Find us on Google+ 2011 ~ Inventor Tales

Monday, December 26, 2011

View Representations in Autodesk Inventor Assemblies - The Right Point of View

“Art is the concrete representation of our most subtle feelings.”
Agnes Martin

A few years ago, I created a blog post on using View Representations in Autodesk Inventor.  But this holiday weekend, I thought it might be worth redoing.  After all, I'm starting to get the hang of these videos!  (at least I think so).

You can see that text only post HERE

I also think that it's one of those things that is pretty useful, and is worth revisiting from time to time!

View Representations in the Assembly

So what is it that View Representations do that I think makes them so useful?

View representations remember three things about your Inventor assemblies:

  1. Component Color
  2. Component Visibility
  3. Camera Angle
This can come in real handy when you need to represent components with different finishes, turn off several components repeatedly, or look at an assembly from a specific angle.

For example, I've often used to "omit components for clarity".  That condition that some parts must be hidden to show other parts underneath.  Particularly when I was working on some pretty complicated electronic enclosures a while back.

Uses for View Representations are many.  There are those who probably won't use them.  It's a slick tool, but as with every tool, not everyone has a use for them.  But there are also bound to be those who as; "Where have you been?"

So here's the video.  Take a look, and decide for yourself! 

Happy Holidays as we say our goodbyes to 2011, and head for 2012!

And for one more tip!  Check out the right click menu!  You have more options that just creating View Representations!  One I like is Copy.  If you need to create a new View Rep that's almost like one you already have, then just copy it, and make the changes!

Copy to Reuse a View Representation!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Windows User Account Control - The Ghost of Securities Past

“If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough.”
 Mario Andretti

If you've been following my blog, you may have noticed that I've slacked a bit on posting.  It's been a busy week of a business trip to Mexico for a day, a lot of demo prepping and installations as the year comes to a close, and a short vacation to Mammoth to catch my breath from it all.

But that doesn't mean that the lessons haven't stopped.

A couple of weeks ago, I ran into an issue caused by a demon I thought had finally gone a way.

User Account Control (UAC).  Found in Windows Vista and Windows 7, it helps secure your system against unauthorized changes. 

It's quite effective.  As a matter of fact, it's so effective, it can prevent programs you need to change your system from doing so, rendering that program unable to do important operations.

Like install, for example.

In recent years and software releases, the issue has gone away as Microsoft, and the programs that installed on it, have learned to coexist much more efficiently.

But recently, that little monster reared up again with an installation of Autodesk Simulation Multiphysics 2012 Service Pack 1 on Windows 7.

I received a tech call where a user was getting a cryptic MDAC error.  It was pretty cryptic, and definitely a little frightening. 

Here's the error, but what does it mean?
It didn't indicate what the error was at all, but once we had eliminated things like the user having appropriate privileges, virus scanners were off, etc.  I remembered one thing.

"UAC used to cause wacky things like this...."

So we went into the control panel, and turned off UAC. 

In Windows 7, pull the slider to the bottom!
Sure enough.  Once that was done, the install went through seamlessly.

Gone away the issues of UAC?  Not just yet!  If it's up to me, I turn if off.  If you ask what I think about you running it?  See the part where I turned it off.

Does that mean that you're going to encounter issues if you leave it on?  Not necessarily, but keep in mind that it can still cause issues (as experience taught me).

So if a program or service pack won't install.  Or if a program doesn't start, it's worth taking a look at UAC.  IF at all possible, shut if off, if only to eliminate it as a culprit.

It can save a headache or two!

And if you want more info on turning off UAC, there's a KETIV Tech Tip!

Note that the tip is for Windows Vista, but Windows 7 is very similar.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Off on Vacation for Me....

 “Vacation used to be a luxury, however, in today's world, it has become a necessity.”

It's been a pretty busy and rewarding couple of weeks on the work front.

So this weekend I'm rewarding myself with a snowboarding trip to Mammoth Lakes, Ca.  As a result, I won't be doing much blogging this weekend, but I'll have something for you all later this week.

Until then, I'm hitting the slopes!  :-D


Sunday, December 04, 2011

Getting Things in Gear - Exporting Gear Tooth Geometry in Autodesk Inventor

“You should always know when you're shifting gears in life. You should leave your era; it should never leave you.”
Leontyne Price

Earlier this week, I was asked, "How do you export accurate spur gear geometry from Autodesk Inventor's Design Accelerator."

I found myself frustrated.  Why?  Because I used to know exactly where it was, but it had been years since I'd be asked about it!  In that time, it had faded into the shadows of time. 

The set of gears "as generated" in Design Accelerator

Before I get too far along, I should make some distinctions about how Inventor creates gear geometry.   These are things I've picked up in my "sojourn through technology."

 The gears "as generated" from Design Accelerator are approximations.  If you zoom into the tooth profiles, their not the precise involute profiles that "proper gears" have.

Now that there's been a collective gasp of horror from the internet, don't fret!   For the purposes of laying out and specifying which gears to use, the gears as generated work just fine.  Critical items like ratios and center distances are accurate in this form.

