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How do I deal with style differences in Autodesk Inventor?

How do I deal with style differences in Autodesk Inventor?

Today during my day job, I crafted a blog post showing Inventor users how they create a situation where Autodesk Inventor informs them there is a style conflict each time they create a new file. This can happen with Inventor parts (.ipt), assemblies (.iam) & drawings (.idw or .dwg), but in the following video I show the issue specifically with an Inventor Appearance Asset. I’ve written a few posts on Design & Motion in the past about Autodesk Inventor’s new Materials & Appearance libraries, so I thought I should share this with our readers here as well.

So when you get a message stating:

“The following style definitions in template … differ from the definitions in the style library; the style library definitions will be used. …

Style Name

If the style definitions in the style library are intended for the new document, update the template with the new style definitions. If the style definitions in the template are intended for the new document, remove these styles from your style library using the Style Library Manager.”

This is why it happens & subsequently how you deal with it:

The previous Design & Motion posts covering Inventor Materials & Appearances were:

Inventor | Materials Editor Navigation

Inventor | Creating Custom Materials & Libraries in 2014


 

Review of Eagle Point Pinnacle Series Business Edition

Eagle Point’s Pinnacle Series Business Edition is a platform for delivering training and support designed for design and engineering professionals in architecture, engineering, and construction offices. I found it useful, especially based on the broad ways to use the system. I would expect its usefulness to actually increase over time. In this review, I describe my experience with the software.

What Pinnacle Series Is?

Pinnacle Series is developed by Eagle Point Software as a more useful method of learning. The company designed it to be available on your computer precisely when you need it. It consists of a collection of video lessons, text tutorials, and chat-based help sessions that are organized conveniently into a single dialog interface.

The entire Pinnacle Series covers many AEC and MEP software packages:

Pinnacle series covers numerous Industry software titles. These are as follow:

Civil Industry Architecture Industry Structural Industry MEP Industry
· Civil 3D· InfraWorks

· AutoCAD

· AutoCAD Map 3D

· Autodesk Storm & Sanitary

· Navisworks

· 3ds Max Design

· Autodesk Design Review

· Revit Architecture· AutoCAD

· Navisworks

· 3ds Max Design

· Autodesk Design Review

· Revit Structure· AutoCAD

· Navisworks

· 3ds Max Design

· Autodesk Design Review

· Revit MEP· AutoCAD

· Navisworks

· 3ds Max Design

· Autodesk Design Review

Each resource is placed into its own tab along the top of a dialog box, as follows:

  • Search Results
  • Workflows
  • Cheat Sheets
  • Videos
  • Training Calendar
  • Support and Chat
  • Community
  • History
  • Favorites

The resources are represented by the icons shown in figure 1

Workflows

Workflows are text-based step-by-step instructions. We can read them before and after a video demonstration to focus on areas we might be unsure of – in addition to using them as step-by-step guides. Being text, they are fully searchable.

Each workflow is segregated by the respective CAD software. We navigate it through in a collapsing tree-type browser interface or flowchart diagram. Under each software package, major sections are presented for the software, which are further subdivided into concepts and performance.

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Pinnacle Series’ Workflow

Figure 1: The Workflow tab in Pinnacle’s interface

Each topic breaks down the steps required to perform a particular project task. Within these descriptions and explanations, there are links to Pinnacle training items and will launch the commands of the related software package; these are handy for speeding us along. Listing the software commands is helpful especially for new users, who typically are unsure how to navigate a software program’s command tools.

I found the instructions to be quite complete and easy to follow. For instance, the Civil 3D training package contain the standard compliments of teaching roadway, grading, and utility design; in addition, the workflows connected it to other products in Autodesk’s Infrastructure Design Suite, such as 3ds Max and Navisworks. Companies that purchase Autodesk’s suites and wish to move forward with incorporating the suite’s additional capabilities into their designs will find this quite useful..

Cheat Sheets

Cheat Sheets are a collection of tips developed by Eagle Point’s support staff. They wrote up frequently experienced problems and issues in need of troubleshooting. I found them a great addition to the platform.

As Pinnacle is cloud based, cheat sheets are added and updated as new items come up. They represent a really nice way to distribute knowledge to everyone on the network.

How-to Video Training

The videos are the visual compliment to the hands-on text. These tutorials are performed by the Eagle Point staff, who demonstrate each step in the process as they talk us through various points along the way.

The length of each recording ranges according to the complexity of the task.

Training Calendar

The training calendar represents a collection of upcoming live classes, including a previous recording of each class. During these, Eagle Point staff answers questions from attendees.

The calendars I saw were filled out every working day (see figure 2).

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Pinnacle Series’ Training Calendar

 

Figure 2: Pinnacle Series’ training calendar

Support and Chat

The chat dialog is just like any other chat dialog box, but with a few exceptions. Two types of chats are available, with our design team and with Eagle Point employees.

