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Sunday, July 01, 2012

Open the Right Door - Changing AutoCAD's Default Open Location

“What Romantic terminology called genius or talent or inspiration is nothing other than finding the right road empirically, following one's nose, taking shortcuts.”
Italo Calvino

As you might have noticed, I had a long trip out of the USA to Edmonton, Canada for work.  It was a great trip that I enjoyed, but I'm still playing a bit of catchup.

So this week's blog is a bit brief, but does contain a lesson that I've been wanting to share. Once I'm caught up again, I'll be looking to create some more "verbose" blog posts!

One thing I've always liked about Autodesk Inventor's project file is it's ability to set a Workspace that defines a root open and save location for all your Inventor files.   It's always helped me keep things a little more organized.

The Workspace helps organize your files

It's a bit of assistance I've always been grateful for.

Although I don't use AutoCAD as much as I did back in the days of R14, I did want a way to direct AutoCAD to do something similar.  Open in the directory I'd like.

Fortunately, there is a way to do it.  It's a two step process.

First take the AutoCAD shortcut, right click on it, and choose "Properties".

Choosing the shortcut.

The Properties screen for the shortcut appears.  Next, choose the "Shortcut" tab and change the "Start in" directory to the desired directory.

Setting the new open location

This tells AutoCAD to start in the folder you define.  But there's one more step.

Open up AutoCAD and type "REMEMBERFOLDERS" at the command line. If AutoCAD is set to default, the setting will be "1".  Change this to "0". 

Now when you start AutoCAD and choose the open or save command, it will open in the folder you set in the shortcut.

Have any suggestions on how you've approached this challenge?  Drop a comment below!

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Return From the Canada. Back in Los Angeles

“There is a magic in that little world, home; it is a mystic circle that surrounds comforts and virtues never known beyond its hallowed limits”
 Robert Southey

After a week in Edmonton, Canada, I'm back home. 

It was a busy week of working, not sleeping quite enough (those long Canadian nights really kept me up)!

But it was a great experience of seeing a  different part of the world, meeting new friends, and learning a little more about installing Autodesk Vault in the process.

Canada, you're a great neighbor with wonderful people.  I'm grateful for the opportunity I had to visit! 

But while I enjoyed the trip, and I'm grateful for the experience, it's good to be home!

I have some ideas for a future blog or two coming up.  But for this Friday night, here's a few of pictures from the trip.  Tonight, I have an appointment to catch up on some lost sleep!  They're long summer evenings meant I was staying up a little later than a boy should!   :-)

The Maple Leaf.  I'm not in the U.S. now!
I saw electrical connections in every parking lot.  At first I thought Edmonton might have a lot of electric cars.  Then I found out it was for the engine block warmers!  In winter it can get well into negative digits!

Open fields in a city.  Not something you see much of in Los Angeles, sadly.

The view of Downtown Edmonton from Sherwood Park, were I stayed.

A friend who is an Edmonton native hooked me up with the local Starbucks!  Thanks Irene!

All over.  My ride back to L.A.'s concrete jungle.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Visit to the Great White North - Welcome to Edmonton.

This week's blog is only a brief one, due to a trip to Edmonton, Canada for an Autodesk Vault install.  I spent most of today traveling. But I'll likely come back with some new installation lessons to share!

My office this AM.  A Boeing 737.

But on that theme of Vault, I'll give a brief lesson life taught me last week.

That them is: "If it's crazy, and it works, it's not crazy."

I ran into a Vault installation that was crashing when files were checked in from Autodesk Inventor.   The files would start to check in, then BOOM, Inventor would go to ground.

We checked system virtual space, service packs, and server logs.

No smoking gun jumped at us.

Finally a suggestion came out of the blue.  "Test it without publishing a DWF on checkin.  I have a feeling we've got a bad video card."

We were out of ideas, so what the heck, right?

We tried it.

Turning off the DWF Publish option

The files checked in perfectly.

