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Tag Archives: Tips

And they’re off! – The (Great?) Inventor Constraint Race

Ok so this one is a bit silly,  but it has practical implications.

In Inventor these days, there are so many ways of sticking one bit to another bit. Constraints, Joints, the “Assemble” command, iMates, or even no constraints at all in certain skeletal modelling workflows. So which is the most efficient!? Like anything, there is no cut and dried answer to that question, that would apply to all cases. It’s a matter of horses for courses.

Horses RacingCredit: Paul Kehrer“Full Stretch”

Just for fun, I thought I’d put a few of these methods to the test in a somewhat controlled environment. I decided to eliminate some variables by keeping the test to one type of connection, a simple pin in a hole, multiplied a few times.

The “horses” are:

  • #1 – “New-fangled Assemble”   Place and “assemble” one by one. Thanks to Scott Moyse for entering this horse in the race.
  • #2 – “Drag-Connect”   Place all then drag-connect.
  • #3 – “Trusty Old Constraint”  Place all then manually constrain.
  • #4 – “G’day iMate”   Named iMates for automatic connection on placement. Thanks to Peter Crawley for entering this horse in the race.
  • #5 = “All the iMates”   Right-click and select “Place at all Matching iMates.”  Another entry courtesy of Peter Crawley, but it was disqualified from the race for alleged doping after finishing in only 2 seconds.

I thought I’d introduce them first, one by one…


And now…. without further ado, place your bets, and let’s go racing!

Did you make any money?

Feature image credit: A Day At The RacesGary J. Wood

Back to Basics – 4 Autodesk Inventor Techniques You Should Know

With so much focus given to new features / technologies by CAD bloggers / vendors, it’s easy to forget the little things. I thought I’d start a series of posts that deal with simple, time-saving workflows and tricks that you may have missed along the way while learning to use Inventor.

This first part will demonstrate 4 simple tips / techniques, in a video below:

  1. Two-click Center Workplane
  2. ‘Derive’ Workflow
  3. Convert projected geometry to ‘Construction’
  4. Workplane normal to path for sweep

Two-click Center Workplane

Very often you want to place a workplane exactly halfway between two faces or other planes. By selecting the workplane tool and simply clicking the two faces, you can do just that. In the 2015 release of the product, this workflow was expanded to use any two faces! They no longer have to be parallel, or similar in any way.

‘Derive’ Workflow

I consider this to be one of the most powerful and useful workflows in Inventor. Not only can you use it to maintain adaptive geometry with a source part or assembly, but you can also bring through parameters and work-features, or even use it to mirror or scale a component! Very handy, like these paper towels.

Convert projected geometry to ‘Construction’

I’m sure you’ve all come across that annoying warning: “Cannot constrain or dimension reference or fixed geometry.” This often happens when you think you are clicking on an unconstrained sketch feature, but there’s actually some projected geometry underneath. I find that it helps to project in the geometry you need (within a part only, please don’t use cross-part projection in assemblies!!! Use derive instead) and then turn all of that geometry to construction, before creating your own sketch geometry using the construction features as reference. This will help you to build much more reliable sketches.

Workplane normal to path for sweep

I use this one EVERY time I do a sweep. Often the start of your sweep path is at a point in space with no other reference geometry nearby. This allows you to quickly create a plane on the endpoint that is normal to the path.

Hopefully some of you may find at least one of these tips useful. If you have tips of your own that you’d like to share, please share away in the comments below!

Feature image credit: “Ideal Insurance, Moor Green Lane – 123” by Elliot Brown

Inventor | View Representations – You just clicked “Ok,” didn’t you?

Even for the seasoned Autodesk Inventor users out there, a frustrating little problem in Inventor assemblies occasionally pops up that seems to defy all logic.

Change the visibility of a component or workplane etc. and suddenly EVERYTHING becomes visible or invisible in your assembly? You’ve probably unintentionally broken the associativity of a view rep somewhere, by just clicking “Ok” to a dialog box that you either didn’t read or didn’t understand. #AmIRight

This video aims to provide some clarity as to what that dialog really means, and how to re-associate the view reps.

Design View Representation Associativity in Autodesk Inventor

Searching, Listing and Filters | Autodesk Vault Professional 2015 – Microsoft SharePoint 2013

SharePoint Searching Listing FilteringSearching

Once we had SharePoint and the Vault database actually on speaking terms, the next step in the process was to configure the Vault Search feature. SharePoint already has the ability to search within its own database for keywords or filenames, etc. What we want now, is a separate search inside SharePoint that looks at Vault results only. This is where we ran into another snag that had me confused for a while.

