Category "Tips & Tricks"

PDF Publishing

‘Nuff said.

*and there was much rejoicing*

Well, maybe I could add a little more detail. It has long been known that the PDF is the currency of visual data exchange. All too often, I work with users and organizations that have to print PDFs outside of Vault, creating an uncontrolled document. If you were using the item master (discussed by my colleague here), you could attach it to the item; however, keeping it up to date is still going to be a manual process.

Now, thanks to the #1 most requested feature being implemented, that will no longer be an issue. Vault will now publish PDFs as part of your release process (as part of a transition action in a lifecycle change). This file will be categorized differently than the native CAD file, or even the DWF visualization file. The new category is called “Design Representation,” which can then be assigned its own set of rules, properties, and lifecycles.

As of this release, we have the ability to publish 2D file formats: DWG and IDW; that means either AutoCAD based files or Inventor drawings can be published to PDF. At some point, Autodesk may need to add the 3D PDF generation that was added to Inventor recently – which, by the by, could be used to publish all of the new Model Based Definition (MBD) annotations Inventor 2018 has added. I suspect we could see 3D publishing in the next release, or even a mid-year “R2” release (if there is an “R2;” who knows at this point).

Questions, comments, and celebrations welcome.

This is Part 3 in my series on the hidden intelligence of CATIA V5. To quickly recap what we have already talked about, in my first post I discussed the importance of setting up and using parameters and formulas to capture your design intent and quickly modify things that you know are likely to change. We took those principles a bit farther in my second post and discussed the value of building a design table in those situations when you may have a design with parameters that will vary and that you want to use many times. In that case you could see that we had our rectangular tubing part and could modify its wall thickness, height, and width to make several iterations of basically any size of tubing one would ever need! You would simply keeping doing a Save as… and placing those parts in your working directory to be added into an assembly at some time (I assume).

This methodology would work fine, but today I want to focus on a very cool spin on this theory by building a catalog of your most commonly used parts which are similar enough to be captured in a single model. Using our tubing model, and picking up where we left off, we have a spreadsheet that defines the parameters that change. All we would need to do to build a catalog of each iteration of the design table is add a column to the spreadsheet named PartNumber just as I have it with no spaces in the name and then associate that to the ‘Part Number’ intrinsic parameter that is created automatically when you being a model.

Let’s get started.  I will open both the model and the spreadsheet, edit the spreadsheet with the column, and then add in some part numbers.

Part numbers added

When you save the file, the field should appear in CATIA when you click on the Associations tab. […]

When working with our customers, from time to time, we’ll get questions on why they see unexpected results in some of their searches. This typically happens when they search without wildcards (I’ll explain later). In this blog post, I hope to shed some light on what can be a confusing experience for some Vault users.

The search engine in Vault operates on a on a general computer science principle called general Tokenization. This process essentially chops up the indexed properties into chunks called tokens. When a user searches in Vault (either quick search or advanced find), the search engine will attempt to match the tokens in the search string to the tokens in the appropriate properties.  Before going further, I’ll explain how Vault does the slicing and dicing.

First, there are three categories of characters (for our purposes, at least); alpha [a-z, A-Z], numeric [0-9], and special [#^$, blank space, etc.].  Vault will parse the string and sniff out groups of characters belonging to a category.  For instance, ABC123$@# would be tokenized into 3 individual tokens:

  • ABC
  • 123
  • $@#

Again, what happened is that Vault saw the first character, A, and understood it to be an alpha character. Vault then asked “Is the next character an alpha, too?” to which the answer was yes, so the token became AB. C was then added to the initial token, as it too was an alpha character.  However, the answer was “No”, when it came to the character 1.  Vault finished its first token and began the next one, now that it sensed a different category of character. Vault continued this line of questioning with the subsequent characters.

Another example might be a file name like SS Bearing Plate-6×6.ipt. Here, we have 8 tokens:

  • SS
  • Bearing
  • Plate
  • 6
  • x
  • 6
  • ipt

Now, you may have caught the missing period. Vault will only tokenize six special characters – all others are ignored. These special special characters (sorry, had to do it) are:

  • $ (dollar sign)
  • – (dash)
  • _ (underscore)
  • @ (at symbol)
  • + (plus)
  • # (octothorpe, aka number sign)

So now where do the unexpected results come in? This usually happens when an incomplete token is used without wild cards. For example, a user wants to find a specific mounting bracket. This user then types in “mount,” expecting that to be enough. In our hypothetical Vault environment, the results would return “Fan mount.ipt” but not “Mounting bracket.ipt” like they intended. Why? Remember that Vault is trying to match exact tokens (again, without wild cards).