We scratched our heads, and checked the video card.  Sure enough it was below spec.

We never thought of that one!  

So what's that lesson?  Sure, if your Vault is crashing on checkin, try turning off the DWF publishing.  That's the easy lesson.

But the other?  Don't dismiss something too quickly.  We never thought about the DWF publishing, but thankfully, someone else did. 

"If it's crazy, and it works..."

The other thing.  Send in those CERs, or Customer Error Reports to Autodesk, and make sure ot add your e-mail address.

Because it was an astute Autodesk tech, looking at that CER that had the suggestion that solved our issue. The CER showed the crash was happening when the DWF visualization file was created.

So there will be new video cards to be had, and more testing to be done, but we're now on the trail of what caused the issue.

So if you run into your own issues, send in those CERs, and try the stuff that makes no sense.

You might just be on to something...

Have an unusual solution you encountered to an usual problem you encountered?  Share it!  Leave a comment!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Details! Details! - Changing Labels in an iLogic Form

“Never neglect details. When everyone's mind is dulled or distracted the leader must be doubly vigilant.”
Colin Powell

While looking over my iLogic video last week on creating forms,  I had what could only be described as a "facepalm" moment.

Yeah.  It was one of those moments.

I talked about everything but how to rename the labels!  By Default, the labels identifying the parameters in form take the form name.  But you don't have to keep them!  They can be changed!

Example of labels in an existing iLogic form.
Now, changing labels is, for the most part, pretty simple.  But I'd hate to imply that  it can't be done by leaving it out!

The steps are pretty simple.  First, edit the form from the iLogic browser.  It's on the "Forms" tab.  Just right click on the rule you want to change, and choose "edit"

Choose the form to edit.
The form editor will pop up.  Just double click on a label to change it.  The description in the form will change.

The process of changing the form "Board Width" has been changed "Board Thickness" is in the process of being changed.
 So there it is!  Not difficult, but a good to know.

So go ahead and go wild on creating forms! 

Have an idea or an interesting use for iLogic!  Feel free to drop a comment!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Using an iLogic Form to Make a Rule User Friendly in Autodesk Inventor

“Everything that is simple is theoratically false, everything that is complicated is pragmatically useless.”
 Marleen Paul Valery

In last week's blog.  I created an iLogic rule that changed the length, width, and thickness of a board for the template I use in my woodworking projects.  It also turned the tenon joint on and off, as well as setting the dimensions of the tenon.

But, while effective, the rule could be refined to make it more effective.  This is especially true when looked at with respect to ease of use.

So in this blog post, we don't make the rule.  We make the rule better.

How do we do that?  We create a dialog box, or form, that makes the rule easier to interact with.  It puts all the critical inputs in one simple, easy to use interface.

The board with the form open.

To create the form, right click in the iLogic Browser, and choose "Add Form"

Adding the new form
Next, drag and drop the desired parameters from left to right to create the form.  That's it!

Drag from left to tight to build the form.
Labels of Parameters can also be changed, so you can make them look exactly the way you want them to.

We'll also set up two types of triggers.  This will help control when the form is displayed.

The first, is an Event Trigger that will start the form when the template starts. 

The second, will fire the form when the iLogic "iTrigger" icon is clicked. This will let us fire the rule, "at will".

In order to create the iTrigger functionality, add a new rule by clicking "Add Rule" from the iLogic Panel on the Manage tab.

The :"Add Rule" icon
Give the rule a name, and type the following code.

'Fires rule when "iTrigger" icon is clicked
trigger = iTrigger0
'Shows form named "Board Options"
iLogicForm.Show("Board Options")

Where "Board Options" is the name of the form created.

Now this rule will fire when the 'iTrigger" icon is clicked.

Next, we add an "Event Trigger" which fires the rule when the template starts.

Selecting the Event Trigger
Setting the rule to fire when the template starts.
Now of course, this blog post wouldn't be complete without a video!  So here it is!

