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Join us at Autodesk University 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages Design & Motion proudly brings to you, its Autodesk University speakers Mike Thomas and Gavin Bath!

If you’re heading to Las Vegas for Autodesk’s annual user-conference, we invite you to join us for one (or all four!) of our Inventor classes. John will also be seen lurking around Vegas too, so make sure to track him down.

D&M Take Over Autodesk University

Here’s a quick overview of Mike’s classes

MD4857 – Sketching with 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.

Tuesday, Dec 2, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM

MD4862 – Advanced Assembly Control with Representations in Inventor

[Proudly co-presented with Chris Benner @CGBenner ]

This class will teach you how to use the 3 types of Representations in Inventor software assemblies. Representations can control the visibility, the suppression, the position, and several of the other characteristics of components within assemblies. Representations enable you to save specific views of your assembly to prepare for presentations and to create drawings. Proper use of Representations also significantly improves computer performance when dealing with large, complex assemblies.

Tuesday, Dec 2, 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM

MD4890 – The Suite Life of Product Design Suite

Product Design Suite has just arrived and you’ve cracked the packaging (or finished the download) and are about to install the software—but wait, what are all these options? Why so many? What is all this stuff? You just want Inventor software and AutoCAD software. Take a deep breath. Autodesk, Inc., has packaged not only software but also workflows to provide you with an excellent set of product design tools. AutoCAD Mechanical software for sketching and legacy maintenance, Inventor software for 3D modeling and design, Showcase software for realistic renderings, 3ds Max Design software for animations, and Alias Design software for complex surface design, just to name a few. In this class we’ll look at some of Product Design Suite’s workflows so you can get up off the ground and running in no time.

Wednesday, Dec 3, 8:00 AM – 9:30 AM

Here is Gavin’s class

PE5895 – Truly Integrated CAM: Inventor HSM is a Well-Oiled Machine

Learn to extend the power of Autodesk, Inc.’s, fully integrated CAM Solution for Inventor software by complementing it with Vault software. You will learn about the workflows used to create machine code for the CNC (computer numerical control) machining of your parts, and you will also learn the benefits of using an integrated CAM system. Data management is often a nightmare for companies that maintain design separately from files containing manufacturing information such as toolpaths. In this class you will see just how easily you can maintain both in a single file, using Inventor HSM software and Vault software.

Tuesday, Dec 2, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Autodesk University – What, When, Where, Why?

Autodesk University is December 2–4, at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. It is the biggest Autodesk User Conference, attended by 1000′s of Autodesk Users every year. It might sound corny, but the biggest benefit of attending AU, hands down, is the people. The interactions, the discussions, the laughs… everyone is there for the same reason, have similar problems, and are always so willing to talk. We’ve met many people over the years, many who have become close friends.

Visit the Autodesk University website for more information

Autodesk Inventor: Copy Items Between Sheets Easily

It is easy to create another standard view in Inventor drawings, but what about when the view has been detailed or you have a customized Parts List? You can easily copy Views and Parts Lists from sheet to sheet, complete with all the annotations associated.

Copy / Paste

  • Select the items to copy: Select from the Graphics Window or from the Browser.
  • Pick the Sheet header in the browser
  • Paste through the context menu: After picking the header, right-click -> and select Paste.

Autodesk Inventor Copy Paste View

Drag / Drop Between Sheets

Alternately, you can drag to copy the items.

  • Select the items to be copied: The same procedure applies from above
  • Pick / drag the selected items towards the browser
  • Drop into the view tree: This is the odd part. You need to drop the items down into the tree organization. Just pull you cursor down below where the Views are organized; you should notice the darkened line marker alerting you to where the items will be copied. When satisfied, release the mouse button.

Autodesk Inventor Drag Views to copy them between sheets

Autodesk Inventor Pasted views

In the example above notice the Parts List and views that were copied. All annotations were copied over with the views. In this example I’ve edited the parts list and balloons according the the sheet purpose after the copy was complete.

@%#&! 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.

