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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Construction Geometry in Autodesk Inventor - Is it Really Necessary?

“It's a lot in construction and so it's just everywhere.”
David Roberts

Construction geometry in an Autodesk Inventor sketch is one of those topics that doesn't often get talked about.  It's not shiny or flashy, it just sits there and quietly does it's job.

Usually, construction geometry's job is to help position a sketch, or to help apply constraints, such as a symmetry constraint to the sketch. 

The question I pose in this post is, should I change a line's properties such that the line's acts as a construction line in the "Inventor sense"? 

An example of the construction line type in a sketch
I consider using construction geometry a good practice, although "no Inventor police will take you away if you don't do it".  In many cases, little difference might be seen between setting construction geometry, and not setting construction geometry. 

So what is the difference, and why bother setting construction geometry?

Here's a sketch where I've used horizontal and vertical lines to help set position, and symmetry for a sketch. The lines are all standard sketch lines.  No lines have been set to construction.

Notice that all lines are "standard" sketch lines

The first thing that usually gets noticed is when the sketch is extruded into a solid.  The sketch is now cut up into regions, because Inventor sees each line as a potential boundary for the extrusion.  In this case, I have to pick four different regions to extrude this entire sketch.

The sketch broken into regions by its own geometry

Now picking four regions might not be a big deal.  It's just a few extra clicks, right?   But now what if you need to put a draft, or taper angle, on the same solid.

The image below shows the result, since the sketch sees the internal lines as edges for the extrusion, it applies the taper there as well, created the "waffled" solid that might not be the desired result at all.

Internal geometry can change the result of the extrusion
So what happens if I change the properties of the internal geometry to "Construction"?

I'll do that by selecting the geometry I want to change, and clicking the "Construction" icon.  The line types will change to reflect the property change.

The internal lines after being changed to Construction.
But now, when I extrude that sketch, the behavior of the extrusion changes.  First, I don' t have to pick the sketch in quadrants anymore.  That's because the internal lines, set to be construction, are ignored as sketch boundaries.

Now the extrusion can be created in one step.
Secondly, if I need to apply a taper, my result is completely different.  That's also because Inventor doesn't use Construction geometry as boundaries for a feature.  The waffled feature disappears.

With Construction geometry, no waffle!

So there's a little bit on construction geometry, and why it's worth considering.  There might be plenty of places it doesn't matter, but in cases like the above, it can be useful.  I encourage you to take a look.

And of course, here's a video (with my somewhat raspy voice this week) below!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Using Capture Current State with Autodesk Inventor iLogic

The photograph itself doesn't interest me. I want only to capture a minute part of reality.
Henri Cartier-Bresson

Recently, I was working on a part where I was controlling the number of features in a pattern using iLogic.  Inevitably, I had to figure out how to take an existing feature, and change some of it's values with iLogic. 

But I didn't remember a lot of the details, like parameter names, or even the exact context for the command. 

Take a look at this automotive rim (it's just a sample file I'm using).   I want to control how many lug holes the rim has. 

This is the rim I'll be working with
Even though I've given custom names to the pattern that controls the number of holes, as well as the parameters driving the pattern, I may not know the names off hand.

I could pull them from the browser in iLogic, but that could be very time consuming if there's a lot of parameters to sift through, and it can mean a lot of scrolling up and down until the parameter is found.

And this is only one parameter, what if there were more? 

The parameter found, after a lot of scrolling up and down, though.

Another way I found that can be extremely helpful is to locate the feature, which even though there's a lot of them here, is easier to locate than a single parameter.  Once the feature is selected, right click on it and choose "Capture Current State".

Notice that I renamed the feature too.  It makes the feature I'm looking for a little easier to find.

Capturing the current state of the feature
Once the state is captured, iLogic gives me information about the current suppression of the feature, as well as grabbing the parameters associated to the features.

The current state captured
 The bonus of this method, is that I can use these values as the basis for creating my rules.  I'll start by adding my If/Then/Elseif statements.

