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Is Autodesk Fusion 360 Ultimate Ready For The Big Time?

A couple of weeks ago I got to spend an hour with Kevin Schneider, Director Fusion 360 at Autodesk, about the September release of his cloud based CAD tool, as well as covering a few forward looking areas for the service. I was excited to get this opportunity, since I haven’t had as much time as I would have liked to get stuck into Fusion 360 especially with some of the recent changes. This way Kevin could show me in real time where the product is and the kind of things it’s now capable of.

iphone_ipad_mbp_fusion360Kevin started by explaining where Fusion 360 is coming from as a product, why it was created. As any good product should, Fusion 360 was born from the need to address the changing landscape within the manufacturing industry globally. Increasingly, crowd sourcing is gaining popularity, but not just with well known implementations like the GrabCAD competitions or the interesting way in which Local Motors has built itself around using a community of designers and engineers to work on vehicle projects. Businesses and at this stage mostly corporations are taking the crowd sourcing ethos and applying it internally, they are using their biggest asset, their staff, to help guide and improve their products and services on a scale previously considered a logistical nightmare. We have social media to thank for the change in mindset there. Tools born from that movement and increasingly simplified user experiences mean that data can be collected and compiled in a coordinated way.

Which brings us to the next shift, the products and tools we use everyday are becoming increasingly connected, which means more and more electronics are being used. With electronics comes software, and yet more ways to not only produce, but consume the data. This data can then be used to improve the products UX in realtime, and / or filter back to the OEM so they can improve the next iteration of the software or the physical product itself. If you haven’t clicked yet, this is what the ‘Internet of Things’ is all about. Along with an increasing number of computer aided manufacturing techniques available, their decreasing cost and ease of use, manufacturing is at the beginning of a golden age of new ideas and change.

The next issue within the industry were the available tool sets attempting to solve these issues. When companies try to implement these independent and fragmented solutions, it ultimately leads to a disconnect within the tools themselves and consequently the processes revolving around them.

During extensive market research, Autodesk learnt two big things from industry:

  1. Teams were resonating a need to collaborate, and reiterated that there is no difference collaborating between cube walls & oceans. The value of collaboration is always the same. Clearly it was a pervasive problem to solve; Share with Anyone / Work anywhere!
  2. The connection between mechanical and industrial design had historically been lacking. Combining the two increases iteration and data sharing. Increasing fluidity and access to data across departments in the organization. Increase productivity and decrease cost.

Recent history

macbookpro_model_for_masFusion 360 launched as a paid service at the end of June last year. That makes the product only 15 months old… 15 months old!! I don’t know about you, but it feels like a product which is much older. Sure it was in beta and tech preview for 7 months prior to that, but that isn’t a long time either. So if you want to include that time, it’s still less than 2 years old. I was too young at the time, but I bet SOLIDWORKS and Inventor weren’t this feature rich and capable after 2 years?

It’s the platform the product is built on which has allowed this explosive development, along with the refreshingly open approach from the team, truly listening to users and a willingness to admit and correct mistakes. These ingredients have lead to 10 major releases in the last 12 months! Autodesk must be leading the industry with this rapid response and Ideastation driven development rate. The September release contained over 50 Customer Driven improvements alone.

Collaboration scale

Kevin went on to demonstrate some real world examples of just how wide Fusion’s collaboration net can be cast. Currently the largest project he is involved in, has 270 members, although it’s Open Source no details can be shared at this stage. I didn’t get to see it either, but I do wonder if it has something to do with Autodesk’s SPARK 3D printer or maybe a foundational project with Local Motors? I’m just speculating. He was able to show me an open source UAV project targeted for Africa. They are trying to make surveillance of wildlife reserves more expansive, their main target as this stage is Rhino surveillance, that project has 70 stakeholders, all part of the project. I asked him if he could show me some models, which he was immediately able to do via the new side bar, it was seamless. Prior to this update he would have had to switch tabs and dig about in different pages to find what he needed to show me. The new side bar has clearly reset the balance between the CAD tool and collaboration. However, if you do still need the old style view, you can opt to view the data or model in your browser. This launches the new Autodesk 360 site, My Hub, this means you can now be more productive with dual monitors. When you use Autodesk Vault with Inventor or AutoCAD, you will often have the CAD application on one screen, then your data management solution on the other. With this update, it’s expected you would have My Hub displayed in your browser on one screen and Fusion 360 on the other. Ideal!

