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Sunday, November 22, 2015

An iProperty in Time - Linking Autodesk Inventor Properties to Your Drawing

Creating and modifying prints often comes down to details.

Many errors I've seen (cough, made myself), are smaller, easier to miss details.  One example, is forgetting to update a text field.

This is not the print you want to miss a detail on.
Just ask this engineer.  He's got a tough boss!

These are often notes that are hiding in a corner in the drawing.  A part number in a note is a prime example. 

But what if I told you there was a way to set up your template with a field that automatically read in the part number?  So that every time you placed a part in the drawing, the drawing automatically read in that part number. 

There is, and this is how. 

Start out by typing text, just like you have countless times in an Inventor drawing.  But choose the settings indicated in the image below: 

Here are the steps the image describes.

1) Start the text tool.  You won't get far without this step.

2) Start typing! You'll need to get to the point where you're ready to insert the text.  

3) Set the Type to Properties - Model.  This makes sure that your reading the property from the model placed on the drawing. 

4) Property - This is the property being placed in the text field.  In my case, I'm using part number, but there plenty of others to choose from.

5) Insert - This is "pulling the trigger".  This places the text in to the text field. 

Next, you'll see carets with the property insert into your text editor.  Part number appears in my case. 
After this is done, complete typing the note you need.  Once you hit OK.  The text will appear on the drawing and the property's value will be read in. In my case, it's the part number 2015-48-12.

Should the property change, the field will update, wherever it's called out on the drawing, including multiple locations, if you have them. 

In my example, I'll change the part number from 2015-48-12 to 15-1595-ABLE.   Which, let's face it, part numbers, among other fields, can change.

Once the field is updated, the drawing will read that property from the model and automatically update. 

There are the steps to get a property linked into a text field.  To get real bang for your buck, add required fields to your template, and get rid of some of those repetitive, and easy to forget tasks!

And look at what other fields you can add.  There are plenty to choose from!

I did create a video for this one using Autodesk Screencast.  No sound, I'm afraid.  But life has been keeping me *just* busy enough to keep me out of my little editing room!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Mid-Week PSA - A Wealth of Information from the Stainless Steel Information Center!

In my post earlier this week, I blogged about learning how the orientation of the sheet metal flat pattern in Autodesk Inventor can affect the finish of the part that comes out of a machine, and how to flip the base face to make sure that the desired side was unblemished by the laser mill bed.

In my case, the finish being applied was a #4 finish to a stainless steel sheet.  That was the nice finish that had to be protected.

Another view of a laser mill, and that finish destroying bed.
Now, this is the point where I confess something to all of you out there.

When I first heard #4 finish used in conversation, I was the guy nodding my head as if I knew of the #4 finish they spoke.

In reality, I had no idea what a #4 finish was, aside that it was special.  While I was nodding knowingly, I was tilting my head like a curious dog on the inside. I endeavored to make a few Google searches when I got back to my desk.

Admit it! We've all looked like this at one point or another! 

And Google paid off in spades.  I found the website for the Stainless Steel Information Center.

Not only did I find exactly what I needed to know about #4 finish, I found a wealth of information on stainless steel, I found definitions, information on composition, applications, corrosion properties. The list goes on and on.

I haven't even gone through the entire site yet!  But I know that I will eventually.  I'll refer to this site often!

I've already started downloading some of the handbooks for myself.

But if you're using stainless steel, thinking about using stainless steel, or you're a student wanting to learn about stainless steel, then this is a resource well worth considering.

And if you know any other great engineering materials, or anything at all, feel free to share with a comment!

And by the way!  A #4 stainless finish is what you'd find on appliances, architectural wall panels, and tank trailers, among other things.

But now you have the resources to read that yourself!

Photo Credits

Laser Mill by: By Metaveld BV [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

photo credit: DSC08200.jpg via photopin (license)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

For a Good Finish - Flipping a Flat Pattern Base Face in Inventor

Laser mills can be fascinating machines to watch.  Even thought they've been around for years, watching them still feels like a little bit of science fiction.

Just watch this video from Wikipedia and try not to imagine something sci fi!

But no matter how sophisticated the tool, there are always "tricks of the trade" to get a little more out of the tool. 

One thing I've learned is the care of keeping the "good side up".  

The material in a laser mill rests on a grid of pointed steel plates I've taken to calling the "bed of nails".  

Looking at the image below, you an see pretty easily how that could mark up a surface you'd be hoping to keep free from marks.  

