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Tag Archives: Inventor

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.

Beware my power, Inventor’s Contour Flanges!

Growing up I was into comic books, nothing out of the ordinary, but I loved getting the new issues of my favorite titles and reading and re-reading them. I had favorites, but one of my all time favorites was (is) Green Lantern. I had dozens of them. They were mostly of the Hal Jordan Green Lantern, but I had some from all of them…. Alan Scott (Golden Age – JSA), Hal Jordan (Silver Age – JLA), John Stewart, and most recently Kyle Rayner. The attraction? Hal Jordan was cool, he was a fighter jet pilot, and knew how to kick butt. Plus the concept of Green Lantern is inspiring, their only limit to their powers is the colour yellow and the limitation of their minds. Using their rings they can build “constructs” which are solid green objects that the Green Lantern controls telekinetically. These constructs can literally be anything.

In Blackest Night

In the Blackest Night by JD Hancock

When working in sheet metal it’s often advantageous to work with the side profile and “construct” the model by extruding the profile. With Contour Flanges, you sketch a thin profile and use this to generate the model. The Contour Flange is either extruded as the base feature or set to follow existing edges.

“In brightest day, in blackest night, No flat sheet escape my sight. Let those who worship non-bent metal’s might, Beware my power, Inventor’s Contour Flanges!!!”

Extruded Base Feature

The first step is a sketch, as the Contour Flange is a sketched feature. The key is to create an open loop, just the edges representing the shape you want to create.

Contour Flange Sketch

With the sketch created start the Contour Flange and pick the sketch. As the base feature in the model, Inventor will automatically offset the sketch to create the thickness. The amount of offset (aka the thickness) is set within the Sheet Metal styles. The Offset Direction toggle is used to set the direction of the offset, including in both directions to use the sketch as the centerline of the new model. Within the Bend Extents section set the desired extrusion length and set the extrusion direction, very similar to the extrude command. Like most Sheet Metal features you can override the style settings on the Unfold Options, Bend, and Corner tabs of the dialog

Contour Flange Extrusion

Inventor automatically applies bends to the intersections of the connected faces

Contour Flange Bends

Now that you have the base feature use flanges, folds, hems, etc to further develop the model

Secondary Swept Feature

The second application of the Contour Flange is to follow (sweep) along existing face edges. As with any sketched feature, the first step is to create a sketch. In this instance though sketch on the side face of the existing model, creating the desired profile.

Contour Flange Sketch 2

After starting the Contour Flange feature select the sketch and then the edges to apply the profile. The Sketched profile is swept along the selected edges, bend radius applied to the edges, and mitred corners automatically applied.

Contour Flange Select Edges

Use the onscreen glyphs to make adjustments to individual flanges

Contour Flange Glyph Overrides

The results

Contour Flange Swept Result

See it in action…

Feature Image: “… with my power ring.” via photopin (license)

Inventor Sheet Metal: Adding Folds

Comics from almost the beginning have had a love of superheroes who can stretch and contort their bodies into unbelievable shapes and lengths. Look no further to Reed Richards – aka Mr Fantastic (Marvel), the Elongated Man (DC), Plastic Man (originally Quality Comics), and most recently Elastigirl in the Incredibles movie. We as designers and engineers love to take pieces of metal and stretch and contort them into unbelievable shapes and lengths.

Plastic Man vs. Mister Fantastic

Plastic Man vs. Mister Fantastic

When you want to take an existing sheet of metal and bend it without adding any material look no further than the Fold feature. Using a sketched line and an existing Face you can fold the face into different shapes

Inventor Folds

The feature is quite simple, with really only one “gotcha“. Make sure when you sketch the bend line that it touches the existing model on both ends. Folds do not behave like Ribs and extend the line.

Once you’ve initiated the feature and selected the sketched bend line you adjust the direction of the Fold and the side of the existing model effected using the flip controls. Use the Fold Angle to set the bend angle and the Bend Radius to override the radius set by the sheet metal styles (if required).

Use Fold Location to set what the sketched bend line represents, the start of the bend, the end of the bend, or the centerline of the bend

Fold Location

The advantage to using Folds over Flanges is no material is added by adding Folds. The resultant model’s flat pattern will be identical to the original un-folded model.

Feature Image Stretched by Nicholas A. Tonelli

The Super Feature of Autodesk Inventor Sheetmetal

Welcome to the first post of our series looking at Autodesk Inventor Sheet Metal. In this first article, let us look at the one feature that is able to leap buildings in a single bound… is more powerful than a locomotive… faster than a speeding bullet… Sheet metal Faces!


Faces are the equivalent to part modeling extrusions, except they honour the sheet metal thickness parameter. This means that you do not specify the extrusion height, the Face automatically becomes linked to the thickness parameter. Changing the thickness adjusts the faces in the model.