Now, I could turn off my pattern completely if I changed the "True" to "False", like the example below:
Feature.IsActive("Lug Pattern") = False

But in this case, I'm only changing the number of Lug Holes, so I'm going to remove the lines that don't pertain to the number of lugs.

The final rule is shown in the image below:

The finished rule.
Now the rule can be checked, and verified.

4 lugs, check!

5 lugs, check!

Now this rule can be expanded by getting other states, or by using any combination of iLogic techniques.

For more information on creating an iLogic rule.  Check out my post from the archives here.

For some great iLogic resources, check out these blogs by Curtis Waguespack, and Paul Munford!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

No Blog Post this Monday!

Awesome image courtesy of
Today, I'll be skipping the usual Monday quote due to a birthday holiday.  I turned 40, and crossed into my next decade of life, which I do hope to make the best ever!

Once again, I found myself snowboarding in Mammoth, joined by good friends and having a good time.

It was incredible spring conditions!  And I rode until my legs quit working!

So here's a few pictures, and I'll have a new post coming "techie" post coming up soon!

Riding up the gondola to the top

A gorgeous spring day

A view from the top of one of the chairs.  The views alone are worth it.

The view into the Sierra Nevada range from the summit.  Yosemite and Half Dome can be seen from here!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Changing Model Orientation in Autodesk Showcase AFTER it's Imported

“Every orientation presupposes a disorientation.”
Hans Magnus Enzensberger

Last week, my post showed how the orientation of a model could be changed as it was being imported into Autodesk Showcase. (You can check out that post here)

But what if the file has already been imported?  Marion Landry of Autodesk shared a tip via the video comments that pointed it's possible after import too!  It's definitely a valuable little jem of a tool I didn't know was there!

I'm starting out with my model already imported sideways.  So there's no chance for me to fix it using the methods I used in my previous post. 

It's in sideways, and now how to fix it?
But to fix it afterward, all I have to do is go to the File>Import>Import Status Window menu, or just hit the "I" key.

Locating the import status window

Once the Import Status window appears, I'm going to right click on the name of the imported model under "Source Files".  Choose "3D Model Properites.

It's important to right click on the imported , or 3D Model Properties won't appear!

Now, I get the "Original 3D Model Properties" dialog, where I can change the units, and the "Original Up Axis".  Choosing "+Z", the model is reoriented!

So there it is, a quick way of changing orientation after a model is imported.  Thanks to Marion for taking a few minutes to show this valuable tip!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Righting the World - Changing Import Settings for Autodesk Showcase

“In the time of my life, I need more time just to make things right.”

Sometimes a that clanking sound I hear is a wrench hitting hitting my proverbial works. 

And when importing files into Autodesk Showcase from another system, the import orientation (or disorientation), can be that wrench. 

Take this for example.  Sometimes a file imports, and instead of being right side up, it's completely on its side.

Blast it! 
The easy way to fix it is to use the Transform Handles in Autodesk Showcase to correct the problem.  But what if there are positional alternatives that need to be preserved?  Rotating with Transform handles can sometimes mean rebuilding the alternatives.

Rotating with Transform Handles is sometimes an option
Fortunately, there is another option when importing files.

First, when in Showcase, choose File>Import>Import Files

Preparing to import a file.
When the import dialog box opens, choose the "Settings" button.

Choosing the import settings

Once the import settings dialog box appears, the setting for "Original up axis" can be seen.  This is where I can tell Showcase "which way is up". 

Note that you can also see the "Import Representations" checkbox in this dialog box.  So Inventor representations can be imported in as well.

Changing the orientation

If I take a quick look at the file in Inventor, I can see the +Z-axis corresponds to the top of the table.

Seeing this, I'll choose the +Z radio button, and import the files.

Selecting the +Z option
The file will import, and the orientation will correspond to the "up axis" I selected.

Oriented with representations created as alternatives!

