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Autodesk Inventor RAL Colour Libraries?

Autodesk Inventor RAL Library

LOTS of people have to use RAL colours during their design process on a daily basis. However, due to licensing rights, Autodesk can’t provide them out of the box. But that doesn’t stop you from being able to create your own as and when you need them. BUT. The power of the Internet and staggering CAD community has come to the rescue, Tobias Zetterberg has hooked us all up like a true champ. He’s only gone and created a substantial Autodesk Inventor appearance library with a solid whack of RAL colours! It appears the entire list as defined on Wikipedia is in this digital nugget of awesomeness. Well done Tobias! If you download and use this, make sure you let him know on the forum and hook the man up with some Kudos! Also some credit goes to Paul Munford for sharing the post on Twitter in the first place.

There are some issues with the Zip file on the forum, so I’ve hosted a copy of the file on our server.

If you need to know how to load up, or make use of these appearance assets, then you can refer to these posts I’ve written in the past:

Inventor | Creating Custom Materials & Libraries in 2014

Inventor | Materials Editor Navigation

Inventor | Appearance In-canvas overrides

How do I deal with style differences in Autodesk Inventor?

Edit: In addition, the Inventor Wizard has provided 3 different RAL library variations, Generic, Metallic High Gloss, Metallic Matte.

Ahhh, sketching – the Foundation of Any 3D Parametric Model

As the second part to my two part series on sketching within Inventor I was fortunate to guest blog for Paul Munford on If you haven’t visited Paul’s site before you’re in for a treat as Paul shares many tips, tricks, and tidbits of information on improving both your AutoCAD and Inventor skill-set. His series on freeform surfacing is exceptional.

Autodesk Workshop at Pier 9 Paul Munford 3D printed track

Here’s my article on CAD Setter Out: Autodesk Inventor sketching quick tips

Read the first part of this series here.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD: Test Drive

Recently I reviewed the features that Autodesk Nastran In-CAD offered to inventor users that wanted a lot more simulation power. While I have had some experience with Siemens FEMAP interface for Nastran, I have had very little experience with Autodesk’s new In-CAD UI. I thought that this article would be a good time to get in and try it from the perspective of a new user. (I should mention that I crashed an In-CAD seminar at Autodesk University for about an hour, so I did have an hour jump-start)

It should be noted here that Autodesk is selling In-CAD directly with Autodesk Inventor, as if to say “Here is our Nastran solver with an Inventor front end”. I am however writing this for everyone’s benefit, including existing Inventor users that are considering a Nastran solver.


The setup workflow is the same as one would expect:

  • Establish materials, boundary conditions, and loads.
  • Double-check everything
  • Run the solution which fails [beat head on desk]
  • Adjust the model and rectify and oversights
  • Run the solution – success
  • Review the results
  • … a laundry list of review and comparison to ensure that you are confident in the analysis model and results

Material Properties

Nastran In-CAD sorts components into material categories that are easily defined. It will pull in the material properties from the CAD model with the push of a button. In addition it can import material properties from any of the Inventor or Autodesk material libraries, or allow users to create their own.

Tip: Non-linear material types are supported, but will need to be created as these definitions are not in the existing Inventor Library (as far as I know).


Constraints, Contacts, and Loads all use similar dialogs that permit faces and bodies to be selected and deselected as desired.  Once selected, the particular conditions can be configured and applied as required.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD Setup Panels

The Constraints dialog also contains buttons that identify limiting concepts (i.e. no rotation, free, symmetry, etc.) that directly relate to the 6 degrees-of-freedom check boxes that most analysts relate to.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD Constraints Setup

Discerning between various surfaces is handled through the Inventor alternate surface explorer popup.

5 Contact types are available: General, Slide, Welded, Rough, and Offset Weld.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD Contact Setup

Various limitations to contact proximity, penetration, etc. are available to configure.

Tips: Autodesk suggested using Welded for ‘Bonded’  types, and General for most other applications.

Load applications are equally simple. Load direction is applied by:

  • Individual component coordinate systems (X,Y,Z axes)
  • Normal to face
  • Geometric entity (by edge of selected geometry)

Tip: boundary conditions such as constraints and the like can be applied to different subsets


I have always loved Nastran’s adaptive meshing. It does it well and effortlessly. I typically (not always but often) get mesh concentrations how I needed them without a lot of manipulation.

Meshing is carried out with both global refinement settings and individual component settings. One feature I like is the mesh properties table, where all the component mesh settings are managed in one setting, and are easily editable.