Following the instructions in the Vault-SharePoint Integration documentation, I got stuck at step #12. Perhaps this would be a good spot to share this procedure, as it is written, so I can better describe the workaround. This one gets a bit confusing.

Configure Vault Search

1.   At the home page for the site, click the Settings > Site Settings.

2.   Select Search Result Sources under Site Collection Administration

3.   Click Result Sources in the Search group.

4.   Click New Result Source.

5.   Fill in the following data

  • Name: VaultSearch
  • Protocol: OpenSearch 1.0/1.1
  • Query Transform: {searchTerms}
  • Source Url: http://<server>/_layouts/Autodesk.Vault.BCSConnect/VaultSearch.aspx?s={searchTerms}&i={startIndex} Replace [server] with the value of your SP site.
  • Credentials: Anonymous

6.   Click Save

7.   Return to the home page for the site and click the Settings > Site Contents.

8.   Click new subsite

  • Title: Vault Search
  • Web Site Address: http://<server>/vaultsearch
  • Select Basic Search Center in the Enterprise Template tab
  • Select Yes for Navigation Inheritance
  • Click the Create button

9.   Go to the newly created site

10.   Click the Settings > Site Settings

11.   Select Result Sources

12.   Select the Vault Search resource created in step 8 and select Set as Default from the drop-down menu.

13.   Return to the site page and perform a search.

I followed this procedure step by step and everything was working just fine until I got to step #12. When I got to the Site Settings for this newly created sub site, the Vault Search resource was not there to select. This had me baffled, as I knew I was following the steps as they were written, and I had been assured by Autodesk people online that the procedure was correct. No matter how many times I did it though, there was no Vault Search there to Set as Default. Returning to the home page and looking at Result Sources there, I was able to select Vault Search and set it as the default. However, doing this overrode the default SharePoint search and replaced it with my Vault search. Now, no one was able to search for anything in SharePoint.

Finally, after scratching my head for a bit and panicking again, it occurred to me that it didn’t really make sense that the search Result Source had been created at the top level, before the Vault Search sub site was created. To me, it made more sense that the sub site should be created first, and then the search Result Source be created under that. Since I was still in the sandbox I decided to do a little creative playing with the order of this procedure.

Configure Vault Search

  1. At the home page for the site, click Settings > Site Contents.
  2. Click new subsite
  • Title: Vault Search
  • Web Site Address: http://<server>/vaultsearch
  • Select Basic Search Center in the Enterprise Template tab
  • Select Yes for Navigation Inheritance
  • Click the Create button
  1. Go to the newly created site
  2. Click Settings > Site Settings
  3. Select Result Sources
  4. Click New Result Source.

Fill in the following data

  • Name: VaultSearch
  • Protocol: OpenSearch 1.0/1.1
  • Query Transform: {searchTerms}
  • Source Url: http://<server>/_layouts/Autodesk.Vault.BCSConnect/VaultSearch.aspx?s={searchTerms}&i={startIndex} Replace [server] with the value of your SP site.
  • Credentials: Anonymous
  1. Click Save
  2. Return to the home page for the Vault Search sub site (http://<server>/vaultsearch), click Settings > Site Settings.
  3. Select Search Result Sources under Site Collection Administration
  4. Click Result Sources in the Search group.
  5. Select the Vault Search resource created in step 7 and select Set as Default from the drop-down menu.
  6. Return to the sub site page and perform a search.

This revised procedure creates a sub site for the Vault Search, and then creates a SharePoint Search Result Source on that sub site. This keeps the main SharePoint search feature separated from the Vault search, ensuring correct results from each. You can then easily create a link to this Vault Search on the SharePoint site home page, if you want. Here are some images of the search Screen and a typical search result.

Powell SharePoint Search FieldPowell SharePoint Search ResultsListing

To create a list of Vault data to be displayed on a page within SharePoint, go to http://<server>/_layouts/15/Autodesk.Vault.BCSConnect/addVaultlist.aspx

Type in a name for the list, and select a list type from the drop down menu. You can create a list for Vault Files, Items or Change Orders. When finished, click Create List. Make a note of the URL that will be created when you add the list. The format will be: http://<server>/Lists/<listname>/AdskVaultFileFinder.aspx (note: for Items this will be AdskVaultItemFinder.aspx, and for change orders AdskVaultChangeOrderFinder.aspx)
Once you have created a list, you still need to add a link to it on whichever page within your SharePoint site you want to view the results. To do this, navigate to the page within SharePoint and select Settings, Site Contents. At the top of the contents page you should see “add an app”.

