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What’s New in Vault 2016 Review

Autodesk pulled a sneaky one and released the Vault 2016 help a few weeks ago without any press release, blog post, or any type of notification. So although the product wasn’t available, we were able to read all about the new features ahead of today’s release. Make sure you read the System Requirements changes at the end of this post, big changes in your environment may be required.

Here are the listed categories for the new features.

  • New Item, BOM, and Change Order Features and Enhancements
  • New Copy Design Experience
  • Vault Thin Client Enhancements
  • New Vault Office Thick Client
  • Inventor and Third-Party CAD File Support
  • Project Sync Enhancements
  • Control Open File Behaviors in the Vault Client Feature
  • ADMS Console Enhancements

I’m both disappointed and a bit perplexed with both the What’s New help and the overall message by Autodesk. There is no differentiation in the what’s new help between the three flavours of Vault. Some, like anything to do with Items, is crystal clear (only applies to Vault Pro) but many you have to read between the lines and make some educated guesses to determine if the enhancement applies to your Vault. Others, I have no clue which versions they apply, you’ll have to find out when you start using Vault. There is also little-to-no mention or indication of the features that were introduced with Vault 2015 R2. This makes the list seem very significant for 2016, when really probably close to half the new features were actually introduced with R2.

I don’t want this to be a distraction from the excitement of the new features, as there still are some significant ones, but be careful when reading through the document as not everything may apply to the type of Vault you are using.

Christmas Sparklers Fun

If you are not currently using Vault 2015 R2 then before you dive into the new features within 2016 I would start with our Autodesk Vault 2015 R2 Summary, This was our summary of the enhancements added with 2015 R2 from last year, and so it serves as a good starting point to see what’s new with 2016 as well.

License Management

For this review, I’m going to start in an odd place… the Autodesk Data Management Console (ADMS) and FlexLM. That’s right, there are some kick-ass system management tools added that I don’t want to get lost in the mix.

Vault 2015 R2 introduced a new reindex option. Re-indexing now comes in the form of three options: Re-index lastest and released versions only, re-index lastest versions only, and re-index all versions. The new option (latest only) provides more flexibility and an option that should complete sooner than the other two. Also from a revision management perspective should a released object really be touched in any way?

Because of the architecture of Vault and how it is integrated with the FlexLM license management tools, it has always been difficult to determine who is currently logged into Vault and difficult to get any usage history. This all changes with 2016. FlexLM now logs by username, opposed to the generic AutodeskVault, meaning you can quickly determine who is currently using a license. The license reporting tools now apply to Vault, just like they have always done with the other Autodesk products. As a bonus, you can now reserve a license, saving the license for a particular user or user group. [Yay!!!!!!!]

Vault Office Thick Client

First introduced for Vault 2015 customers, non-subscription customers can now use the Vault Office Client. Think of it as the full client, minus all CAD related functionality. With the Office Client, you don’t only get access to check-in and check-out but also the ability to apply lifecycles to folders, files, and items, and to participate in Change Orders. Using this you can also generate reports and work with custom objects. It’s not free, but costs less than a license of Vault Workgroup and Vault Professional.

As a bonus, with 2016 and the licensing improvements you can now segregate the Vault Office licenses away from your other Vault licenses, reserving them specifically for non-CAD people.

Vault Thin Client Enhancements

With all the changes to items and the bill of materials, the web-based thin client is enhanced to support the new features.
  • BOM filters to toggle the display of OFF rows and whether you see non-released items
  • The thin client now supports ON, OFF, and non-assigned item BOM rows
  • Support for the new Grouped BOM rows and BOM specific properties (which can only be controlled within the administration settings, making it impossible to filter the BOM’s on-the-fly, even in the full client application!)
  • View item versions
  • Reference Designator integration for viewing AutoCAD Electrical BOM data

Inventor and Third-Party CAD File Support

Autodesk has expanded support for 3rd party CAD data within Vault. This is due to Inventor’s new AnyCAD workflow where non-Inventor data can be associatively attached to a model. From the Vault help, here are the restrictions.

Autodesk Vault Help 3rd Party CAD Restrictions

Project Sync Enhancements

Vault 2015 R2 introduced enhancements to Project Sync, which is the service that automates the publishing of Vault data to Autodesk Buzzsaw. This feature is specific to Vault Professional, and the updated features extend to 2016 as well.

  • Previously all files contained within a mapped folder would be uploaded to Buzzsaw, whether needed or not. Now the user can select which files within the mapped folder are uploaded, reducing the amount of unnecessary files shared.
  • Project Sync jobs can now be configured to fire on transition state changes, for example from In Review to Released.

