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Autodesk Forge – Powering the Future of Making Things

At Autodesk University Amar Hanspal, the Senior VP of Products, announced Autodesk Forge. Forge, the Cloud “Connected” Ecosystem, is not just a new ADN (Autodesk Developer Network), but the new development environment for all cloud developers to meet, learn, get help, and possibly get funding.

Forge Logo_Color

The basis of Autodesk Forge is three-fold:

Platform | Program | Fund

  • The Platform is a cloud-based platform including open application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs).
  • The Program is the community, an upcoming conference (June), training, resources, and support
  • Some companies just need inspiration, some need mentorship, and some need capital (funding), so Autodesk has pledged up to $100 million over the next couple years to help kickstart initiatives


Autodesk Forge Platform - Cloud

BriteHub was one of the six inaugural partners and presented briefly.


Here’s part of the press release

Autodesk Unveils Cloud-based Forge Initiative to Transform How Products are Designed, Made and Used
Three-pronged Effort to Include Services, Training and a $100 Million Investment Fund

LAS VEGAS, Autodesk University, Dec. 1, 2015 — Autodesk, Inc. (Nasdaq: ADSK) today announced Forge, an initiative to accelerate a cloud connected ecosystem in support of the future of making things. The initiative consists of three major components – a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering, a robust developer program, and a $100 million investment fund – all geared toward advancing the next wave of innovative technologies that will transform how products are designed, made and used.

The way we design, make and use products is rapidly changing. New technologies are disrupting every aspect of the product lifecycle,” said Amar Hanspal, senior vice president, Products at Autodesk. “Autodesk is launching Forge to help developers build new businesses in the changing manufacturing landscape. We are inviting innovators to take advantage of Autodesk’s cloud platform to build services that turn today’s disconnected technologies into highly connected, personalized experiences.”

Working with the Inventor Sheet Metal Recipe – Styles

When you bake a cake, make a pie, or cook a souffle you follow a recipe and the recipe dictates the final result. Inventor’s sheet metal environment is not much different as it is the sheet metal styles that act as the recipe dictating the resultant flat pattern.

Sheet Metal Style Defaults

Let’s start with the Sheet Metal Style Defaults. Using this dialog, you set the defaults used when placing sheet metal features.

Inventor Sheet Metal Default Styles Dialog

Unchecking Use Thickness from Rule allows you to specify the thickness, ignoring the thickness set in the rule. The Material drop-down provides another method of setting the active material. This is no different than the material list accessed from the iPropertiers dialog or from the Material Browser dialog.

What you specify in this dialog are used only as the defaults. You can override these settings with each feature you place. Here for example as three tabs of the Flange feature, all used to override the setting specified as the defaults.

Inventor Sheet Metal Feature Override Defaults

Sheet Metal Styles – Rules

Both the Sheet Metal Rules and Unfold Rules are styles, managed via the Styles and Standard Editor. This means that a global library can be defined for all parts to use, but it is flexible for local edits to occur.

In this example, I select the Default rule and click New to use it as the starting template for my new rule. I set the Material, Thickness, Gap, and Unfold Rule (more on Unfold Rules later). The values set here also adjust the sheet metal parameters which are auto-generated when you active the Sheet Metal Environment.

Use the Flat Pattern Bend Angle drop-down to change how the Bend Angle is measure… outside-in (A) or inside-out (B). When dealing with punches the flat pattern can show the punch in its 3D form, in a 2D representation (sketch), or as a simple Center Mark.

Inventor Sheet Metal Rules Style Dialog

The Bend tab is all about the bend, as in the Relief Shape, Bend Radius, and Bend Transition. If using a straight or round relief the options for relief size become available. The Minimum Remnant is a neat feature in that this sets how much dangling material is acceptable when the bend is not applied to the entire edge. If the amount of material left is less than the Minimum Remnant it is automatically removed

The Bend Transition manages how the bend blends into the intersecting faces. There are five options available, all that appear in the flat pattern. The folded model will appear with no transition type, except in the case of Trim, where it is shown in the folded model.

Inventor Sheet Metal Rules Style Dialog Bend

With the Corner tab, you set the desired relief shape for both 2 bend and 3 bend intersections

Inventor Sheet Metal Rules Style Dialog Corner

Here’s the difference between Full Round and Intersection

Inventor Sheet Metal 3 Bend Corner

Sheet Metal Styles – Unfold Rules

When bending metal the material deforms, both elongating on the outside and going into compression on the inside of the bend. The Unfold Rule defines how your sheet metal model unfolds, as in what is the amount of correction to account for the deformation of the material. Autodesk Inventor provides three options within the Sheet Metal Styles to define the correction.