SharePoint Add Vault ListsSelecting this will open a page with available apps that can be added to your page. Select “Links“, and give the app a name. This is what will appear on your SharePoint page and is what users will see. The app will appear at the bottom of the page, and under the name you will see “new link or edit this list”. This example is from the CAD page on my home site.

Add SharePoint AppEach of the items you see under the links, is a Vault List created using the steps above. When you select “new link” you are prompted for the web address. This will be the web address from the list you created earlier. There is a link to test your web address to make sure it is correct. Click Save once satisfied, and your Vault List will be added as a link on that page.

SharePoint Vault ListsFiltering

Once you have added a list to a page within SharePoint, it will return all results for the List Type you selected during List creation. So, an Item List will return the entire Item Master as the list results. Depending on how large your Vault database is, this will be more results than you probably want or need. Now you need to add some filters, to narrow the results to a specific set of Items or Files. In this way, for example, you can have a List that shows only those drawings associated with a particular project, on the project’s page in SharePoint.

Select a List from the link you just created in the steps above. Depending on the speed of your network and the size of your database, this could take a while. Once it is loaded, look for the toolbar in the upper right of the screen with Browse, Items & List. Select List and then Modify View.

SharePoint Modify ViewA View in SharePoint is simply a filtered version of the list. You can create many different Views from one List, and then specify one to be the default. Selecting Modify View brings up a screen full of options to narrow the results of this list. The first requirement is to give the view a name. In the future users will be able to select from your list of views by selecting Current View, as seen in the above image.

The section for Columns allows you to choose from a list of properties, preloaded from the Business Connectivity Model, for the Vault object type. Adding or removing columns from this list is covered quite well in the integration documentation, and worked very well in my testing, so I will not go over that in this article. The list of properties will be shown in the list results as a chart from left to right, in the order of their position. By selecting or deselecting the Display check-boxes, and manipulating the Position values, you can customize which properties you want to show and in what order.

SharePoint Configure ColumnsThe next section on the page is Sort. This sort allows you to do just that, sort the results by any of the properties in the list of columns. Data Source Filters is a good one for narrowing down the results of a list. You can filter by Category, State, Vault Folder and Limit. For Change Orders, the filter for Category would not be present. Category allows filtering by a Vault Category, State filters by Vault life cycle state, Vault Folder allows for filtering by specifying a folder path in the Vault project explorer. The correct format is $/1st level folder/next level folder. Limit specifies how many objects will be returned for this list from Vault. The default is 100.

SharePoint Data Source FiltersIn the example above I have filtered a list of Files, based only on a specific folder residing inside Vault. For an even deeper level of restriction on list results, you can use the Filter section to narrow the scope based on specific properties.

SharePoint Filter ConfigurationYou can stack up as many of these property filters as needed to narrow the scope of your results, but be careful that you don’t get too carried away. I recommend adding filters a few at a time, and checking the results. With some trial and error, you will eventually get to the results you want for this custom view. Make notes along the way so you can repeat the process on other pages. In my examples above I was able to narrow a list of the entire project explorer down to a much shorter list of only Autocad drawings from one specific folder. This speeds up display time and cuts down on frustration when a user is looking at a list.

There are other settings on this page that will affect the overall appearance of your lists, play around with them as you have time, but these are the main areas for filtering a list to a smaller group of results. Here is an example of a list which has been filtered down.

SharePoint Vault List ResultsSelecting one of these files will bring up a detail page that gives the user information about the file or item as well as any links to the CAD file itself or to the visualization file.

SharePoint Vault File List Result Detail PageConclusion

So… There you have it. Easy as pie, right? Using the installation document that came with the integration package; Autodesk Vault Professional 2014 – Integrating with Microsoft SharePoint 2013, and these helpful (I hope) tips, in no time at all you will have installed the Autodesk Vault Professional 2015 – Microsoft SharePoint 2013 Integration, set up login credentials, created a search function, and then created and filtered lists which can be placed on any page in your SharePoint site. Now anyone in your company, or even from outside if you grant them access, can use SharePoint to take a look into your Vault and download or print your CAD data. Now, if you feel brave enough, it’s time to move this into a production environment. Remember…. backup everything first! Good luck and….. Enjoy!

“Autodesk® screen shots reprinted with the permission of Autodesk, Inc. Autodesk® , AutoCAD® , DWG, the DWG logo, Vault®, Autocad Electrical® and Inventor® are registered trademarks or trademarks of Autodesk, Inc., and/or its subsidiaries and/or affiliates in the USA and other countries.” Programs and programmers’ information used with permission. Thanks guys!