But what if you want to make the gear?  Especially if you're running a test where you may make the gears in a rapid prototyping machine?

This is where exporting the accurate tooth geometry becomes important.

Now back to me scratching my head, trying to remember where I left that "Export Tooth Geometry" button!

So I hunted and conducted internet searches.  And low and behold!  I found it again!

All I had to do was right click on the "Spur Gears" icon in the browser!

There it is! Right click on the Design Acclerator icon!

Now that I've found it, I told myself I'd commit it to memory better this time.  And what better way to do it, than to create a video, blog it, and share it amongst cyber space!

Not to mention there may be those who like myself, have wondered if this is possible as well.  Perhaps they gave up searching for it, thinking that it doesn't exist.

Well it does!  So here's a video to show how it's done!


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

AutoCAD Blocks and Autodesk Vault - An Unexpected Encounter

“The essence of wise living is anticipating the unanticipated and expecting the unexpected.”
Kevin A. Woolsey

Earlier this week, I was configuring Autodesk Vault to read properties from a title block in AutoCAD.  Usually, this is pretty straight forward.  Go through the steps like those on the Autodesk Wikihelp page, make sure the properties are mapped in Vault, verify the steps, and finally, serve and enjoy!

This day, I went through all the steps, I did my check, and...... (insert sound of needle dragging across a record)..... only some of the drawings would have their properties read in correctly.  Others were inexplicably blank.

A "reenactment" of what we saw.  I couldn't show customer data, so I had to create an example

Only some?  I'm standing there with the I.T. admin, and we're both puzzled.  If something went wrong, they all would have failed, not just a some!?!

We recreate one of the properties displaying the problem.  Maybe we made a mistake in mapping....

Nope.  That was done right.

Maybe we used the wrong tag from AutoCAD?  Maybe there are different tags in different drawings?

I jump into AutoCAD, open a problem file, and type "BATTMAN"  at the command line.  I start checking the Block Attribute Manager. 

The attributes are correct.  We didn't make a mistake there.

We repeat the process a few more times.  It all seems right.  Why? Why?  WHY!?!  We ask over and over.

We hadn't missed a step in Vault. 

Finally, after returning to AutoCAD and opening the Block Attribute Manager again, my eyes land upon something I've never noticed before.

There are two copies of the block in AutoCAD.  One is full of the pretty text we're trying to read into Vault.  The other....  as barren and empty as Death Valley on the Summer Solstice.

Two block!  In the end, there can only be one!

Vault was picking up data from the empty block! 

There was only one block required in the drawing.  Once we deleted that, everything started running exactly as expected.  We began breathing again!

I can't say you'll ever encounter this problem.  It can easily be said that it's one in a million. But it also does prove no matter how much you test, there's always something unexpected waiting in the wings.

So keep your eyes and mind open.  As Sherlock Holmes put it.  "Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth.

P.S.  Would you believe that this is the 300th blog post!  Thanks for all those who've supported me! 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Never Take a Tool For Granted - iMates in Autodesk Inventor

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”
Oscar Wilde

iMates in Autodesk Inventor.   I would often joke that the only time I used them was when I showed them in a class. (Click here for the Autodesk Wikihelp on iMates)

That was because I rarely, if ever used them.  I thought they were great for "plug in play" types of applications, where a finite pool of components was used to create a larger assembly.

Sure, there was the occasional exception, but they were specialized, and very few.  I only encountered one or two in my travels.

Over the years of using Inventor, iMates slowly crept into the back corner of my dusty mental attic.  A curiosity.  A footnote.

But one evening a few weeks ago, I had a wood working book open on my desk, and was taking some plans for a small table and recreating them in Inventor (with some additional details I wanted), and it happened.

I hit the case that made me run up to my mental attic and blow the dust off my old iMates.

The table, as rendered in Autodesk Showcase

Dowels were going to be used to pin the legs of the tables to the aprons.  I wanted to put the dowels in, so I could have an accurate bill of materials.

But each leg required four dowels, for a total of 16 dowels.  Placing 16 insert constraints was going to get old quick!  Especially when each insert constraint had to be flipped to provide the alternate solution.

So what did I do?

I created an iMate on the end of the dowel, building in the flip that was going to be necessary to get the dowels to position correctly.

Creating the iMate.  Notice the dialog box is nearly identical to the standard constraint (it's missing the "2" button)

When I placed it in an assembly, I could hold down the Alt key, and click on the iMate glyph with the left mouse button.

Then I could drag it, to the mating hole, and the iMate would take effect, and POP!  Into position it goes!

The nice part of this method, is that I can put this dowel in a library, and reuse it, and it's newly created iMate, again and again.

So what's the moral of this story?  Don't be too quick to use a tool!  While they may initially seem a curiosity, they have a way of coming back and making your life a lot easier! 

So to show the way I used iMates, here's a video with the whole process!  Enjoy!

And by the way!  This is just one way you can use iMates!  Remember that Wikihelp link at the beginning of this post?  It's got other ways you can use iMates to your advantage!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Life Lession - Never Quit Learning!

