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Tag Archives: Autodesk

AutoCAD Layers Deep Dive: Layer Translator and Reconciling Layers

Layer Translator

You’ve received a batch of drawings from an outside source… customer, vendor, sub-contractor… and the layers do not match your own company standards for layers. The properties are wrong, the names are different, and you’re looking at a lot of work to get the drawings to standard. Don’t fear, our AutoCAD Layers Deep Dive series delivers the Layer Translator!

AutoCAD CAD Standards Ribbon LocationThe Layer Translator is used to map a set of layers to the standard set of your choosing. If the layer in the drawing is called A-Wall-Partition and your standard calls for WALLS you would map the layer so that WALLS is added to the drawing and all objects currently on A-Wall-Partition are moved to WALLS and take on the properties of WALLS. A-Wall-Partition would be removed from the drawing.

From the CAD Standards Tools select Layer Translator. Use the Load button to add the desired layers, the ones you want to map to. You can use existing drawings (DWG), templates (DWT), and standards (DWS).

AutoCAD Layer Translator initial viewThe Map Same button is used to match layers that have the exact same name, but more than that it insures that these layers have the same properties as the destination layers.

After using Map same you go through the list mapping the layers to their target. In this example I take all A-ANNO-TTLB layers and map them to the TITLEBLOCK layer. Not all layers need to be mapped as you can leave layers as they are.

AutoCAD Layer TranslatorOnce you are satisfied with the mappings you can save this as a drawing. This mappings drawing can then be used to load in the mappings into other drawings you have received from the outside source

Select Translate to make the magic happen!

Layer Translator Before After

Reconciling Layers

Once the layers have been translated, or really with any drawing, how do you manage the layers so that you are aware of layers that are added? Especially in situations where you are not even aware that layers have been added, like when you insert a block. For this you can use the built in Layer Reconciliation process. The AutoCAD Help explains it the best…

Unreconciled layers are new layers that have been added to the drawing and have not yet been acknowledged by the user and manually marked as reconciled.

The base in which AutoCAD uses to compare is set the first time the drawing is saved. At this initial save the existing layers are reconciled and all new layers added, either manually or by some other process, are considered unreconciled. Now sirens, buzzers, and warnings are not going to start just because an unreconciled layer has been found, but it gives you the option to review these layers at any time and decide what to do with them

The Layer Settings are important with this feature. If you want to use the Reconcile option you need to enable New Layer Notification and select whether just to evaluate xrefs or all new layers. You also need to configure when you want AutoCAD to notify you of new (unreconciled) layers. The options are on Open, xref attach / detach, Restore layer states, on save, and on block insert.

AutoCAD Layer SettingsWithin the Layer dialog a layer filter is automatically created to isolate just unreconciled layers. To reconcile the layers (accepting them to the drawing) right-click on them and select reconcile)

AutoCAD Reconcile LayerWhen new layers are added you will see a message similar to this….

AutoCAD Unreconciled New Layers NotificationIn Review

Hopefully I’ve shown you a couple tools to not only take a drawing and make it to your standard, at least layer wise, but shown another option for keeping you within your defined standards. If you liked this article let us know using the comments below and keep an eye out for the next in our series of diving deep on AutoCAD Layers.

Time to Tame the Beast! Learn to Customize Autodesk Inventor

Autodesk Inventor API - Object Model

Recently, a friend (and colleague) asked me how I go about planning the development of a new application or customisation project. He already has a pretty good handle on code structure and syntax, but struggles to know where to start in actually bringing his idea to life. In his words, he suffers from “the worst kind of writers’ block.” I totally sympathise with this issue as I have the same problem myself, quite frequently. The truth is, unless I’m working on a commercial project that has been carefully scoped, budgeted and scheduled, most of the time I just ‘hack’ something together. Having said that, there are definitely a couple of tips and tricks I can share which should help novice coders get started with customising Autodesk Inventor. If there is enough interest, I could do a similar article on the Vault equivalent.

I’m going to split this up into a couple of categories:

  1. Interrogating a live document to learn from and capture information
  2. Writing pseudo code to figure out the ‘flow’ of your program

Interrogating a live document

Usually when I start working on a customisation job, I only have a rough idea of what I want to achieve. With a limited mental picture of how the finished tool may look, often the only thing I know at the start, is the rough area of Inventor I’ll be working with. For example, if I’m building a tool to ensure that the designer fills out all the appropriate metadata for a model, I know straight away, that I’ll be working a lot with iProperties.

Autodesk Inventor API Documentation

API Documentation for Autodesk Inventor

To find out more where these objects are stored, and how they interact with other objects, you need a reference. The API documentation for Inventor, while thorough, is pretty dry to read and can be difficult to navigate if you’re unfamiliar with it. By using the little trick below however, you can see the API objects in a live document, populated with real data, which makes it a lot easier to understand. Let’s say, for example, you’re looking for the “Work Point” object that represents the origin of a particular part. Now of course can go into the model browser and find it, but what if you want to access it programmatically, where does it live in the structure of the model document? Watch the video below to see how to get this information quickly.