We can select multiple team members with which to chat. An option to save the chat is available as a way to provide an internal method of cataloging company tips and procedures that were discussed; this is a great way to reduce repetitive questions that need to be answered by internal support staff.

This is also used to save the solutions that Eagle Point’s experts come up with, which can be saved by the company as customized content.

Community

This part does not seem to me to be fully implemented yet. In speaking with Eagle Point, however, I learned that the community will be providing members with solutions to the same problems solved by Pinnacle, but related to any topic, such as business topics like accounting, human resources, and IT. The solutions will come from other community members rather than from the content delivered through the Pinnacle resources.

History and Favorites

History provides a list of the content we already reviewed, and is listed in chronological order. If we were to look at specific features frequently, then this list would make it easy to get back to the topics that are reviewed more recently.

This can be accomplished in another way, using Favorites. This is a list of items that we tagged so that we can refer to often.

Search Results

All content, no matter where it is in the Pinnacle Series product, is searched. Even the saved chats are cataloged in search results. The benefit is that when we solve a problem about the odd behavior of software, for example, the solution will come up years later in the search (see figure 3).

Pinnacle Series' Search Results

Figure 3: Search results

Each search result is ordered by a hierarchy using concept matching. Pinnacle Series employs an algorithm that reviews the keywords and brings best matching content to the top of the list. For example, if AutoCAD appears to be acting up and a user enters “Don’t get dialog boxes,” the search results bring up near the top the chat about the FILEDIA system variable I have every year with teammates. They get instant help without needing to track me down.

During my time with Eagle Point, I think they began to realize just how much I dislike videos: because largely they are unsearchable. Eagle Point’s staff worked around the problem by integrating each video topic into the workflow content. This allows us to search for very feature-specific words to find obscure references to a process. Each video corresponds to a detailed step-by-step workflow, and its text is searchable.

Using the tools

When we start up software, such as Autodesk’s AutoCAD Civil 3D in my case, the Pinnacle system automatically logs in as well (see figure 4).

Logginh into Eagle point Pinnacle series

Figures 4: (left) Log-in screen

Once the CAD software is up and running, Pinnacle Series will also be running; its window can be found in the last place we moved it to. In my case, it was on a separate monitor in its rolled up state (see figure 5).

Eagle Point Pinnacle Series Training Dialog Rolled Up

Figure 5: The rolled-up browser dialog

I decided that I needed to dig into the product some to see how things shook out. I chose the tutorial on using Civil 3D’s Intersection Wizard (see figure 6).

Pinnacle Series' The “Using the Intersection Wizard’ Video

Figure 6: The “Using the Intersection Wizard’ Video

I found the instruction to be detailed enough to successfully complete a corridor intersection using the wizard (see figure 7).

 

a completed Civil 3D Corridor Intersection using Pinnacle Series Video and Workflow

Figure 7: A completed Civil 3D corridor intersection using Pinnacle Series Video and Workflow

I found the best route for this application was to follow this approach: Visually scanning the Workflows in text form, and then viewing the video. The Intersection Wizard is a very long workflow, and as a result the text can become quite overwhelming. Scanning the text for the overall concepts, then watching the demonstration, made things a bit easier to grasp.

I tested the team chat, which went as expected; no problem. I also used it to simply connect with team members on-the-fly, and not necessarily as a help tool.

Administration and Settings

Administration of users and their licensing is handled by the Administration Utility. The options are well organized and easy to use. I added users, changed rights, and so forth, without needing any help. The process was self-evident and well prepared for the user.

The features are broken into four tabs (see figure 8):

  • Users
  • Permissions
  • Expertise
  • Reports

Pinnacle Series' Administration Dialogs

Figure 8: Administration of users, reports, permissions, and expertise

Users – The first tab allows administrators to add users, their email address, indicate their software usage roles, as well as their career field (civil, architectural, structural, mechanical, and so on). The available tools are simple: Add, Remove, or Modify.

Permissions – This tab allows administrators to designate the access rights for each user or group in the areas of managing content, administrative rights, limitations on live Eagle Point expert chat and team chat, and so on. Administrators can designate group rights, which are inherited by the group’s users by default. Inheritance and individual rights can be toggled for each member, if desired.

Expertise – This tab allows companies to establish areas of users’ expertise. It is a simple field that becomes available when using features like team chat and looking for help from within the company. Need hardware help? Chat with the hardware expert.

Reports – I found this tab to be quite useful. It allows us to generate simple reports to identify who is using the training, and who might need mentoring in one or another. It will also point out those who are deficient in their skills, but are not using the training provided to improve their situation and value to the company.