Linear approximation (aka KFactor)

As discussed earlier, when metal is bent the inside face is compressed and the outer face is elongated (stretched). The line between the compression and elongation is referred to as the neutral axis. The ratio of the neutral axis location and the thickness of the material is the kFactor.

Inventor Sheet Metal Unfold Rule kFactor

Bend Tables

When you want to manage the correction value as it changes with different bend radii, angle, and material thickness you will want to use the Bend Table option. With Bend Tables, you plot the correction value against the Angle and Radii. As it can get intense consider using the Export option to export the data to a spreadsheet, making it easier to populate the information.

Inventor Sheet Metal Unfold Rule Bend Table
Custom Equations

I’ll be honest that I have absolutely zero experience with custom equations, mostly because the situation to use them has never presented itself. To quote the help “Custom equations that provide uniform deformation within specified angular bounding conditions

Inventor Sheet Metal Unfold Rule Custom Equation

Inventor Sheet Metal Styles in Action!

And That’s a Wrap

So this is the final piece to our deep-dive into Inventor Sheet Metal. If you are just joining us on this voyage make sure to start with the first article in the series Holy Sheet Metal Batman!


Feature Image “Orange Filling” by Phil! Gold

Inventor Sheet Metal Drawings

Although we live in a 3D world, for many the 2D drawing still rules the roost. Inventor provides a set of tools specific to creating Inventor Sheet Metal drawings

Inventor Sheet Metal Drawings

When creating drawing views of sheet metal models you can select the Folded Model or the Flat Pattern. When creating views of Flat Patterns take note of the options to include the Bend Extents and Punch Centers.

Inventor SM Drawing Views

This means your sheet can contain views of both the model and its flat pattern

Inventor SM Base Views

Take a look at Don’t Misjudge the Flat Pattern for more information on Flat Pattern management. How you configure the flat pattern may impact how it appears in the drawing.

The colour and line weight of the bend lines and optional bend extents is managed within the styles

Inventor SM Bend Layer Properties


The Flat Pattern can be dimensioned with any of the dimensioning tools, including baseline, continuous, and ordinate.


Inventor SM Drawing Dimensioning

Ordinate comes in two options: Ordinate and Ordinate Set. 

With the Ordinate option, you first locate the origin marker marking the 0,0 point for all the dimensions to reference in that view. Next you select the geometry to dimension then pick the dimension location. Initially, all ordinate dimensions created will be aligned but they are actually individual meaning they can be moved and adjusted independently of the rest.

With the Ordinate Set option, the first object selected becomes the origin location, but this can be adjusted later. The biggest difference with this feature over the Ordinate option is that the dimensions are grouped together and are adjusted as a group.

Adding Annotations

Use Bend Notes to label bends including the bend’s radius, direction, and other information. It works by picking (or window selecting) the bend lines to label and it locates the note without leader. After placement (if required) drag the label to a new location and the leader is automatically added.

Inventor SM Drawing Bend Notes

The appearance and the contents are managed by the active style

INventor SM Bend Note Styles

Using the General Table feature, you can add a Bend Table to the drawing both listing and labeling each bend in the Flat Pattern. After starting the General table tool pick the Flat Pattern view. Use the Table dialog to configure the desired columns (bend properties).

Inventor SM Drawing Views

When you click OK and place the table Inventor additionally numerically labels each bend. As with the Bend Note you can drag the label to a new location and the leader is automatically added.

Inventor SM Flat Pattern Bend Table




Feature image “Music sheet” by Mari Ma

Converting Models to Sheet Metal with Inventor

You’ve started a new model, worked hard, and it’s looking good…. but then it happens, you realize it should have been made in the sheet metal environment! Or a different scenario, you’ve imported a model but its come in as a solid blob and you need to flatten it out.

This is my continuation of a series taking a deep dive into Inventor’s Sheet Metal environment. There isn’t really an order that they have to be read, but you can start with the first one here Holy Sheet Metal Batman!

Autodesk Inventor allows for converting models to sheet metal. Which means, regardless where the model geometry originates, you can convert it to sheet metal, add sheet metal features, and generate the flat pattern.