Who’s using it?


Modbot Robotic Arm assembly AnimationCredit: Modbot inc

Modbot was formed by two Aussie blokes, Adam and Daniel, with the aim to challenge the light industrial medical robots industry. Each robot is made out of 3 basic components you can buy in different sizes. As a result they can focus production on a larger quantity or fewer components and produce ‘very’ cheap robotic solutions. All of this had been designed in Fusion 360! The simplicity is pure art.


Lumitoro fusion 360 screen shotCredit: Lumitoro

This company has received lots of press in Sweden for their products and the way they are creating high end jewellery. Their products are all laser sintered and then plated with semi precious materials. It’s stunning work and a great example of how old school tactile approaches can be combined with modern CAD / CAM work flows, in this case enabled with Autodesk tools. I bet these guys are hoping the SPARK platform will become integrated in Fusion 360.


Macotuba design Tuberculosis testerCredit: Macotuba

This innovative team have used Fusion 360 to design a low cost Tuberculosis tester. Using the Android operating system, to run an app it leverages the ‘Cloud’ to perform calculations on the data supplied from this hand held device. The hope is the low costs and distribution simplicity will go a long way towards increasing the diagnosis rates for on of the great silent killers. These guys are looking for funding, they seem like ideal Microsoft foundation candidates!

Effortless Visualization

The next element Kevin demonstrated took me by surprise. Within the modelling environment, you are able to create saved views, this capture both view positions and visual changes, such as colour and texture options. Inventor has a similar feature called View Representations, so I didn’t see this as a big deal. But. Then he switched over to My Hub, and told me to imagine I’d been sent a share link to this model. On the model page, you have access to one thumbnail per saved view. Again, not all that impressive, but when he clicked on these thumbnails, a larger viewing window appears next to them containing a medium resolution rendering! That surprised me, they were very good quality and definitely good enough to convey design intent or to make decisions regarding style changes. These renderings happen on the fly and are included as part of your monthly or annual subscription. So what if you want high resolution renders? or you want your client to pick which view they want rendered at high res? Well they can, right within that large preview window. Users can even change or select settings to control the resulting render! Now that is a great example of how the power of the cloud can be leveraged. However, these high resolution renders do consume cloud credits, which is to be expected.

September Updates

  • Adds control over hard & soft edge control in a single T-Splines form.
  • Improved surfacing tools – Control curves and splines, perfect G2 control, improved spline control and lofting take offs.
  • Zebra surface analysis tool improvements – the view style is now adjustable, which means you could use it during modelling if you wanted to.
  • The Javascript API has been released!!
    • You can build dialogs, and there are some samples to get you started.
    • They’ve included a development environment to use out of the box.
    • A Python API should be available by the end of October with a C++ version appearing by the December / January time frame.
  • Create public link is now available, these launch the Autodesk 360 viewer within a browser window.
    • The viewer provides the ability to download the file in any of the available formats!!! A HUGE WIN for collaboration across multiple platforms and disciplines.
    • Embedding is currently available within the Fusion 360 Gallery, once it’s ready it will be available from the A360 viewer as well.
  • Here’s the potential game changer for the future of the CAD reseller channels around the world. Fusion 360 is now available on the Apple Mac App Store!
    • Fusion 360 is now exposed to tens of thousands of people from all walks of life.
    • In line with Apple’s commitment to the enterprise.
    • Here is a nice Mac App Store FAQ prepared by the F360 team.

Fusion 360 on the Mac App StoreWhy will three API languages be supported?

  • They will all have the same level of support.
  • All built on the same API layer.
  • Javascript has built in security limits with respect to local file access, since it is a web based language after all.
  • Python is kind of the opposite, it works well locally, but it can be harder to get it to talk to the web based server stack.
  • C++ is probably the most powerful of the three, but with that comes complexity.