If the user had entered mount*, the results would return the expected “Mounting bracket.ipt” as the user intended.

Moral of the story?  Always use wild cards…always.  No, really, all the time.  For everything.

One of the first things I typically discuss with customers concerning file management is the relationship between files in their engineering data.  This is especially the case when working with data from 3D CAD systems like Autodesk Inventor. When you have Assemblies, parts, drawings, and presentations all with linked file relationships, it can be extremely challenging to manage this data without a tool that understands and maintains all the file links.  Simply renaming a single file can cause all sorts of problems if done in Windows Explorer.  Here are some of the areas where file relationships matter.

  1. Part, Assy, Drawing – As previously mentioned, 3D CAD data can be a challenge to manage.  Simply understanding where a file is used (or linked) can be tremendously helpful.
    vault-where-used

    “Where Used” within Autodesk Vault

  2. Copy Design – There is a “copy design” tool in Autodesk Vault that can make it much easier to reuse existing designs in the creation of variants based on the original.  This also reduces the amount of duplicate data in Vault because so much more is reused rather than recreated.
  3. Renaming – In many workflows, files are initially created using descriptive filenames.  These files then need to be renamed once a design is approved and will go into production.  With Inventor data, renaming files in Windows Explorer will break the links between parts, assemblies, and drawings. The files then have to be manually relinked, which can become extremely troublesome if a file was used by more than one assembly without knowing it.  When someone opened up the other assembly, the file would be missing and very difficult to locate.  Vault simply fixes all the file references whenever a file is renamed so this isn’t a problem.
  4. Moving – Files that are moved in Windows Explorer can cause the same problems as renaming, but usually because of the way Inventor uses project files. Using Autodesk Vault with a single Vault type project file eliminates many of the challenges in moving files to more relevant or common locations.
  5. Attachments – Attachments in Vault can also be tracked.  One example might be a design specification document that might apply to a whole class of components.  The design spec can be attached to the relevant designs.  If the design spec document changes, you can simply do a “where used” from it to see which files will be impacted by the specification change.

This is a second look at the hidden intelligence of CATIA V5. Our topic today will focus on the creation and use of design tables. As I talked about in my last blog post, parameters and formulas can be used to drive your design from the specification tree based on your design intent. We will continue on using the rectangular tubing part and build several variations of that tubing that can be driven from a spreadsheet.

Design Table Icon

Most of the work has been already done, and although it is not necessary to have pre-defined parameters and formulas existing, the process is faster. We will begin by again looking at the Knowledge toolbar, this time focusing on the Design Table icon.

When the command is selected, a dialog appears asking for the name of the design table and also gives you a choice on whether or not you want to use a pre existing file or create one from the current parameter values.  The differences being whether or not you have an existing spreadsheet filled out already with all the tabulated values of what changes in each iteration of the design.

Design Table Dialog

 

In our case, to show the functionality we will choose the create with current parameter values option. Once that is decided, you choose which parameters you want to be driven by the spreadsheet.  In our case, we had some already created, so we changed the filter to User parameters, chose the values that were NOT driven by formulas (INSIDE and OUTSIDE RADII) and moved them to the inserted side by highlighting and clicking the arrow.

Parameters to Insert

At this point, we have defined that we want a spreadsheet to use columns for Height, Width, and Wall Thickness based on the current values in the model as it is at this moment. When we click OK on the dialog, it will ask us where we want to save the spreadsheet. I suggest that you do this in a place where anyone who uses the model can has at least read access to (i.e. a network drive).  Note that I can also change the type of file to a .txt if I do not have access to Excel® or any other software that can edit .xls files.

Read Access Directory

 

Once this has been defined, your design table is created, linked to your 3D model, and ready to be edited to include your alternate sizes. This is confirmed by the next dialog. To add in the other sizes, simply click on the Edit table… button and your editor (Excel or Notepad) should launch and simply fill in rows with your values.

Linked and ready to edit

Once you have edited and saved the values, you can close that software and CATIA will update based on your values.

Excel Modifications

 

CATIA Updated

Now you would just pick the value set you want and click OK for the change to appear on the screen.

File Updated

At any time, you can always go to make the changes by finding the Design Table under the Relations section of the specification tree and double-clicking on it.

Design Table under Relations

As you can see, it’s pretty easy to create a design table and drive your parametric file with multiple values. The world of CATIA V5 is all about re-use of data and capturing business intelligence we already know exists in all companies.  How can we help you? Tata Technologies has helped many companies time and again.

