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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Controlling Component Participation in an Assembly Level Feature in Autodesk Inventor

As an artist, I've always wanted to participate in the dialogue of art with other artists.
Jeff Koons

I've always considered assembly level features a bit of a specialty tool in Autodesk Inventor.  That doesn't mean I don't think it's a valuable tool.  It just means that it seems like there are users who really use it, and there are users who never touch it, with very little middle ground.

When I'm playing around with wood working projects, I use it a lot.  It's perfect for creating things like dowel holes and hinge slots.  These features are typically creating in components that are already assembled together in wood working.

 Today, I was slowly building a Pie Safe in Inventor from plans I found in a Fine Woodworking article, and the time came to add the hinges to the doors.

A 'Quickndirty' rendering I created in Autodesk Showcase

The hinges need to have clearance cut for them, which is pretty common, even expected.

A typical hinge pocket.
Image courtesy Fine Homebuilding
 Since the door would be assembled by this point in the construction, I reached for my assembly feature, created my sketch, and extruded my cut.

And something happened I had forgotten about.  Inventor cut the slot alright!  But it cut right through the hinge too!  The assembly feature cut everything in it's way!

Doh! That's not what I wanted!

At first glance, one might think that this tool isn't very helpful if it's going to blindly cut everything that gets in it's way.  But Inventor does give us the ability to control what the assembly feature cuts.  All that's needed are a couple of clicks.

The first thing I need to do, is locate the assembly feature in the browser.  Expand it, and a list of the components that are "participating" in the extrusion appear.  In this case, it's the component making up the edge of the door (2013-22-27:3) and the two hinge leaves (Generic Hinge1:1 & Generic Hinge2:1).

Components participating in the feature

 What I really need to do is tell Inventor not to have the hinge leaves participate in the extrusion!

I do that by selecting each hinge leaf, and choosing "Remove Participant". 

Removing the participants

Once the hinge leaves are removed from the feature.  Everything looks as it should!  My design intent is truly captured!

So that's how to tell Inventor not to include components in an assembly level cut.  If you're using this tool, I think this could be an important aspect that could get easily overlooked. 

And as one last tip, what if a component needs to be added to the assembly level feature, that is told that it needs to participate?

If that's the case, right click on the feature, choose "Add Participant" and select the components you wish to add.  Give it a try!

Participants can also be added to an assembly level feature

And for a video on the steps I showed above, take a look below!

And one final note, more information on the assembly level feature can be found in the Inventor help system here!

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Review - A Look at Infinite Skills "Learning Autodesk Inventor 2014"

Back near the end of 2013, I was asked to review Learning Autodesk Inventor 2014 video based training created by Infinite Skills.  So I took some time, dove deep.  I wanted to not just take an overview.  I wanted to dig into it and really understand it.

Before starting anything, I think it's important I say that I didn't get compensated in any way for this.  I was just given a link to download the files, and then the freedom to take a look at the files.  Beyond being supplied training files, I was free to formulate my own opinions.

With that out of the way, I'd like to start out with how I see video training.  Personally, I'm a big fan of video based training. I've created several videos myself, and I use them whenever possible. 

However, having instructed several courses myself, I've always thought that they couldn't replace class based training.  I've just thought it's too hard to replace the interaction, and experience of live instructor.  I guess you can say I'm a little biased that way.

But it's time to set my biases aside and take a good look.

What I liked!

The first thing I did, was take some time to get used to navigating the viewer.  I found that it's easy to get used to and simple to use.  There was also a pretty good help system if I had a question on the navigation. 

The videos are organized into fairly short segments, most of them a few minutes long.  I thought this made it easy to take them in small increments and avoid getting overwhelmed.

And example of the videos organized
 Plunging into the videos, starting with Inventor's interface, I found the instructor, Adam Cooper, to be easy to listen to.  He wasn't monotone, but he wasn't "over the top" trying to be entertaining.  He was the right amount of giving the information in a engaging, and interesting way.