If you want to know more, in a fun way, check out this video:

Inventor vs. Fusion 360

This one has been itching away at me for some time. I’d touched on it briefly with Kevin in the past, but we ran out of time to chat properly about it. So I took the opportunity to raise the issue again. I know I’m not the only one to wonder this, so I wanted to share it with the readers of Design & Motion. So here it is. Kevin suggested the best place to see the differences between the end users and therefore markets for the two products, is within their respective Ideastations.

“You only have to compare the types of requests and conversations taking place to see the differences between use cases.”

Kevin says

“The only ones who are confused are students, because they have to pick which free product to use”.

He went on to break the two products into two distinctive categories:

  1.  For BIG engineering – Inventor is clearly the best.
  2. Fusion 360 is better suited to ‘Startups’ – Especially since consumer products is a highly competitive industry.

Kevin continued by saying:

“Customer don’t see the confusion between the two. When they approach the product it’s clear to them which one is best. Autodesk’s competitors often have more than 1 modeller, sometimes 2-5 so it’s pretty normal”

Is it working?

How is Fusion 360 coming along with respect to the requirements laid out at the beginning of this article?

Autodesk is trying to lead the field as the manufacturing and design landscape changes, their Open Source approach with the SPARK 3D printing platform and their various Autodesk 360 services I think it’s tough to argue they aren’t already leading them. What’s really telling though, is from the outside Autodesk 360 presents itself as a series of services, which it is… but it’s real future is as a platform. Fusion 360 is the first Autodesk product which makes this abundantly clear, especially with today’s announcement of the release of Fusion 360 Ultimate, it’s utilizing virtually all of them now. With that, Fusion 360 IS the real deal, it’s quickly becoming a full solution. As Autodesk continues to release API’s for their 360 Platform, and CAD software sales are being moved to online only, developers and resellers will be able to spin off their own services to diversify their businesses into the future.

Thank you Kevin for your time, patience and openness in answering my questions.

Autodesk Inventor : How to Change Welding Material

I was kicking about the Autodesk Discussion Groups and found this question:

Default Weldment Material [How to change it?]

Your drawing Parts lists show the material for all welded assemblies (weldments) as Welded Aluminum-6061. Using the assembly iProperties in the weldment gets you nowhere, as the material is deactivated. This frustrated me for some time too, and the solution is sadly quite logical: It’s a weld bead, so go to the Welding Bead section!

From the Ribbon, navigate to the Weld tab. Under the Process panel, pick Welds to go to the area that you would add your welds.

In the Assembly Browser, pick Welds -> Beads. From the context menu, pick iProperties.

Inventor 2015 Weldment Bead Material

The Physical tab will now allow you to change the Material. This makes perfect sense since your assembly does not have a material, but you are adding material in the welding process. (You can actually make the change one level up from the Welds collection header.)

After the change, the material will update in your Inventor Assembly Parts Lists.

Item Lifecycles with Autodesk Vault 2015 R2

change your perspectiveAutodesk Vault started with an acquisition and initially was just a work-in-progress engineering management tool, much as it is today with Vault Basic. Soon after came Productstream (which became Vault Manufacturing, and then Vault Professional) which introduced the Item Master with Revisions, Categories, Lifecycle Management, and ECO’s providing a system of actually managing the data. Autodesk felt that there was no middle ground, it was either you were using Vault Basic or you were “all-in” using Productstream, so they introduced what became Vault Workgroup. With Vault Workgroup you do not need to use items and the item master, you can perform revision management and track file lifecycles. More than just implementing file lifecycling, it has a completely different engine than items, making it much more flexible allowing you to define your own states, the permissions to access these states, custom categories, and even events to occur during state changes!

Here’s an article Brian Schanen wrote circa the release of Vault Workgroup 2010. He identifies the key areas of that product which focus on Release Management at the file level, which includes Lifecycles and Security, Revision Management, User Defined Properties, and Categories.

With the recent release of Vault Professional R2 the Item LIfecycle engine has a received a complete overhaul, granting it all the flexibility and abilities of the file lifecyle management toolset. With this you can configure categories with your own lifecycle states, controlling who has the permission to transition the item into the next state. In addition each Category has its own revisioning schemes and item numbering options. You can now even define actions to occur during state changes. If you want to read about all things new in R2 stroll over to our post Autodesk Vault 2015 R2 Summary.

