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Tag Archives: Autodesk

Are your Autodesk Inventor Drawing views moving on your sheet?

Autodesk Inventor Drawing Views moved position Over the years, both myself and most of my colleagues or staff I’ve had working for me, have suffered with Inventor allowing drawing views to ‘float’ across the drawing sheet as if they have a mind of their own. The effect of this phenomenon is misaligned sections and detail views… as well as their respective dimensions and annotations becoming ‘sick’. There is a way to stop this from happening, however, frustratingly there has been a policy at Autodesk to keep legacy settings as the default settings, so as to not upset the established users. This policy even applies when it makes A LOT more sense to use the new setting instead.

Inventor View Justification

The setting under focus in this post, is the View Justification option within the Drawing tab of Application Options.Inventor Drawing View Fixed CenteredIt’s best if you set this before creating any drawings within Inventor. Otherwise each view you place will take on this setting. However, if you haven’t and you have a particularly important drawing in a bit of a state, then there is a workaround which will allow you to rectify the situation. Check out the video below for further details.


AutoCAD Deep Dive Series: Annotative Blocks

The annotative tools within AutoCAD provide a one-stop place for managing the size (scale) of your annotations. This means instead of worrying about dimension scales, text heights, linetype scales, and so on you can adjust one scale and have all the annotation objects scale accordingly. Its not an easy collection of features to understand at first, and does require some setup but the benefits definitely out way the pains of learning to use and to set it up.

So you might be familiar with annotation scale within AutoCAD, but are you aware that blocks can be made annotative? That’s right, blocks can scale up or down with the adjustment in the annotation scale just like dimensions, text, and other annotations. So although you might not use this for furniture, hardware, or other components but what about other symbols?

The process to define an annotative block is no different from regular blocks, it just takes one extra enabled option. Within the Block Definition dialog, after you have selected your Base point and the objects, enable Annotative within the Behavior section. (I’ll talk about Match block orientation in a minute). Click OK to create the block and that’s it, you now have an annotative block.

AutoCAD Defining Annotative Block

Like all annotative objects if you roll your cursor over them you will see what I like to call the annotative “A” badge, but in reality is the cross section of a drafting ruler.

Annotative "A" symbol

Now that you have an annotative block adjusting the annotation scale will adjust the scale of the block

AutoCAD Annotative Block Scale

So what is Match block orientation to layout? You’ll need to watch the video to find out!

Featured Image: Block and Punch by Peter Harrison

Autodesk Connected Manufacturing at AU2014 and Beyond

Autodesk University 2014 was abuzz with VIP client meetings, product planning, and round-table discussions amid all the classes and presentations that were offered. If you were idle it was not for lack of interesting opportunities to plug into (it was probably because you got lost between the North and South Convention Centers at Mandalay Bay and gave up).

I wanted to look at the overview of the Autodesk 360 umbrella, which received the lion’s share of love from Autodesk in 2014. AU was no less gracious. While 360 was not the only thing going on at AU 2014, (far from it actually), but it’s a great place to start.

Connectivity, and … well more connectivity

One of the main themes in the products and presentations was connectivity. Whether it be software platforms, or people through any means, connectivity was a distinct part of the discussion.

“We disrupted the market with an era of documenting ideas. Then we had an era of using computers to optimize a product. Now we have an era of connection. People expect things to be connected”, said Andrew Anagnost, Sr. Vice-President of Autodesk. “When they are not, things are considered to be wrong”. His discussion went onto some specifics including how a portion of Fusion 360’s adoption has been out of the connectivity it provides team members.

Autodesk believes that connectivity is a function of technology today and that collaboration is a key byproduct of that that trend. The company wants to connect designers and thinkers in a powerful, invisible, and intuitive way, enabling solutions to problems both big and small.

Autodesk 360

The manufacturing focus seemed to lie primarily with Autodesk 360, Autodesk’s evolving collaborative cloud space, whose development cycles have exhibited some odd behavior at times. Autodesk brought the product to market address the change in people’s social behavior on the cloud, but at a time when their professional behavior had not changed. Poor adoption resulted as the product did not fit within the boundaries of most design companies, and few ‘knew what to do with it’.

Looking back I can see the logic, positioning a product to fulfill the needs of an ever increasing social fabric in professional workflows, like what occurred with DropBox. The only real problem is waiting on the ROI. Autodesk has been in the long game for some time, and continues to operate that way.

