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Inventor 2017 3D Sketch Enhancements

Inventor 2017 includes Design Enhancements so that you can design faster. This is no more apparent than the Inventor 2017 3D sketch environment, it has finally seen some loving. The updates are significant (and I mean it!) as the amount of time and effort required to build 3D sketches is greatly reduced.

Inventor 2017 3D Sketch Enhancements

In summary:

  • Use 3D Transform to quickly (and precisely) move and rotate geometry.
  • New constraint types for greater control.
  • Quickly add sketch geometry directly onto 3D faces.
  • Copy & Paster 3D sketch geometry directly within the same sketch

Draw Curves Directly on a Face

Using the new Curve on Face feature, you can create interpolation 3D splines directly on a part face. The workflow supports snapping to points (vertices) and edges while picking points.

Inventor 2017 3D Sketch Curve On Face

To maintain its relation to the part face the resultant object does not provide the full suite of spline editing features. Via the right-click menu you can insert additional points, edit the position of existing points, work with the point handles, display the curvature, and use other tools.

Inventor 2017 3D Sketch Face Spline Options


Use the new On Face option to constrain selected lines, arcs, or splines to a planar face or selected points to a curved face.

Inventor 2017 3D Sketch Curve On Face Constraint

3D Sketch Draw Tools

One of the few things that AutoCAD excelled at and Inventor lacked was using Ortho to quickly layout 3D lines. [Need to see an example? Take a look at how Autodesk Plant 3D uses ortho to its advantage for laying out pipe]. Well, no longer is this an AutoCAD only feature, as Inventor 2017 adds Ortho to the 3D Sketch environment,…. BOOM, that’s how its done.

Inventor 2017 3D Sketch Ortho

Ortho is enabled from the right-click menu, the new status bar icon, or by pressing Ctrl+R (which I’ll consider switching to F8). And with the addition of Dynamic Dimensions (also in the status bar and right-click menu) you can quickly create fully constrained sketch geometry.

Use the space indicator glyph that follows you around as you are sketching, to sketch on a specific plane. Click the desired plane on the space indicator and you are restricted to only drawing in its planar directions. Press Shift+Space to toggle between the planes and parallel with the screen.

The following commands are added to the context menu:

  • Align to Plane
  • Orient Z
  • Orient to World
  • Snap Intersection

Inventor 2017 adds the 3D Transform feature to the 3D Sketch environment. Use this to freely or precisely move / rotate geometry within the 3D sketch. The 3D Transform triad can be reorientated to the World, the current View, or the Local coordinate system.

Inventor 2017 3D Sketch 3D Transform


What Else is New?

Be sure to check out other enhancements in Inventor 2017:

Professional Grade Design with Inventor 2017

Better Presentations with Inventor 2017

Interoperability with Inventor 2017

My Take on Tube & Pipe


featured image: 08-14vi09 via photopin (license)

Inventor 2017 What’s New

“Built for the expanding role of the professional engineer, with enhancements to core design tools to design faster and optimize performance from the outset“. There are so many updates to parts, assemblies, and drawings… none are earth-shattering new, but nice additions that will make your life easier. However, the presentation environment has had a complete overhaul. So what’s new in Inventor 2017? Here are a few of my favorites:


Sketch Driven Patterning

Have you had the need to create a pattern of features that is not circular, rectangular, or follows a path? Was this difficult before? Within Inventor 2017 the Sketch Driven Pattern makes this an issue of the past as you can quickly generate features (or bodies) in complex arrangements. This works with both 2D & 3D sketches!

With all patterning types the new Fixed option locks the orientation of the feature, so that it doesn’t rotate the objects throughout the pattern.

Parent/Child Relationship

Understanding the intertwined relationships within your part features is not always an easy task. That becomes apparent when you start to delete features or when errors occur, and you need to be a detective to figure out what goes where and how everything is related. The new Feature Relationships option identifies these parent-child relationships between part features. It also provides a new option for editing the features contained within your component. Is it as slick as what I’ve seen in other CAD packages? No, but the information is still there and still extremely useful.