AutoCAD Deep Dive Series: Creating Blocks

Before you can run you must learn to walk. Before you can master blocks you must be able to create them. Carving Chinese Block

Image “Carving a Chinese Printing Block” by Jonathan Kos-Read - Flickr

To create a block you start with creating the geometry. There isn’t really much of a limitation in that you can create any type of objects you want, except remember that the key is consistency. Blocks within AutoCAD serve many purposes but mostly to provide a convenient method to reuse content while maintaining consistency from drawing to drawing. Try to remember consistency as you build your blocks so that you get a familiar look and feel to everything you create. What about the layers the objects are on? Good question, and conveniently enough I’ve covered this before in our Deep Dive Series on Blocks, which you can read here. The key to working with blocks and layers is understanding the importance of Layer 0. If the geometry contained within the block resides on layer 0 this geometry will take on the properties of the layer the block is placed on. Therefore if the block is on a red layer with a hidden line type all objects within the block on layer 0 will appear red with a hidden line type.

Creating Blocks

To create a new block definition you use the Make Block feature. Make Block can be initiated by typing B (and pressing Enter) with the keyboard or by selecting Create Block from the Insert Tab > Block Definition Panel. Make New Block

  1. Specify the Name of the Block. The block name must be unique within the drawing. The drop-down lists all block definitions that exist in the current drawing. Use this to double-check your block name is unique or select an existing block name to overwrite (redefine) an existing block.
  2. Set the Base Point. The base point becomes the insertion point, as in the point on the block your cursor will be at when you insert the block into your drawing. The base point can be defined by keying in the coordinates, using the pick button to select a point in the drawing, or by enabling the Specifying on Screen option. Specifying on Screen means that you will pick the point after you click OK.
  3. Select the Objects. No point in having a block if it doesn’t contain any geometry. Click the pick button to select the objects in the drawing window or enable Specifying on Screen to select the objects after you click OK.
  4. Decide what to do with the original objects. The objects you select to create the block can become a block (Convert to block), can be deleted (Delete) or do not need to become a block themselves. and remain as is (Retain)
  5. Should the block be Annotative? An annotative block is one that will adjust in size as the drawings annotation scale is adjusted
  6. Should the block scale uniformly? When enabled the block must scale in the Y-direction the same amount as being scaled in the X
  7. Should we allow the block to be exploded? when enabled you will NOT be able to explode the block instance in the drawing.
  8. Select the Block Unit Type. Blocks can scale according to the drawing unit. For example if the block was set to inches and the drawing to millimeters when inserted it would be 25.4 times larger than originally defined Why? There are 25.4 mm in an inch.
  9. Add a Hyperlink (optional). A hyperlink is a link to something, whether it be a web page, an email, another document, or to a view in the drawing.
  10. Be Descriptive (optional). Not everyone will understand what your block is for from the name alone, by adding a description you make it easier for others to know what the block is for before they insert it.
  11. Open it in the Block Editor (optional). If you intention is to make a Dynamic Block (discussed later in this series) then you’ll want to open the new block in the Block Editor to add dynamic features.

When satisfied with the inputs click OK to build your block.

Inserting Blocks

So you’ve created your block…  now what? Insert your block into your drawing to test it out. The insert block feature can be accessed from the Insert tab of the ribbon or by typing I with the keyboard. AutoCAD Block Insert Dialog

  1. Select the Block you want to Insert
  2. Optionally Browse for a drawing and insert the entire drawing in as a block
  3. Set the insert point either by keying in the coordinates or enabling Specify on-screen to pick the point after clicking OK
  4. Specify the Scale either by keying in the scale factors or by enabling Specify on-screen to set the scale after clicking OK. With the example above the Y & Z fields are disabled as this block was created with the Uniformly Scale option enabled. With this option disabled the X, Y, and Z scale factors can all be set independently.
  5. Specify the Rotation either by entering the rotation angle or by enabling Specify on-screen to pick the rotation after clicking OK
  6. Block Unit reference lists the Unit of the block and the factor that will be applied with the block is inserted. The factor is based on the Block Unit compared to the units of the drawing
  7. Optionally Explode the block during insertion. By exploding a block the objects are returned to original form, ungroup, and not contained within a block

Block Manipulation

After the block is inserted you can make adjustments to it very similarly to other 2D objects. Blocks can be moved, copied, scaled, rotated, mirrored, and adjusted with grips. Blocks can be exploded to remove the block and leave the blocks geometry. Copying a block can be faster and more efficient than inserting another instance.