This weekend, I walk into the world of past, of history, and of legacy.
Jonathan Landeros

I spent this last weekend pursuing one of my "other passions".  I took a class on how to cover fabric aircraft components.  That's right.  Fabric.  Technology that has it's roots in the earliest days of aviation, although it's still used on some aircraft, even today.

It's been something I've been learning to do for the last few months as part of my volunteering at Planes of Fame.  It's challenging, at times frustrating, and always rewarding.

"So what?"  I've heard in many a demo I've presented.  "Why is this important?"

Because I think these lessons cross over.  I've found that things like this don't occur in a vacuum, and there are lessons that can be shared, at least in my own eyes.

So what did I learn from this class that I can apply to my greater world?

1) You often know more than you think.

My experience with covering in fabric is limited.  But even that limited knowledge of having done those steps before will give you a foundation to step forward.

There was more than one point where I was thinking, "I know this part!"

Fabric laid out across a control surface
2) You don't always know as much as you think.

The class was laying out stitching lines across a curve.  The problem involved was using basic right angle geometry.  We were confused on the measurement, and I was certain we should be measuring along the leg of the triangle, instead of the hypotenuse.

Another student thought it was the hypotenuse. 

True to my Irish/Mexican heritage, I allowed myself to become so sure that I was right about that measurement I stubbornly stuck to a position longer than I should have.  Then that light bulb finally when off.  It was the hypotenuse we should be using, I had to suffer through that embarrassing moment of feeling like an ass.  (Come on, admit it!  We've all been there!)

Those blue lines.  Where I so confidently blew my geometry.  :-(

3) Be open to learning new tricks.

Fabric covering is a process that has a lot of flexibility in it, as long as you follow the fundamentals of the process.

As a result, there was a lot of subjectivity in the way things were laid out.

There was more than once where things like, "I like this layout for the clean look."  or "I like this because it's easier to put together."  

Both layouts were structurally sound.  It was all subjective.

It was another example where "because we've always done it that way" wasn't reason enough.

Laying out tape.  As long as the tape meets specs, the look is what you like

4) Keep learning.

I was once told that this type of class is a "License to Learn".  I didn't leave this class knowing everything there was to know.  But I did leave the class knowing what I needed to know.  Not the least of which was how much more there was to learn.

But now this class leaves me with a strong foundation where I can carry on and continue my learning experience.

And after all that work, we tore it all off.  But the lessons learned are forever.

So those are my big lessons from my class.  I'll happily apply them to my own experiences at Planes of Fame, but they can always be applied in my CAD world at KETIV too.

After all, how many times, staring at a computer screen, have anyone of us:

1) Not said something because we had one too many doubts.
2) Opened our mouths, only to put our foot in it.
3) Seen somebody do something with a model or drawing and thought; "That's an interesting way of doing it!"
4) Walked out of a user group, classroom, or Autodesk University session and thought, "I don't know exactly what that instructor did, but I know where to look now!"

So what I've probably said here, in a lot of words, is: "Stay open minded and always keep learning!"

P.S. I've added a couple of more tips to the "Tips & Tricks" page.  Take a look!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Resetting Defaults in AutoCAD 2012 - You Arrived When I Wasn't Looking!

“Combined they could be extraordinary, but that doesn't [automatically] move them to the upper echelon. It puts them in the right path but not by default.”
Allen Weiner

This week I'm off at a two day seminar learning how to cover fabric surfaces on aircraft

In other words, if you're me, it's a major geek fest.

That's not a table cloth.  :-)

Since I'm spending the weekend in a hotel room, I'm not able to do much by way of video recording this week!

But that doesn't mean I can't offer up something!

I don't spend as much time in AutoCAD as I used to.  Most of the time, I'm working in Inventor, Vault, or Showcase.

But there are times I have to return to good old AutoCAD.  Like a trusty old friend, it's there for many tasks I still do, like editing dxf files, to minor edits on AutoCAD data from a different source.

The other day, I managed to break my AutoCAD.  And after trying to fix it the "old" way for an hour or two, I stumbled onto the new way. 

You know, the new way that does the job in about 15 seconds?

Back a few weeks ago, I was working on my laptop, and it just shut down.  Click.  Powered off with no warning.

I check that the power supply didn't come unplugged, and it hadn't.   Everything was powered the way it should be.

I check the underside of my laptop.  It's hot enough to fry an egg on.  I must have overheated it.  I'm in an air conditioned room, and I over heated my laptop?

I think it's time to check the cooling fans.

I finish the days task, grab the "Can o' Air", and blow a tribble or two out of my laptop's cooling fans.

I think I found my problem!

I fire up my laptop, and get a warning that my laptop did overheat.  Lovely.  It does some memory checks, and once again, is humming right along.

But a few days later, I go to fire up the AutoCAD 2012 that's part of AutoCAD Mechanical, and guess what.

All my toolbars have disappeared.  Every.  Single.  One.   Even the workspaces are gone.

So now what.  I know there are some settings I can erase that will prompt AutoCAD to reset it's toolbars.  So I search, and I search, and I search some more.

I searched so long, that my searcher was sore.