Pricing and Subscription Models

The software titles associated with each Pinnacle Series subscription is based on industry. In the Civil industry, for example, we get access to help and training on the eight titles listed earlier in this review. The Civil series that I reviewed covered software releases for 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Subscriptions and pricing were a concern I had going into this review. I felt that a high price could drive away many companies. However, the more I used the training software and considered how much time it can take to find useful training for a new concept, the more I feel that the value is proportionate to the cost, at the very least.

This software is priced for two models: Business and User. I happen to be reviewing the Business Edition, for which Eagle Point does not have a per-seat price; instead, the cost is matched to the firm’s use of the corresponding products from Autodesk. Volume discounts apply. More information on the actual price model is available from Eagle Point directly.

Licensing is handled by checking out of non-user defined floating server licenses. These licenses are administered on the Pinnacle Series servers. This means that companies have a pool of licenses and any users that wants to software can check out a license as desired. Companies can invite the users they want to participate, regardless of who they are; licenses are administered by Eagle Point, while users are administered by the design firm.

All-In-for the first year

Eagle Point wants everyone to try their software for the first year. When a design firm receives the package, there are no limits or concurrent user caps the first year. The software is wide open for all. Just prior to the renewal near the end of the first year, reports and analyses are generated of how many user licenses are being checked out, and how the training software is being used. This allows both parties to make an accurate determination of how many licenses to subscribe to.

When I discussed pricing with Eagle Point, I proposed a 25-seat design firm. They indicated that they would estimate the actual license usage for the first year, and price the subscription accordingly. Then after a year, Eagle Point would suggest how many actual seats were needed based on the analyses of the data usage for the past year.

Conclusion

Overall, I found the product a great idea as it provides a single location to find valid training for most of the basic needs of AEC engineers and designers. The wide purposing of content and features of the application provide useful information for users at any level of expertise.

While price is a significant deciding point with such a training and support tool, the training and expert assistance is available 24 hours a day, and has no limitations. Moreover one of the biggest selling points the software has is the expandability it provides in the customization section.

Among the benefits, I found these:

  • Good feature coverage, both video and text formats
  • Good troubleshooting tips
  • Awesome customization capability
  • Training and Eagle Point expert assistance is always available without limitations
  • Usage reporting
  • Login and administration were flawless, and it was quite easy to add users

I’d like to report things that were problematic, but quite honestly the tool provides a straight forward resource, without complications. To say something about drawbacks, I offer these:

  • The login was a bit laggy; it still logged in by the time AutoCAD fully started
  • The rollup window got in the way when trying to keep it on a single monitor (my biggest beef)
  • Eagle Point might consider documenting some advanced uses for software features that companies regularly send team members away to learn.
  • Eagle Point might try adding screenshots to the text oriented Workflows. In an effort to keep the streamlined appearance, these could simply be links in the workflow titled “screenshot 1″ etc. People could then choose to open them or not as needed

Other than these, I really don’t have anything else negative to say!

I’ve always found training costs to be the first area that most companies cut back to save some money. While Pinnacle Series isn’t free, I think you should consider the overall value and benefit to having support and training 24 hours a day. Once this type of training tool is in place, the thought of losing its functions may well force companies to look elsewhere to cut costs.

In the past, support has routinely felt distant at best. The greatest value is not in the individual features of Pinnacle Series, but in bringing the entire support channel into the company.

 

Disclaimer

This article was a paid review on behalf of TenLinks, and published on their site as well. This final version was edited by them and fact checked by the software vendor.

Max Morgan! A Minimalist Guide to rendering in 3ds Max

What better motivation to learn a bit about Autodesk 3ds Max than a spectacular Morgan 3 Wheeler, a competition with cool prizes, and a 15 minute tutorial that will generate images like this:

Autodesk 3ds Max Morgan 3 Wheeler Rendering

If I spend too long on the preamble, you’ll get bored, so fire up 3ds Max and get stuck in.  I’ve presented the videos using as little jargon as possible, and aimed them at someone with no Max experience, so whatever your skill level, you should be able to generate an entry for this competition!

The first thing you’ll need is the model.  There’s an Ad at the top or bottom of this page to take you to the competition website where you should read carefully the rules, then download the model.  I’ll just reiterate just two of the rules: Firstly, you must own the copyright on any images you use – we’ll cover that later.  Secondly, you must use “iRay”.  If you are new to Autodesk 3ds Max, iRay is a recent addition that provides a “GPU accelerated, physically correct, photo-realistic rendering solution”.  Or in English, wicked pictures.  If you spent a few extra dollars when you bought your graphics hardware, it’s about to pay off.  All the work you see in the video is completed on my HP 8570W Laptop with an NVIDIA Quadro K2000M graphics card, so it’s not a top-end workstation by any means.

Navigating the UI

This short video will introduce you to a few basic viewport and object manipulation tools.  It’s worth spending a few minutes practising moving between viewports and seeing how the different commands work.  When you are comfortable, just re-open the scene without saving the changes you just made and you’ll be ready to take on the next step.