Christopher Reeve said “What makes Superman a hero is not that he has power, but that he has the wisdom and the maturity to use the power wisely.” At the surface, Faces appear mild-mannered and very simple, not unlike Clark Kent. However, sheet metal Faces are so much more than just automatic-thickness-extrusions. Faces will automatically build bends. Faces can connect disconnected faces. Knowing the power contained within the Face feature makes for smarter models and will lead to less effort. Its like finding the phone booth and changing from Clark Kent into the Man of Steel himself.

Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to soar higher than any plane!

Building Faces

Just like extrusions, faces require a sketch as the start point. With the initial face of the model, there is not much to do. Once you’ve selected the Profile (if there are multiple closed loops) you can flip the offset direction

Face - CreateNew to 2016 is the option to add solids with subsequent face features.

Face - Multi Solid

As mentioned earlier, Face are more than simple extrusions. Faces are capable of adding Bends.

Scenario #1 – Auto Bend Creation

When one of your sketched edges is colinear to an existing model edge, the face recognizes this and automatically adds a bend to the model. This bend defaults to the Sheet Metal style settings, but for the active face you can override the settings directly in the dialog (Bend Radius section).

Add Bend Automatically

Scenario #2 – Edge Selection

Inventor Sheet metal supports disconnected faces, in that you can layout faces in the model that are not connected. They are features of the same solid model, meaning you can position the faces in the desired location and then connect them with bends after.

Face - Add Bend

Faster than a streak of lightning! More powerful than the pounding surf! Mightier than a roaring hurricane!

Scenario #3 – Parallel Faces

Parallel Faces

When a parallel face is created and the edge selected for bend creation the dialog expands to show the Double Bend option Four options are available: Fix Edges, 45 Degree, Full Radius, and 90 Degree. The toggle within the dialog switches the fixed edge, as in which one remains in position and the one that adjusts to create the double bend.

Double Bends

Adding Bends

Bends can be added after creating the faces. This is useful when you are not quite sure how you want the faces connected at the time of created. As the faces can be disconnected you can lay them out in the model first, say building a container, then add the bends to complete the shape after.


So what makes Faces so super? In many situations, the entire sheet metal model can be created using just this feature. Also, some things like Full Radius double bends are much more efficiently created with Faces / Bends than with any other feature.

photo credit: Superman via photopin (license)

photo credit: Laying On My “S” via photopin (license)

Holy Sheet Metal Batman!

I was watching Batman Forever the other day, which is not the worst Batman movie of the bunch, but is still a horrible movie. I really liked Val Kilmer as Batman, and loved what Jim Carey did with the Riddler, it’s too bad the story sucked. Even though its a bad movie, it does have a few good moments. My favorite part is when Batman and Robin land on the island to catch the bad guys and this happens

Robin: Holey rusted metal, Batman!

Batman: Huh?

Robin: The ground, it’s all metal. It’s full of holes. You know, holey.

Batman: Oh.

Batman & Robin

photo credit: WonderCon 2015 – Batman and Robin via photopin (license)

Pure entertainment gold! It is funny and a tribute to the still-to-this-day-awesome 60’s Batman TV show.

So where am I going with this? That line got me thinking about Inventor Sheet Metal and a great area to have a series of posts! [I know… Batman to Inventor to Sheetmetal is a bit of a random thought process, but you can’t question things when opportunity arises!]

Riddle me this, riddle me that, who’s afraid of the big, grey, sheet metal environment?

In this series

  1. Faces and Bends
  2. Styles
  3. Flanges
  4. Hems
  5. Corner Seams
  6. Contour Flanges
  7. Rounds, Chamfers, and Cuts
  8. Converting to Sheet Metal
  9. Lofted Flanges
  10. Contour Rolls
  11. Folds
  12. Unfold, and Refolds
  13. Flat Patterns
  14. Drawings

Feature Image Cutting-Edge Tech by JD Hancock

Reviving Inventor’s Design Checker – Making it work for you

In case you have not seen it yet, the (subscription-only) Inventor Design Checker tool is a potentially massive time saver when it comes to checking on the conformance of modelling data to a known (company) standard.

I will not be covering how to use/set it up here since the instructions can be found (in brief) online or in detail in the accompanying help (.chm format) documentation, but suffice it to say it’s really easy to check a whole plethora of common modelling errors/omissions.

I have previously posted about my desire to use the Inventor Design Checker (IDC) to check pre-existing model datasets using this tool, but, if you have used the tool already, you will notice that it has one (to me at least) fatal flaw with the inability to batch process (existing) large assemblies and sub-assemblies.

Because of this flaw, I had ignored the tool for over a year when a series of events led me back to discussing it with the very knowledgeable Adrian Salariu. I praised his post on Inventor Pipe Clips and he then replied to my Google+ post on the subject of the IDC stating that he had previously used it to check a large assembly structure without using iLogic or the API.

We subsequently discussed this further using Google Hangouts and, after understanding how Adrian had accomplished this seemingly impossible goal, here is my guide on using the Inventor Design Checker for batch processing large assemblies:

Preparation for Batch Processing with Inventor Design Checker

There are a huge number of checks that available to use with this tool, and whilst there are too many to mention in detail, the one issue we encounter more than any other in provided-to-us Inventor datasets is “under-constrained-sketches”.