And if you're looking for the usual video that accompanies my blog posts, here you go!

Friday, March 08, 2013

3D Printing Meets High Fashion. A 3D Printed Gown

“The fashion of the time is changed”
William Shakespeare

I decided to close this weeks blog with something from the 3D printing world that I found pretty interesting, and not just because of the "high fashion" aspect.

The first time I saw a 3D printing machine was back in about 2000 or so.  The material was expensive, fragile, and by today's standards, difficult to work with. 

And although I haven't worked closely with a 3D printing machine in years, I'm still fascinated by the technology, and watch with bated breath as 3D printers become more mainstream, and accessible to the average person.  

Earlier this week, I ran across an article talking about how the model Dita Von Teese wore a gown that was actually printed on a 3D printing machine. 

The article can be read here

Go ahead and make your jokes about the article being intereting because of the super model angle........... Okay!

The subject matter aside, the idea that a wearable garment can be printed and worn by someone.  Just think of the possibilities. 

Need a splint, cast, or sling?  Print it! 

Does someone need a special harness, mount, or accessory?  Print it!  

True, the technology may have to mature some more, but it's come a long way already.  It's amazing what can be done today, I'm looking forward to what they might be able to do in the near future.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Bring Autodesk Inventor's Positional Representation into Autodesk Showcase

“Affliction is enamoured of thy parts, and thou art wedded to calamity.”
William Shakespeare

When designing, there are times that alternate positions for components must be shown to ensure the design will perform as intended. 

This might be an arm extended and retracted, or a door or drawer opened, and closed.

There are also times those alternate positions need to be shown in a rendered view to properly convey the design intent outside of the design product. 

When using Autodesk Inventor, Positional Representations are used to accomplish this task in design.  For example, here I'm showing a coffee table with  drawer open, and drawer closed positional representation. (For instructions on how to create a positional representation, check out my previous post here)

A positional representation showing a drawer closed

Autodesk Showcase uses Alternatives to create alternate positions for the renderings.  Here is the same table shown with alternatives in Showcase

The model is imported and ready with the drawer closed
The alternative with the drawer open is already created.
While each product can work independently and create their own distinct representations of the components, there's no reason to recreate work twice.  What if what I want to do is reuse the representations in Inventor, and use them to create alternatives for Showcase?

Fortunately, Inventor and Showcase has a "Suite Workflow" that allows the representations created in Inventor, to create alternatives in Showcase.

I'm going to begin with  my coffee table open in inventor, then I'll  click on the Application Icon (The big "I"), I choose the "Suite Workflows", then choose, "Showcase Realistic Presentation".

Starting the representation

A dialog box appears that describes what this setting will do.  I'm going to choose the "Settings" button to make changes to how the model appears on import.

Selecting the settings for import
Here the settings for import can be set, such as the conversion settings (the density of the facets making up the Showcase models), Visual Style, and Lighting Style can be set.  Most of these can also be set in the Showcase scene, so I take defaults for most with one exception.

I do like to set the "Environment... Plane Level" setting to "At bottom of the model".  While your settings may vary, this setting is works best for the models that I create.

Workflow Settings

Now I go ahead and click "Run".

Pulling the trigger and running!

The model will process, and will open in Showcase.  Both alternatives are created by the positional representations

Now all I have to do is apply the desired materials and lights in Showcase, and finish creating my model in Showcase. No recreation of the drawer open, or drawer closed.  Just use what Inventor provided to Showcase!

A quick rendering in Showcase with the drawer close
The same scene with the drawer open via the alternative.

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

Sunday, March 03, 2013

On a Weekend Holiday!

I'm going to be delaying this Monday's blog a few days.

Once again, I was on a snowboarding holiday, and I returned with sore muscles, a long drive, and good memories.

I'll post the next blog in the next few days!  So look for it then and thanks for being patient!

A picture from the drive home.  Cruising (cautiously) in 4 wheel drive

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!