Find us on Google+ February 2013 ~ Inventor Tales

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Guest Video - Creating Environments in Autodesk Showcase

“Find the good. It's all around you. Find it, showcase it and you'll start believing in it.”
Jesse Owens

I wish I could say I had the wherewithal to find every last tip and trick there was to find in Autodesk Showcase.  But alas, I just can't quite do it.

One of those items that has always been on my "I'll get to that some day" list is the creation of custom environments.  I've always known that there are a couple of tricks to it that I needed to learn, but with so many things, I never got around to it.

Thankfully, while searching one of my favorite Autodesk Showcase channels on YouTube, run by Marion Landry, I found a great video on creating custom environments. 

Not only did it answer a lot of the questions I never got around to looking into myself, it also had links to, which has some great hdr images that can be downloaded and used to create custom environments.  And the best part is they're all free (although donations are accepted).

My own environment created from an image on

So here is Marion's video.  Take a look and enjoy.  This is one of the best videos I've seen for those of us who want to know how to create custom environments in Showcase.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Enviroguard Uses Product Design Suite to Streamline their Process

“New links must be forged as old ones rust”
Jane Howard

Today's bonus blog post is a success story for a company called Enviroguard, who make spill containment systems for batteries, such as the ones found in solar, rail, and switchgear applications.

They use the Autodesk Product Design Suite to do all those "buzzwordy things", like "improve efficiency", "increase time to market", "reduce errors".  Buzzwords!  Ding! Ding! Ding!

And of course, these are all good things we all strive for!

What I really like about this story, aside from it involving the "home team", is how Enviroguard is combining the different tools in the Suite. 

They use Autodesk Inventor with iLogic customization to create new designs, Autodesk Showcase to create the visualization for the design, and Autodesk 3ds Max to create very realistic looking instructions for installing the systems.

And finally, Autodesk Vault keeps track of the data as it flows around the system, making sure that design are being used, and reused, as efficiently as possible.

But I'll let Enviroguard speak for themselves with the video below.  I think they have a unique approach to create a truly "holistic" system.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Editing Tables Inserted into Autodesk Inventor Drawings

“We definitely have noticed more interest in table games.”
Todd Moyer

In last weeks blog post, I showed how to insert a table created in Microsoft Excel into an Autodesk Inventor Drawing.  

But with that table placed into the  drawing, there's an additional benefit I think makes this work flow worth considering.

When the Excel table is inserted onto the drawing, it maintains a link back to the Excel file, which make it what many like to refer to as "a single source of truth". 

In other words, the Excel table can be updated, and all files looking at that table update as well. 

Taking the example I used in my last blog post, I used Excel to create a chart that showed small tools and preferred vendors for a wood working project.  I used it as a quick way of inserting standard information without recreating the table.

The Excel table used in my previous blog.
I've taken this particular table, and inserted it onto two different drawings, which will be using the same information, one is the Saturday table I used in last weeks blog, the other, a blanket chest for a different project.

The Saturday Table

The Blanket Chest
 For this scenario, I'm going to say that Reed Wood Supply has been purchase by "Blue Sun" (who recognizes that movie reference?). 

I'm going to stick with them as a vendor, and just swap "Reed Wood Supply" with "Blue Sun".

To do that, I open up my Excel table, and make the changes.  I can do this in one of two ways.

The first is to just open the Excel table up by browsing to it from Excel, the other is to locate it's link in Inventor's browser, right click, and choose "Edit".

Browsing to the File in Excel

Right Click and Edit in Inventor's browser.

Either way, I can now modify the file and save it.

Changing to "Blue Sun"

Once saved, the tables will update to reflect the new changes in both drawings.

The updated table

 I've noticed that when I right click and choose edit from the browser, the table may not refresh right away.  If that happens, right click on the table, and choose, "Update" .   After that, all should be as it should be.

Updating the table manually.

There is one other capability of this method I find intriguing  If the table is edited like an Inventor Table, additional rows can be added to the table for a particular drawing.  However, these rows that are added don't propagate back to the Excel table.

I like the thought of this because if a particular project uses mostly the same "common" table items, but has a few that are unique, I can stick them onto the end of the table, and getting the best of both worlds.

To accomplish these steps, right click on the table and choose edit.

Next, right click on the edge of the border, and choose "Insert Row".

Now enter the desired values and repeat as needed.  In this example, a different finish is being used on the Saturday table, so I've added a finer grit sandpaper and spar varnish to the vendor list.  Since the table was edited in Inventor this time, only the drawing where I made the edits is changed. 

The rest remain the same, allowing me to keep common what I want to keep common, and add where I need to add. 

The two tables compared to their Excel source.  Notice the added items on the top table.

So that's it.  Utilizing the Excel table as a single reference, and making edits to accomplish different results.  I do like some of the things I see here, and I think I'll utilize this more in the future.

I hope you can to. 

And to wrap this up, check out the video on this work flow below!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

From 2D Picture to 3D Model. Ready, Set, 123D Catch!