Autodesk has spent a substantial amount of resources on A360 in 2014, putting the product into motion with a realistic plan of its future development and business model.

  • Integration with the other 360 products and services
  • Borrowing a portion of PLM 360 architecture to implement some form of data management
  • Increased understanding of file dependencies and architecture, including software products far beyond those at Autodesk
  • Continued path along a simplified UI, tuned towards an invisible interaction with necessary automation of design workflows
  • Subscription fee based model

The A360 UX team is full on with all manner of energy about putting an innovative and [actually] useful interface into play. My conversations with their team members were a ‘strap yourself in’ kind of experience; really cool to be honest.

Fusion 360

Fusion has developed rapidly in 2014. Comparing Fusion 360 Ultimate (released this fall) with Fusion in the past 3 years tends to indicate a substantial pull away from the ‘new way of doing things’ product to a more mainstream product with a great deal of room to grow. While the original direction of the product was not intended to ‘replace Autodesk Inventor’ in the future, the current model seems to be taking shape that way.

Desktop based, with a cloud licensing and storage service built in

  • A360 integration
  • Largely sketch driven with dependent parameters
  • Basic drawing interface that is still in complete flux
  • Built in CAM, Rendering, and Animation
  • Optional history and non-history based workflows

Autodesk Fusion 360 CAM

I am quite fond of Inventor and enjoy using it. I am also open to a new product with vast amount of room to evolve, grow, and innovate the CAD experience. I think Fusion has the capacity to do so, and if that is the direction that Autodesk has chosen, then good. I like inventor, and I bet I will like Fusion 360 and beyond.

Some great integrated functionality that is coming / returning:

  • Sheet Metal
  • Linear Static, Thermal, and Modal Simulation
  • 5 Axis CAM


PLM 360

Autodesk is developing a cloud based, hybrid PLM-PDM collaborative product, and intends on giving its customers the first ever end-to-end PLM solution in the cloud. Following along similar lines to what we saw earlier this year, the PLM team delivered a presentation showing some of the proposed enhancements coming this spring. These enhancements coincide with the Autodesk 360 timeline for integration with PLM 360 and the new data platform that is consistent throughout the 360 cloud products.

These presentation showed:

  • Architecture sharing between A360 and PLM 360
  • A360 viewer for model data and documents
  • The new mobile app
  • New UI architectures improve user experience including dashboard enhancements, graphs, etc.

Autodesk PLM 360 enhancements at AU2014

What is not clear yet is if this product is a new offering (and subscription) altogether, or simply enhancements to the existing PLM 360 service.

This opens quite a few doors that were closed to the Small to Medium sized design firms that work on collaborative, highly fluid design workflows. Will this fulfill all those SMB management needs we discussed this summer, including simulation data management? That’s another discussion. J

Additional Thoughts

Autodesk‘s individual 360 products are beginning to take shape and direction. Some of their respective enhancements are quite nice and their development team’s goals and enthusiasm are quite compelling. However a step back to see a bigger picture is in order.

With the inclusion of Fusion 360 Ultimate, Autodesk may corner the market with a complete manufacturing portfolio integration including a collaborative, cloud based management and storage.  One product or another may not fit numerous company’s needs, however the full spectrum of integration and accessibility will likely attract more customers that are willing to give up a little now, banking on a rapidly maturing productive space. At the very least, they will likely pick up a seat and see what they can do with it. The key piece to this puzzle is PLM 360, if some of the UI issues have been worked out, and how it will behave around data and Fusion 360.

I think Autodesk would be wise to have a full 360 portfolio outlay with seamless integration prepared for March when PLM 360’s enhancements are expected to emerge. Many people will be watching to see how the PLM release will shake out.

Images courtesy of Autodesk, Inc. and Stephen Ransom, Flickr Creative Commons Licensing

5 Inventor Sketching Tips You Need to Know Right Now!

At this year’s Autodesk University I was fortunate to have the opportunity to present three Inventor classes. All three were well attended and had lively discussion. It was a blast! For the second year in a row I presented a class on sketching within Inventor. I presented a collection of tips and tricks that I have learned and gained from others over the years. Since sketching is such an integral part of parametric modeling, even the slightest in time savers can pay big dividends.