The Basics

I started writing this article with the intention of covering everything you need to implement the new Item lifecycle functionality, but quickly realized that this will require a couple posts, not just one. What is below is a high-level overview of what’s required with a touch of what’s new. For anyone who has implemented file lifecycles and the revision management tools there is nothing new here.

I delivered two classes last year at Autodesk University, which covered file lifecycles, but now applies extremely well to items. The classes are PL1714: Choosing the Right Lifestyle with Vault Lifecycles and PL1341: Whose Version Should We Believe?—Revising the Story with Vault

Item Lifecycle configuration has been removed from the Items tab of the Vault Settings dialog. Instead that is now controlled in the same places you configure file, folder, and custom objects. The first step is to configure the Revision Schemes, which remain untouched and behave the same as pre-R2. However as you can use Lifecycles to automatically bump the revision it is important to have this set to your desired scheme. In the example shown below I’ve created a “0-Based” scheme which is almost identical to the out-of-the-box Numeric except that it starts at 0 opposed to 1

Vault 2015 R2 0-Based Rev Scheme

You now need to create a Lifecycle or a Category, but the order doesn’t really matter as they are reliant on each other and while editing one you can jump into the other to make changes. Here I’ve created a new “Repair” Lifecycle Definition which I intend to use with customer repair proposals. We will receive the equipment into a staging area (Received), then figure out what needs to be fixed (Analysis), the proposal document will be generated and reviewed by the manager (In Review). It will be submitted to the customer (Customer Submitted) and then end up in one of three states depending on the customers decision (On Hold, Declined, and Accepted).

Vault 2015 R2 Lifecycle Definition

I’ve assigned this Lifecycle Definition to all existing Item Categories meaning that I will be able to apply it to any item, regardless of the assigned category. However I could be very specific, say only making it available on Document category items, or a mix of different ones. As a bonus you can now change the category of multiple items at one time (finally)

Now the fun part… if you want to limit who can make specific state changes, for example making it so only the manager can change the item from In Review to Customer Submitted. You will need to edit either the Transition and/or the Security.

  • Security limits what an individual person (or group) can do while the item is in the state. For example granting everyone read-only access but the manager read, edit, and delete. This can extend to setting file access priviledges to the items associated with the item.
  • Transitions sets who can make the state changes, meaning that I can make it so only the manager can switch it from In Review to Customer Submitted, but then have security so that no one can make changes to the item (or associated files).

Vault 2015 R2 Transition Security

Its on the Transition that you can also set Criteria which must be met before the state change can happen. As well as Actions that occur during the State Change (Transition).

Building the Transitions and Security is not fun with more complex Lifecycle schemes. I highly recommend white boarding the process flow so that 1) everyone is on the same page & 2) you can keep it straight while you are configuring. I really, really, really wish (hint, hint Autodesk) that it worked like the workflow editor in PLM 360… that is one kickass editor. PLM 360 provides a very graphical and easily modifable system for configuring states and transitions and permissions. As a compromise, we have updated a Microsoft Visio Vault Lifecycle flow chart template for you to use to plan and define your Lifecycles. We can’t take all the credit, Autodesk created it originally.

Categories control what you are allowed to do with an item. They set the available revision schemeslifecycle definitions, and User Defined Properties (UDP) available for the item.

Vault 2015 R2 Item Category

What to look out for

Before installing R2 it is extremely important to actually examine the readme and understand that a number of item features are disabled in R2. This includes…

  • Compare Bill of Materials
  • Item Import & Item Export
  • Item Package Service API’s
  • Purge Item, Purge, & Purge All
  • Item Restore & Item Rollback Lifecycle State Change
  • Item Effectivity
  • Restricting Item Lifecycle State Change to Change Orders

Here is a link to the Vault R2 readme document, make sure you have read through everything so there are no surprises with installation and deployment.

A couple bugs have also been reported with R2. Chris Benner discovered quite early with R2, that the new functionality to write the item properties back to files as the item changes is broken. It’s been logged with Autodesk and will hopefully be fixed soon, so thanks for giving it a kicking for us all Chris! (Editor: Mike is being polite… It’s highly unfortunate that a new feature is broken upon release! Why wasn’t it tested properly?)