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The Journey Continues – Crisis Resolution | Autodesk Vault Professional 2015 – Microsoft SharePoint 2013

SharePoint Crisis Resolution - The National GuardDuring The First Steps into Darkness, I discussed a workaround for missing External Content Types. Once those are set up where they belong, the next section of the setup goes pretty smoothly. You set permissions for each of the three main areas of Vault Professional:

  1. Files
  2. Items
  3. Change Orders.

This makes it possible to create lists in SharePoint for each area of Vault.

The next step in the initial setup, is to configure the Vault login. This is a set of login credentials that will give SharePoint access to the Vault database. First things first, a Vault User must be created and given read only access in the Vault to the areas needed. The best advice is to make this a Vault only user, rather than a Domain user. Give the user access to any groups it may need, to access the appropriate Files and Items. At the very least, give them the Vault Change Order Editor (Level 1), Document Consumer and Item Reviewer Roles.

Once that user has been configured in Vault, follow the documentation instructions for configuring the Vault login. This is the login that gives SharePoint the right to access the Vault. The SharePoint Vault Settings screen should look like this:

vaultsettings

  1. The Server field is the name of your Vault server, or it’s IP Address.
  2. The Database field is the name of the Vault you want access to.
  3. The User field is the username for the user you just created in Vault.

If you are setting the password for the first time, or changing it, select the Update Password checkbox. The pages section should be filled in already, pulling from the previous steps of the integration. At the bottom of the page are checkboxes for visualizations. All three are selected by default, but to maximize your search results I recommend leaving only the top one checked. This is up to your discretion.

I showed you this and described some of the steps found in the documentation, because it’s right here where I hit a massive brick wall. I even started having visions of myself sitting at home in my sweat pants, drinking coffee, unshaven, unwashed and looking through online job listings.

I entered all of the information just as you see it above, with the addition of the password, clicked the Save button and was greeted with the following message:

EXECUTE permission was denied on the object ‘proc_putobjectTVP’,database ‘SharePoint_Config’, schema ‘dbo’

Um,… what? This one went way over my head so I called in my IT support. After a bit of digging and searching, he was able to find an answer on the internet. The one good thing about error messages, is the chances are pretty good someone else has already seen it or something like it, and posted a fix online. This case was no different.

The object was slightly different, but the fix was the same… which was a good thing because we ran into two more of these after the fix was applied to the first one, like dominoes. This is an excerpt from the web article providing the steps to assign the necessary permissions for these objects. This fix is applied to the SharePoint Config database on your SQL Server.

Detailed Steps

In order to resolve the issue, I provided Execute permission to the database role “WSS Content_Application Pools” into the stored procedure “proc_putObject”. I performed the following steps to do this:

  • In the database server, expand SharePoint Config database and navigate to Programmability/Stored Procedures/db0.proc_putObject using SQL Server Management Studio.
  • Right click on the above stored procedure and select Properties.
  • On the popup screen, select Permissions on the left and click Search button.
  • On the new popup screen, click Search, select (WSS Content Application Pools) database role and click OK.
  • Click OK again.
  • On the first popup screen, select the role, check Execute permission and click OK

Once we fixed the first error, we also had to apply the same steps to the following procedures:

proc_putclass and proc_getnewobjects.

So, everything is all fine now, right? Not so fast. After these errors were overcome, a new one popped up that had everyone stumped, including the Vault development staff I spoke to. No one had seen this one before.

SharePoint 2013: Event ID 6398 An update conflict has occurred, and you must re-try this action

I think we stared at this message for about three days, trying everything we could come up with, before we once again found a blog post that was directly related to this error.

“Issue: (from Microsoft) This issue occurs if the contents of the file system cache on the front-end servers are newer than the contents of the configuration database. After you perform a system recovery, you may have to manually clear the file system cache on the local server.”

This fix is performed on the SharePoint server. The file system cache will rebuild itself after it has been cleared, with no damage to anything else within the site. So, since this was still in the test environment we just pulled the trigger and cleared the cache as outlined in the blog post. I re-entered the login credentials… again…. and hit the save button. To an audible sigh of relief the message we received was: Your changes have been saved! We were in. Our SharePoint tenant was now talking to our Vault. Now we just had to decide what we wanted it to say!