Have more ideas?  Leave a comment!

P.S. If you'd like to download the part used for this blog post. It's located on the GrabCAD website here!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Turning Features On & Off - An iLogic Enabled Template in Autodesk Inventor

“You can't keep putting bodies against it. It's becoming too quick and complex. You have to automate the process and have standard policies.”
Andrew Bird

One of the side projects I work on semi-regularly is designing furniture in Autodesk Inventor.  Mostly, that means taking designs that I find on the web or in books, and increasing the detail to the point of having full piece and assembly drawings.

I quickly learned to create templates containing "board blanks".  Templates that contained a board already created, with parameters named "Length", "Width", and "Thickness".

The original template.  Just a board with Named Parameters

Instead of redrawing that geometry every time, I would start a template with the geometry already created, and I was off to the races!

But soon, I found that I was using a lot of tenon joints.  So I went ahead and created a second template with a tenon joint in it.

The tenon "enabled" template.  With it's extra parameters

And I was proud of my ingenuity.

But now the challenge I faced was caused by my poor memory.  There were many times I grabbed one of the templates, then part way through realized I should have grabbed the other template!

So I simplified my templates to one template that contained all I needed.

 I created a template where I could control the suppression of the tenon using an iLogic Multi-Value List.  Now I had something I could toggle on and off at will.  With the flip of a switch, a "standard" board, or a "tenon" board.

The combined template.  The Multi-Value List shown with it's two options

And I was *very* proud of my ingenuity!

But now, to "add octane to the mix" as said by Paul Munford in his blog post on "The CAD Setter Out"

Over time, here and there, I created a better interface.

Over the years, and releases of Inventor, utilizing spurts of motivation to overcome barren planes of procrastination,  I added a dialog box.  Now I had something that was easier to interact with then opening parameters

A few months later, I got around to setting the dialog box greet you on file creation, saving the trouble of activating manually.

After completing that task only a few weeks ago, I decided to share this template with the world, so to speak.  

This is one of those blog posts that frankly, I procrastinated on a bit.  Why?  It's a lot to write up.

So to ease the task I'm breaking it up into parts.  So, first, let's get something functional.

How to Suppress and Unsuppress the Tenon!

For starters, name your parameters.  It makes them easier to work with when creating your code.

 Note the bottommost parameter "Joint Type" this is a multi-list that sets what type of joint is used.

Also, note there are a "Shoulder_Length" and an "Overall_Length" parameter.  This parameters are toggled depending on whether or not a tenon is placed on the part.  Ultimately, this parameter can be exported to the parts list for a cut length.

The Parameter list. 

Once those parameters are created.  Create an iLogic rule and use the following code to drive the rule.

'If Parameter "Joint_Type" is "Tenon Joint", then unsuppress the feature named "Tenon"
If Joint_Type = "Tenon Joint" Then
Feature.IsActive("Tenon") = True
'Set Value of Length equal to Parameter "LengthOL" (for eventual parts list export)
Length = LengthOL

'If Parameter "Joint_Type" is "Regular Joint", then suppress Feature named "Tenon"
ElseIf Joint_Type = "Regular Joint" Then
Feature.IsActive("Tenon") = False
'Set Value of Length equal to Parameter "Shoulder_Length"(for eventual parts list export)
Length = Shoulder_Length
End If

Check out the video below for the fulls steps.

In Conclusion

This portion of the blog only gets to that "functional" part of the rule  It works great, but it requires that the parameter screen be opened every time.  It may not be elegant, but it is effective.

I ran it like this for quite sometime?  Why?  It worked, and I never got around to further tweaking.

It's that classic case where I fell victim to "good enough".

In the next post, we'll add a form and make this rule run more efficiently and more user friendly.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Postponing this Weeks Blog a Bit

“Vacation is what you take when you can't take what you've been taking any longer.”

This weekend I had a nice getaway with friends in Big Bear, Ca where we attended the Victorian Days Faire.