Then, during one of my searches, I find a "What's new" article for AutoCAD 2012.  What do I see?

There's a "Reset Defaults" button in AutoCAD!

What's this I see?  Reset Settings to Default?

I find the button, click it, and a few progress bars later, I'm back in action.

I can't say that I have a super tip for finding this.  I stumbled onto it through pure, dumb luck.

But I can share it and spread the word!  There's an easier way!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

That's Not Supposed to Happen - Autodesk Vault 2012 - 1328 Error Installing Update 1

“A sudden, bold, and unexpected question doth many times surprise a man and lay him open”
Francis Bacon, Sr.

Recently, I was adding Update 1 to Autodesk Vault 2012.  I've done it plenty of times.  Should be a walk in the park, right?

If this install were a walk in the park, I wouldn't be spending the time writing this post! 

I run in the install.  And I get this error:

Eh?  What the?
Windows installer error 1328?  Error Applying Patch?  What? 

I check, I double check.  I double check the double checks.  Vault 2012 hasn't been updated.  It's still at "Update 0".  So it can't be "updated by other means"!

Does the user have Local Admin?  Check!

Virus scanners off?  Check!

UAC off?  Check!


I resort to the "Big Stick" in an Application Engineer's arsenal.  That's right.  The I call in the geek's equivalent of a B-52 air strike.

I Google it.  

Now, little Windows error... You will die.

I find the following blog post in, "Cracking the Vault" that tells me this isn't the first time it's come up. It's a *.dll file that's acting up.  Apparently it only affects "Vanilla" Vault.  The licensed versions (Vault Workgroup, Collaboration, & Professional), aren't affected.

But the good news is, I know that I'm not alone in the dark.  Now, how to fix it?

I try another Google search, then another.  After a few minutes, I have my solution.

In my best "Darth Vader" voice, I say: "I have you now!"

Except this time the perky rebel gets it.

It's found on the Autodesk discussion group, here. Near the top of the page.

It's a new *.dll!  I download it, do some swapping of files, and all is suddenly good. Progress bars move and hard drives whirr musically.

So to use a buzzword out of the corporate dictionary, what's the "take away"?  The "call to action"?
  1. The obvious one.  If you run into this error, here's one way to solve it!  That's why I wrote this!
  2. Google is your friend.  It can help you find documented solutions, even some undocumented solutions.  Although be careful with those, sometimes they can get you in trouble!
This is also one of those things that shouldn't be needed unless you actually run into the error.  So don't start swapping *.dlls because you can.  It's a "when necessary tool".

But when you're pinned down, it can be just the ticket to get you out!

UPDATE!  New hotfix released to repair this issue!

In my travels about the web, I found this hotfix that addresses this issue.  If you get this error (or one similar).  Install the hotfix found here!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Tips Page - A Premier

“Language is the archives of history”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I've walked through my travels in "the industry", I've found that many times, it's not always a fancy feature, with chrome renderings, animations, or mutli-core whizbangs that users like.

Don't get me wrong, fancy features are always cool.  I use them quite a bit myself!

But sometimes, it's the little things, like having an automatic coffee maker, that make the daily grind a little easier.

Ohh.. Coffee maker. Like a good Inventor tip.  You make the day bearable.

They're tricks that are like "secret handshakes".  You don't see them in documentation, you only hear about them from another users that learned them from:  Where else?  Another user.

So, this week, I roll out a Tips and Tricks page on my blog.  It's a collection of those little tricks that I've picked up over time.  Not because I'm somehow more savvy than anyone else, just because I've had the good fortune of learning them.

The page is in development, so it will nearly certainly evolve over time.  I'll add more "tricks of the trade".  I may even change the layout a bit as I learn.

But here it is, in it's earliest form. I'm starting with Autodesk Inventor, but will likely add more procucts as I go.  They're set up with the intention of being browsed through in a few minutes, with links to more "in depth" explanations where possible.

Take a look!  Let me know what you think!  And most of all, enjoy!

Take a look HERE! 

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Lock & Load: Loading Data into Autodesk Vault with Autoloader

“It's not the load that breaks you down - its the way you carry it”
Lou Holtz

Last week, I needed to show someone how to bulk load data into Autodesk Vault.  Typically, bulk loading data is done when a Vault "goes live", and loads existing data into Vault.  The data can be anything from AutoCAD data, Inventor data, even MS Office documents.

Thus this weeks video is inspired!  This video walks through how to use Autoloader.

It would be remiss of me not to mention two approaches to loading data into Vault.

The first is what I'm describing here, bulk load with Autoloader.

The benefits?
All the data can be loaded into Vault, flip the switch, and use Vault from that point forward.  We "flip a switch."

The drawbacks?
Autoloader doesn't want you loading files with broken links into Vault, so you'll have to resolve these before putting them in.  This can be enormously time consuming if you have a lot of broken links, and may require resources that just can't be dedicated to that task.

Autoloader found some broken links!  These have to get fixed!

The second, is "as we need it".  In other words, we'll use the current system we've been using, and all new projects will be placed in Vault. 