Interrogating the Open Document in Inventor VBA Environment

The API is a complex beast, with a lot of objects, and a deep structure. To give you a head-start, the table below lists a few of the objects and collections that I use most often.

Object / Collection Contains
Document.ComponentDefinition Parameters / Constraints / Work Geometry / Occurrences / Mass Properties
Application.Documents File Operations (Open, Save etc.)
Document.Materials Materials
 Document.PropertySets iProperties
 Document.ReferencedDocuments Document References


Before diving in to the actual code, I find it is often helpful to design the logic and flow of the program by using diagrams like flowcharts. Additionally, writing out the decisions that need to be made, in plain English, can help get things clear in your head. Writing pseudo code allows you to get the structure down quickly, without worrying about the syntax and intricacies of the programming language that you will be working in later. So what is pseudo-code exactly, you may ask? I’ll try to explain with an example.

Let’s say that we have a model of a box, whose length can be manipulated. Additionally, it’s colour is dependant on it’s length. Short boxes are red, medium ones are yellow, and long ones are green.

  • Maths
    • Length < 150mm — Red
    • 150mm <= Length < 250mm — Yellow
    • Length >= 250mm — Green
  • Plain English – If the length of the box is less than 150mm, then make it a red colour. If it’s length is between 150mm and 250mm, then make it yellow, and if it is longer than 250mm, then make it green.
  • Pseudo-code



  • Actual code ( for example)

VB Code

Hopefully these techniques give you some confidence to get stuck in and try your first Inventor customisation project. While I’d suggest you begin with iLogic rules and forms, sometimes you hit a wall with iLogic’s scope, and you need to delve into the API to access the areas you want to work with.

’til next time…

AutoCAD’s Vault Browser

AutoCADs Vault XRef Palette

I’ve been surprised to learn over the last 6 to 9 months that a large number of AutoCAD users who work with Vault on a daily basis, don’t realize AutoCAD’s External References palette double’s up as a Vault browser. As it happens it’s pretty close to the one found in Autodesk Inventor. This is true across all flavours of AutoCAD, including Mechanical, Architecture, Civil 3D and Plant 3D. I suppose there are a lot of AutoCAD users who don’t even go near the Xref Palette. I’m not sure why I was surprised about that, because since I’ve been a heavy Inventor user for 10 years, my AutoCAD use hasn’t demanded their use. The same will be true for thousands of other AutoCAD users world wide. So, as I will demonstrate in the following video, every Vault user, who also uses AutoCAD on a daily or even weekly basis should dock and auto hide their External References palette and take advantage. Oh, but please be aware, overlayed file references ONLY show up in the Xref palette for the drawing they are referenced in. Which is all good until you need to find a broken reference when checking the dataset into Vault.


Design & Motion are Between The Lines

Keeping Up Appearances with Autodesk InventorJust a quick post to let our readers know we have a Guest Post on Shaan Hurley’s legendary Autodesk Blog Between The Lines. Given the historical significance of Between The Lines with respect to CAD blogging, I’m pretty stoked to have finally got some work up there. Keeping Up Appearances with Autodesk Inventor shows Inventor power users how to ‘window select’ multiple faces, so they can apply appearance overrides in one hit. So please go take a look and hopefully you lot can put it to good use.

A Window into Autodesk Fusion 360′s Near? Future

A Window into Autodesk Fusion 360's Near Future

Just a quick one today. I recently came across these videos showing off potential implementations of simulation and design accelerators in Autodesk Fusion 360. There’s some pretty cool stuff in them, so I thought I would share them with our readers and offer some comments on each one. I’ll get the ball rolling with simulation.


Now that is a pretty sweet pre-design, proof of concept tool! However, the downside is the potential precedent they could set for unconscious incompetence. These kinds of early stage “monkey see, monkey do” analysis tools are pretty compelling, especially if they are used during the bidding stages to win jobs or at least allowing you to write off poor design ideas and zero in on the better of the bunch. But they certainly are not suitable replacements for grown up simulation and real world product testing. Is this something you would use?

Too Hot To Drop

I’m no simulation expert, but drop tests from what I understand are safe enough to make ‘fool-proof’ in this way. For the most part there is no need to over-complicate the issue with high-end simulation tools. In this case here though, I would imagine the limitations would come in when your model becomes too complex for it. But again, this should probably only be used during the early stages of the design process.

Gearing Up

Seeing these types of tools appearing in Fusion 360 is giving me the willies. As a faithful Inventor user that is. It’s nice they are being put into the product, but it does increasingly make me wonder when the cross over between the two products becomes great, what will happen? Fusion 360 is just such great value for money. The Gear Feature shown at the end is badass! It means you can focus on your design in a simplified cylindrical and/or conical way, then scoot around adding Gear Feature’s when you’re hot to trot. Lovely! It’s that kind of stuff that makes Fusion 360 scary for Inventor… but then again. Just look at T-Splines. The Inventor development team now have some excellent internal competition to keep them on their toes, but also a great reference to step back, admire, pole around in and learn from.