This error ranges in severity from one or two dimensions/constraints missing within one sketch in a part file to (the worst I have seen) 150 of 180 sketches being under-constrained within one part file.

Obviously in the latter case, the only option left to us was to take the original paper drawing data and re-draw the Inventor part from scratch as attempting to piece together a part with around a 70% broken sketch count was simply a non-starter.

Once you have agreed upon a set of company standard checks that you wish to run, the procedure for running the tool as a batch process is relatively simple.

Ensure that “Enable LiveCheck” is selected:

Inventor Design Checker - Enable Live Check

Then double-check the profile you wish to use:

(In my case remembering to turn on the previously mentioned “Under Constrained Sketches”)

Inventor Design Checker -  Under Constrained Sketches

Also remember to add Default iProperties you wish to have checked:

Inventor Design Checker - Default Properties

Save and exit the Design Checker Profile tool, then close Inventor.

Now we need to think about the origin of any files we wish to check, since there are a number of pointers I have discovered that could shape the way you use this tool:

  • Are the files Vaulted?


  • Are the files part of a pack and go?


  • Are they included on an email/CD/DVD?

If the answer to the above is a. then skip to (Vaulted Files).

If the answer to the above is b. then skip to (Pack & Go Files).

If the answer to the above is c. then read on:

In the case of emailed/DVD-based files, simply place them somewhere within your existing Vault folder structure.

Make sure to unset Read-Only on these files and (to prevent missing file errors) open their parent assembly with Inventor. This ensures that (if Inventor is unable to find them) Inventor will download the latest copy of any Content Centre files referenced by this assembly.

Once again, close Inventor and skip ahead to (Processing files using Task Scheduler).

Vaulted Files

Vaulted files can be treated similarly to number 6) above, but with the caveat that if they are in a lifecycle-released state, the IDC results will not be saved to the files in the Vault.

If non-saving of the files is not an issue, for instance if you simply want to report on pre-existing, Vaulted, locked files, then simply do a “Get” at the parent assembly (remembering to tick the “Children” option) and download the latest files from Vault. Then unset Read-Only and open the parent assembly as per step 7 above.

Pack & Go Files

Pack & Go Files should already be writeable, but it is best to check as the IDC will fail on any missing or read-only files and repeated failures will result in the process stopping completely.

Depending on the settings used when creating the Pack & Go, there may or may not be included the relevant Content Centre files, so it is worth setting the Pack & Go project file as current and opening the top-level assembly to force Inventor to get all missing Content. (Of course, Inventor may not be able to retrieve some items in which case an email to the Pack & Go source is likely required.

Processing files using Task Scheduler

With all the necessary files downloaded and ready to be processed, open the Inventor Task Scheduler from the Start Menu -> All Programs -> Autodesk -> Autodesk Inventor (year) -> Tools -> Task Scheduler.

Create a new “Update Design” task:

Inventor Design Checker - Task

If you can’t select a project file, then simply select a folder to use, or even an assembly file:

Then tick the “Immediately” (Assuming you want the task to run straight away!):

Inventor Design Checker - Task Folder

Next, click “Options” and tick the “Total Rebuild” option. (This may or may not be necessary, it was something Adrian & I discussed and we agreed it was probably best to turn this option on):

Inventor Design Checker - Task Run Immediately

Finally click OK to close the Update Design Options and then, if you are happy with the settings you have selected, click OK on the Update Design dialogue.

Inventor Design Checker - Task Total Rebuild

Awaiting the Task Scheduler results

Once the process is running, you will see different “speedometer” icons appearing on-screen whilst the task completes:

Inventor Design Checker - Task Running

Inventor Design Checker - Task Running 2

These different icons display the different checks that have passed/failed within the IDC dataset.

Once the task has completed you will see something similar to this page:

Inventor Design Checker - Task Running 4

The “Red Cross” denotes that the task completed with some errors. In the case above, the most-recent task only had three errors:

Inventor Design Checker - Task Error

Now it is simply a matter of right clicking the completed task and selecting “Create Report”:

Inventor Design Checker - Task Create Report

Then select the filename/path for the report and click OK:

Inventor Design Checker - Task report filename

The report will open and because we ticked the “Errors Only” option will only display errors from the Task Scheduler process:

Inventor Design Checker - Task Report

With the Scheduled task complete, we can now reopen Inventor and begin to interpret the IDC Results.

Inventor Design Checker Results

Open the top-level assembly checked by IDC and you will see the speedometer as shown below:

Inventor Design Checker

The number displayed within shows the number of files that have failed checks. Ideally, this would be zero, with the dial(s) fully green as per this part:

Inventor Design Checker - Results

The exclamation marks shown in the image above are highlighted within the report as “Accepted Failed Checks” and have accompanying remarks from the user (in this case me) explaining what the Accepted Failed Check means.

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