File Revision Rollback

Yup! Now when you accidentally change the state of a bunch of files, you can roll back to the previous revision, essentially undoing your mistake! BUT, there are some caveats which we will cover in a future post.

Systems Requirements Changes

There are some big ones!!

  • The 2012 editions of Windows Server are the ONLY releases supported!! That’s right you need to upgrade from Server 2008 or 2008 R2.
  • SQL Server 2012 is the ONLY supported release of SQL. 

So make sure you have your upgrade plans in places before getting too excited about upgrading. Also be sure to read the release notes for any known issues or peculiarities.

Everything Else

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be doing a deep-dive into the enhancements of the following topics. Make sure to come back to check them out.

  1. Copy Design Experience
  2. Item & BOM enhancements
  3. New Unified Lifecycle, Category, Numbering Scheme, and Revision Experience

Presenting Inventor 2016 (What’s New With Presentations?)

Described as the “red-headed stepchild” of Inventor in our introduction post on Inventor 2016, the Presentation environment has gone a long (and I mean a long) time without any updates, tweaks, changes, improvements, or really anything to write home about. The Presentation Environment remained almost identical to when it was first introduced in R2 of the software…. and that was in 2000! What else within Inventor has remained unchanged for 15 years?

So although there is still lots of room for improvement, I’m glad to finally see some much-needed enhancements. So what’s new?

I put the updates into these two categories:

  • Environment brought up to par
  • Improved Tweaking

Environment / UI Enhancements

Many of the enhancements to the Presentation environment have been in other places for the past couple of years, but it doesn’t make it any less impactful for building the exploded views.

Window Selection

Components can be selected by both window and crossing selections. You don’t really truly understand how much you missed something until you have it. Being able to quickly select objects by a window selection can significantly streamline the process.

Inventor 2016 Presentations - Window


You’ve always been able to set the Representations on Presentation View creation, but now you can switch the active Design View at any time... not just during creation. In addition, the associative option can be enabled or disabled whenever. What does Associative do? If enabled, changes to the assembly’s design view automatically update within the Presentation. This includes component visibility and component color

Inventor 2016 Presentations - Representations

Browser Views

Gone is the little filter icon with no indication of which browser view is active. Within 2016, it behaves as the Part and Assembly browser.

Inventor 2016 Presentations - Browser Filter

Tweak Components Minitoolbar

The big, clunky, dialog is gone! Replaced with the newer style Minitoolbar. Everything is accessible from one compact interface. This includes the option to change the selection filter WHILE you are applying tweaks!

Inventor 2016 Presentations - Mini Toolbars


Triad Manipulator

At first glance it might seem like a small thing… whoo hooo they changed the icon to represent tweak direction. However, its more, you are now forced to use the triad meaning no more unintentional selection of additional components not intended for the current tweak operation. To tweak a component click-and-drag on the triad arrow in the direction you want to tweak the component. Another great enhancement is with the Triad comes in-canvas text boxes. As you click on the triad and apply tweaks you can also specify exact values.

Inventor 2016 Presentations - In Canvas TextIt’s also important to note that when you initially position the triad, it automatically selects the component it is snapped to.

Move vs. Continous Move

This is a nice little enhancement. To mimic 2015 (and older) behavior, use the Continous Move option. As you apply tweaks the components remain selected. This builds a workflow in which you can tweak a group of components, apply the tweak, then shift + select to deselect a component (or more), and continue to apply tweaks. With the Move option, the components are tweaked and when applied the components are all deselected.

Select Sets

When applying a tweak the selected components can be dynamically adjusted, adding and removed components. The preview automatically updates as you add and remove components to the selection set, even after you’ve started to apply the tweak. Even better than this is that it now extends to editing tweaks. This means you can modify an existing tweak to add a component or remove components from the tweak. No more creating a new tweak to match up the component already tweaked.

Dynamic Previews / Undo

Tweaks now preview before being applied! You can now undo during the tweaking process! Enough said

Auto Explode

It used to be all or nothing… you auto exploded the components at view creation or you didn’t explode it at all. Auto Explode is now its own ribbon icon meaning the assembly can be exploded at any time during the process OR selected objects of the assembly can be auto exploded.

Inventor 2016 Presentations - Auto Explode


Trails, I know you don’t like me and I don’t like you, but we need together” Who hasn’t said this about trails at least once during their time in Inventor? Trails definitely got some lovin’ in this release

First, there are now four “default” trail options as you are building tweaks…. None to not create trails, Components to only add trails to top-level components, All Parts to apply trails to everything, and Single to apply a single trail to all the components being actively tweaked…. Brilliant!