As always, fun was had by all, but there was no blogging to be done.

Look for a blog later this week!  I've got some things in mind, I just have to sit down and build up the video.

Until then here's a few pictures from the Faire

Old buildings on the Faire Grounds

Gallows Humor.  One of the entertaining bands.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Simplfy... Simplify Me - Inventor Simplfication from Autodesk Labs


In my post last week, I talked about how you could remove features and voids using some of the new tools in Autodesk Inventor 2013


Now, while cruising about the internet, I find Inventor Simplification. Brought to us by the team at Autodesk Labs

Admittedly, this tool did come out back in April, but I only got to install and start driving it late last week.  

So what about it is so wonderful that it warrants a blog post? 

I was impressed by the workflow.  There are only four tools, all located on a "Simplfy" tab that's added to Inventor's ribbon.


Just for buttons!  That's it.




  Another plus, is the flow is pretty natural, at least in my humble opinion.  The basic steps are:

  • Select the components to be added to the simplification by picking, or using a filter for external parts

    • Inventor Simplify creates a View representation containing the parts selected

  • Export the parts to an Inventor part file that now contains the simplified geometry.  If desired, the exported geometry can be edited further by patching holes.  This removes additional detail, or even voids.

Optionally,  components can be reduced into "envelopes".  In other words, show the volume the components occupy, without showing the actual component.  Handy for removing that intellectual property you don't want to show!

Additionally, if components need to be removed from the simplification, the View Representation can be edited. This makes it a lot easier to make adjustments.

An example of a simplified component

As always, I've got a video where you can take a look at the process.  If, after seeing the video, you can't wait to get your hands on it, you can download it at the link here

Have thoughts or cool uses for Inventor Simplfication?  Throw out a comment.

On a more personal note.  I've tried removing the "bookend" slides from the video.  I'm looking for a little feed back on if the users out there would like them better "out" or "in".  Let me know! 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Removing Features and Voids Using Autodesk Inventor 2013's Derived Component Tool

About that time, stronger features became fashionable on the screen.
Marie Windsor

Many of us have been there before.  We need to send our 3D CAD assembly to a 3rd party, like a vendor, for example.  But we don't want to directly export the full 3D model.

Why?  The 3D model contains all the information required to build the components within the assembly.  The "feature rich" assembly may be overkill because the extra information, such as internal cavities, may create a model that is "overly heavy and complicated" for the end user.

Even worse, giving them that feature rich model may give away proprietary information that may allow an unscrupulus end user to take advantage of our hard work.

Would you always want to send out a model with all this detail to a 3rd party>?

In older versions of Autodesk Inventor, you could derive the assembly into a part model, and use standard Inventor part modeling tools to remove the excess features.  You could even use Autodesk Inventor Fusion if you wanted.

But this process took time, and while it might be worth it to protect intellectual property, who doesn't want a faster way.

As of Autodesk Inventor 2013, there is a way.

To take advantage of this new tool, the model is still derived into a part file using the Derived Component too, just like before.

We still go into Derived Component

We can still go into the Options tab, and change how the assembly is derived and remove parts and features that we don't need.

But now check out the "Options" tab for the new options.

But a new option in this window is to remove internal voids that allow the part to be quickly simplified.  With the addition of this tool, manually filling holes, voids, and generally "dumbing down" an assembly can be reduced, or even eliminated.

Remove voids!  The new tool! 

So on that note, here's a video that shows both the steps, and the result of a quick simplification of a component.

Have a suggestion on how you approach this challenge?  Drop a comment below! 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Where's my "Show All Constraints" Tool?!? - Autodesk Inventor 2013

“If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.”
Buddhist Proverb

Show All Constraints.  It's been in Autodesk Inventor since I started way back in the days of Release 4.  It was available from the right click menu, or by hitting the F8 key. 

The right click menu from Inventor 2012.  The "Show All Constraints" option is there like it's always been!