The benefit of this method?
Data can be culled to see what's getting put into Vault, and you can resolve broken links as you encounter them.  It's a "finer toothed comb".

The drawback?
Two systems are being maintained.  Which can complicate data management.  Not to mention that if the old system is still available, that "project inertia" can set it, where users never quite make the necessary commitment to Vault.

Which is the right one?  If you're expecting me to make a bold statement of which I believe the one method, I'm afraid I must disappoint you.

I don't believe there is one.  It's a decision that has to be based on a given situation, and where resources can be best utilized.  It depends on how broken your data is, and how much time you want to devote to using it. 

I've spent a month onsite fixing data before.  That's a lot of time fixing a lot of data.  For that company, the time was worth it, but can another company justify that?  Hard to say.  So I leave that question, "open ended".

What I can do, is give you a video showing you how you can use Autoloader.  It's a tool in your arsenal, and while it may not be the "ultimate weapon", it still gives you options when faced with getting data into Vault.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Modifying the Hole Table in Autodesk Inventor

“Not that easy, but just a boring hole.”
Kevin Hayashi

In the last Autodesk Inventor course, the subject of modifying the hole tables in the hole dialog box came up.

How did we add this new standard?

It's not something many of use do.

Frankly, that's because many times, it's not really required.  Most of us can lead a long, happy life using the default values and carry on about our business.

But what if you have to work with a difficult material that needs different holes to be used?  You may find it valuable to modify the chart.  For example, a machinist colleague of mine once told me that Inconel is so difficult to tap, that the standard tap chart table is thrown out, and a custom table is used.

It all comes down to the thread.xls chart that maintains Inventor's thread information.  By adding tabs, you can customize your hole charts! 

Just add the new tabs, and change the names!

So for those rare cases, here's a video on how to customize your hole chart inside Inventor.

One more note, I'm trying a new method of creating videos, it's going to take some practice, so bear with me as I try the new process!  I'm hoping that with a little practice and the riding of a learning curve, the videos will be better than ever!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Create New Tabs in Autodesk Inventor's New File Dialog Box

“Organize your life around your dreams - and watch them come true.”

Every time I train an Autodesk Inventor class, I mention this particular tidbit.

How to create a new tab in your New File Dialog Box in Inventor.

Where did the Woodshop & KETIV tabs come from?
It comes in handy to help organize templates.  For example, you can move commonly used templates to the front.  Meanwhile, you can move lesser used, but still needed templates to the back.

It's simple, but many times it's those simple tricks that shave a few moments from an often repeated task that show the greatest value.

It's sort of when I got my first car with electric windows.  It wasn't like it was hard to reach over to crank down the window in my old car.  But it was sooo much nicer that I could just press the button instead! 

In short, you create a subfolder in your template directory, and save a file to it.  It's pretty simple.  But here's a video to go with it!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Documenting Sheet Metal Punches on Drawings

“Chicago is a city of contradictions, of private visions haphazardly overlaid and linked together.”
Pat Colander

Now I've returned from Autodesk training in Chicago.  The training was informative, and well executed.  Now to absorb all the information! I'll be sharing some of that knowledge as I apply it to my real world.

For this blog, I wanted to continue the lesson from my last blog post, where we created a sheet metal iFeatiure

In that last blog, Creating Sheet Metal Embosses, we saw how we could create a sheet metal punch.  Now, we'll see how we can reuse that punch, and place it on a drawing.  Once you place it on the drawing, you're able to annotate it, and take advantage of the information you placed on your punch.

Take a look at the video, and see!  We've also added some fancy new "Intros & Outros".  Let us know what you think!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Off to Chi-Town for Training

I don't mind sitting in the back row of an airliner.  Aircraft usually don't back into a crash.
Jonathan Landeros

This weeks technical blog is pushed off a bit due to training in Chicago this week.

It's going to like "drinking from a fire hydrant" as they say, but hopefully I'll come back with my head full of ideas.  Some of them may even be good ones!

Seeing colors in fall is a unique experience.  We only have three fall colors in Ca.  Green, Brown, & on Fire.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Creating Sheet Metal Embosses in Autodesk Inventor

You're better off being a brick layer if you're going to play guitar than a sheet metal worker.
Roger Daltrey

In a few short days, I'll be in front of a room full of people, teaching the sheet metal course for KETIV's Autodesk Manufacturing Academy.

It's fun, but it's also stressful and nerve wracking at the same time.  There's datasets to test, information to accumulate, & presentations to tweak in an all out effort to get everything down.

One of those items I was taking a look at was creating a sheet metal emboss.

The Finished Emboss

It's been a while since I visited this particular item.  It seems to come up, then go away for a while.  But since this particular item has returned, I decided to "make hay while the sun shined", and create a video showing how you can go about creating a punch.

So far, this is the way I've found is easiest, at least for me.  Others may have ways that they've found.  I hope the  video below gives you some inspiration.

For me, wish me luck at AMA!  My next post won't be until after Wednesday, when the event is over!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Life Lesson - When a Part Becomes Art

“Wisdom is a blessing only to those prepared to absorb it.”

