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Why should I use AutoCAD Mechanical? The Finale

Like most good things, my look at AutoCAD Mechanical (ACM) must come to an end… well unless until it gets rebooted, a set of prequels, or purchased by Disney and a whole new set of movies are developed and released.

What have we seen so far?

  • AutoCAD Mechanical is based on AutoCAD meaning that anything AutoCAD can do it can do or do better
  • It is standards based meaning it automates or semi-automates many tasks so that things stay to standard
  • It has a collection of mechanical specific tools to speed up common drafting procedures
  • Content, Content, and more Content
  • The dimensioning and annotation tools kick AutoCAD’s Butt!

Although there are many areas left to cover I’ve decided to show one of the most powerful and one of the most easiest to implement features of AutoCAD Mechanical: Bill of Materials, Ballooning, and Parts Lists.

01 - ACM_BOM01

Bill Of Materials

The Bill of Materials (BOM) is a collection of Part References or Components and their meta data. The BOM is “live” in that as the drawing changes the BOM automatically updates with the changes. This includes the quantity of each component instanced in the drawing. The meta data can be any data you want to track on your components, including descriptions, material, and vendor.

02 - ACM_BOM

Part References

Part References are used to tag objects and assign meta data. What data the Part Reference contains is controlled via the standard


Balloons can be created (manually or automatically) from any Part Reference in the drawing. Format is controlled by the active standard, the item numbers (or other information) shown in the balloon is controlled by the BOM. The Format of the Balloon is controlled by the active Standard.

Parts Lists

Parts Lists are the BOM representations that you insert into the drawing. They do not need to contain all of the information contained within the BOM and they can be filtered to only show the desired content. Changes to the BOM (or Part References) automatically reflect in the Parts List. Like all things in AutoCAD Mechanical the format of the Parts List is controlled by the active Standard, but can be overridden after insertion (on the fly)

03 - PartsList

What’s great about these features is that any drawing, whether it contains AutoCAD Mechanical content or not can have Part References inserted to define your components. Any drawing with Part References will have a Bill of Material and any Part Reference can be ballooned. This means that even a drawing of lines, arcs, and circles can contain intelligent information that is organized, ballooned, and displayed in the fashion you want on the drawing.

So what’s next?

  1. If you have an Autodesk Suite check if AutoCAD Mechanical is already installed, if not install it
  2. Start Using it. Run into a road block, use the help!
  3. Attend my AU class. You can see the software live and in action, ask questions, and we can discuss all things AutoCAD Mechanical
  4. Visit the Autodesk Support website for AutoCAD Mechanical specific Skill Builders
  5. Goto an Authorized Training Centre and take some training

The other posts in the series:

Why should you use AutoCAD Mechanical? Part 1

Why should you use AutoCAD Mechanical? Part 2

Why should you use AutoCAD Mechanical? Part 3



What’s Up with AutoCAD Mechanical? Part 3

In continuation of my look at AutoCAD Mechanical I’m going to continue selling you on the benefits of using AutoCAD Mechanical, especially in a mechanical / manufacturing area of design and detailing


A few years back Autodesk commissioned an independent study exploring the advantages of using AutoCAD Mechanical over vanilla AutoCAD. The study looked at 10-common challenges exploring the time and effort to complete each task in AutoCAD and AutoCAD Mechanical. What they found was the same tasks were completed 65% faster using AutoCAD Mechanical.

Continue Reading

What’s up with AutoCAD Mechanical? – Part 2

Following on from the first post about AutoCAD Mechanical last week. Here is my second installment:Continue Reading

Autodesk Vault | 2014 Service Pack 1 Released

Autodesk Vault 2014 Branding

Autodesk Vault 2013 Service Pack 1 wasn’t released until quite late in the year of 2012. Fortunately, some of the major issues with that release were promptly taken care of within a few months of 2013′s release, having the first service pack release 9 months after the product was launch (based on annual release cycles) is quite late. Moving into the present, Autodesk Vault 2014 is a nice release, it has a number of welcome improvements but as if often the case with new release software there are issues.

Thankfully Autodesk have really stepped up to the mark this time around, having already released Update 1 in short order post the products release, a few days ago they released Autodesk Vault 2014 Service Pack 1 for all of the editions (Basic, Workgroup & Professional). I’ve been quite critical of the Vault team in the past (even though I generally really like the product), so it’s only fair I give them some kudos for the speed with which they have reacted to these issues. I’m not going to detail all of the fixes here, since you can read them in the service pack’s readme file. However, I will highlight one fix (I haven’t managed to test it yet) which I feel is a significant flaw in the 2014 RTM release.

Vault Plot Manager - Visualisation file not being used

When using the plot tool, even when dwf’s/visualisation files are up to date, it defaults to printing with the CAD file instead & in some cases where it has managed to load the dwf, Vault fails to print that sheet with no obvious error. It’s not until you check the physical drawings that you notice they are missing, however, I did discover a tool you can use to check for errors. Once you have printed a job, an extra status icon appears in the bottom right hand corner of Vault Explorer, left clicking on it gives you the option to load the Plot Job Monitor.

Vault Plot Monitor

 Once the Plot Monitor has launched the errors reveal themselves. In this case they weren’t much help with respect to starting troubleshooting the issue itself:

Vault Job Monitor Error

To get around this I disabled the use of Visualisation files within the Plot options dialogue (seen in the 2nd image above), which is accessible via the Plot Manager menus. It turns out there are a few downsides to using this workaround, these were provided to me by Autodesk product support:

  1. IDW printing requires more system resources (CPU usage, memory) than DWF printing.
  2. If the DWF has “mark-up”, it doesn’t print when user uses idw printing.
  3. Using DWF’s Saves printing time.
  4. There’s no need for usage of any CAD licenses.

Point 3 is supported by the information supplied within the help file. Expand the ‘Specify Plot Job Options’ section, then within point 2 you will see the following statement:

…the visualization files (either .dwf or .dwfx) that are created when CAD files are checked into a vault are sent to the specified device instead of the native CAD data. This significantly reduces the processing time for plot jobs…

Scanning through the Readme file for Autodesk Vault 2014 Service Pack 1 reveals an issue having been fixed relating to DWF printing on 64-bit operating systems. I believe this fixes the issue I’ve highlighted here.

There are a satisfying number of fixes in this Service Pack not only for the Server (ADMS) but for the client and a number of the Vault add-ins.

You can download Autodesk Vault 2014 Service Pack 1 from here. Just make sure you carefully follow the installation instructions when you do so.

If you are interested here is a summary detailing a number of the fixes released by Autodesk recently.


Autodesk Factory Design Suite Utilities Activation Problem

FDS activation needed

With some installations of Factory Design Suite Premium 2014 you may get an error when launching the Autodesk Inventor Factory Options from the zero document state (Your Trial Period has Expired). You may also have first noticed it when you take a look at the about information for Factory Design Suite from the help drop down in the top right hand corner of the application. It’s extremely easy to fix & doesn’t require any kind of reinstall of any products, check out the video below to see how:


Vault Professional | Buzzsaw – Go Get Yours!


A few weeks ago I blogged about the new features in Autodesk Vault Professional 2014. One of the key things I pondered on was whether or not the Buzzsaw seats which were provided as part of Vault Collaboration AEC would be included as part of this years amalgamated Vault product. Well I have great news, it most certainly is included, exciting stuff indeed.Continue Reading