Driving Me Nuts

I’ve recently been mucking about a bit with SolidWorks as a result of supporting HSMWorks during my day job. One of the things those two products together do very, very well, is holes. The SolidWorks Hole Wizard combined with the HSMWorks Drill Wizard is a sight to behold. It demos bloody well, but frankly it impresses because it’s a huge productivity tool and it WORKS! Well from the testing I have done it works, I have no doubt people can break it. This bolted connection tool in Fusion 360, looks to deal with some of the shortcomings found in Inventor’s hole tool, the most obvious of them is the ability for this tool to place a hole on a curved surface. I hope to see this turn into a really powerful hole & bolted connection tool, if it does, as I stated previously it should drive long overdue improvement of the Inventor Design Accelerator tools as well. Incidentally, if a SolidWorkesque Hole Wizard is something you would like to see in Inventor, I’ve created an Inventor Hole Wizard idea on the Ideastation you can vote for.

AutoCAD Layers Deep Dive Series: Layer States

We know that layers are an important component of working with AutoCAD. We use layers to control colour, linetype, and lineweight of our objects. They control the visibility of objects and they control what is plotted and what isn’t plotted. We organize our drawings via layers.

In this continuing series on AutoCAD Layers I’m taking a deep dive into not just using layers, but using all the tools at our disposal, to be as efficient as possible. I used to always say during my days of teaching AutoCAD that there is a fine line between efficiency and laziness, that we should strive to be lazy, do things as efficient as possible, so that it doesn’t take as long, we don’t have to work as hard, and we have more time for more important things like coffee!

In Part 1 of the series we looked at Layer Filters, in this next part lets take a deep dive look at Layer States

“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change ” ― Heraclitus

The one constant thing about layers is that they are constantly in a state of change… layer on, layer off, layer thaw, layer lock, layer color change, layer freeze, layer off, layer on, repeat, and repeat again. Its also very common to perform the same set of state changes on a group of layers. For example, turning off Plumbing, Electrical, and HVAC layers when working on the Walls of a building, and then locking the walls, turning on the Electrical to make changes to the electrical related objects. When you find yourself repeating this process of performing repetitive layer state changes to a group of layers you need to look at using Layer States.

AutoCAD Layer States Dialog

AutoCAD’s Help describes Layer States as a method to “Save, restore, and manage sets of layer settings” The process for capturing a Layer State is very straight forward…. Step#1 set the states of your layers of how you want them captured, Step#2 take the Layer State snapshot.

Creating AutoCAD Layer States

Take for example this architectural drawing. I want to be able to quickly restore all layers to be visible, thawed, and with the correct colors as per my standard. Using the layer dialog I insure everything is set as I want.

AutoCAD Layer States "Everything On"

Next, using the Ribbon, I save the active status of the layers as state “EVERYTHING ON”.

Everything ON layer states in the AutoCAD ribbon

Making further layer changes I freeze layers, turn layers off, and change a couple layer colors. I then capture the current state as Layer State “WORKING THE WALLS”

Layer States "Working with the Walls"

layer states in the AutoCAD ribbon

That’s the process! I now can quickly flip back-and-forth between the two states, quickly restoring the desired layer states.

 Modifying Existing Layer States

OK, now a dilemma. You’ve created a state but realize after that one of the layers is the wrong color and another is frozen and should be thawed. Never fear, the Layer States dialog is here to save the day!

AutoCAD Layer States Dialog

Using the Edit option you can tweak all aspects of the layers… on/off, frozen / thawed, color, linetype, locked / unlocked… you can even remove layers so that they are not controlled by the layer state.

Editing an AutoCAD Layer State

The Options

Take note of the options within the Layer States Manager. You can enable the inclusion of XREF Layers. You also set how you want new layers introduced into the drawing to behave with Layer States. The default option is to have these new layers turned off automatically in the State. To include the layer with the state, so that the Layer State can manage it you need to edit the state and add the layer to the state.

Layer States can be exported so that they can be used in other drawings. Select the Layer State in the Layer States Manager and click the Export button to export the .las file. The import button in this dialog is used to import the .las files.

See it in Action

In Conclusion

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you have groups of layers that you constantly perform the same set of state changes to why would you expect it to get easier each time? Using Layer States you can capture these frequently completed state changes into an easy to restore option.

For a bit of suspense I’ve leaving out the topic of the next AutoCAD Layer Deep Dive…. will it be Layers and Paper Space Layouts? will it be Layers and scripts? will it be layers and the CAD Standards tools? The only way to find out is to tune back into the post… same bat-time, same bat-channel! As always leave us comments, we love to hear the good, the bad, and your questions and suggestions.