Better Tools for Collaborative Design in Inventor

One of the coolest new features in Inventor isn't really an Inventor feature at all. The new data mapping feature within Vault Workgroup and its related capabilities will really usher in the next level of simplicity when trying to manage the release of large design projects with multiple individuals involved. I will be covering this topic in detail during our April 9th data management user group (Sign Up Here) but here is the high level overview to wet your whistle.

Data Mapping is a powerful process to interrogate Vault information and create charts that can be interactively used in the Inventor environment.

You can now create fancy graphs and charts of Vault information, and these might be useful on their own, but they can also be utilized by Inventor. These can be used to interactively display information on the Inventor model itself. This could be coded by things like: parts pending change, make versus buy designation, current project or design status, compliance status, component cost range, weight range, design lifecycle, or other user "checked-out" status for collaborative designs.

Not only can this information be displayed on the Inventor model, but it can also be used in creating a selection set of Inventor model data as well. Stay tuned for our April Data management users group where I will demonstrate the various uses of this great new tool for Inventor.

Contributed by Ben of the Tata Technologies CAD Geeks

Inventor 2011 Dynamic Input for Sketching

Dynamic Input in the Sketch environment provides a Heads-Up Display (HUD) command interface near the cursor to help you keep your focus in the sketching area. Dynamic Input is active for the most commonly used sketch commands.

When Dynamic Input is on, value input fields near the cursor display information that is dynamically updated as the cursor moves. When a Line, Circle, Arc, Rectangle, or Point sketch command is active, the value input fields provide a place for user entry.

The ability to automatically place persistent dimensions can be disabled by clicking Persistent Dimension on the Format panel of the Sketch tab.

Less steps needed while using everyday functionality.
Video link: Created by one of the Cad Geeks

Inventor FEA - Force Load vs. Bearing Load?

So you are running an FEA analysis in Inventor, and you need to apply a load to a cylindrical face. Do you use a regular "Force Load" or a "Bearing Load"? The answer really depends on how the force should be distributed on the face in question. A bearing load will apply the load in a parabolic distribution, while the force load will be an even distribution.


OK, lets take a look at a couple of loading scenarios and the results that each provides. I have used the shock tube from one of the Inventor sample files as an example.

In the first analysis I used a Force Load. Notice that the stress is not centered on the cylindrical face, but rather along its edges as if the cylinder was being stretched.

In the second analysis I used a bearing load. Note that the highest stress is focused on the center of the cylinder. This is much more realistic in a case where a bearing or shaft is acting radially on the cylindrical face.

Contributed by Ben of the CAD Geeks

Streamline your CAD / Vault Workflow

If you mostly use Vault to regularly check-out and check-in CAD data this tip is for you!

Find yourself constantly picking the same option when checking files out?
Always check-in your files before closing them?

Make sure you are taking advantage of the "Prompt Configuration" area of the Vault options in your CAD system (either AutoCAD or Inventor). These can set your default prompt preferences as well as to always use that preference without even displaying the dialog box if you like. This allows you to tailor your CAD / Vault experience to your particular needs.

The Prompts can be accessed from the Vault ribbon bar as shown below:

One of my favorites is to set the "On File Close" prompt to use "Yes" and "Never Prompt". This will automatically check-in any files you have checked-out to make changes when you close the file in the CAD system.

Contributed by Ben of the Tata Technologies CAD Geeks

Moving Bodies in a Multi-Body Part

You create multiple solid bodies in a part file using modeling commands, or by importing one or more solids using the Derived Component command. Use the Move Bodies command to reposition solid body components.

There are three modes of moving bodies in a part file:
Free Drag allows you to move objects in any X, Y, Z combination.
Move along ray allows you to perform a linear move on objects.
Rotate allows you to set the angular rotation of an object around a central axis.
You can use each method as a single move, or you can combine move options by selecting Click to add in the dialog box window. Group multiple moves into one operation to consume the least amount of memory. Inventor records each move in the browser, so you can edit or delete moves at any time.

Video link: Created by one of the Cad Geeks

Great Vault Utilities Available

Just because Vault doesn't include a particular capability or feature "out of the box", doesn't mean that it can't be done. There are many niche needs when it comes to data management, and applications can be written (or borrowed from) to accomplish many feats of PDM glory.

One of the common CAD management issues I commonly get asked about is how to restore a single file that was inadvertently deleted from Vault. By default, this could require a complete restore of the entire Vault database, and if the deletion wasn't caught early enough, this would not be remotely feasible as all kinds of new data would already be added to the Vault. Another approach would be to keep a "hidden" copy of all the vault files for an administrator to access. This can be done with the Vault Mirror utility written by Doug Redmond and posted on his blog. This utility can batch process any new files added to Vault and also copy a version of the file to an alternate location. The utility and source code are included on the Vault server installation, and Doug's blog details on it are posted here:

Another utility Doug has written allows an iProperty to be added in files to list the current Vault folder it resides in. For companies that place files in a specific folder structure depending on file name, type, or use, this utility allows CAD managers to quickly verify that new files added to Vault are in the correct locations. Simply create a search folder of all files added recently and turn on display of the "folder path" to see if the files reside in the correct locations. The utility and source code for this one is also on Doug's blog here:

Contributed by Ben of the Tata Technologies CAD Geeks

Inventor - Sheet Metal Rules

What is a sheet metal rule?

Sheet metal rules include:
• sheet material and thickness
• bend and corner relief preferences
• miter, rip and seam gap value
• unfolding rule selection
• flat pattern punch representation (applied by default to sheet metal features during flat pattern creation)
• flat pattern bend angle reporting preference

•Easy way to organize sheet metal design properties that are unique to multiple vendors
• Consistency across designs
• Consistency in a multi-user environments

Video link: Created by one of the Cad Geeks

Vault Batch Plot

One of the side benefits of using Vault Workgroup (or above) is the included Batch Plotting utility. The number one aspect of this batch plot is the ability to add all of the related drawing sheets from an inventor design. This allows you to pick a single assembly file and let Vault find all of the detail drawings related to the assembly. For large designs, this could take hours of time to search for and locate drawings manually. With this simple trick, the beginning of a large batch plot list can be generated from the simple assembly selection in a matter of minutes.

Check out a video of the Batch Plot utility HERE.

Contributed by Ben of the Tata Technologies CAD geeks