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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!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pack up and go! Using Autodesk Inventor's Pack and Go Tool

“Like the circus, it needs to pack up and go.”
Kim Williams

There are times when I find I have to take a series of Autodesk Inventor files, and collect them for electronic transmission.  It can also be used to archive projects, although these days I use Vault for that mostly.

The tool I use to collect these series of files is called "Pack and Go".  Pack and go scans an inventor file, looks for the files it uses, and puts them in designated spot where they can be zipped and sent out.

For this blog post.  I'm going to borrow my Router Jig that I I like to use for one of my common examples.

My Pack and Go example today

  • I think one of the most direct ways to start the Pack and Go Operation is to have the assembly open.  The Pack and Go utility can be accessed from the Applications Icon (the "Big I")>Save As> Pack and Go.

  • The Pack and Go dialog will open up.  The first thing I like to do, is expand the dialog to it's fullest by clicking the "More" button.  This makes sure I have all the options available to me.  Even though they may be grayed out at first, they'll light up a few steps later!
Click "More" to see all options

There's an additional search that gets used later!

  • Now I choose my options for my Pack and Go operation.  Here are the options I typically use, although yours may vary based on what you're desired output is.  The help system has a good reference for the settings, so that's where all the good info can be found.

Destination Folder: Usually I just use my desktop. Typically once sent, I delete the packed files.

Copy to Single path (checked): I like to consolidate my files as much as possible.

Include Linked Files (checked):  This includes linked "non" Inventor files such as Excel, or text documents.  I check it just to make sure I don't leave any out.

Skip Libraries (checked): This makes sure I get any files in library locations.  I like to make sure I get everything I can.

Collect Workgroups (checked):   Collects files in workgroup locations into one location when packed.  I check this because just like above, I like consolidating.

Skip Styles (checked):  Leaves out the styles.  Leaves the styles behind.  In most cases I don't need them, and they just add to the megabytes I'm trying to send.

Skip Templates (checked): Just like the styles, I usually don't need to send them, and they usually take up space.

All set and ready to go!
  • Now I finally hit the "Search" button.  Pack and Go will find the files associated to the assembly I chose.

The files that make up this assembly.

  • Now, I want to make sure I get the drawings, and any presentations that this assembly uses.  That's where that second "Search" button comes in.  Notice it's "lit up" now?  This is the step where I click it!  

It will give me a list of which files it's found.  I can choose which to include.  Then include them by clicking the "Add Button".

  • Now all that's left is to click "Start"!  The files will packed to the location I choose.  All I have to do is hit "Start" and the files are away!

The files are ready to go!
  • Opening the destination location shows me the files I've sent out.  The Pack and Go tool will create a log summarizing the files sent.  It'll even create a new project file that can be used to organize the files on the "other side".  Now all that's left is to zip them and send them on their way! 

Ready for shipping!
But that's not the only way to use Pack and Go.  Another option is to find the file in Windows Explorer, right click and choose "Pack and Go" from the right click menu.  The same Pack and Go tools can be accessed from there!
Another way to Pack and Go.,
The last, is via Design Assistant, where a right click on will invoke the Pack and Go.  But it's so much easier to grab it from Inventor, or by right clicking in Windows Explorer, I can't recall the last time I used this approach.

But it's still valid nonetheless!

And to see the steps in a video form, take a look below!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A blog post delayed a few days

“Snowboarding is an activity that is very popular with people who do not feel that regular skiing is lethal enough.”
Dave Barry

Every once in a while, even I take a break. 

This weekend was one of those weekends where I did just that, as I took a weekend snowboarding holiday at Mammoth Mountain.

Because of that, this blog post gets pushed back a bit, as I recover from the weekend. 

I think you can see why it was a worth while break!

Looking down toward Lake Crawley.  The clouds have obscured the valley.

We got a little snow there.
Even the drive home is stunning!

 But look for some info in the next couple of days.  I still have a post planned!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Rotating Ordinate Dimension Text via Dimension Styles in Autodesk Inventor

“I should be soaring away with my head tilted slightly toward the gods, feeding on the caviar of Shakespeare. An actor must act.”

In the last couple of weeks, I've been asked the same question has come up.

How do I rotate my ordinate dimension text 90 degrees?

The next I need to rotate

It's a question that comes up every so often, goes away, then comes back. 

Looking back in my archives, I've realized I've never created a blog post for this one, so here it is.  How to rotate ordinate dimension text 90 degrees!

  • First, choose the dimension style I want to edit, right click, and select "Edit Dimension Style".  I can also go to the Styles Manager on the Manage tab, but the right click method is a little quicker I think.

Editing the dimension style
  • The Dimension Style Editor appears, selected the dimension style.  Click the "Text" tab.

The text tab, where to look
  • This section contains the settings for text orientation.  Select the "Vertical Orientation Tab", and rotate the text to be vertical instead of the default, which is horizontal.  Save and close the Dimension Style Editor.

Changing the setting

And it's done!  One last step would be to save it to the styles library, and make sure it's available to all the drawings, if desired.

Saving to the Styles Library.
But that is it.  As I've said too many times before, 'Not hard, when you know where to look".  But indeed, it's just a matter of looking in the right place.

And naturally, there has to be a video that goes with it, so here it is!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Embedding vs. Lilnking images in Autodesk Inventor - The Poll's have Closed

“I'm not going to have opinions. I'm not going to cause problems. I'm going to go with the flow.”
Milton Bradley

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a blog on embedding images to title blocks in Autodesk Inventor, and stated that embedding is my personal preference.

That blog received comments from a few users who strongly favor linking images in, for a variety of reasons that are completely reasonable.   Those comments can be seen on the original post linked above.

I also got responses on my Twitter account from users who had equally strong opinions favoring embedding.

Inspired by this I tried my hand at creating a survey on embedding images into Autodesk Inventor's drawing resources, or linking them.  Just to see what the "interverse" would say.

 I left the survey open for about a week, and the results are in!

The responses to the survey weren't huge.  26 people in total responded to my poll.  Of those 26 responses, 23 favored embedding images, and 3 favored linking.

The results are in!

So from this small survey, what conclusions do I draw?  That is, other than 23 out of 26 people prefer embedding? 

While my inbox wasn't flooded with responses, I would say the results are consistent with my experience "in the field". 

I could also say that I've been validated, seeing how embedding is what I prefer to do on my personal files. 

Yay me. 

But in this respect, I'm no different that the average CAD jockey.  I'm just a user that's made choices based on my own, personal needs.

So validating my personal opinions isn't what I was after.  And for those of you who might be wondering, I did not cast a vote on this poll!

I've learned that there is a strong minority that does prefer linking.  Those who prefer that method have thought this out, and are also drawing conclusions based on their design needs.

So, to quote corporate America, "What's our takeaway?' 

Most users seem to favor embedding, but there is also a minority that strongly prefer linking images in. 

My ultimate, personal, conclusion?  Keep calm and carry on.

I'm perfectly happy embedding my images, and I'm sure most of the 23 who voted for embedding agree.

For those 3 who represent the "linkers"?  Link away!  If linking makes your jobs easier, then by all means, LINK!

It was never my intention to change any one's mind.  Only to find out what choices users are making, and share those results back out to the user community.

So thanks for those who took a few minutes out of their day to share there responses.  I appreciate the participation!  Maybe I'll try another poll on this later on.  Just to see how things have changed!

Thanks again everyone!