An example of the lessons on screen.

I also noticed that he pointed out things that he did out of his preference.  Not because it was a "better" way to use Inventor.  Just that he liked a setting, or this approach, and why he does it.  It shows his experience, and an understanding that there are many approaches that work, and each user can choose which they like at their discretion.

 I also quickly noticed was the depth of information that was included in the videos.   Far more information that I felt I could give in a lecture.  That level of information would be too overwhelming in a lecture format. 

An example of depth of information.  Talking about Application Options

The nature of having the lessons in a video format, with the ability to bookmark them, made for a much easier mechanism to take in the information being provided.

Which brings me to what I found to be another useful feature.  The bookmarks.  At any point a video can be bookmarked so it can be returned to at a later time.  So if a subject of particular interest is found, it can be bookmarked, complete with a title and description, for later reference. 

The bookmark page.  VERY useful!

What I didn't like so much

While my overall impressions were very good, nothing is perfect.  And while I won't say there's something "bad", there are some things that I wish were better.

To begin, as much as I liked the amount of information being, I think there's a chance the information could become "drinking from a fire hydrant" for the new user.  I would certainly recommend reviewing the videos and using the bookmarks to their full advantage

And this one is a pet peeve of mine, pure and simple.  Every once in a while, the key strokes came through on the video.  While the information is all good, and it in no way impacts the quality of the information, I would have been a happier not hearing them.  Granted, I was using a headset with the videos, which makes the keystrokes more prominent.  Yes.  It's a minor thing. But as I said, a peeve of mine.

My conclusion?

I like the Infinite Skills Inventor 2014 videos.  I think they're an excellent learning resource for someone looking for some self paced learning, at home, or on the job.  The videos are well structured and have all the information needed to provide someone a solid foundation using Autodesk Inventor.

The amount of information provided is very thorough.  I like that.  I like the ability to see the different settings and approaches for tools in Inventor.  Being someone who likes to see the options and choose one I like the best, I like the depth of information that was provided. 

At the price point of $99.95 USD, the investment isn't going to "break the bank", especially when compared to the time lost and frustration of the "hunting and pecking" method of learning software. Money spent on good training will save time when the software is used "in the wild".

My ultimate conclusion?  I think this is an outstanding learning resource!

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Making the Right Selection - Selection Tricks in Autodesk Showcase

Design is not making beauty, beauty emerges from selection, affinities, integration, love.
Louis Kahn

Once again Marion Landry has come through with a great post on selecting objects in Autodesk Showcase. 

While selecting objects in Showcase isn't a difficult task, there are always tricks that will make it even easier.

Check out some of Marion's tricks that make selecting objects Showcase a snap!

Friday, January 03, 2014

WHAT DID I JUST DELETE?!? - Recovering a Deleted File from Dropbox

I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best.
Benjamin Disraeli

Over a year ago, I created a "poor man's" Autodesk Vault backup scheme using my Dropbox account. 

In short, my Vault Data is backed up to a folder that syncs to my Dropbox account, creating a simple cloud backup. 

Information on how I did that are found in my post here.
I've been using it for a year, and it's worked great.  I've never had a problem with it.

That is until now....

First, this wasn't a problem with the scripts, my internet connection, or Dropbox. 

Each one of these tools worked flawlessly. 

It was the user (that's me!) who screwed this up!

So what did the user do? 

I had to restore a different Vault Database and Filestore for a customer test.  I ran the backup, which actually failed because I didn't have enough disk space. 

But that, is a separate issue.

The rub? I neglected to make sure I had a safe backup of my own Vault data in a safe place. 

So what happened?

My scripts ran just like they were set to.  They removed the data from my dropbox folder, in order to make it ready to be replaced by a new backup....

Which was never made due to the failed backup of customer data...

And my cloud Vault backup was destroyed.

Had I really just effectively killed all my personal Vault data? 

Thankfully, no.  Lucky for me, Dropbox has a way to restore lost data.