“It's funny what a picture can do.”
Ira Hayes 

Technology marches on at an alarming rate sometimes, as a matter of fact, probably faster and faster every day.

I remember when looking up directions meant using a paper map.  I recall when "dropping a dime" actually meant dropping a dime into a coin slot on a pay phone, and when sending mail required the use of pen and paper. 

Now, just today, I simultaneously setup software on computers in Dallas and Pennsylvania without leaving my chair in Southern California.  After completing that, I used my phone to get directions (with live traffic updates), and drove home while simultaneously chatting with a friend in Arizona.

Times have changed.... And I do find myself wondering what technology the kids of today will see unfold in their lifetime.

Tonight I stumbled onto a video of what a student is doing with the Autodesk Technology 123D Catch.   

All I can said is: "Wow". 

If you don't know what 123D Catch is, it's a technology that lets someone take multiple pictures of an object, and stitch it into a 3D model that can be used for creating concepts, presentations, and event 3D printed models. 

But I'll leave it to the video to describe.   The student creating the models, Ehsan Noursalehi, shows how much an imagination person can do with new technology. I especially like how he uses Mudbox and 3dsMax to make the most of the scanned object!

It surely inspires me!  I hope it inspires all of us! 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Guest Video on Adjusting Shadow Cutoff Settings in Autodesk Showcase

“Hopefully my experience can help a little bit. I'm just a small piece of the puzzle."
 Ed Jovanovski

Over the years that I've strolled this earth, I've come to learn that just as important as knowing something, is knowing where to find something. 

One of my favorite places for finding information that help improve my skills in Autodesk Showcase is Marion Landry's YouTube Channel

Marion has some fantastic Showcase tips and I've learned many a new trick that have helped make my renderings better. 

In this video, she shows how to adjust shadows for the best appearance, and prevent them from getting "cut off" and just not looking right. 

Have a look at her video below!  Thank you Marion for sharing!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Inserting Microsoft Excel Tables into Autodesk Inventor Drawings

“True luck consists not in holding the best of the cards at the table; luckiest he who knows just when to rise and go home”
John Ray

Last week I found myself working with tables in Autodesk Inventor drawings, and realized that I'd forgotten a nice little capability drawings have.  Among being able to import tables and parameters from parts and assemblies, as well as iPart and iAssembly tables, they can (insert drum roll) also import a list directly from Microsoft Excel.

The first question one might ask is simply, "Why?"  Why keep a table in Excel, instead of creating it directly inside of Inventor? 

While they may not apply to everyone out there in the "Verse", I think they're still reasons to consider.

1) Does the person creating the tables know Inventor?  What if the Excel tables are maintained by someone who doesn't know Inventor, and doesn't need to know Inventor

2) What if I want to use calculations in my Excel chart?
3) What if the Excel chart is one of a few different standard tables, any of which can be inserted into a drawing based on the need of the product produced by the drawing.

So if a reasons such as this applies, here's how that Excel Table can be brought into Inventor's drawing:

First I have the model who's drawing I'm going to work with.  It's a small wooden end table designed to be built on a Saturday, hence it's name "Saturday Table".  

The Saturday Table or "Project"

And to prevent confusion between the "Saturday Table" and "Excel table".  I'm going to refer to the "Saturday Table" as "project" from this point forward!

For this project, I have a table of small tools I'll need, such as router bits, sandpaper, and so on.  I'm going to put this on the drawing for a reference to which tools I need, and which vendors I prefer.

The chart in Excel
The drawing where the table will go

The first step to insert the table onto my drawing, is to select the "General Table" icon on the Annotations tab.

Finding the icon

The Table dialog box opens up next.   Choose the "Browse" icon to start looking for a file to import.

Begin Browsing for a file.

Notice the file types to import.  In addition to Inventor models, the Excel formats, *.xls, *.xlsx, and *.csv are included.  I'm going to choose my Excel file "Vendor list.xlsx", and choose open.

Choosing my Excel table

 With the file selected, I can choose my options for the chart.  Notice the Start Cell and Column Header Row settings?  I changed these to reflect the information in my Excel table. My data, the information about the tools, starts in cell 'A3'.  The names of the columns, that is, the headers, is located in row 2. 

Setting up the table import

The table now is placed on the drawing.  The image below shows the table as inserted, without any changes. 

The "as imported" table

I do have to change the title of the table, as I have yet to find a way to import it from Excel.  I can also stretch the cells by dragging their borders to get them to appear the way I'd like them to.  To get even more formatting tools, right click on the table and choose "Edit".

The cells have been stretched by dragging, right click to edit the format

When the edit dialog opens up, I'm going to select the "Table Layout" icon, indicated in the image below, and change the Table's title.  I'm also going to move the header to the bottom of the table, and reverse the direction of the list so I can dock it on top of my title block.

Changing the settings
And done!

And of course.  There has to be a video!  So for the video, see below!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Increasing Shaded View Resolution in Autodesk Inventor

“If a window of opportunity appears, don't pull down the shade.”
Tom Peters

This week is a short tip, due to some required domestic repairs around the house.  A gate pulled out its hinges, so a big part of my blog time was spent fixing that.