Let’s start with the rules of sheet metal

  • Rule #1 You must have a consistent thickness
  • Rule #2 Your sheet metal thickness parameter MUST match the thickness of the model
  • Rule #3 You cannot have one continuous face, there must be some type of gap
  • Rule #4 Although Inventor now supports sharp corners there still needs to be a round (fillet) on the outside edge

Say we start with something like this. I know what you are thinking…. “that’s simple, we don’t model anything like that“… but we’re going to use this shelled box to showcase the features required for the conversion.

Inventor SM Conversion Start

Converting Models to Sheet Metal with Autodesk Inventor

First step, activate the Sheet Metal Environment. This actually does more than just activate a set of tools, it automatically creates a set of parameters, the ones required for the sheet metal “magic” to happen

Inventor SM Parameters

I know as a shelled box we’ve got a model with a consistent thickness, I just need to tell Inventor what to use. Within the Sheet Metal Defaults dialog, I can either edit the rule to define the thickness or as in this example I override the rule thickness and specify the value to use

Inventor SM Defaults

Now lets add a Corner Seam using the Rip option. The Rip option is purposely built to work with part models converted to sheet metal. It creates the required break in the faces so that model can be flattened. One small problem, and I quote the help here “You can rip a corner seam to open an edge between faces. The resulting open corner typically leaves material that must be removed.

If we skip ahead and look at the final result (Corner Rip + 2 Bends) I can see a small remnant that must be removed. It’s not really a problem, just a bit of extra work.

Inventor SM Conversion Extra Material

Is there a way to do this without needing a sketch and extrusion after? How about when I create the Corner Rip I specify the overlap option instead, even though my final result is to not overlap in the corner

Inventor SM Corner Seem Rip2

Next I add Bends in the corners. I could do this with fillets, but the Bend feature takes care of rounding both the inside and outside edges, as well as setting the radius to the BendRadius parameter. In my example, I need to apply two Bends.

Inventor SM Bend

The resultant corner is not ideal but is exactly what I asked Inventor to create.

Inventor SM Conversion Unwanted Corner

To produce the desired condition I apply another Corner Seam, but this time using the Seam option

Inventor SM Conversion Corner Seam

I now can produce the flat pattern

Inventor SM Conversion Flattpattern


Data Conversion

Here is a model originally modeled with Solidworks that I opened (and converted) into Inventor. As it was modeled using the Solidworks Sheet Metal tools the conversion process is very straight forward. It’s not just with Solidworks files though, you’ll probably find any sheet metal modeled solid transfers into the Inventor sheet metal environment seamlessly.


Inventor SM SWx Conversion

After initiating the Sheet Metal environment, Inventor prompts to select the Base Face. Upon selecting the base face, it extracts the thickness of the selection as the thickness parameter

Inventor SM SWx Conversion Pick Base Face

And with this model that is all that is required. I can now create the flat pattern

Inventor SM SWx Conversion Flat Pattern

I can guarantee that it will not always be this simple, although Inventor 2016 seems much better at translating data.

I have seen many Solidworks models that for whatever reason just don’t flatten, even though it follows all of the Sheet Metal rules. The trick I have found is to copy the imported solid into the construction environment, delete the original model, and then copy the construction solid back out. Whatever Inventor does during this process I do not completely know, but who am I to question something that works?

Further Resources

Having further issues attempting to get a flat pattern from your Sheet Metal model (converted or native to Inventor)? Paul Munford has posted a great article with Seven tips to guarantee that Your Autodesk Inventor Sheet Metal models will flat pattern without errors. Check it out here… Autodesk Inventor Sheet Metal, Flat pattern success – Every time!





Feature image sheet metal and nature by Robert Bejil









Autodesk Inventor: Bolted Connection Generator Irritation

There is a bug in the Autodesk Inventor Bolted Connection Generator that needs to be addressed. While there are work-a-round’s that can permit the use of the generator with curved faces, these are not convenient or sane, leaving the user to add respective hole features in each part manually. This should be corrected.

Autodesk Inventor Bolted Connection Generator

I am working with an assembly that contains numerous components, two of which have continually curved faces. These need to be fastened together, and I decided that simple threaded bolt option would work well. I wanted to use the Bolted Connection Generator at the assembly level in order to automate the fastener work in all respective components; Grand idea.