First, browse to the folder where the data was, and choose "Show Deleted Files"

A list of the deleted files will be displayed.  Now right click on the files to be restored, and choose "Restore"!

Now the files are resurrected, and all is good again! 

Needless to say, that backup is now residing in a safe, safe place!  

For the full instructions on recovering a file deleted from Dropbox, check out their help at the link HERE!  There's more than one way to do it!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

How Do You Look at it? - Look at plane on Sketch Creating in Autodesk Inventor

A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.
Albert Einstein

When I train an Autodesk Inventor class, I make a point to try to tell my students what settings I change solely for the purpose of my own preference.  There's no reason to change that setting if they prefer a different setting. 

Everyone has different preferences, and everyone should be allowed to choose for themselves.

I'll often speak of "settings Jon changes on every new install of Inventor".

And one of them is "Look at Sketch Plane on Sketch Creation".  It's found by choosing Tools>Application Options and finding the Sketch Tab By default it's turned on in Inventor.  I turn it off right away.

The default settings.
First of all, what does it do?  When checked, Inventor will automatically turn the view to look perpendicular to a sketch plane when a sketch is created.

Before creating the sketch, I have the view rotated in an Isometric view

Before creating the sketch

After creating the sketch the view is rotated so the view is perpendicular to the sketch.

After creating the sketch

I know that there are many who like this setting.  However, personally, I'm not a fan.  I always found I was rotating the view back most of the time. So what to I do?

I turn it off! Just like I have below.

Turning the setting off
Now, Inventor won't turn the view for me.  While this means I may have to turn the view myself, I prefer it because I turn the view when I want to.  Which I find much more comfortable for me.

So there it is!  A setting that I change, and why I change it, which really just boils down to personal preference.

What do you think?  Do you prefer the default behavior?  Feel free to drop a comment!

And for the video version of this setting, take a look below!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

That's a Wrap! One Semseter of Powerplant Courses finished!

“We're trying to improve our skills, we're trying to improve our record and we want to have an enjoyable experience.”
Brian Gasser

After 16 weeks of long slogging in my powerplant courses at Mount San Antonio College, this semester is done!

It was a though experience.  It was stressful, it was frustrating.  It meant missing events with friends.

But it was immensely rewarding. 

For the last 15 years or so, I've worked in a computer industry.  It's a rewarding career, I love being a part of technology and watching it evolve.

But going into those powerplant courses reminded me of what it takes not only make things work, but keep them working. 

What did I do in my class? 

With the help of my lab partner, I did the following:

1) Disassebled, inspected and checked a Magneto

Timing a magneto.  It takes patience.
2) Timed Magnetos on an aircraft engine

Timing magnetos to an engine.  This also takes time an patience!
3) Helped troubleshoot a malfunctioning engine

The engine we had to troubleshoot.  It ended up being a loose induction hose.

4) Disassembled and reassembled a 4 cylinder engine

Our Lycoming 4 cylindder engine disassembled

5) Used non-destructive testing to check pistons and crankshafts for cracks.

Connecting rods in the magnaflux machine

A sample picture of cracks revealed by magnaflux.  Image courtesy Riverina Air Motive Repair
6) Removed fan blades from a JT9 Turbine Engine

That's me!  Removing blades from a JT9 turbine engine

Every one of these experiences, not to mention hearing the experiences of my instructors, and even the other students added a whole new facet to my knowledge

In that relatively short amount of time, I'm able to speak to those "in the real world" and better understand what they go through every day, and why they sometimes "curse the designers" who didn't think about fixing equipment.

In all, it made me better than the sum of my parts.

So in summary, will I be back?  Yes, I plan on continuing my classes, although I will slow my pace a bit.  16 weeks of class, plus full time work, was a little too much for this brain and body. 

I'll skip the intercession for now, and take a lighter load next semester.  But back I will be.