Inventor 2016 Presentations - Default Trails

The new trail selection filter (used when either creating or editing a trail) provides the means to delete or add either the full trail (following all tweaks) or a trail for a portion of the path.

Inventor 2016 Presentations - Trail Filters

See it in Action!

Autodesk Inventor 2016 – Drawing Environment Improvements

I used to spend most of my waking hours creating Inventor drawings during certain stages of projects, a few years back. Thankfully, those days are over, now that I’m working for a reseller, and I don’t spend nearly as much time in the drawing environment anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the environment, but I’m sure monotony sets in for anyone who does hundreds of drawings a year in any package. Having said all that, I sure wish some of the new drawing features that Autodesk have put into the 2016 release, were available back then, as they would have made things just that little bit easier.

Let’s get straight into it.

Creating a new Drawing:

You have been able to open a model file, RMB in the browser and select “OpenDrawing” for the last few releases. That was useful, but the drawing had to have been created first. What you can do now, is get the model into the orientation and configuration (view / positional reps) in the modelling environment, and then RMB on the filename in the browser and then select “Create Drawing View.” This automatically teleports you into the drawing environment, and leaves you at the view placement stage, with all the relevant settings pre-configured. Small detail, but a nice touch.

Create Drawing View in 2016Create Drawing View

View Placement:

This is the area which has had the biggest overhaul in the 2016 release. View placement is much more streamlined than it used to be, and gives far more control. On base view placement, a manipulator pops up which allows you to move, scale, and generate new views. A nifty addition is the inclusion of a View Cube, which allows you to rotate the base view, and all the projected views will also rotate to suit. A nifty trick with the scaling, is that you can hold the CTRL key while you drag the arrow, to avoid it “snapping” to standard scales. This is useful if you don’t use scales on your drawings and want to simply adjust the size of the view for the best fit.

Place ViewsView Placement Enhancements


There have been a number of improvements to ballooning, including a really handy “Align to Edge” option, the ability to use a sketched symbol as your ballon shape, and a window selection to align balloons. There is also supposed to be an improvement to the “Auto Balloon” placement, but I have not had a lot of success getting it to give better results. The leaders don’t cross over each other as much anymore, but the placement of the arrowheads doesn’t seem very neat or logical.

The little details:

  • Sketch creation behaviour is more consistent between drawings and models now. What I mean by that, is you can now click the “Start Sketch” command in a drawing first, and then decide which view or sheet you want to sketch on. You used to have to pick the view first, which was frustrating.
  • One thing that used to annoy me, was that a section view would section nuts and bolts, and other fasteners by default, and you would have to go through and manually remove them from the section participation. This is now fixed, and they are not sectioned by default.
  • A lot of small incremental improvements have been made to leaders, sketched symbols. One of note, is you now have the ability to define a shared “Sketched Symbol” library so that your custom symbols can be shared across your team. I really hope Autodesk do this for Sketch Blocks next!
  • It was pointed out to me that there is currently an issue with editing a Section-view definition sketch. If you RMB the section line in the view, and then select “Edit Sketch” it actually takes you to a new sketch, not the one you want to edit. The workaround is to RMB the sketch entry in the browser, and then edit it from there.
  • If you’re creating a drawing of an .ipn, and want to use a saved view. It’s not immediately obvious to find that option anymore, as it has been moved. In the new View Creation dialog, while placing a view of the .ipn, RMB the View Cube and then select “Saved View” to access your saved .ipn view.
  • Often users will need to place a view with a custom orientation. In previous releases you could achieve this via a button in the Drawing View dialog. Now it’s stashed away in the View Cube context menu.

Autodesk Inventor 2016 Saved Camera View

All in all, I think these new features and enhancements should add up to realise some time savings for Inventor users who create a lot of drawings.

Now, back to playing with T-splines!

AutoCAD 2016 What’s New Review

Spring always brings new beginnings, including the new releases from Autodesk. This year is no different as the new version of AutoCAD is upon us. Although nothing earth-shattering like last years user interface “refresh”, this years version still proves to be chocked full of enhancements that will make your day-to-day life easier, as well as adding new features and functionality to take your design and collaboration in new directions.

What’s New?

Others might slice-and-dice it differently, but to me the new features and improvements fall into five categories

  1. User Interface
  2. Documentation
  3. Design
  4. BIM
  5. Installation and Configuration

The User Interface (UI) enhancements is a continuation of what they introduced with the darker / sleeker 2015 interface. Take for example the File tab introduced in 2015. It is now known as the Start page and is persistent, but based on user feedback, can be disabled during installation. Layout tabs are drag-and-dropable (finally), the status bar automatically wraps to the next line, and the help makes it easier to find things.

