD agnostic assembly and dependency detection, and integration with software and services to include things like Dropbox and Autodesk PLM 360.

That’s right. Shortly after Autodesk 360 becomes a premium service this summer, they will integrate PLM 360 in order to merge their capabilities (at this stage the service will only be available in the U.S., U.K., and Germany). That changes the scope of things substantially. Where companies would shun each product because it lacked the other’s capabilities, tying them together opens up a new realm of possibilities for some.

Add in very deep search algorithms, new dashboards for situation awareness and many more features, and Autodesk suddenly becomes much better suited to provide a useful data management solution that is accessible to small design firms.

… and the Battle Begins

Autodesk is not the only game in town. Vendors are diligently pulling together their ideas and solutions in an attempt to answer the question, “Who is providing USEFUL design management tools that meet the flexible needs of today’s small design companies?”. Come see what we found.

Image Credit: Mike King – Flickr & Autodesk

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