There is much more to experience out there, and I'd like to see it!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

BOM Management with Autodesk Vault and Inventor - A KETIV webinar

“Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.”

Bill of Materials in Autodesk Inventor, and Autodesk Vault Professional have a lot going on.  They can be tweaked, adjusted, and modified to a huge extent.

Sometimes this is to make sure that the Bill of Materials accurately represents the assembly, other times it's to make sure that information flows accurately through the organization so the design intent represented on the final drawing accurately represents what the designer intended.

A screen capture from the webcast
Fortunately, Nicole Morris and Mike Carlson, my colleagues at KETIV, created a nice webcast that goes through many of the details of the Bill of Materials in Inventor and Vault Professional. 

It's worth checking out! 

                                                    Take a look by clicking on this link!

Monday, December 09, 2013

Using an Image and Suppressing Features in a Pattern in Autodesk Inventor

I'm rolling into my finals week at Mount San Antonio College, so again, I'm forced to keep my blog post short. 

However, this tip is one that I have found useful on a few occasions, and not one that everyone knows.

That tip? Suppressing instances in an assembly. 

Recently, I've been working on building an Autodesk Inventor model of a Pie Safe.  One of the features of this type of furniture, is a door made of perforated tin, which allows for airflow.  To be decorative, these perforations often formed into patterns.

So for my model, I decided to create the perforations in the form of a Celtic cross.  And yes, I intended to model the perforations.

The cross I'm using as a pattern

First of all, I found an image that I could use, and placed it on my sketch using the Insert Image tool.

The image inserted onto a sketch, using the Insert Image Tool

Next, I placed a hole on the center of the image, and used the Rectangular Pattern tool to create a pattern inside the image.

Creating the pattern inside the image.

Now, I need to begin suppressing the holes inside the pattern to match what I want.  I choose the instance of the pattern I want to suppress, and choose Suppress Feature. Out of curiosity, how many knew this was possible in a pattern?

Suppressing the instance in a pattern.
Once the rectangular pattern is suppressed the way I like, I can also add some circular patterns to make the round portion of the cross look, well, more round!

Adding some circular patterns
At any point, I can toggle off the visibility of the image to see what the existing set of patterns looks like.

The image suppressed.  I can use this to fine tune the pattern.
Note, I'm not 100% done, I have a few more tweaks to do before I have it completely right.  But it's coming along!

After a little more fine tuning, I think I'll have something I'm pretty happy with! 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Seek and You Shall Find - Searching for Files Using Open From Vault

“You are not discovering yourself, but creating yourself anew. Seek, therefore, not to find out who you are, seek to determine who you want to be.”

In a previous post, I talked about how I had created a non-nonsensical file naming scheme to place my files in Autodesk Vault.

I also talked about how I needed to use the indexing of properties inside of Autodesk Vault to make sure that I tracked all the files correctly.

In this example, I'm using the a blanket chest I found in the  book "Pleasant Hill Shaker Furniture" book.  Which you can find at the link HERE.


That's all fantastic.  But how do I accomplish that? 

First, I have to make sure that I fill out properties in Inventor's iProperty screen.  Sure, you could argue it takes extra time, but it only takes a few minutes, and the payoff, being able to find files, is well worth that work.

Do all the iProperties in Inventor have to be filled out?  No!  But what should be filled out, are the ones that are important to you!

Samples of the iProperties filled out

I fill out fields like Title, Description,and Keywords.  I could fill out more, but these are plenty for what I need.

Why do this? Because when I'm opening a file, I can search it easily when using Inventor's
Open From Vault tool. 

But how, when opening a file, do I find the files?

First, start out by choosing the Open from Vault icon.

Open from Vault

This will open up a dialog box that looks a lot like the Inventor File Open dialog box.  Make sure to choose Search from the pulldown in the left hand column.

The Search field in the Open From Vault dialog box

This will switch the search screen, that where searches can be made for Files and Folders by names, and.... .(wait for it)... The properties I entered in the iProperties into Inventor.