Autodesk Inventor API: General Document Notes

It has been some time since I was regularly programming. My background was C++ and I was moving to C# when, well, I started writing; it appears as though there is only enough time to either research engineering software, or research software API.

Recently I decided I wanted some drawing automation; something to take care of the repetitive tasks beyond a good template. Being quite detail oriented, I like a complete drawing. This requires a lot of copying parent exploded views, parts lists, and so forth. While creating an iLogic drawing iProperties checker, I thought iLogic could help me with the drawing creation as well.

What follows is a collection of key notes that I made during my iLogic Assembly document function research; these are the same functions we used to develop the automated drawing creation tool.

Autodesk Inventor API Chart

We will look briefly at the general Document class in this article, and then take a bit of time stepping into the Assembly Document container hierarchy in a follow up.


It is very important to understand the Inventor assembly document structure and hierarchy. Each component in an assembly is a Document. Each Document is simply a reference to a file that is, or will be upon saving, stored on a file server or local drive.

Documents however can be interpreted in numerous ways. In our case, Documents represent Parts, Assemblies, Spreadsheets, Drawings, etc. Inventor has Class Objects that have intelligence built in to deal with how an Assembly Document, for example, will behave.

Just Give Me Everything

First, we can get all file references by calling for ‘AllReferencedDocuments’. This function is basically a document dump.

Base Object Class: Document

Type: Function Call

Object Function:  AllReferencedDocuments

Returns: Document object

This function does a jam-up job of returning all FILE instances within any Document object. Only one instance per file is returned, regardless of how many times a part is used in an assembly.

This function is not reserved to Assembly files and will work on any Document class based object. This makes it a great, universal front end build for code that needs to work in a broad range of Inventor documents.

Caution should be used to provide significant bounds checking as to what type of Document is being returned, as AllReferencedDocuments will return anything at all; Spreadsheets, Part files, you name it.

Example: (working with only the part files in a document)

‘ Get the active assembly document.
Dim oAsmDoc As AssemblyDocument
oAsmDoc = ThisApplication.ActiveDocument
‘ Iterate through all of the documents referenced by the assembly.
Dim oDoc As Document
For Each oDoc In oAsmDoc.AllReferencedDocuments

‘ Verify that the document is a part.
If oDoc.DocumentType = kPartDocumentObject Then
Dim oPartDoc As PartDocument
oPartDoc = oDoc

‘Do something with the part document here

End If

This is great when you want everything, but I need to see some structure, and having some refinement would be nice. We’ll return with those details and the Assembly Document container hierarchy in the follow-up article.


Mod The Machine article “Accessing Assembly Components” from 2009

The Autodesk Inventor 2014 API chart

Mod the Machine Article “Understanding File References” from 2008

Will AutoCAD install on Windows 10?

Installing Autodesk’s AutoCAD CAD product on Windows 8 or 8.1 really wasn’t all that fun in some cases. We wanted to make sure ahead of time if there were any issues or not. As a follow on from my initial review of Windows 10 Tech Preview, I’m going to perform a trial install within my test environment. I decided to record the affair rather than write it all out.

The good news is, it looks like installing on Windows 10 is smoother than it was installing on Windows 8 or 8.1. There may have even been some improvements. Now I haven’t put AutoCAD to work in any arduous kind of ways, but from what I can tell from a quick poke about, all seems well. I cut all the really boring waiting time out, but all up, installing from my USB 3.0 external hard drive, vanilla AutoCAD took around 15 minutes to install.

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