Just today I fired up Inventor 2013, and started up Inventor 2013, created a sketch, and right clicked to show all my constraints.

Guess what?  It wasn't there!  The hotkey (F8) still works, but it wasn't on the right click menu any more.

I puzzled for a second, then I face-palmed.

I remembered reading in the What's New for Autodesk Inventor 2013 that it was moved to the new Status Bar at the bottom of the screen!

I found it!

Along with the Show Constraints tool: some other familiar tools have been moved there (listed in order, from left to right):

  • Snap to Grid
  • Show/Hide All Constraints
  • Dimension Display
  • Slice Graphics
  • Show/Hide All Degrees of Freedom
And if you want more info on these tools, check out the Wikihelp here for the full rundown

But I like the old way better!

Now, I know that there are those out there who are asking; "Why can't we make it like it was in 2012 and earlier?"

If you are on that team, you're in luck!

Go to the "Tools' ribbon, and choose the "Customize" icon.

Choose Customize
On the dialog that appears, choose the "Marking Menu" tab.  Then in the lower left hand side, pull the fly-out open and set the Overflow Menu to "Full Menu".

Click "OK" and the settings will be back to the older style settings!

Back to "old school"
So there it is, a few of the Inventor 2013 changes, and some ways to go back to your last release settings.

I hope the tip helped!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Migrating Colors and Materials into Autodesk Inventor 2013

“A hard fall means a high bounce... if you're made of the right material.”

A new change in Autodesk Inventor 2013 is how materials and colors are handled.  Instead of being a part of the Styles and Standards libraries, like in previous versions of Inventor.  Now, they're stored in Appearance Libriares (for colors), and Material Libraries (for materials).

The location of the new libraries can be seen by looking at the project file.

The libraries as shown in the Project File
But what if there are old libraries that have been created over time?  We wouldn't want to throw them out and start over right.  So there has to be a way to migrate them, right?

Well, of course there is!  (or else I wouldn't have anything to blog about).

But how are the libraries migrated? 

It's fairly simple, once you know where to look, as I'm so fond of saying,

There are two places to access the Appearance and Materials Libraries.

The first is from the quick access toolbars.

The second, off the Tools Ribbon on the Materials and Appearance Panel.

On the Tools Ribbon
Choosing either icon will bring up the browser for that particular library.  

Migrating to both the Material and Appearance Libraries is a matter of clicking on the "gear" icon in the lower left hand selecting "Migrate Inventor Styles".

The dialog for Materials.  The Appearance dialog is nearly identical.

The source (the library to be migrated) is selected, followed by the destination library.

However, there are two destinations to send your migrated folder, one is to create a new library, the other, select an existing library.

So what to do?

There's two theories.  One is to migrate your old libraries to a newly created one, and remove the old Inventor libraries.  This makes sure you have "one truth" for those materials.

The other, is to merge them into the existing library.  The important, custom materials will be there.

Which did I choose?  Personally I used "Create New Library.  For me, it was a little easier to have that "one version" of the truth.  I can remove one library later if I don't want it.

Hit okay, and the migration begins.

Soon, the migrated Material Library is complete.

The best part now, migrating the Color Library to the Appearance Library.  Why is it so good?  It's basically the same steps!  If you've done the Material Library, you can do the Appearance Library.

Naturally, it wouldn't be a blog post without a video.  So here we go!

Do you have input on how you might have migrated your own libraries!  Throw a comment below!

P.S. If you're interested in how to migrate Dimension Styles, Sheet Metal Styles, etc.  Check out last week's blog here! 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

There's Been a Change or Two - Migrating Styles Libraries from Inventor 2012 to Inventor 2013

“Good as it is to inherit a library, it is better to collect one”
Augustine Burrell

When I first started working with Autodesk Inventor 2013, I thought that migrating the Styles and Standards (colors, sheet metal styles, dimension styles, etc), would be exactly the same as in 2012.