Also note, that when the search screen is selected, a flyout opens that shows all the different properties used inside of Vault.  All properties can be searched simultaneously, or individual properties can be searched by selecting that property.

In this case, I'm typing the word Blanket in the search field, and searching for all fields that contain that word.  

The completed search

 All values containing the word "Blanket" will display.  In this case, the word I'm searching for is located in the Description field.

Now all that has to be done is to select the desired file, open it, and start designing!

Opening the file.
P.S. All the columns may not display in the first view.  To show the desired columns, right click on the Title Bar and choose "Choose Columns" from the menu.

Now a list of fields appears.  Just drag and drop to place what you want!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Using the Organizer in Autodesk Showcase - A Guest Video

“The moral sense is the first excellence of well-organized man.”
Thomas Jefferson

The Organizer in Autodesk Showcase.  I think it's one of the most useful, and underused tools in the product.

The Organize in Showcase reminds me a little of the feature browser in Autodesk Inventor.  It provides a tree that shows the structure of the components in a scene, and allows for functions like moving and grouping together of the different objects so they're easier to work with.

Accessing the Organizer in Showcase is easy.  It's under the Edit pulldown menu, or just hit the 'O' key!

A Showcase scene with the Organizer shown
And for a great video on how to use the organizer, check out the video from Marion Landry's YouTube Channel below!  As always, there is some great information to be found!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Placing Points on an Intersection in Autodesk Inventor - Did you know?

“We got a point. It?s better than nothing.”
Frankie Hejduk

The last few weeks of work and school have kept me hopping pretty quickly.  So my last few blog posts have been of the shorter variety.  I'm hoping to get some longer ones in the future, but for now, I have to keep them short.

I hope the tips are still helpful!

From time to time, I've found it's been helpful to place a dimension from an intersection of two lines, arcs, etc. in an Autodesk Inventor sketch.

The challenge found here?  It's not something that can be done directly in the dimension tool!

But with a little help from the point tool in the Inventor sketch, this can be accomplished? 

So what steps can be used to make this work?

I'll show you with the help of the sketch below.  It's pretty easy!

The example sketch

1) Start the point tool in the sketch

Locating the point tool in the sketch ribbon

2) Move the mouse to the intersection.

Snapping to the intersection

3) Click!  The point will snap automatically!  Place as many points as are needed.

The point placed

4) Dimension and constrain away!  That's all that there is to it!

Now dimensions and constraints are added

If preferred, right clicking while the point tool is started will also bring up an option for Point Snaps.  This option allows for choosing a snap to use, including Intersection, Midpoint, and Center. 

Showing the right click options
It's the same thing as the step above, with a few more options of course.  But take a look at them! 

They're a slick little tool that can be a lot of help!

Monday, November 11, 2013

It's been a busy week!

I'm afraid due to a busy weekend running around, and well, having a bit of a personal life.... ;)  I have to postpone this weeks blog.

I'm hoping to get something for next week.  This week is proving to be pretty packed too! 

But there will be one coming, I promise!

Monday, November 04, 2013

Cannot Save File in Autodesk Showcase 2014. Try this Hotfix!

He who helps in the saving of others, Saves himself as well.
Hartmann Von Aue

Last week, I ran into a peculiar issue with Autodesk Showcase 2014.  A user was running into an error that wasn't allowing them to save a particular file.

The error just stated that the scene could not be saved.

Oh dear, this can't be good!
My first reaction is, "Uh oh.  This file is probably hosed." 

But before I began the funeral procession for a poor, corrupted file, I decided it was worth a little research to see if maybe, just maybe, there might be some why to save our lost file.

It's a good thing I took the time to do a little research.  When I did, my search located a hotfix for Showcase 2014 that fixed this very issue! 

It can be found at the link here!

Am I glad I took that little bit of time to research!

The service pack was installed, and the system was happily saving documents again! 

So what's the moral of the story?  Don't assume too much.  It took me less than 10 minutes of Google searching to find the solution.