Time to get busy!

All that's left is the painting!
Fortunately the gate is repaired, except for a little paint, and there's still some time left for blogging!

So here we go!

 One tip that I've always thought was helpful was how to set Autodesk Inventor's drawing settings to get the crispest shaded view possible.  It's one of those settings I usually check right away.

Sometimes, when zooming in closely on a shaded view, the colors appear blurry.  It's almost like water colors were used to create an artistic effect.   In this example using the section view of a bicycle fork, the colors can even run into each other, making it more difficult to see the components clearly.

The bicycle fork used in this exercise.

The colors bleeding together on the drawing.  It would be nice to clear these up.
Fortunately, this isn't a difficult setting to change.

First, find the "Tools" tab, and choose "Document Settings".

Finding Document Settings
On the Document Settings dialog box, choose the "Drawing" tab.  On this tab will be a section simply called "Shaded Views".  Change the "Use Bitmap" option from "Always", to "Offline Only.

Changing the setting.
 Click okay, and check out the section view.  Much better!

A crisper looking shaded view

There is one more tip, however!  If you want this setting to be used in all future drawings, check the drawing templates and make sure the setting is changed there!  This will make sure any new drawing is using the desired shaded view setting!

And of course there has to be a video to go with it!  So below you'll find the video version of the tip. 

And one more video, purely for fun!  Here's a video of the Planes of Fame F-86 Sabre and Mig-15 flying formation at the Living History Event on February 2nd.  The camera perspective is really cool!  I thought it was really interesting to see the leading edge slats on the F-86 working!

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Using Pack and Go! Now from Autodesk Vault

“I do sense an extra zip,”
Wendell Phillips

In last week's blog post, I showed how Pack and Go could be used from within Autodesk Inventor.  But what if we're using Autodesk Vault?

It's got a Pack and Go too, and it has a few extra options that aren't found in the Autodesk Vault version.

For this example, I'll use the same jig I used last week.

To begin, how does one access Pack and  Go in Vault?

  • First, I choose the assembly to pack up, and go to the File>Pack and Go Pulldown.    

Starting the Pack and Go

  • This will bring up the dialog box with the options I can choose from. 

The Pack and Go dialog box

  • There are several options I can choose from.  I'll briefly mention each, and tell you which I prefer.  Naturally, your options may vary.  It all depends on what you like, and what you're trying to accomplish. 

What format do you want?

  • First is the Package Type, where I can choose from the following options
    • Zip file (my preference): Places all the files in a zipped file in a location I choose
    • Unzipped: Places all the files in a location I choose, in an unzipped format
    • DWFx Package: Places visualization files in a DWFx format in a folder I choose
    • DWF Package: Places visualization files in a DWF format in a folder I choose
  • Recall that Vault remembers versions of the files placed there.  The Pack and Go tool allows me to choose which version to use.  I'm usually sending out the latest file.

What version do you want?

  • Next is the "Send to" option.  Where do I want to send the files?

Where do you want your files sent?

    • Destination folder: Places the files in a folder I choose
    • Mail recipient: Opens up my email program to send the files out.  If you choose this option, make sure the collected files aren't so big, your e-mail system can't send them!  This size varies from mail system to mail system! 

  • The next option is output structure.  It defines how the folders of the files is configured. 
How do you want your files delivered?

    • Single Path: Condenses all the files into a single path.  I like this option when I'm not using zipped files. 
    • Keep Folder Hierarchy: Maintains the Vault folder structure in the exported files.
  • The next option is a preview option.  The indicated icons let me choose between viewing via the folder structure (left), or list view (right).  I prefer list, but which you choose is up to you!
The Preview options

  • The next icon indicated at the bottom of the dialog allows for the fine tuning of the files.  I can choose to include dependents (clicked), or exclude them (unclicked).  The preview will show what files are exported.  I prefer to include dependents.

  • The final icon is for settings.  This option brings up a second dialog box that allows me to find tune my Pack and Go options. 

  • The screen capture shows my preferences.  But here is a quick summary of what I prefer. 
    • Include Dependents: This is actually the same setting as above.  It chooses whether or not dependent files are included. 
    • Include Attachments: This includes any files attached using Vault's "Attach" tool
    • Include Library Files: Includes any files placed in a library folder
    •  Include dependent files:  This includes any files that depend on the files I've selected for Pack and Go.  This can include drawings, so select this one carefully!  I keep this checked. 
    • Include Visualization Files: Includes visualization files in a dwf or dwfx format
    • Exclude Visualization Files: Excludes any visualization files (this is my usual preference)
    • Visualization Files Only: Exports visualization files only, and excludes the model files. 

So there it is!  Autodesk Vault's Pack and Go in a big nutshell.  There are a lot of options, so I hope this helps out.  This can be a great tool for sending files to vendors or contractors, and can even be a way of archiving files. 

Take a look and see how it might help you! 

And as always, check out the video below!