Seeing it in Action

Feature Image “change” courtesy of suez92 (Flickr) 


Autodesk Vault Copy Design 2.0 (aka Vault 2015 R2)

Most people have a real love-hate relationship with Copy Design… its big, clunky, and very slow…. but its still better to use than manually copying and renaming files. With this Autodesk set out to build a bigger, stronger, and much faster Copy Design and voila we have it now in Vault 2015 R2! [If you want to read about all things new in R2 stroll over to our post Autodesk Vault 2015 R2 Summary]

Vault 2015 R2 Copy Design Initial Dialog with Assy LoadedWhen you install Vault 2015 R2 the new Copy Design is installed as a standalone application. This means that you do not launch Copy Design from the Vault Client but from the Programs group, just like Vault and the Job Processor. The copying process has been completely restructured which should lead to much greater performance. With the previous version files were copied local to your system (into the temp) for the magic to happen (copying and renaming) and then checked back in as the new files. Although this happened invisibly to the user it was still time consuming, especially the file transfer back-and-forth between your system and the server. The copying now occurs completely on the server leading to greatly reduced copying times (yeah!)

Here’s the list of enhancements courtesy of the Autodesk Help:

  • Copy at the Component Level
  • Copy Multiple Data Sets
  • Support for non-CAD File Types
  • Faster Performance
  • More Detailed Feedback
  • Create Custom Copy Design Rules
  • Numbering Schemes
  • Customize the Copy Design Interface
  • New Drawing View

Part 1 – Getting the files loaded

After launching the standalone application (and logging in) the first step is to add the files you wish to copy. Using the big plus sign you can search for and add multiple datasets, the “multiple” being one of the new features. A mini-version of the Project Explorer will appear in which you can customize the columns (properties) by either dragging-and-dropping or right-click Choose Columns to add and remove various properties. From this window you want to navigate through the folder structure until you locate the file(s) you want to copy.

Vault 2015 R2 Copy Design Initial Dialog with Assy LoadedSay What? No Searching? Yep, you’ll have to wait for Copy Design 3.0+ for searching. For now you’ll have to do your searching in the Vault Client, but without any means to copy the search results over it becomes awkward quickly.

The main UI can also be tweaked by dragging-and-dropping columns to rearrange and using the right-click menu options to add and remove columns (properties). These changes will stick so that you see the same thing each time you use Copy Design. Right-click options on the files allow for quick expand-all | collapse-all so that you can get a better view of the files and their structure. The Expand option includes 2-levels, 3-levels, and 4-levels on top of the All option. The Add Children option in the ribbon is used to quickly add attachments and Library Files.

To remove the drawings from the View disable the (new) Drawing Views option from the Application Menu.

Part 2 – Making it Happen

Before making your copy selections a few options to be aware of contained within the Application Menu…

  1. Automatically Copy Parents means that the moment you select a component to copy its parents are automatically set to be copied as well
  2. Select References is disabled when you only want to copy the instance of the component, not all references of it in the assembly.[This is new, it used to be all or nothing]

Right-click on the components you want to set the action on and right-click. The available action will vary on the component level and the file type. The options include:

  • Copy: Toggles the component to copy creating a new file in the same location as the original
  • Copy To: Similar to Copy but you will be prompted to select the destination folder for the new copy
  • Copy Branch: Sets the action to Copy for the selected item as well as all of its children
  • Replace: Browse for and select a replacement file
  • Reuse: Is the default action and can be used to remove an action like Copy
  • Reuse Branch: Sets the action to Reuse for the selected item as well as all of its children
  • Exclude: removes the instance from the new copied assembly

The Has Destination column will populate with a folder icon once Copy Design knows where the new copy is going. Hovering your cursor over this icon displays a tooltip with the Path.

The new Actions Panel can be used to quickly filter out the files with the assigned action. For example selecting the “Exclude” tab displays just the files that have been toggled to exclude from the copy operation. The action of the files can be toggled via right-click in these views as well. So far I have found this to be a great check into what I’m actually copying. Also remember that nothing is committed until you click the Create Copy button to accept your changes and initiate the copy process.

Say What? I’ve experienced too many situations where the file hierarchy collapses when you change the action. For example change the action to reuse on a child component and the entire tree collapses and I don’t know why.