Stay tuned for Part 3!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autodesk Vault offers a basic environment for change management that is more flexible and useful for more situations than people realize. The change management interface in Vault appears at first glance to only include a single rigid workflow for change, but upon further investigation you will find that it can be used more broadly.  Let’s take a look:

  1. ECR, ECO, ECN – The Vault change management environment is called “Change Order List,” but that is really misleading.  Different templates can be created for many purposes and these could include Change Request (ECR), Change Order (ECO), and Change Notice (ECN) to name just a few examples.  If using more that one type in your environment, it is common to use prefixes of ECR, ECO, etc. for each template type.
  2. Release management – The change environment can be used as a formal release mechanism as well.  This might be helpful if you want multiple people to review and approve work before it is initially released.  This gives you a location to capture everyone’s comments and thoughts related to the initial release.  A template with a REL prefix is often used for this.
  3. Simple changes – The flowchart for the change environment makes it look like it must be relatively complex, but there are options to shortcut many of the steps for those with the appropriate authority.  The “submit and force approval” and “fast track approval” make it much quicker to transact and capture simple changes.
  4. Complex changes – More complex changes will often use all the steps in the default workflow, and may even go through multiple iterative loops.  This can be done by simply rejecting the approval and re-opening the change.
  5. Simple or complex with the same basic workflow – There is only one formal workflow with the various options built in.  This can be used in many scenarios, and often with different people involved (based on the change template used).  Each change template can have a different routing.  The routing determines which people are responsible for each step in the workflow.
  6. Role of the change administrator – The change administrator is responsible for determining what happens when changes are in the “Open” state. This means someone else could create a change, but the change admin acts as the gatekeeper and determines if the change is really going to be made by submitting it to have work actually done. This means change requests, change orders, approvals, and notification can really all happen as part of the same workflow if you want to keep things simple.

change-order-status

Autodesk Vault offers several methods and workflows for finding files, understanding your data, and organizing your work.  Let’s take a look at each.

  1. Basic search – This search essentially searches the file name and all the properties where the “Basic Search” option is turned on in the properties administration area.  This can be a very broad search if you use a lot of different properties in Vault.  Many people will use this to see if they can start getting some relevant results, and then will use one of the other more advanced search types if the basic search returns too many results.basic-search
  2. Criteria search – This is my preferred search for narrowing down a set of results to just what I am looking for.  The criteria search lets you start with a basic search, but then lets you refine the results by entering values for specific properties.  As an example, you could search for a document created by a specific user, within the last 6 months, for a specific project, and with the word “collet” in one of the other properties.  This should result in a very targeted result, and works well when you remember that you created something a while back, but just can’t remember the file name or where it was saved.criteria-search
  3. Advanced search – The advanced search is even more structured than the criteria search.  It allows for the same level of refinement for results, but is in a more rigid interface in its own window. There are separate tabs for the basic search, advanced search and options.  Unfortunately, the basic and advanced options can’t be combined into a single search like with the criteria search.  The big advantage of the advanced search is in the ability to save a “search folder,” which I’ll explain next.advanced-find
  4. Search folders – Search folders are saved from the advanced search interface, and allow you to reuse search criteria in a very fast and easy to use manner.  When a search is saved as a folder, it shows up in the folder list on the left of the Vault client interface. You can simply pick on one of these search folders to display an updated list of all that search’s results. I commonly use this to display all the files I still have checked out to me.  As a manager, this is also a good folder to make sure other users are consistently remembering to check in their files as well.search-folders

When considering an upgrade to a network deployment of software, there are a lot of steps involved.  Without a proper plan, significant disruption of engineering systems can occur.  Let’s take a look at a plan for upgrading an Autodesk network deployment of software.

Autodesk licenses (for those with an active contract) allow the use of the current version as well as the three previous versions.  The three version consideration for FlexLM actually involves the license files themselves and not the version of the license manager.  Here is some clarification:

  • When Autodesk issues a license file to a customer on subscription / maintenance, it will be for the current version (2017) and the three previous versions (2014-2016).  So when you request a NEW license file, you will be able to run any combination of 2014 to 2017 software with that NEW license file.
  • Old versions of the Autodesk Network License Manager often can’t read new license files.
  • New versions of the Autodesk Network License manager (FlexLM) can still read old license files.  This means that you can still use an existing license file (for your 2013-2014 software) while you are upgrading to newer software editions.  This is permitted for up to 30 days during a software transition.