MD4857 – Sketching with Autodesk Inventor

Sketching is the basis of any model. In this class we will explore sketching within Inventor software, and we’ll give you the timesaving tips and tricks to make you more productive. This includes the timesaving tools introduced with the 2015 release of Inventor software, including Relax Mode and the new onscreen right-click tools. Come to this class to learn the skills you need to build a rock-solid foundation for your models.

Where did I gather all of this sketching information? Firstly, from my 14+ years of using Inventor, I have collected a lot of tips-and-tricks regarding sketching; some from using the software and many from other users. Unfortunately I have forgotten many of the sources of these tips and tricks but there are some great places to get information on Inventor, not just sketching

The old saying is “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, but with Inventor it’s really both. I’m always on the lookout for any time saving steps that will reduce the time to get things done within Inventor or will build stronger, better models. Here are some of my recent favorites:

This is the first of a two part series. The second part will be featured on Paul Munford’s CAD Setter Out site, so keep an eye out for that.

What does Inventor’s help says about sketching… The Inventor Sketch environment consists of a sketch plane (where the sketch is located) and sketch commands. You create edit, constrain, and dimension sketches only when the sketch environment is active. With the sketch command selected, you can specify a planar face, work plane, or sketch curve as the sketch plane

Creating and Working with Sketch Planes

TIP: You can create an offset Workplane while defining the sketch plane. You can generate an offset workplane with a sketch on it in one step by dragging off the desired face with the create sketch command active

Inventor - Offset Workplane While Defining Sketch

TIP: Sketches can be used to define Work Features. Sketch geometry, especially lines can provide an easier method for creating difficult to locate work features. For an example look at Ben Curtin’s example Inventor Holes at a Compound Angle on the Tata CAD Geek Speak blog

TIP: Slice Graphics. Autodesk Inventor Help Definition: “Sometimes geometry obscures your sketch plane, or other components in a part model hide it. When the sketch tool is active, use the context menu option Slice Graphics to slice away temporarily the portion of the model that obscures the plane.” When the model is in the way on your sketching Slice Graphics removes everything between you and the sketch plane. You can initiate Slice Graphics when the editing a sketch via the right-click menu or by using F7. If by chance the model is sliced in the wrong direction, turn off the slice graphics, rotate the model, and try slice graphics again.

Inventor - Slice GraphicsTIP: Project Cut Edges. Use Project Cut Edges to associatively projects edges of the model that intersect with the sketching plane. Think of it as the edges of a section view and your sketch is the section line.

TIP: Project Flat Pattern. Autodesk Inventor Help Definition: “Unfolds a disjointed face or faces into the sketch plane.” Project Flat Pattern is great for the situations where you don’t need the overhead and advanced options of the Sheet Metal Unfold / Refold features, just wanting to reference existing geometry edges

Inventor - Project Flat PatternSee the tips live in action!

Feature Image “Sketching with Reshma” by Juhan Sonin courtesy of Flickr

AutoCAD Deep Dive Series: Tool Palettes, Design Center, and Autodesk Seek

In the last post in this series we explored methods of sharing blocks to other drawings (WBLOCK & Sharing Blocks to Other Drawings), so lets continue this theme with additional methods and also an Autodesk repository of pre-built content.

Toolbox taken by Florian Richter

Photo taken by Florian Richter

Tool Palettes

Tool Palettes can be thought of your own toolbox, which if you are like me has a collection of many things. My toolbox has a hammer, tape measure, crowbar, various screw drivers, wrenches, a flash light, and a completely random collection of nuts, bolts, screws, and washers. Which reminds me, when will the rest of the world get onto the robertson bit?

AutoCAD Tool Palettes are the same idea in that it can contain whatever content you want… blocks, images, xrefs, and any command. Tool Palettes are like having everything and the kitchen sink!

The Tool Palette is a standard AutoCAD palette in that it can be docked, anchored, resized, and auto-hid. You can have as many tabs (palettes) as you want, which provides the ability to categorize your content. Palette Groups collect tabs into groups so that you can quickly enable or hide various groups (combinations) of palettes.

AutoCAD's Tool Palette

To create a new palette right click anywhere on the palette bar that runs down the side of the palette, select New Palette.

To add an object to the palette (say a block or a line) select the object in the drawing area so that grips are activated on the object. Click and drag (not on a grip point) the object onto the palette dropping it in the desired location.