To launch the dialog, right-click on a feature within the browser and select Relationships. Parents and children of the selected feature are instantly shown. Selecting a feature within the dialog highlights the feature in the browser and in the model. Click the Select icon to activate the feature, showing its parents and child features. Select the Edit button to edit the feature.

Inventor 2017 What's New - Feature Relationships

The parent/child relationships shown include all feature types, even sketches and work geometry.

Part Quick Hits…

  • Inventor now supports patterning & mirroring iFeatures on multibody parts
  • You now can window select multiple closed profiles within the Extrude command
  • While creating Boundary Patches, use the new Guide Rails option and select curves and/or points to “shape the patch and more precisely control continuity and form
  • Ruled Surface contains an Angle option to set the direction of the surface


Make Components Transparent

You can now toggle the transparency of a component in an assembly without applying a translucent appearance.

Inventor 2017 Assembly Transparency

Cross-Part Reference Enhancements

Cross-Part relationships are created when you project (associatively copy) geometry from one part into another. With this relationship intact, as you change the original component the projected geometry updates. Although a powerful feature, it can be very difficult to keep track of what’s related to what, and what changes will impact your components.

Inventor 2017 shows new icons so you can quickly identify the source of the cross-part relationship. Also, a tooltip with additional information appears as you hover over the item in the browser.

Inventor 2017 Cross-Part Reference Icons

From the assembly, AdaptiveBreak Link, and Open are now available from the browser node, meaning you do not need to drill down or activate the component to work with the relationships. This makes it a whole-lot-easier for dealing with the many cross part relationships that can occur in your assemblies.


Easily the best new feature in drawings, but for me also all of Inventor 2017, is the new Parts List Filter feature Limit QTY to visible components only. This works in conjunction with Design Views to provide a quick method to limit the visibility of components in the Parts List to the components that are visible in the Design View. Why is this important? If you do any type of assembly sequence / order style drawings this is a huge benefit to show only the required components for the active sheet.

Inventor 2017 Parts List Filter
Drawing Quick Hits…

  • Cut Edges in Section Views can be shown as jagged. This is similar to Detail Views and a good enhancement
  • Balloons now contain a rectangular style
  • [FINALLY!] In the Application Options dialog box > Sketch tab, select or deselect the Enable Link option by default during image insertion option to set the default behaviour when inserting images into sketches.
  • New setting for Automatic Text Wrapping in Title and Column Headings in Drawing Tables

Other Updates?

Make sure to check out our other posts on the new features & functionality in Inventor 2017:

Better Presentations with Inventor 2017

Inventor 2017 3D Sketch Enhancements

Interoperability with Inventor 2017

My Take on Tube & Pipe in Inventor 2017

Feature Image Excited by Alex Kuruz

A Review of Mastering Autodesk Inventor 2016

Mastering Autodesk Inventor 2016

I’ve been involved with training involving Autodesk products for a long time. Everything from delivering training to developing material… yet this is the first time that I’ve done a review of training material. Perhaps its because I was just waiting for the right book to come along.

Mastering Autodesk Inventor 2016 and Autodesk Inventor LT 2016 written by Paul Munford and Paul Normand, published by Sybex.

Mastering Inventor 2016


Mastering Autodesk Inventor 2016 and Autodesk Inventor LT 2016

This book is massive! Coming in over 1000 pages it covers all aspect of Inventor, and I mean everything. It starts with a test-drive to get your feet wet then moves on to sketching and basic modeling, then more modeling and sheet metal, before heading into assembly and weldment creation. From there is documentation, exchanging data with other systems, using the Frame Generator, and Inventor Studio for creating imagery and animations. This book also covers Inventor Professional related “advanced” topics… Stress Analysis, Dynamic Simulation, Routed Systems, and Plastic Design Features. The final chapter covers iLogic. This is really your start-to-end all-inclusive tour of Autodesk Inventor.