Sometimes lessons come from the most unexpected places. One of those lessons was an invaluable schooling on how sheet metal parts are made.  Not out of a book, or in a video.  But from an experienced hand who's been doing it for decades.

A couple of weeks ago, while working my volunteer gig at Planes of Fame in Chino, Ca.  I found myself talking to the DC-3 restoration crew.

The DC-3 undergoing restoration

The DC-3 at Planes of Fame is on the road to flying again, but needs to have some work done to it.

Tony, an Airframe and Powerplant mechanic started out working on aircraft in the U.S.Navy.  He's been at it so long, some of the ships he's served on are museums now.

He's studying a door gusset that's come out of the DC-3's door.

The gusset's location
The gusset after removal

"This part is finished." He remarks confidently.   "See here?"  He indicates the ends of the part.  "It's been drilled too many times."  I can see three holes in the part where one should be.

There's a few extra holes that shouldn't be there!

There's an extra one here too!

But Tony's lesson is just getting started.  "We're going to have to fabricate one."  His eyes narrow as he studies the part.  "The part is made out of 2024-T6, but the bend radii on the flanges are too tight.  If we try to use T6 from the start, the part will crack.  That wouldn't be good."  He smirks.

"So what's the plan?"  One of the curious volunteers among us ask.

Tony closes one eye and holds the part up, studying it.  "2024-0 will bend to that radius, but we can't use in an aircraft structure.  It'll have to be heat treated to T6 after the fact.   We'll also have to be careful about how we cut our blank.  We want to make sure our flanges are oriented correctly with the metal grain."

"Sheet metal has grain?"  One of us asks.  (I smile inwardly.  This is an answer I knew!).

"Sure does."  Tony remarks.  "Almost like wood.  If you bend along the grain, the bend has a better chance of cracking."   

The collected few of us nod.  It's been quite a lesson he's taught us.  The wisdom of decades of experience, passed on with a casual confidence.

"Yup."  Tony smiles.  "In the English Wheel for the contours, bend the flanges, we'll leave a little extra on the flanges and trim them back."  He makes a casual wave of his hand.  "A thing of beauty."

Why relate this story?  Because in our age of computer aided calculated nonlinear numerically simulated design, it's amazing to see somebody who is a true artisan of his trade.

I consider myself to have learned a valuable lesson.  A lesson I'm going to take back to my computer aided numerically simulated world.

I'm bringing back a lesson on how parts are made in the "real world".  And just as importantly, I've relearned a valuable lesson that to be a good designer, you have to understand how those parts are made.

So what are my "treasured" lessons?

  • Sure I knew sheet metal had grain, and I knew it could affect a part.  But when I was designing sheet metal, we never considered it.  Now, I know more than being able to repeat "sheet metal has grain", like a trained parrot.  I understand how that grain can affect a part.
  • Heat treating was another process I "sort of" understood.  I knew that T6 materials won't make tight bends without cracking.  But because my sheet metal design work was done in mild steel.  I never applied that understanding.  If we had a tight bend, we just avoided the material that wouldn't make that bend.  I never even considered having to use annealed material, then treating it after the fact.  Now that an experienced hand has explained it to me, I feel silly not having considered this myself. 

I'll truly appreciate the lessons I've learned.  I hope there's a few more in my future!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hold that Pose! - Extracting Camera Views in Autodesk Inventor Publisher

“There are no circumstances, however unfortunate, that clever people do not extract some advantage from.”
Fran├žois de la Rochefoucauld

This week I've been spending a lot of time working on one of two things.  The Autodesk Manufacturing Academy, and Autodesk Inventor Publisher.  During that time, I've learned a few tricks that can made the job go  along smoothly.

One of the challenges I encountered was working with the storyboard.  As I was moving from step to step, creating assembly (or disassembly) steps, I encountered an issue where I wanted to move a component.  That part was easy.

The hard part was that in order to select the component I wanted, I needed to zoom into to the assembly.  But the snapshot remembers that I did that, and creates a rotation I don't want.

So how do I get back to my original view?  I could try to "eyeball" it, and try to match it up, but that would be tedious, and I would probably never be exactly right.

Fortunately, a tool called "Extract Camera" helps with that.  By using this tool, we can extract a camera view from one snapshot, and place it on the current camera.

Right click on a snapshot and choose "Extract Camera"

It's great when you need to rotate your view to see something, then match it up to another snapshot.

It wouldn't be a blog post without a video, so hears the video to go with the post!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Life Lesson: The Temp Directory is not Infinite!

Yeah, it felt a little like that!

Sometimes it pays to check the obvious!  Occasional "spring cleaning" of your CAD machine is always a good idea too!

Just today I was working with Autodesk Showcase, prepping some models for KETIV's Autodesk Manufacturing Academy.

I notice Showcase has started to slow down.  I'm not over-tasking it, I've run larger models at higher resolutions.  

But it's still seeming sluggish.  I perform the "three finger salute" (Ctrl + Alt + Delete) and check the task manager.

My machine is running fine.

I'm getting ready to try a new video driver, although I wasn't having problems a few weeks ago....  Why so slow now?