The most important thing to remember is that the drawing the block is dragged-and-dropped from becomes the source drawing for the block insertion from the tool palette. This means that if this drawing is moved, renamed, or deleted the block link in the palette will stop functioning. Its a good idea to either use a template drawing for blocks or a drawing just for blocks. What I typically do is set up a “Tool Palettes Blocks” drawing and add all my blocks to it… and then use this drawing to build my blocks. One location – no worries about it disappearing.

Once the block is added to the tool palette comes the fun part. Right-click on any tool in the Tool Palette and select properties. With blocks you can adjust the insertion scale, rotation, and whether it should be exploded. Additionally you can tie the block scale to Auxiliary options Dimscale or Plot scale, meaning the block can scale accordingly to the active plot scale or dimension scale. You can even set the layer the block is inserted on or have it prompt for rotation after insertion. Very cool features, even consider having the same block in the palette multiple times but with different properties.

Tool Palette - Tool Properties

To insert the block simply select it in the palette and pick the insertion point in the drawing area. Right-clicking a block provides the Redefine option to redefine the existing block definition with the one contained in the Tool Palette.

Design Center

The Design Center is a tool to access drawing content. This content includes layers, blocks, Layouts, Dimension Styles and other drawing content. The Design Center may also contain application specific content, for example Layer Groups in AutoCAD Mechanical. The content can be accessed from drawings that are not open, one of the most important features of the Design Center.

AutoCAD Design Center

Using the Design Center you can navigate Folders as if using Windows Explorer browsing to the desired directory  of drawings. Select the drawing and the type of content to browse. From the right-side panel find the content you wish to add to your active drawing and either drag-and-drop it or double-click to add to your drawing. The other tab, Open Drawings, allows for the browsing of any open drawing, to copy the content from it into the active drawing.

Like tool palettes if you attempt to insert a block in which the block name already exists it will use the definition of the drawing, NOT the Design Center. This means you may get a different result than you were expecting if the drawing block definition and design center block definition geometry differ. To force the the drawing definition to update to match the one selected in the Design Center right-click and select redefine or insert and redefine.

Another Tip… right-click on the Blocks section of the drawing and you can generate a tool palette containing all the blocks from the drawing.

Create a tool palette containing blocks from the Design Center

Autodesk Seek

Autodesk Seek

A link in the Design Center launches a browser to Autodesk Seek. An Autodesk managed webiste of BIM models and AutoCAD drawings (DWG). The drawings are vendor supplied meaning access to accurate 3D models and 2D blocks. A great resource for the Architectural community… and its free, just need to sign in with your Autodesk account.

See it live

New, New Autodesk PLM 360 with Data Management

Today Autodesk presented a group of media the changes they have been working of for the next generation of their PLM product, Autodesk PLM 360. We were greeted by the lovely Stacey Doyle, accompanied by the less attractive but both fine and knowledgeable gentlemen, Brian Roepke and Jared Sund. After a bit of nostalgia and looking at the requirements from which PLM 360 was born, Brian got stuck into showing us the new user interface.

User Interface

The new Autodesk PLM 360 Dashboard

When PLM 360 was launch in late February 2012, the web technology used within the user interface was circa 2008 & 2009. In web terms that’s quite old, although nothing like the 20-30 year old technology used by some of their competitors. As a result the Autodesk team believed they could do a lot better to redefine the User Experience. With these upcoming changes, the development team have leveraged the most modern HTML 5 & AngularJS web frameworks, to provide a rich speedy interface. The website now behaves much more like a desktop application with respect to response times from user interaction.

They haven’t just made the user interface more attractive and responsive though. You may have already come across the excellent Autodesk 360 viewer on other Autodesk websites or Cloud services now, but if you haven’t, it really is impressive. Well, naturally it’s being implemented within PLM 360 now. Select an Item with a CAD file associated with it and you get a full 3D model to play with, meaning you can interrogate it’s meta data, isolate components and even exploded assemblies gradually. For a fully immersive experience, you can view the model in full screen mode.

Autodesk PLM 360 3D Viewer

Just to get an idea of the fidelity of this viewer, the familiar looking assembly in the image above contains 4000 components and the viewer didn’t bat an eye lid while Brian was pushing it about. Even more impressive though is the quality of the image, the view is fully rendered out with ambient shadows and reflections.