Even a few minutes search can be helpful!  The file you save, may be your own! 

And if you're running into this particular issue in Autodesk Showcase 2014, make sure you install this hotfix!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Triggering an iLogic Form when Placing a Component in an Assembly

“One person can trigger a million thoughts.”

Earlier this week, KETIV presented the Autodesk Manufacturing Academy.  As always, the event was fantastic, and I got to see a lot of fellow Inventor users, and friends as well.

One question that was posed during the session was: "Can I set up an iLogic trigger in such a way, that when I start a new file from a template, the iLogic form will show up automatically?" 

The short answer.... Yes!

Here's how it works.

First, the background.  I have a template for sizing a wooden board, and determining if it's got a tenon joint or not.  The parameters are driven by an iLogic form named "Board Options"

An example of the form and the board it drives

Since I place these parts in an assembly, and want to resize them, I want the dialog to pop up when I create a new component in an assembly when using this template.

I can't just trigger the dialog box directly, but what I can do is create a rule with a single line of code that opens the dialog box.   And I can trigger that rule to run when I start the assembly.

The first step is to create a rule, in this case I named it "Trigger Dialog", and add the following line:

iLogicForm.Show("Board Options")

An example of the iLogic rule with the required code.

This simple line will open the dialog box, but in order for everything to work as intended, one more thing is required.

An event trigger needs to be added by choosing the "Event Triggers" icon from the iLogic panel.  This is found on the Manage tab.

Set the Trigger Dialog rule to run when a new document is started. 

Setting up the Event Trigger

 Now, when the file is started from a template, the dialog box, fired by the rule, will open. 

And the resizing can begin!

P.S. If you'd like a copy of this file to take a look at, it's available on GrabCAD!  Click on this link!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Making Sense of File Numbering Systems - Why do they have to?

“We put forth a very strong number. It's always hard to know, it's impossible to know what numbers are out there.”
Tim Purpura

This weekend has been a busy one, so this weekend's blog post is a short one.  But it's reflecting something that I've been thinking of doing for some time though.

File numbering schemes.  Users spend hours and hours trying to figure out which one to use.

Is it better to use a sequential?  One where the numbers have no meaning with regard to the files they're associated with? 

Or is it better to create one where the file name has a meaning.  A given portion of the file name tells the user this an assembly, or this component is made out of stainless steal, or is a custom part.  The different meanings can go on forever, and are different from company to company.

In my own, personal file structure in Autodesk Vault, I've done what so many are guilty of doing.  I've ignored it.

My own Vault file names are an example of what I'd tell someone not to do.

They have a mishmash of names.  Most have some sort of meaning.  Some are just names I threw in because I needed a name in a hurry. 

Others are names that I changed with Vault's Rename command because I needed to make room for another file with the same name (I have "Enforce Unique File Names" checked).

An example of my similar, but not consistent file names.

I've wanted to clean that up.  I would like more consistency in my file names.  But I just haven't had the time or desire to create one. 

So I decided to steal a number scheme from someone who's already created one.  I'm going to use the one the FAA uses for their Air Worthiness Directives

How does the FAA do it?  They start with the year, then count which two week period in the year the document was issued.  Then finally, number the documents in sequential order.

For example an Air Worthiness Directive numbered 2012-20-06 would mean the document was issued in the year 2012, in the 40th week of the year (20th two week period), and that it was the 6th document issued in that time.

I'm going to give it a try in my own Vault, and see how it works out!  I'll use the file naming scheme, and for searching, I'm going to search for keywords and properties associated to the files. 

An example of the properties I've added.  I'll probably adjust them, but it's a start.
It will require discipline to make sure I fill out my properties, but it's something I should already be doing!

I'll keep you posted on how it goes.  There will be benefits, there will be drawbacks.  The real question is, which will outweigh which?

So what do you think?  Are you a fan of meaningful, or non-meaningful file names?