 Autodesk Nastran In-CAD Mesh Table

I liked this a lot. Nastran In-CAD also offers an element check, where In-CAD will inspect the model meshes for inconsistencies, such as Skew, Aspect, and Jacobian limits. The results of these can be highlighted in the model, making detection and adjustments much easier.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD failed elements

Tip: In-CAD will allow you to return to Inventor to work as normal. Be very aware that once component geometries that are connected with an In-CAD study are altered, anything applied to meshes, including constraints and contacts will be fouled and subsequent runs will require the boundary conditions to be meticulously corrected unless very broad automatic detection settings are imposed (which can be costly in run time)


I chose to setup a simple linear static analysis for this article, so that it would solve quickly and I could get a feel for basic activities. Additionally, we were using a Lenovo P500 Thinkstation CAD platform provided by Lenovo for these “CAD user” type evaluations in order to frame this in a “CAD user” perspective for solve times. While most companies purchasing a Nastran license will be mating that to a serious workstation, I wanted to understand how the solving would fare on their existing workstations, should they want to hold off on an upgrade until later.

My first run was shoddy, and I was getting Jacobian warnings and an unexpectedly long run-time. I found one surface contact that was left to the system to determine, as well as some poorly defined mesh areas. I increased the density slightly, defined the last contact manually (which I prefer to do in Nastran), and added another constraint. The subsequent runs were cleaner with a speed that was on par with an upscale 16 GB CAD platform.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD Output in Browser

Tip: Watch the convergence in the Output panel. This is a clear indication how Nastran is handling your model setup. If the convergences won’t get close to 100% and the iterations keep rising (within a reasonable amount of time) you may want to cut your losses and stop the analysis (and possibly reduce the model DOF).

Results to Come

Setup was quite easy to pick up on. The UI has been simplified in such a manner that it takes little review in order to setup what you want. Experienced users will get it immediately, and new users should find these methods quite easy to learn.

After the review I realized that I really need to spend a couple hours setting up a simple transient analysis with some alternate elements in order to get a better feel for the setup procedure, accessibility, and capabilities. We’ll do that in the future.

In the mean-time, I will return with the post-processing and results of this review, as well as an overall perspective for adopting this software.

Are your Autodesk Inventor Drawing views moving on your sheet?

Autodesk Inventor Drawing Views moved position Over the years, both myself and most of my colleagues or staff I’ve had working for me, have suffered with Inventor allowing drawing views to ‘float’ across the drawing sheet as if they have a mind of their own. The effect of this phenomenon is misaligned sections and detail views… as well as their respective dimensions and annotations becoming ‘sick’. There is a way to stop this from happening, however, frustratingly there has been a policy at Autodesk to keep legacy settings as the default settings, so as to not upset the established users. This policy even applies when it makes A LOT more sense to use the new setting instead.

Inventor View Justification

The setting under focus in this post, is the View Justification option within the Drawing tab of Application Options.Inventor Drawing View Fixed CenteredIt’s best if you set this before creating any drawings within Inventor. Otherwise each view you place will take on this setting. However, if you haven’t and you have a particularly important drawing in a bit of a state, then there is a workaround which will allow you to rectify the situation. Check out the video below for further details.


5 Inventor Sketching Tips You Need to Know Right Now!

At this year’s Autodesk University I was fortunate to have the opportunity to present three Inventor classes. All three were well attended and had lively discussion. It was a blast! For the second year in a row I presented a class on sketching within Inventor. I presented a collection of tips and tricks that I have learned and gained from others over the years. Since sketching is such an integral part of parametric modeling, even the slightest in time savers can pay big dividends.

MD4857 – Sketching with Autodesk Inventor

Sketching is the basis of any model. In this class we will explore sketching within Inventor software, and we’ll give you the timesaving tips and tricks to make you more productive. This includes the timesaving tools introduced with the 2015 release of Inventor software, including Relax Mode and the new onscreen right-click tools. Come to this class to learn the skills you need to build a rock-solid foundation for your models.

Where did I gather all of this sketching information? Firstly, from my 14+ years of using Inventor, I have collected a lot of tips-and-tricks regarding sketching; some from using the software and many from other users. Unfortunately I have forgotten many of the sources of these tips and tricks but there are some great places to get information on Inventor, not just sketching

The old saying is “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, but with Inventor it’s really both. I’m always on the lookout for any time saving steps that will reduce the time to get things done within Inventor or will build stronger, better models. Here are some of my recent favorites:

This is the first of a two part series. The second part will be featured on Paul Munford’s CAD Setter Out site, so keep an eye out for that.