Knowing that I needed some feature to seed the generator’s path and start point, I opted to use a pilot hole, having used that successfully in the past. Simply add a small pilot hole in the part which the generator can later ‘latch onto’; this will guide the foundation of the generator process. Furthermore, the pilot hole is nice when you are not sure what size the fastener will ultimately be, but know where you want the hole at the part level. This was opted for in lieu of a point added at the assembly level. I prefer the assembly to be as clean and free of clutter as possible.

All options (which are only a portion of the possible ways to attack this) are ultimately pointless, as the Bolted Connection Generator must have a flat face in which to start the fastener from.

I could have provided a plane at the axis-surface intersection, but that would be a bit clumsy, and the generator will not accept a plane type work feature as an input. However I am not saying that I want that as my solution because that is still junky and awkward.  Also, I could have opted to prime the surface with an extruded tangent face, perhaps the diameter of the aforesaid pilot hole. That would have worked, but would have been a bear to duplicate throughout the design as needed.


What we need is for the system to recognize that I need a ‘Bolted Connection’ along an axis (or hole), originating the start point at the axis to surface intersection. Better yet, for the system to recognize the offset differences along the curve, and compensate a tad bit deeper for the mid-ordinate offset. This would be useful in countersunk and spot-faced applications to ensure the fastener sits perfectly flush. (It’s not difficult to calculate the mid-ordinate offset, but if anyone needs that reference, we have it here (Shameless plug):

Autodesk Inventor Assembly Threaded Hole

As I have written numerous times in the past, I love the Bolted Connection Generator, but this type of awkwardness needs to be addressed as more and more organically-shaped features are being introduced into production.

What’s New in Vault 2016? Copy Design 2.01

Vault 2016 puts me into a difficult position. For those of you who moved to Vault 2015 R2, the majority of the new features contained within 2016 you’ve already seen. For those (like me) who stayed on 2015, there is a lot new in 2016 as you didn’t use R2.So the dilemma…. do I blog about 2016 like it is all new? and just ignore 2015 R2 existed?

What I’ve decided to do is write about the 2016 features assuming that you’ve never seen them (as in never seen 2015 R2 or 2016), however, I will try to identify all things that have changed within 2016

The new and improved Copy Design is so significant Autodesk now labels it as an “Experience(ed: Very ‘Dassault’ of them!). If you haven’t seen it yet, you will probably be a bit shocked by how significantly different it is. I’m labeling the 2016 Copy Design as version 2.01, as 2015 R2 introduced the new “2.0” Copy Design and 2016 only slightly tweaks it.


photo credit: JOH_1143 via photopin (license)

Allan O’Leary is doing a very, very, very deep dive of Copy Design over at Under the Hood. Its a very good read as it is both informative and fun, in a way only Allan can. My post however, is not the “long and short of it”, it is only the short. It is the meat and potatoes of Copy Design, meant to give you my impression and get you up and running in no time.

Copy Design 2.01

I should start by saying that for anyone using Vault Basic, you will continue to use the 2015 Copy Design. The new Copy Design “Experience” is only available for Vault Workgroup and Vault Professional users.

So what was so wrong with the old Copy Design?

There are many things about the old Copy Design that I liked. It was easily accessed, it autoloaded the file I had selected and its children. It was easy to tag components with the actions I wanted (after I learned the hold CTRL to toggle all trick). It also had a flow and feeling that didn’t make me feel like I was leaving Vault for something else… it was a part of Vault.

Copy Design however, is not always the most intuitive. For example, Find and Replace is available but only if you know the magical sweet spots to right-click. It also becomes clunky when you start getting into large datasets. It’s clunky as it’s difficult to navigate to find the items you want copied, the ones you want replaced, excluded, etc.

The New UI Experience

Copy Design Dialog

The User Interface (UI) is completely overhauled allowing for more feedback, user customization, and different sorting (ed: while nice, it’s yet another Vault UI variant). Although some similarities in workflow to Get / Checkout, it really is a different experience.  Although it can be launched from within Vault [new to 2016] it is actually a standalone application. You can additionally start Copy Design from the start menu.

Copy Design Start Menu Location

Copy Design now supports more than one dataset at a time. It also supports AutoCAD Electrical Projects (finally). It also now works on non-CAD files… meaning any file stored within your Vault is eligible to participate in a copy design.

Although standalone the window behaves as other Vault windows. The displayed properties (columns) are adjusted by dragging-and-dropping. If additional properties are required (desired), right-click on any column and use Choose Columns to add or remove properties. The view is persistent, meaning it will be as you left it the next time you use Copy Design.