Then I think, "I wonder what my Temp directory looks like?"

I open up Windows Explorer and type "%temp%" to take a peek under the hood. 

My Temp directory looks like the aftermath of a frat party that was simultaneously hit by an hurricane. 

In other words, it's a mess!

I use "Ctrl +A" to select all the files.  I hit delete.  I don't even bother checking the size of the directory.  It's time to get serious.

And with this Temp directory, I wanted to be SURE!

Windows counts the files as it prepares to delete them.  The total size of the collected files climbs like an altimeter on a space bound rocket.

Finally, the numbers settle at nearly 5GB worth of  files!

Suddenly, I can hear Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame proclaming; "There's your problem!"

After a few minutes, the Temp directory is as clean as I can get it.  There are always some files in use, so you can never get every last one.

I open up Showcase, and try the same model.

It was night and day!  Showcase maneuvered around as smoothly as my memories recalled.

What's the lesson!  Check that temp space!  It clutters up over time, and keeping it clean can really help your performance!

Don't let it get to 5GB like I did! 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pushing My Blog Post back

 Delay is preferable to error.
Thomas Jefferson

I'm afraid this is one of those weeks that I have to push my blog back a bit.  It was a pretty intense weekend building some Autodesk Inventor Publisher videos, so a quality post was a pipe dream.

The good news is I did get some ideas for my next tip!  Look for it soon.  I'm hoping to have something by mid week!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

One Fell Swoop - Affecting Multiple Snapshots in Autodesk Inventor Publisher

“In one fell swoop they could make a pretty big dent.”
Harry Schuhmacher

This week I found myself working with Autodesk Inventor Publisher again.   As I worked with it, I realized that each storyboard snapshot had it's own camera view set.  So as you moved through to each snapshot, the camera was constantly zooming in and out.

In some cases, I liked it.  In others, it was unnecessary, unless part of my goal was to give my views motion sickness.

I also wanted to change the material on some of my snapshots, but the materials are also set per snapshot.  Hmm.  I didn't want to have to click through each snapshot and set the material.

How to I affect all my slides at once?

So, what to do?

With a little bit of searching, I found the solution.  If you right click on your story board, you can choose the snapshots affected by your action.

Here's the little gem!

Some of the choices I've come to like are:
  • Choose Selected Snapshots - Be sure to use the Ctrl+Left Click, or Shift+Left Click to choose your slide)
  • Choose All Snapshots - The "fell swoop" option
  • Choose Preceding Snapshots
  • Choose Following Snapshots

Give them a try!  I think you'll find they help a lot!

And of course, here's a video to go along with what I've described!

Monday, September 05, 2011

Wash, Rinse, Repeat (my work features)

“It is not worthwhile to try to keep history from repeating itself, for man's character will always make the preventing of the repetitions impossible”
 Mark Twain

While enjoying the day off for Labor Day here in the United States, I got to thinking about some of the settings I change right away on a new installation in Autodesk Inventor.

One of those settings is the "Repeat Command" option in Work Features.

The default behavior for Inventor when your placing a work plane, work axis, or work point is to place the work feature, then exit the command.

While many users like that functionality, I like to stay in the command until I exit with the escape key, or by right clicking and hitting "Done".

Fortunately, Inventor allows for this.  While in the Work Feature command, right click and check "Repeat Command".  From that point forward, the command won't exit until you tell it to.

Repeating a Work Feature Command

It's a nice little feature, and one not everyone knows about!

Check out the quick video!

And for all you social media fanatics out there, check out KETIV's Autodesk Manufacturing Academy website on Facebook.  Become a fan!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tricks o' Me Trade ol' boy, Tricks o' Me Trade!

Tricks of Me Trade, Boy-O.  Tricks of Me Trade!
Jack Dalton in MacGyver (Jack of Lies)

When working in an assembly, one of the tricky things can be trying to pick a narrow edge when using the mate constraint.  Murphy's Law grabs you by the lapels, then shakes vigorously like a bartender shaking a martini. 

You can pick every edge, sketch line, and point, but never get the face you want.  If you're on your forth cup of coffee, you probably can't even hold your hand still enough to use the "Select Other" tool.

So now what?  You could zoom in to the part so closely you feel like your reenacting the "extreme closeup" scene from Wayne's World.  But that can get a little irritating.

You could hold your breath, grab your mouse hand by the wrist, and stick your tongue out the corner of your mouth until you can steady yourself enough to make the pick.  But that just looks silly.

Or you could learn this trick I picked up from somewhere in my past.  I wish I could tell you who showed it too me, but that recollection has fallen to the fog of Autodesk Universities past.

What's the trick?  Instead of using Mate, choose Flush first.  Why?  Flush sees ONLY faces.  It doesn't pick edges, points, or sketches.  Only faces.  Once you have your faces selected, switch back to Mate.

It's like it's own filter!

Using Flush to filter faces.  Try saying that 5 times fast!

Give it a try.  It's pretty quick, simple, elegant, and a lot easier than you might think.

Plus, you don't have to cut back on your coffee intake!