The laser mill bed. Certainly not the place to get a good night's sleep.
Because of that, you may have guessed it, it becomes important to keep the "good side up".  This keeps the visible side of the sheet metal off the "bed of nails", making sure it's got a clean finish. 

In Inventor, this means making sure that when clicking the flat pattern icon, the face that Inventor shows you is the "up" side.  

But how to you make sure the good side is out?

The obvious way, is to choose the "A" side right away, either by using the "A Side" tool, or by selecting that as your face when you create the flat pattern. 

But what if you need to change it after the fact?  In spite of the best efforts of the best designer, it's always possible one flat pattern is going to be reversed. 

An easy way to fix an incorrectly oriented flat pattern is just to delete it and replace it.  This might work great if a drawing using the flat pattern hasn't been created yet, but what if it has?

If a flat pattern view is created, deleting the flat pattern means recreating the view in the drawing. 

This is a fairly simple flat pattern.
But do you want to recreate it if you don't have to?

In other words?  It means more work. 

So here's an alternative that I think you might like. I'll flip the "A" side of the sample below.  I've colored one face red to make the change a little easier to follow.

Getting started with a sample part.

First, while in your sheet metal part's flat pattern, right click on the flat pattern icon and choose Edit Flat Pattern Definition.  

Accessing the flat pattern definition.

Now, a dialog box appears that allows the option to change, create, and save orientations if you'd like. In this case, it's the Flip option under the Base Face section we're interested in. 

Clicking this face flips the sheet metal face over like a pancake on the griddle.  In the flat pattern sample used here, the silver face is now visible. 

The face is flipped over

Now, switching to the drawing, the flat pattern also shows the silver side, Careful inspection will also show that the bend directions have all changed too! (Careful, the view is rotated 180 degrees).

The flipped, can completed, view.
You may noticed that the dimensions need some rearranging, but at least speaking for myself, I'd rather rearrange annotations than recreate a set of annotations.  In other words, this is a small trade off for the time saved when facing recreating entire views. 

So if you're facing flipping a sheet metal pattern over for any reason at all, I suggest considering flipping the base face.  It can be a real time saver. 

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Batch Converting Files in AutoCAD - A Very Handy Tool

Earlier this week, I was faced with saving a handful of AutoCAD files from the 2015 to a 2000 version for use in a laser mill.

Naturally, the most direct way is to open the file in AutoCAD, and save back as a 2000 version.  But there's a handful of files, so it's going to take a little bit of time to save the files one a time.

Converting files one at a time.  This is a common look for
the person stuck with that task. 
But there's a utility here to help us out with that.

It's called DWG Convert, and lets you batch convert AutoCAD files to an older version of your choosing.

To get to the tool, go to the Application Icon (the big "A" as I like to call it) and choose Save As.

On the flyout, look for the DWG Convert icon.

The DWG Convvert Icon.
Choosing this icon, you'll be greeted by the DWG Convert dialog box. And there are options to choose from.

The different areas of the DWG Convert dialog

The sections listed by the blue icons are:

1) The list of files to convert (these haven't been added yet).
2) Icons to add files to be converted.  From left to right, they are:
Add files to convert

  • Add files to convert
  • Create list of files to convert
  • Open a list of files you've previously created
  • Append files to an existing list
  • Save to list

3) This section provides a list of selection setups to choose from

4) Finally, the Conversion Setup icon allows you to modify an existing setup, or create one of your
     own.  This is the one we're going with right now.

Clicking on the Configuration Setup button shows a new dialog box.

The Conversion Setups dialog box.
Here, you can create a new setup, as well as rename, modify, or delete existing setups.

In my case, I chose to create a new setup.  Since I'm converting to 2010, I used Convert to 2000 (in place) and selected new.  This creates a new setup based on the existing one I chose.

Changing different options for the conversion.

Now modifications can be made to the setup.  These include, how the files are handled (such as a zip file, or folder of files) which format to convert to, as well as several actions to perform on the files, such as purging and error correcting.

It's listed quite nicely in the Autodesk Help System here, so I won't try to recreate that particular wheel in this post.

Accepting the settings, I'll return to the previous dialog box, and add the files I want to convert.

Adding files to convert.

Once the files are added to the list, all that's left to do is click Convert, and let DWG Convert do its thing.

The conversion in progress.  The list can be seen in the background.
After a short span of time, depending on size, and how many files you're converting, it will all be done.

All done!
You can now get the files from the location you saved them to, and they're ready to do what you need!

So when you need to batch convert a bunch of files, here's a tool to keep in mind!

Photo Credits:

photo credit: 2 a.m. Tedium via photopin (license)