A nice bonus feature which would be nice at times in other windows, is the right-click options for a quick expand-all or collapse-all. The expand options include 2-levels, 3-levels, 4-levels, and All options.

Other new features:

  • copy individual instances (opposed to all instances)
  • replace parts with copies that were created during the active copy
  • configure different actions for drawings
  • use circular references, such as substitute parts and drawing overlays.

The copying process has been completely restructured which should lead to much greater performance. With the previous version files were copied local to your system (into the temp) for the magic to happen (copying and renaming) and then checked back in as the new files. Although this happened invisibly to the user it was still time consuming, especially the file transfer back-and-forth between your system and the server. The copying now occurs completely on the server leading to greatly reduced copying times, significantly improving performance.

The Workflow

If you launched Copy Design from the Vault client your dataset is already loaded, or at least the start. If you required more data or if you launched Copy Design standalone use the big plus sign icon in the toolbar to browse for and select files to include in the copy operation. One caveat is there is no search, that’s right I’ll say it again, there is no search using the add file option within Copy Design…. it’s straight up browsing file structure (maybe Copy Design 3.0?)

Copy Design - Add Files

Use Add Children (in the ribbon) to quickly add attachments and Library files.

To remove drawings from the view, disable Drawing Views from the application menu. Enable Automatically Copy Parents so that as you select a component to copy its parent is automatically selected. Disable Select References when you only want to copy the instance of the component, not all references of it in the assembly.

Copy Design App Menu

Right-click on the components in the list to set the action. The available options will vary on the component level and the file type. The options include:

  • Copy: Toggles the component to copy creating a new file in the same location as the original
  • Copy To: Similar to Copy but you will be prompted to select the destination folder for the new copy
  • Copy Branch: Sets the action to Copy for the selected item as well as all of its children
  • Replace: Browse for and select a replacement file
  • Reuse: Is the default action and can be used to remove an action like Copy
  • Reuse Branch: Sets the action to Reuse for the selected item as well as all of its children
  • Exclude: removes the instance from the new copied assembly

Use the new Actions panel to quickly filter out the files with the assigned action. For example, selecting the “Exclude” tab displays just the files set with the exclude action. The action of the files can be toggled via right-click in these views as well. This has proven to be a great way to check what I’m actually copying and other actions and make adjustments… especially opposed to navigating up and down the navigation tree with larger assemblies.. Remember that nothing is committed until you click the Create Copy button, which is when it initiates the copy process.

The Where Used panel provides a Source and Destination option to quickly see where the files are coming from (Source) and where the copies are going (Destination). Because you can copy individual instances (now) a particular component might have multiple destinations.

Copy Design Where Used

Use the Folders Panel to review the source and destination folders of the copied data, a different view of the Where Used Panel. This shows where the copied files are going, so you can insure they end up in the correct location. As a bonus, you can apply operations based on the folder location. You can also drag-and-drop files between folders or from the main view to add to the copy.

Using the Numbering Panel

The biggest change, and most likely the one that takes the most to get used to, is the Numbering Panel. You do not adjust the name of copied components from anywhere BUT the Numbering Panel. The Numbering Panel lists the files to be copied and is what you use to set the new names. This Panel displays tabs for each numbering scheme used within Copy Design. It organizes the files based on the scheme applied.

Copy Design Numbering Pane

With files with no scheme applied, you can manually adjust the destination file name, apply a prefix (before the base name) or postfix (after the base name). You can apply changes to the three (pre, post, and base) on a selection of files. The options presented on the specific numbering scheme tab is completely dependent on the numbering scheme.

In Summary

Vault Copy Design 2.01 is a case of the good, the bad, and the ugly… well, not quite as it is more of the great, the good, and the bad.

Great is the new features like multiple datasets, AutoCAD Electrical project support, and copying instances opposed to all references.

Good is some of the workflow items like the action panels, the right-click expand options, and the exclusion of drawings from the view.

Bad is the separate window, with its look & feel and workflow different from all other features in Vault. When you launch Copy Design, it truly does feel like a standalone, separate product from Vault. Inconsistencies in software workflows make it difficult for new users to learn and difficult for users who don’t use the feature all the time to be productive.

Ugly Sweater

photo credit: Vintage 80s 8-Bit Scottie Dogs Tacky Ugly Christmas Sweater via photopin (license)

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