And here's a quick video version!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Creating Narrative Assembly Instructions - Camtasia Studio and Inventor Publisher United

Typing the quote just doesn't have the same effect.  So let's hear it from Gene Wilder himself:

For this weeks blog, I had a crazy idea, and opted to go a bit off the page. 

For years I've been using Camtasia Studio, by Techsmith, to create the videos you seen in so many of my blogs.

Then in the last few weeks, I've been working with Autodesk Inventor Publisher, and talked about exporting video files from Inventor Publisher

Then one night, it occurred to me, and I had that moment that Gene Wilder spoke of so well. 
Camtasia Studio for years.  Inventor Publisher can export a video format.  Why not combine the two?"

Using Techsmith's Camtasia Studio for editing my Autodesk Inventor Publisher video

So I did.  Here's the result.  It could definitely use some polish.  But for a first try, it's not too bad (at least I think).  I could probably add a few more bubbles, and tweak the narration a bit more.

Perhaps some of you out there in the "Cloud" can share some of your thoughts on how you might approach something similar?

In any case.  Here's my video.  Take a look, and let me know what you think!

Delaying this Weeks Post a Bit

Life is too short for traffic.
Dan Bellack

I've got to put this weeks post off a day or so.  I was fortunate enough to drive to Las Vegas for a good friends wedding, but not so lucky as to get back at a reasonable time.

Why?  A see of taillights.

Why me?
The normally 4 hour drive ended up taking more like 7 hours.

So after getting home at midnight, I thought it best to save the post, and get to bed.

Tomorrow is a work day!

I'll post as soon as I can.  I've had some interesting ideas combining Techsmith's Camtasia Studio editing capabilities, with an *.avi generated by Autodesk Inventor Publisher.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Exporting Your Inventor Publisher Data - The Final Step

“He who distributes the milk of human kindness cannot help but spill a little on himself”
James Matthew Barrie

At long last, my next  (and final, at least for now) video in my Autodesk Inventor Publisher series of videos!  We're going to publish your Inventor Publisher data into "publicly" consumable format.

Those formats can be one of several.  Microsoft Word documents, Adobe PDFs, Adobe Flash, Autodesk DWF formats, and even files for the Autodesk Inventor Publisher formats for iPhones, iPads, and Android mobile devices.

Example of an image Exported from Inventor Publisher

So the first thing we'll have to decide is what format is the best for the end user we want to supply.  That will ultimately a decision based on the best format to send to the end user.

So far, we've seen how we can create the formats, adjust the timing of our instructions, as well as add annotations to the instructions.

In this video, we'll talk about exporting the instructions and finally get them distributed to the users who will be using them!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Busy Weekends, Avengers, and Learning from the Past

“The truth should never die. It is our mission to keep the true history of 'our' side alive for our descendants.”
Grady Howell

Another busy weekend has prevented me from putting together my next planned Inventor Publisher video.  I promise to get one out as soon as I can.

I can at least see the light of day with my current projects, and I'm pretty sure it's not an oncoming train!

But on a "tangent blog", I thought I'd share an anecdote picked up from my volunteer work at Planes of Fame in Chino, Ca.

I recently began learning out to recover control surfaces in fabric.  That's right.  The old school cloth and fabric rudders, ailerons, and elevators. 

My first assignment?  Not a trip to the shop to get dirty.  Start reading the manual.  Get familiar with the process, so you know what we're doing, and why we do it.

After that, I finally after a couple of weeks, I got to start working on a real project.  The rudder of a TBM Avenger.

The rudder of the Avenger looking from the bottom up.
The first thing I'm told before we start looking at it?  "This is more art than science."

We begin working.  Actually, they're doing more working, I'm doing more watching.  But I'm learning the art of tugging, stretching, and; cutting the fabric to fit around the curved surfaces of the rudder.

As the project progresses, the team stands up and studies a compound curve.  They discuss whether or not the material will shrink around a given bend when heated.  If it should be cut instead, and if so, where it has to be cut, and how many cuts are required.

And if we cut the fabric, here, that's going to have an effect two steps down the line, so that has to be considered too.  

It's an exercise in patience and planning.

So why would I put this in a blog?  This is about CAD software, not about seventy year old warbirds.

I put it in here because the planning of the project is as important as the process, maybe even more important.  Even the veterans of doing this have to check the manuals, stop and talk over a step in the process, and even step a way for a few minutes to pace around the hangar until inspiration comes.  (These are referred to as "coffee breaks").

Starts sounding a bit like an implementation, or maybe an installation or software upgrade, doesn't it?

So that's where my observations are this week.  A reaffirmation of all those times that I've wanted to charge ahead, get 'er done.  All those times I've wanted to "make it happen" so we can get to happy hour and high five for a job well done.

The same rudder, a little bit closer now.

What did I learn from those guys stretching the fabric on a 70 year old Avenger's rudder?  The experts know what they know, and they also know what they don't know.   

Don't neglect your planning.  And when you think the planning is done, self check yourself as you go forward.  You never know when you may learn a better way to do things.

And on that note, here's the aircraft that rudder belongs to.  This video was recorded when it flew at an event last year.