AutoCAD 2016 Wrapping Commandline

The new System Monitor is constantly watching those troublesome system variables that seem to have a mind of themselves. It lets you know that they have changed and allows for a reset directly from the status bar.

AutoCAD 2016 System Variable Monitor Dialog

Documentation Enhancements? Yep, its got them…

Revision Clouds behave more like polylines, making modifications significantly easier and actually achievable now… no more deleting and redrawing.

AutoCAD 2016 Rev Cloud Stretching Grip

The enhanced DIM command will make you seriously reconsider how you dimension from now on. Think of it as Quick Dimensions but on steroids. Its a one-stop, do-all dimension feature which actually previews the dimension before you make your selection.

PDF support? Still there of course, but now it’s much more flexible, with its own publishing dialog and options. It should also be much faster.

Reality Computing (Point Clouds) got its fair share of loving too, including support for sectioning, transparency control, point cloud-specific object snaps, and Dynamic UCS support.

Any visualization changes? Oh yeah! The Render engine has gone, replaced with a new and improved version. It is physically based, making it easier yet creating much better results.

Design & BIM based collaboration gets some love. External Reference support is expanded to include Navisworks Files (NWD or NWC). This allows for the attachment of the “Coordination Model”, for an additional collaboration option.

What’s Next?

Over the next week (or so), we’ll be posting deeper dives into the new features.

3Dconnexion CadMouse – Hands On Review

SWW15 3Dx CadMouse Floor Painting

I’ve been waiting for this device for some time! First of all I wanted a mouse designed for CAD and not gaming, but more specifically, I first got wind of the CadMouse around June last year. The anticipation has been killing me, I was then informed I would receive one of the early builds of the devices in time for Christmas. All in the name of hardware and driver ‘beta’ testing if you like. Thanks to Christmas mailing traffic and a couple of snafu’s it arrived safe & sound in early January. She’s been in the palm of my hand when using my HP ZBook ever since. So what do I think and how have I got on with CadMouse?

The Old Dunga

I’m embarrassed to say, that the CadMouse was always going to be far superior to anything I have used on a daily basis over the last 11 years. I really should be a ashamed of myself for not purchasing a high end mouse for my daily desk polishing. I’ve predominantly used the OEM HP, 2 button mouse, with crappy scroll wheel… then over the last 18 months I’ve been using a ropey mobile form factor Logitech wireless mouse. In credit to HP, their mouse lasted for years. The Logitech showed signs of giving up the ghost by serving up a spongy left mouse button around the 11 month mark.

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Driver Installation & Configuration

3DxWare 10 CadMouse & SpaceMouse ProIf you already own a 3Dconnexion 3D Mouse, then you will quite likely already have 3DxWare 10 installed. Then if you have updated that in the last few weeks, you will probably be running v10.2.2. In which case, you have to install precisely nothing. 3DxWare is a unified driver which supports ALL 3Dconnexion’s products, then within the driver configuration you can setup each device independently of each other. As a result each device can have different speed and direction settings. It’s this driver where CadMouse predominantly stands above the rest of the mice in my opinion, it’s CadMouse’s secret weapon.

Unlike other high end mice on the market, CadMouse’s 3DxWare drivers’ have been developed specifically for CAD applications and the unique environments they present to users. Most mouse drivers support programming their buttons to invoke different commands from one application to the next. Often though, you don’t have the ability to call up application specific commands, unless you can map those to keyboard shortcuts. As current 3D Mouse users will know, when their favourite CAD application supports and is supported by 3Dconnexion, you can assign native commands to the buttons on your device. But on top of that, the driver is often context sensitive. As an example with SolidWorks or Autodesk Inventor, if you are in a part sketch, you can program the buttons to one set of commands, but when you are in an assembly or drawing, you can program to buttons to use a different set. Non CAD mice drivers just aren’t geared up to work like that.

Out of the box I have found all the default button assignments to be just what I need for now. Even though I’m not old enough to have used a 3-button mouse in the work place before, my hand immediately settled into and appreciated using the full sized middle mouse button. As a result I need to find a good use for the mouse wheel button now. Talking about how my hand feels with the device, let’s move onto…


At first glance I didn’t like the look of the CadMouse, its shape isn’t as sexy as other high end mice out there. From some angles it looks spot on, then at others, quite awkward. But once I started using it, I couldn’t have cared less. Finally my hand felt as at home as my backside does on a Sunday afternoon watching the Formula One with a good cider in my fist. 3Dconnexion have nailed it, every digit sat right where it should and importantly, they stayed there. It took very little effort to make sure my hand was positioned optimally most of the time.