The Where Used panel provides a Source and Destination option so that you can quickly see where the files are coming from (Source) and where the copies are going (Destination). Because you can copy individual instances (now) a particular component might have multiple destinations.

Use the Folders Panel to review the source and destination folders of the copied data, a different view of the Where Used Panel but another mechanism to review that the copied files are going to end up in the correct location. As a bonus you can apply operations based on the folder location. You can also drag-and-drop files between folders or from the main view to add to the copy.

Part 3 – Setting the Copied Names

Here’s a big change from the old Copy Design, you do not use the main window you adjust the name of the copied file. The Numbering Panel lists all the files selected to copy, with both the original name and the new name. This Panel will show tabs for each numbering scheme used within Copy Design and organize the files based on the scheme applied. With files with no scheme applied you can manually adjust the destination file name, apply a prefix (before the base name) or postfix (after the base name). You can apply changes to the three (pre, post, and base) on a selection of files.

Autodesk Vault 2015 R2 Set Prefix ValueThe options presented on the specific numbering scheme tab is completely dependent on the numbering scheme

Autodesk Vault 2015 R2 Copy Design Set Nummber Scheme


Part 4 – What Else can I do?

There’s one more area of Copy Design 2.0 which honestly I think could kick ass, well at least when it comes to copying files… Rule Sets… but I need a bit more time of exploration, testing, and putting into action before I can really comment. Rule Sets are rules you define to make things happen automatically as you copy files. This could be to assign a file category, set properties, clear properties, remove iLogic, and things of this nature. Only one Rule Set can be applied during the copy operation but each Rule Set can contain multiple rules..

There are default rules included “out-of-the-box” which are provided to give similar functionality as the old Copy Design. This includes rules to use the part number as a new file name, removing iLogic rules, and resetting the category of the file so that the new file category assignment rules are applied.

Autodesk Vault 2015 R2 Summary

At Autodesk University I was fortunate to attend the Vault “Crystal Ball” class where we were privy to a sneak peak of an upcoming overhaul to Vault’s Copy Design amongst seeing other new features.. As per normal, Autodesk would not provide an ETA, only to say it was coming. So I can’t say I was that surprised that its available in a mid-year “extension” release. What’s surprising is all the other stuff that they have bundled into this R2 release. Mid year “Extensions” are not unheard of, even for Vault, but the significance of this one from a feature & functionality aspect AND from what’s been disabled means you really need to sit down with a cup of coffee and consider the pros and cons, the good and the bad, and the benefits to your organization before installing it.

This is a subscription only release, meaning its only available to subscription Vault Workgroup and Vault Professional customers. It should also be considered an upgrade (like 2014 to 2015) opposed to an update. The Vault database fully migrates to the new 2015 R2 schema and the Vault API has been versioned for Autodesk Vault 2015 R2 meaning customizations may require updating.

What’s New?

The “What’s New” boils down to four things… a new and improved Copy Design “Experience”, long time needed improvements to Items, a New Vault Office Thick Client and a mixture of other” Enhancements. Here is the list from the Autodesk Vault 2015 Help

  • New Copy Design Experience
  • New Item and BOM Features, Functionality, and Enhancements
  • Vault Thin Client Enhancements
  • New Vault Office Thick Client
  • Project Sync Enhancements
  • Control Open File Behaviors in the Vault Client Feature
  • ADMS Console Enhancements

Copy Design

Let’s get the bad of this new feature out of the way, right of the top. The new Copy Design Experience is a standalone application with no tie back to the Vault Client. You cannot launch it from Vault meaning completing a separate search to locate the file(s) you want to copy. It is also a brand new user interface (ui) to learn. Its unfortunate actually as Vault has been dogged with UI inconsistencies for years and Autodesk has made a conscious effort to build more consistency into the UI by updating workflows, consolidating features, making changes and the such…. but then this comes out. The new Copy Design has its own flair when it comes to working with data so it might be a struggle the first couple times until you become comfortable with it. The old Copy Design is disabled with the installation of R2, so its “all in” when moving to R2

