Ok, not quite anyCAD format, but all the really important ones are covered; Solidworks, CATIA, NX, Pro Engineer and PTC Creo. Hey, what did you say? you may be asking… Yes Autodesk Inventor 2016 will now natively import and maintain associativity with all major CAD file formats. BOOM! Now that guys & gals, is a game changer for the wider CAD / CAM industry.
Why’s it a Game Changer?
There are plenty multi-CAD workplaces knocking about, whether that’s because of mergers, legacy decisions in different departments or a heavy reliance on contract design staff. But this is also a big deal for the CAM users out there, those guys are receiving various data formats from all their clients every day… and they are also subject to in process change just like everyone else is.
In the way the Navisworks changed the way multi-disciplinary design review was carried out forever (and it’s competitors), Autodesk Inventor’s Multi-CAD functionality promises to do the same for the modelling process itself. Yes, PTC got in there first with Creo 3.0 delivering their Unite Technology supporting Solidworks, CATIA and NX files. Inventor 2016 supports those same file formats, as well as PTC Creo, Pro Engineer Wildfire and Autodesk Alias. I never got the opportunity to try out Unite in Creo 3.0, so I can’t compare real-world functionality unfortunately.
How does it work?
I have absolutely no clue, beyond knowing the translators in use are from a 3rd party* (which other CAD vendors will also be using) and a heavy dose of wizardry from the Autodesk developers! What I do know, is you can open any of the supported file types, either parts or assemblies, straight into an Inventor part or assembly. You even get to read the BOM of the source files via Inventor’s Bill Of Materials dialog. Check out this video to see how it’s done:
Does it work?
I’ve only been able to test it using datasets created in Solidworks 2015 SP1.1. So I can’t speak for the other file formats at this stage, but the harsh reality is there are issues. Bearing in mind that there is a lot of Black Magic going on here, it is hardly surprising. However, this is the first release of the technology and I have no doubt that PTC’s Unite Technology will have issues as well. But the great thing is, both of these companies are having a go at breaking down the barriers put up by competing CAD file formats.
The problems I have encountered initially are:
- 80% of the time a projected edge from a Multi-CAD source will fail on update when the source model geometry around it changes.
- Geometry changes within the boundary of the Multi-CAD model work better than changes which result in the overall model size changing.
- Assembly Joints & Constraints are a bit hit & miss at release, but those relationships are more stable than sketch projections are.
So basically, if you stick to a bottom > up modelling workflow with these components you are more likely to succeed than using a top > down approach.
I did manage to program a native Solidworks part file, inside Inventor HSM though and maintain an associative relationship:
Another excellent feature which arrives under the ‘Multi-CAD’ banner, is the AutoCAD DWG Underlay. I was honestly speechless when I saw this for the first time. Having worked with Inventor in the Super Yacht interiors industry for 10 years, I’m acutely aware of how poorly Inventor handles large amounts of AutoCAD 2D objects. General Arrangement plans are highly detailed beasts in the marine (and aerospace) industry, because they’ve historically been used to sell yachts there is a lot of stylized line work. It can be a pain to clean it all up, only to receive another version the following week. God I wish I had this tool in the past. Feast your eyes on this:
* Digging through the Autodesk Inventor Trademarks and credits declaration, you will find a reference to CADCAM-E.COM. Credit to a very curious colleague of mine for finding that!