What does Inventor’s help says about sketching… The Inventor Sketch environment consists of a sketch plane (where the sketch is located) and sketch commands. You create edit, constrain, and dimension sketches only when the sketch environment is active. With the sketch command selected, you can specify a planar face, work plane, or sketch curve as the sketch plane

Creating and Working with Sketch Planes

TIP: You can create an offset Workplane while defining the sketch plane. You can generate an offset workplane with a sketch on it in one step by dragging off the desired face with the create sketch command active

Inventor - Offset Workplane While Defining Sketch

TIP: Sketches can be used to define Work Features. Sketch geometry, especially lines can provide an easier method for creating difficult to locate work features. For an example look at Ben Curtin’s example Inventor Holes at a Compound Angle on the Tata CAD Geek Speak blog

TIP: Slice Graphics. Autodesk Inventor Help Definition: “Sometimes geometry obscures your sketch plane, or other components in a part model hide it. When the sketch tool is active, use the context menu option Slice Graphics to slice away temporarily the portion of the model that obscures the plane.” When the model is in the way on your sketching Slice Graphics removes everything between you and the sketch plane. You can initiate Slice Graphics when the editing a sketch via the right-click menu or by using F7. If by chance the model is sliced in the wrong direction, turn off the slice graphics, rotate the model, and try slice graphics again.

Inventor - Slice GraphicsTIP: Project Cut Edges. Use Project Cut Edges to associatively projects edges of the model that intersect with the sketching plane. Think of it as the edges of a section view and your sketch is the section line.

TIP: Project Flat Pattern. Autodesk Inventor Help Definition: “Unfolds a disjointed face or faces into the sketch plane.” Project Flat Pattern is great for the situations where you don’t need the overhead and advanced options of the Sheet Metal Unfold / Refold features, just wanting to reference existing geometry edges

Inventor - Project Flat PatternSee the tips live in action!

Feature Image “Sketching with Reshma” by Juhan Sonin courtesy of Flickr

iParts / iAssemblies be gone! Well almost…

I hate iParts and iAssemblies. There, I said it. I’ve never really liked them, and I don’t think I ever will. The difficulties they cause with Vault are my primary issue, and I’ve usually just “found another way” to avoid dealing with them. I do however, love iLogic, and it’s introduction to Inventor provided a breath of fresh air for configurable components and assemblies. A relatively under-utilized, and frequently misunderstood feature in Inventor is the “Place iLogic Component” command. At this point you may be thinking “I don’t want to use iLogic, that’s all about code and stuff.” Well actually, this command doesn’t necessarily require any code to be written at all. You can think of it as “Place” and “Save Copy As” rolled into one command. It allows you to insert a unique component in an assembly and configure it’s options as you go. If you’re familiar with placing custom components from Content Center, it works in a similar way, but doesn’t require authoring in the same way, and is much more flexible. The really handy thing is, if you use it on an assembly, it will create copies of all the children as well, and fix up the references for you.

To demonstrate, I will first provide an example, with no coding required, that just allows you to place a part with size options. For a second example, I’ll use a component with a little bit of code, to really extend it’s usefulness.

So first thing first, where is it? Just click the little drop-down under the “Place Command” and you’ll see it.

Place iLogic Component

 Place iLogic Component Command

The steps that you go through to use it are as follows:

  1. Click the “Place iLogic Component” button.
  2. Select the file that you want to use. It needs to have been configured to allow options to be set on placement. This can be as simple as a user parameter that can be edited.
  3. If you have already added assembly parameters that you want to use, you can set the iLogic component properties to match, using the drop-downs. If not, you can type in a number, or just place the component and then configure it later.
  4. Place the component in the graphics window. If you click multiple times, multiple instances of the same configuration will be placed.
  5. Restart the command to place other unique instances.

I have created a quick play-by-play of these steps using Autodesk Screencast:

Place iLogic Component Workflow

You’ll notice that I first created 3 parameters in the assembly, so that I could quickly assign the lengths to the components as I placed them. This is not compulsory, but can augment some skeletal modelling workflows really nicely.

Now for something slightly more interesting. You may remember my post on “Normalizing iLogic Assemblies.” In it, I touched on “Place iLogic Component” but didn’t really explain it well. The main point of that post was to explain the need for normalising component names. Here I want to focus more on the process of placement, and the flexibility that this command gives, as well as pointing out the “Preview” window.

Consider a plate that can be various widths and lengths, but the number of holes used to fix it, depend on the size. So if it’s less than 65mm long, it only has 4 corner holes, but if it’s over 65mm in length, then it gets additional holes in the center of the long edge. You could build this with an iPart table and conditional suppression, so let’s make it change colour too. This is just a silly example, but it’s here to demonstrate a point. So, we just put the following code into the plate part to watch the named parameters and update it to suit:

Now when we place using “Place iLogic Component,” the rules will run and configure the part based on the parameters we set in the placement process. As a bonus, the “Preview” window allows us to see what the component will look like, with the parameters we have assigned, before we even place it. Just remember to hit the ‘enter’ key after entering each parameter value.

Here it is in action:

I hope this may launch a heated debate in the comments below about the pros/cons of iParts/iAssemblies. The reason I say this, is that I have seen some really effective use of them, and I suspect that there may be some use cases where they are actually a better solution than iLogic, but I haven’t found these cases yet, and I want to!

Feature image credit: dmelchordiaz via photopin cc

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