Unfortunately, I think for many, Mastering Autodesk Inventor 2016 will seem overwhelming. The book is truly massive and it can feel like a daunting task to even get started. There is also no colour, which at times makes it feel a bit drab. However, once you get going there is a good flow to the material. Everything is broken down into Chapters and then into various sections. There are plenty of pictures to keep every topic illustrated and so you know exactly what is going on.

I appreciate the “tips” and other small tidbits throughout, which are easily identified as they are boxed and shaded in grey or marked with a symbol. These provide additional information, that although not always directly related to the topic at hand, lend advice on how to make Inventor perform better, make it easier to work with, identify Inventor Certification objectives, or suggest better ways to design your models. Take for example this tip, which is in the middle of the section on Projecting Geometry…

Breaking the Link with Project Geometry

Projected geometry is created by projecting an edge or a face. When you project faces, a browser node for a projected loop is created under the Sketch node. When you project edges, no browser node is created. You might need to break the link of the projected geometry in order to modify it.

— To break the link of projected faces, right-click the Projected Loop browser node and select Break Link

— To break the link of projected edges, right-click the edge itself and choose Break Link

There are also plenty of “Real World Scenarios” explaining why you should do something using a real-world example to drive home the point. This is a real differentiator between this material and other training materials I’ve used.

Inventor Model

The exercises in Mastering Autodesk Inventor 2016 are short, concise, and overall simple… which is a good thing. Who needs long drawn out exercises when you just want to get to the point. The exercises are also all independent, meaning if you mess-up or struggle with one it doesn’t impact working on subsequent exercises. There is also almost always an exercise per topic meaning even if you jump into a middle of a chapter to learn a specific feature there is an exercise to guide you through the process.

Each chapter starts with a summary and finishes with “The Bottom Line“. This chapter ending Bottom Line summarises what you just learned and also poses challenging questions to test you. If you can answer the bottom line question, not only have you learned the feature, but have also mastered it. All that is missing is Paul yelling “That’s the bottom-line, cause Paul Munford says so!”

The Authors of Mastering Autodesk Inventor 2016

I have been very fortunate to have met both of the authors of this book. There is some serious weight here as these guys are not only experienced but also master communicators.

Prior to working for Autodesk Paul Normand worked in the Autodesk Reseller channel selling, supporting, and training people on how to use Autodesk products, including Autodesk Inventor. For almost 10-years now he has been working for Autodesk as a member of the Autodesk Learning Experience and User Experience teams.

Paul Munford, aka CADSetterOut is a “self-confessed and unrepentant CAD geek“. He has 10+ years using Inventor, he is an Autodesk Expert Elite, and highly rated Autodesk University speaker. He has written many a great article on his site. The highlight for me was his series on surfacing which has proven to be the greatest resource for me on the topic. His style of writing has transferred to this book, which means there is a good flow, its easy to read, yet he gets the points across.

Paul Munford


If you get the book or not, make sure you check out Paul’s Mastering Inventor page

Final Take

If I used a grading system for my reviews this book would get an A+. Although from its size it is a bit daunting to get started, but once you do I’m sure you’ll find that Mastering Autodesk Inventor 2016 is well laid out, easy to follow, and it follows a logical order.


  • Extensive coverage of Inventor – consider it your one-stop-shop for learning all aspects of Inventor
  • short, straight-to-the-point, easy-to-follow exercises
  • many tips, tricks, and other important tidbits scattered throughout


  • no colour
  • the book is massive, meaning it might seem a bit daunting to get started and a bit overwhelming once you get started

Disclaimer: Sybex provided a copy of the book free of charge for the purpose of providing feedback. They have had no influence over this article beyond that interaction.

Feature image courteous of Gratisography

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









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