Searching, Listing and Filters

Image Credits: Powell Fabrication and Manufacturing inc and The National Guard (Flickr)

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The First Steps into Darkness | Autodesk Vault Professional 2015 – Microsoft SharePoint 2013

The First Steps Into Darkness - Davidd (Cropped)Now, I was born in the dark, but it wasn’t last night. Before we even looked at installing the Autodesk Vault Professional – Microsoft SharePoint integration, I had my IT department set up a safe sandbox environment which included copies of all the servers I would need to access. We also included a copy of my workstation so I would have a client environment to test things in. All of these were placed on a remote system using Hyper V manager, so I would be completely cut off from the network world. I could cause as much havoc as I wanted without harming anyone else’s data. This was going to be fun!

So, once inside this test environment, I ran the integration install program, downloaded from the subscription site. This basically unpacks all of the files you will need for the integration, as well as the documentation. This documentation, entitled Autodesk Vault Professional 2014 – Integrating with Microsoft SharePoint 2013, is the integration bible. It will take you step by step through the process. In this article, I’m not going to go through each of the steps, as that would be redundant. Instead, I will detail what problems or challenges I ran into along the way, and what I did to overcome them.

The first thing I did was to check the product requirements as listed in the documentation.

Product Requirements

Autodesk Vault Professional 2014

Microsoft SharePoint 2103 Standard or higher

  • Business Data Connectivity Service
  • Search Service Application
  • Microsoft WSE 3 (Web Service Extensions 3 is available at Microsoft’s download site)

As a result, we found that in our SharePoint setup, the Business Data Connectivity Service and WSE 3 were not installed and running. My helpful IT folks were happy to set these up in the test environment for me.

Deployment for us was a matter of running the “deployall.bat” file included in the integration folder. The other batch files; “deployfarm.bat” & “deploysite.bat” offer different options depending on how your SharePoint setup is being used. Details of these options are in the integration bible, so I won’t bore you with those. To run any of these batch files, you must first edit the file and change “localhost” on line 2, to match your SharePoint server name. This tells the script in the batch file where to look for the installation files, and where to put the deployment.

Heads Up: Run the batch file from the Windows Command Prompt, using “Run as Administrator”. Even though you may have admin rights for the server, running the batch file by simply double clicking it, will normally result in “Access Denied” errors. An additional benefit of running the batch file from the Command Prompt, is the ability to watch the process more carefully and verify that each step runs error free.

Run As Administrator Windows 7 - Windows 8.1Windows 8.1 Start Menu & Windows 7 Start Menu

This deployment creates all of the administrative web pages needed within SharePoint to set up your Vault interface, as well as deploying the BCS model which is the communication link with Vault.

Once the deployment is installed, the next step was to establish the access permissions to the Vault. At this point I am going to post some shots from the documentation, showing the first few steps of this process. I ran into a unique problem here, and without some visual context, my fix won’t have much meaning. So from page 3 of the integration documentation, here are the first few steps for setting access permissions.

Set Access Permissions

  1. Start SharePoint Central Administration
  2. Click Manage service applications under Application ManagementSharePoint Central Administration
  1. Click Business Data Connectivity Service

SharePoint Business Data Connectivity Service

  1. In the View section, select External Content Types in the drop-down lists.

SharePoint External Content TypesAt this point in following the steps, you should see three items in the External Content Types:

  1. AdskVaultFile
  2. AdskVaultItem
  3. AdskVaultChangeOrder

When I got to this point, I saw nothing. Apparently something had gone wrong in the deployment of the batch file at the very beginning. So now what? As I usually tend to, I panicked for a moment or two, then went to the AutodeskCommunity for help. Posting in the Vault Forum, I described the problem and from a very reliable source received the following fix.

  1. Find the C:\Program Files\Autodesk\Vault for SharePoint 2013 folder on the SharePoint server.
  2. In this folder is a file called Autodesk.Vault.BCS Connect.wsp. Rename this file to a .CAB file, which will allow you to view the contents as if it were a .ZIP file.
  3. Copy the file inside called AutodeskVaultModel.bdcm and place it in the Vault for SharePoint 2013 folder
  4. Rename the initial .CAB file back to a .WSP file.

Now, back in SharePoint Central Administration, where I tried to select External Content Types, this time I selected External Systems, as instructed in the forums. Under this tab was a system called AdskVaultLobSystem. The next step in the solution I was given was to delete that system. Then from the toolbar above it (see the images), I ran the Import command and selected the AutodeskVaultModel.bdcm file that I had just copied. This re-installs the External Content Types so they can be set up correctly. If all of this doesn’t get your head swimming, you must be a closet IT person. At this point I was learning more about SharePoint than I ever thought I wanted to know…. but wait, there’s more.

The Journey Continues – Crisis Resolution

Image Credits: Powell Fabrication and Manufacturing inc and Davidd – puuikibeach (Cropped from Flickr)

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