Backgrounds and Perspective matching

I visited http://hdrmaps.com and looked through their selection of images for something I could use as the setting for the Morgan.  (The images I use in the video are from the “freebies” selection, but there are some stunning images for less than 10 euros.  My personal favourites are under the HDRE section called “Urban”.)  Wherever you get your backgrounds from, make sure you read their terms and conditions.  I know it’s the second reference I’ve made to ownership of copyright, but you must be certain you can use these images; otherwise you could be disqualified from the competition and get yourself in trouble!

This next video shows how a background photo is brought into Max, and then how you reconstruct the camera that took the photo.  All too often you see renderings where the perspective of the model and the background don’t match, and there’s no excuse when there are some simple tools for getting it right.  Seasoned 3ds Max users will know the old Camera Match tools, but 3ds Max 2014 introduced a new “Perspective match” function that is so quick and easy to use, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.  Having used Max for a few years, this has to be among my favourite new tools of 2014.

Environment and reflections

You could spend weeks reading and studying lighting and environment design, so I’m going to take a real short-cut here and just use two image files to create everything we need for the scene.  In the previous step, you probably downloaded images from the hdrmaps.com site. In this next video, we’ll use the JPG backplate images for the background, and an EXR file for the environment.  When you look at a material like polished chrome, its colour comes from its surrounding environment.  To a lesser extent, the same is true for shiny colours like car paint, so getting the environment right will make a huge impact on your renderings.  In the following video, the “environment” image will be wrapped around an imaginary sphere that surrounds your model. This means that anything shiny on the Morgan will reflect the environment.  By having the background image and the environment image of the same courtyard, the rendered output from this next exercise is surprisingly rewarding.

iRay, Materials and Shadows

iRay is the rendering engine you’ll need to use for the competition, and it’s all set up ready to use when you first downloaded the model of the Morgan. If you visit the www.morgan-motor.co.uk website and have a look at the “Classic” model range of 4-wheel versions, you will see they come in a range of engine variations – one of which is the awesome V8.  As rendering engines go, iRay is the V8.  It’s designed to take advantage of every available electron in your computer and use it for rendering.  If you just hit “Render” you will notice Windows (and other background apps) will become very sluggish because iRay grabs all your hardware for itself.  There are settings that allow you to use CPU and/or GPU rendering, but I don’t cover these here.  The other unusual thing about iRay when compared with traditional rendering engines is that it never “finishes” a rendering, it just keeps refining the solution.  This is the default setting in the Morgan scene, so remember to hit Cancel unless you plan to sit there for ever.  Once the rendering has been cancelled, the image will stay on screen so you can inspect it, or save it if it’s one you want to keep.

The ground that the Morgan stands on is another bit of iRay magic: You need something that will catch the shadow of the Morgan, but still lets you see the background photo.  We typically use something called a “Matte” material, but that feature has not yet been exposed in the interface of Max, so we need a workaround.  Download this plugin called iRay Manager.  The following video describes the download and installation process (you’ll be surprised how easy it is!).

The last segment of this video looks at an iRay material and what you can do with it.  From pearlescent two-tone metallic-fleck car paint to leather and glass, you should find a template to help you put your personal mark on the Morgan.

Finishing up

Autodesk 3ds Max Morgan 3 Wheeler Front Corner Rendering

So now you have your rendered image of the Morgan, you need to turn it into an advert that sells the car.  If you don’t have any image-editing software, then I strongly recommend Gimp.  You can download the GNU license of Gimp here: http://www.gimp.org/

Gimp is a fully featured image manipulation tool along the lines of Photoshop and others.  You shouldn’t need anything else to complete the work for the competition.  Good luck, and I hope you enjoyed your first project in 3ds Max.

Useful references


 

 

Inventor on roids! CAD and Excel have never worked this well together

Love it or hate it, Microsoft Excel is an indispensable tool for most design engineers. It provides a very quick and easy way of recording, visualizing and performing calculations on data. Often, the calculations performed in excel provide results that are used to determine the dimensional and geometric data that is then created in the CAD application.Continue Reading

Inventor | Materials Editor Navigation

Autodesk changed up the method for managing, creating & editing Materials & Appearances with the release of Inventor 2013. It was quite controversial and not without it’s issues. Fortunately Autodesk recognised this & with a huge effort that made a tonne of improvements for the release of Inventor 2014. This video takes you for a quick spin around the slightly modified and much improved (from 2013) Material Browser & editor for Autodesk Inventor 2014.


 

Inventor | Appearance In-canvas overrides

Inventor 2013 introduced new tools for overriding appearances of parts & their faces. The Adjust & Clear tools can be found by default on the Quick Access Toolbar, they simplify the management of Appearances at the model level. Some of you may already be aware how nice this tool is, but for those who don’t check out the video below.