I even tried it, and everything worked fine. 

But earlier this week a KETIV colleague, Javier Chavez, asked me a question.

"Have you noticed that the Design Data folder was restructured in Inventor 2013?

I hadn't noticed the change.  But as we looked at Windows folder structure, discussed migration procedures, puzzled, and discussed some more, we found that the folder structure had indeed changed.

Notice the difference between folder structure in Inventor 2013 (left) & Inventor 2012 (right).

"That's going to make migration important."  I understated.

So I deleted my Inventor 2013 Design Data, and tried it again.  Sure enough, the process was different.

In brief, the biggest difference is Inventor 2012 (and earlier), migrated the data in place.  So you copied your old data to a new location, and migrated it there.

Inventor 2013 on the other hand takes your data and copies it to the new location, migrating it during the process. 

Source folder, destination folder, and a waiting migration button!

This was the difference I'd missed the first time.

So before I show you the video, here's one thing to always remember!

Have a backup of your Design Data folder! 

I cannot stress this enough!  If you make a mistake, you can always delete the migrated files, and try again with the backup you created. 

As a matter of fact, I did this several times testing out the migration to make sure what I thought was going to happen, was really what was going to happen.

As I was once told.  "If you think you don't need a backup.  Stop and ask yourself the following question.  When was the last time you regretted having a backup?"

In other words, make the stinking backup.  It takes a few minutes, and can save you hours of having to live in the "Purgatory of Data Recreation".

Monday, May 07, 2012

It's all over! The Planes of Fame 2012 Airshow.

"Is this old airplane safe? Well, my dear, how do you think it gotto be this old?"

In my last blog, I said that there wouldn't be much Autodesk Inventor blogging today.

That's because this weekend was the Planes of Fame airshow in Chino, Ca.  It was a great weekend of volunteer work, that was exhausting, and exhilarating all at the same time.

And it always gives me pause to look up at the history in the air, and think of what it must have been like "back then".  I'm glad there are so many working to keep this history alive. 

So for your enjoyment, (if you'd like), here are a few pictures from the show. 

Once I catch up on lost sleep, and the pain of my sunburn fades, I'll be sure to have some more CAD stuff up! 

Until then, enjoy some warbird pictures!

Planes of Fame Airshow 2012

Friday, May 04, 2012

Save and Replace - Autodesk Inventor's Copy Component with a Twist

All the learning in the world cannot replace instinct.
Robert Ley

In my blog post last week, I talked about using Copy Component inside an assembly.  It's a tool I really like, and use frequently.

But if you saw the comments at the bottom of that post, there were some comments by some very astute user that spoke about "Save and Replace Component", and how they prefer it.

Save and Replace.  It's here, but hiding.
Now I'm not hear to tell you how "I'm right and they're wrong".  Why?  Because they're not wrong.  It's a fine tool!

Personally, I like Copy Component where I need to use both the original, and the copy in the same assembly. 

On the other hand, I like Save and Replace Component for those times where I need to create the copy, and swap out the copy with the original. 

The nice part about this tool?  It keeps the constraints intact.  So you don't have to recreate any constraints! 

This is where the real time savings begins.  Not to mention avoiding that monotony of having to recreate the constraints!

So here's a quick video to take a look at.  Let me know what you think about one tool, versus the other!

Have any thoughts on how you might use these tools differently?  Drop a comment!  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

P.S.  It's that time for me as a warbird geek.  This weekend (May 5th & 6th, 2012) is the Planes of Fame Airshow in Chino, Ca. 

I'm setting up Friday and breaking down Monday, so expect that my normal blog posts will be replaced by warbird pictures and geekiness until Tuesday, May 8th, 2012.

I hope you enjoy my "CAD hiatus" for the next few days.  If not, I'll see you next week, when I return to my CAD geeky self!

Until then?  Expect some tweets and maybe even a blog from the airshow! 

This will be my weekend!  Of course I can hardly wait!