Now that part was all very nice and everything, improving the tools UX across devices is always important. But the next part of the presentation was where things got serious.

Cloud enabled Product Data Management

Autodesk PLM 360 Desktop Integration

In September, during the Accelerate 2014 PLM event Brian announced and presented PLM 360’s new product data management capabilities. Oleg Shilovitsky blogged about it here, With the current incarnation of PLM 360, to associate a document to multiple Items, the file needs to be uploaded independently to each Item. However, now the PLM 360 team have written a simple extension for Windows Explorer, it presents itself as another drive in your computer, in much the same way Autodesk 360 does. While the implementation of this extension may appear similar to the Autodesk 360 Drive, it really isn’t. I hope it isn’t at least, because the A360 Drive is a truly horrible tool from a reliability standpoint.

As a result of implementing the integration this way, any application is essentially supported by PLM 360. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say PLM 360 offers integration with any application, this approach means you can very easily organize and upload your files to your PLM 360 tenant.

PLM 360 Multi-CAD Support

Companies like Greenpoint Technologies have Autodesk Vault & PLM 360 connected together. In addition they have fully adopted PLM to the point that everything design related is co-ordinated via PLM 360. This is a valid and preferred approach for many companies around the world. Curiously, Autodesk have found out over the last few years, that the transition to cloud technology is happening much faster than they thought it would. Smaller or newer companies with less IT overhead or companies with more flexible IT infrastructure, are naturally gravitating towards Cloud based strategies.

Memjet - PDM - Autodesk PLM 360

Autodesk haven’t moved Vault to the cloud, it wouldn’t be the right thing to do architecturally. Let’s face it, Vault is a mature PDM product and Autodesk aren’t stupid, just look at Fusion 360, they aren’t afraid to start with a clean sheet of paper and that’s exactly what they have done here. This has been built from the ground up, using the latest technology which has only emerged relatively recently and pioneered by Google, Netflix, Microsoft and eBay etc. eBay for example, transacts an insane 80 billion database calls a day. It’s highly unlikely any enterprise using CAD and PDM makes that many calls within their network in a week.

Autodesk PLM 360 CAD Integration

BUT, CAD data IS more complex, with large file sizes and intertwined relationships. To deal with this, Autodesk have developed Transfer Avoidance. Purposely built for managing desktop based engineering data in the cloud. Autodesk have innovated to the point where they’ve patented a lot of the techniques used within this protocol. There are lots of other technologies out there such as Riverbed etc.. However, Transfer Avoidance is optimized at the binary level. If it sees any common patterns of data, it will reuse the data already on the cloud. For each company, within each PLM 360 tenant, Autodesk maintains a library of these binary patterns. As you upload more and more information, the system actually gets faster. What’s unique about this technology is its ability to catalog this information on a massive scale.

PLM 360 Transfer Avoidance Benchmarks

Traditional PDM Features now Included in PLM 360

PLM Functionality

CAD Data Management

  • Revisions & Lifecycles
  • Versioning
  • Bills of Materials
  • Relationships
  • Change Management
  • Concurrent Design
  • Supplier Collaboration
  • Design Reuse
  • Search
  • Embedded Viewing
  • Reporting
  • Roles & Permissions
  • Business System Integration
  • Globally Access




I’m genuinely impressed by both of these additions. I haven’t been able to use PLM 360 for about 18 months now, I do miss it and although I’ve been dubious about PDM in the cloud in the past, and still am to a certain extent. This is really quite exciting. I’m curious to see how reliable this Transfer Avoidance technology really is, I’ve been told similar binary level transfer technology has failed spectacularly in the past, but the past is the past and I will approach this with an open mind given the opportunity. I really like the fact they have leveraged Windows Explorer to maintain simplicity and familiarity, which will inevitably increase adoption with staff members outside of the CAD department.

PLM 360 always felt a bit dated in certain areas, once you got into moving around the web pages. This naturally meant it wasn’t the best experience to use on mobile devices, so the adoption of HTML 5 and AngularJS is a welcome one. The responsive elements of the site were clearly demonstrated within the webinar and are most certainly a step in the right direction. The next big step though, isn’t rolling out these new updates. It’s making PLM 360 available to customers in all territories and not just the USA, UK and Germany.

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