Vault 2015 R2 Copy Design From Vault Help

image courtesy of the Autodesk Vault Help

Here’s the good…

  1. Copy at the Component Level (Copy individual instances of a file instead of all instances of that component, Replace parts with files that are created as part of the copy operation, Configure separate actions for drawings, Use circular references, such as substitute parts and drawing overlays.)
  2. Copy Multiple Data Sets as in copying more than one data set at the same time.
  3. Support for non-CAD File Types
  4. The UI is completely customizable like you would expect as in adding / removing property columns, resizing columns, and the such
  5. Better previewing and filtering tools
  6. Apply numbering schemes
  7. Administrator driven rule sets

Here’s the great… Faster Performance! Copy Design now runs from the Vault Server, no more files downloading locally for copy process… it all happens on the server

Item Enhancements

Continuing on the trend of the Item enhancements introduced in 2015 Vault Professional Autodesk has added a lot of nice-to-have feature enhancements, some great improvements and a couple where-have-you-been-all-my-life things.


  • New and improved Item Watermarking Workflow
  • Assign a Category WHILE creating the new item
  • Grouped BOM Row
  • BOM Reports
  • See all Item iterations

New Unified Lifecycle, Category, Numbering Scheme, and Revision Experience

That’s right… all the stuff you’ve been able to do with Files, Folders, and Custom Objects when it comes to defining your own Lifecycle Definitions including the workflow, revision schemes and revision bumps, and numbering schemes now applies to Items!

Vault 2015 R2 Lifecycle Definitions Item Release Process

Because of this the Administration dialog has been modified moving moving the Item configuration into the same area that you customized the files, folder, and custom object Lifecycle states.

Vault 2015 R2 Item Admin Dialog from Vault Help

Where have you been?

Write Item Properties Back to the File! No more editing the item, opening the file to update properties and checking back in to create the new file version… no more, the file is updated with the item changes!

Vault Thin Client

Because of all the changes to Items the Vault Thin (web) client has been updated to incorporate many of the new features. It also now supports Reference Designators, On & Off BOM Rows, and new BOM Data Filters.

New Vault Office Thick Client

I’m not going to dive to deep into this as Scott is planning a post focused on it, but the new Vault Office Thick Client is here and its time to pay attention.

Autodesk Vault Client Flavor Installation Option

Vault 2015 R2 introduces a new Vault Office Client that provides many of the same Vault client features but has been slimmed down to focus on non-CAD design data management processes.
This client is ideal for users who do not need all of the CAD functionality of a the full Vault client, but who still need to manage documents in a vault

Other Enhancements

  • Project Sync Enhancements including more flexibility when sharing with Buzzsaw and using the Lifecycle Event Editor
  • More control over which version of the CAD application opens a file when opening from Vault
  • ADMS Console Enhancements including more options when re-indexing files

What to Watch Out for

Vault 2015 R2 Important Product Information

Isn’t there always a catch? Before installing R2 it is important to understand that the following features are disabled in R2. Autodesk is confident that they can implement the new R2 functionality and restore the missing features with 2016 so for many, especially if you have fully implemented Items, might be waiting for 2016.

  • Compare Bill of Materials
  • Item Import
  • Item Export
  • Item Package Service API’s
  • Purge Item
  • Purge
  • Purge All
  • Item Restore
  • Item Rollback Lifecycle State Change
  • Item Effectivity
  • Restricting Item Lifecycle State Change to Change Orders

As with all new features there is a list of limitations and restrictions. Here is a link to the readme, make sure you have read through everything so that there are no surprises with installation and deployment.

In Conclusion

I think the new functionality is great, especially bringing the file lifecycle options to items. File lifecycle management has had all this flexibility and customization and the Item workflows has remained stagnant. For those just moving to Vault Pro or have only partially implemented Items you will love this new flexibility.

Personally I’ll be waiting for 2016 to implement into our Production Environment. We are into items heavy and they are a major part of our Engineering revision workflow, including how we manage states with Change Orders. Items is the method of communication not just within and outside of Engineering, but also provides the link between Engineering and our MRP system. Losing the ability to export item data, to rollback lifecycle states, and to restrict item lifecycle state changes to Change Orders is the deal breaker for us. Don’t take waiting as a negative to this release, there is some really good stuff in it and really needs to be explored.

This is just a kickoff post as Scott and I will be diving in deeper on this in future posts, so keep watching Design & Motion for more.


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.

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