The side buttons sit just above my thumb, I barely have to move it to depress the buttons, but they haven’t once got in the way of punting the mouse around my desk. I’ve naturally dropped into using them as the forward & back buttons in browsers and Windows Explorer, but rather unexpectedly I intuitively use them in both SolidWorks and Inventor to Quick Zoom In & Out. Quick Zoom is also another secret weapon 3Dconnexion have devised. I’ll show you the effect in the video at the end of the article.

My only gripe ergonomically comes with the gesture button, which sits just rear of the scroll wheel. I have two options for pressing it, I haven’t decided which is best yet, I find both quite awkward. I think I’m edging towards using the tip of my index finger:

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Personally I would have much preferred to see it in front of the scroll wheel. There is a natural spot for it there as a result of your index and middle fingers sitting apart from one another. Aside from that, I do still use the Gesture button simply because it is worth it, I’ll show you why in the video later. I suspect it ended up in its current location for the aesthetic.

The Middle / Third Button & Scroll Wheel

CadMouse Front ViewAs I mentioned early, my hand has naturally slotted into using the middle button. People will argue that most mice now have ‘clickable’ scroll wheels and the 3rd full mouse button isn’t that much of a benefit. I strongly disagree with that. As an example, a colleague of mine has a Logitech Performance Mouse MX, every time I’ve used it and tried to pan using the scroll wheel button, it tends to scroll before clicking, due to its wonderfully smooth scrolling action. This confuses CAD applications and frustrates me. I’ve found this with other mice in the past as well. Having a full mouse button dedicated to your typical middle mouse button commands, makes panning (Autodesk software) or orbiting (SolidWorks) fool proof.

I LOVE the scroll wheel on this mouse. It has a really soft but positive notched scroll, ideal for CAD, but a pretty clever digital scroll. It senses when you want to scroll long and fast, then digitally gets stuck into smashing up & down through the pages. This is probably one area where I’m spoilt by finally having a mouse more befitting to my profession. Irrespective of that, I think 3Dconnexion have nailed the user experience and quality feel with this scroll wheel. You have to try it!


Some of you may be thinking there aren’t enough programmable buttons on this thing. I need buttons, my current gaming mouse has all the buttons I need and love it! Well you may have a point. But personally I’d prefer to minimise the number of buttons around my fingers if possible.Generic CadMouse Gesture Menu settingsAt first I was skeptical about this gesture button, I was too caught up in the fact that Autodesk Inventor and SolidWorks both have decent context sensitive gesture menus, so what was the point. The point is it turns one hardware button on your mouse into 4 buttons, right across the entire operating system.

The 3Dconnexion driver developers have been busy, they’ve put a lot of thought into which commands would be useful within various applications. Each time I click it in a new application, I think this will be the time it won’t make sense, but then it does. Of course, you can completely customise what appears in this gesture wheel and when it appears, in true 3DxWare 10 style.

If you don’t end up buying a CadMouse, you can assign this gesture menu to your SpaceMouse Wireless buttons if you want instead.


Would I buy one? Yes…. but I didn’t buy a high end mouse previously when I really should have. So why would I this time? For exactly the same reason why I bought my SpaceNavigator way back when, it was a seriously well made device, designed specifically for CAD users. I was happy to part with US$99 for that then, so I would be for CadMouse. Would I buy it at release or wait for the wireless version they may or may not produce? Tough call. My personal opinion is this mouse should have followed the same formula as the SpaceMouse Wireless, and used a magnetic charging cable, à la Apple Macbook. A straight up USB solution wouldn’t have worked for a mouse like it does for the static SpaceMouse. That way both the wired & wireless camp would have been satisfied. However, I can honestly say the cable hasn’t bothered me or got in my way once since I started using CadMouse in early January. The only time its got in the way is when I’m packing up my laptop as I leave my office, it’s just so much more convenient chucking a wireless mouse into your laptop bag. Knowing that now, I would probably still go out and buy this mouse because it works so well. Finally, be sure to check out the video below to see CadMouse in action. Thanks for reading, and if you have any comments or requests, then please fire away in the comments below.

Images courtesy of 3Dconnexion

Disclaimer: 3Dconnexion provided this mouse free of charge for the purpose of providing pre-release product feedback. They have had no influence over this article beyond that interaction.

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.

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