Here are a set of steps that can be used to upgrade an Autodesk networked software environment (example for 2013 to 2017):

  1. Upgrade your license manager to one compatible with 2017 software while continuing to use your existing license file.
  2. Create software deployments for the 2017 versions and prepare to roll them out on workstations.
  3. Obtain and test (status enquiry) a new 2017 license file for use in the upgraded license manager (LMTOOLS to configure and verify).  For the time being, this license file will be a merged version of the previous license file and the new one.  This is done by simply copying the contents of the newly obtained license file into the existing one.  This will allow users to continue utilizing their existing version of 2013 software while the newer 2017 is deployed and tested.
  4. Roll out and test 2017 deployments on user’s workstations.  This can be done while leaving existing 2013 software on their workstations for production use during the transition.
  5. After testing of 2017 software is complete and rolled out to all users workstations, the old license file content (for 2013) will need to be removed from the merged and combined license file.  Once the old content is removed from the license file (keep a copy for reference), do a Stop, Start, Re-Read in LMTOOLS for the changes to take effect.  This step is critical to comply with the license agreement, and is a common oversight that gets companies in trouble in the case of a software audit (if they fail to disable the old software).  I would do this within 30 days of obtaining a 2017 license file to be safe.
  6. After you are sure there are no serious problems with 2017 on users workstations, the 2013 edition can be uninstalled.

Hopefully this adds some clarity to an often confusing process.

In the years to come, fuel efficiency and reduced emissions will be key factors in determining success within the transportation & mobility industry. Fuel economy is often directly associated with the overall weight of the vehicle. Composite materials have been widely used in the aerospace industry for many years to achieve the objectives of light weight and better performance at the same time.

The transportation & mobility industry has been following the same trends, and it is not uncommon to see the application of composites in this industry sector nowadays; however, unlike the aerospace industry, wide application of composites instead of metals is not feasible in the automotive industry. Hence, apart from material replacement, other novice methods to design and manufacture lightweight structures without compromise in performance will find greater utilization in this segment. In this blog post, I will discuss the application of TOSCA, a finite element based optimization technology.

The lightweight design optimization using virtual product development approach is a two-step process: concept design followed by improved design.

Design concept: The product development costs are mainly determined in the early concept phase. The automatic generation of optimized design proposals will reduce the number of product development cycles and the number of physical prototypes; quality is increased and development costs are significantly reduced. All you need is the definition of the maximum allowed design space – Tosca helps you to find the lightest design that fits and considers all system requirements. The technology associated with the concept design phase is called topology optimization that considers all design variables and functional constraints in optimization cycle while chasing the minimum weight objective function. The technique is iterative that often converges to a best optimal design.

HOW IT WORKS

The user starts with an initial design by defining design space, design responses, and objective function. Design space is the region from where material removal is allowed in incremental steps and objective function is often the overall weight of the component that has to be optimized. With each incremental removal of material, the performance of the component changes. Hence each increment of Tosca is followed by a finite element analysis to check existing performance against target performance. If target performance criteria is satisfied, the updated design increment is acceptable and TOSCA proceeds to the next increment. This process of incremental material removal is continued until the objective function is satisfied or no further design improvement is feasible. The image below depicts a complete CAD to CAD process flow in Tosca. The intermediate processes include TOSCA pre-processing, TOSCA and a finite element code based co-simulation and TOSCA post processing.

Tosca workflow

During the material removal process, TOSCA may be asked to perform the optimization that provides a feasible solution not only from a design perspective but from a manufacturing perspective as well. For example, TOSCA may be asked to recommend only those design variations that can be manufactured using casting and stamping processes. This is possible by defining one or more of manufacturing constraints available in TOSCA constraints library.

manufacturing constraints

While the topology optimization is applicable only on solid structures, it does not mean TOSCA cannot perform optimization on sheet metal parts. The sizing optimization module of TOSCA allows users to define thickness of sheet metal parts as design variables with a lower bound and an upper bound. […]

In this blog post, we will look into the basics of surface development and gain an understanding of what continuity is. Years ago when I used to teach full time I would tell my students that I called it “continue-ity,” the reason being that you are essentially describing how one surface continues or flows into another surface. Technically, you could describe curves and how they flow with one another as well. So let’s get started.

G0 or Point Continuity is simply when one surface or curve touches another and they share the same boundary.  In the examples below, you can see what this could look like on both curves and surfaces.

G0 Continuity

G0 Continuity

 

G0 Curve Continuity

G0 Curve Continuity

As we progress up the numbers on continuity, keep in mind that the previous number(s) before must exist in order for it to be true. In other words, you cant have G1 continuity unless you at least have G0 continuity. In a sense, it’s a prerequisite.  G1 or Tangent continuity or Angular continuity implies that two faces/surfaces meet along a common edge and that the tangent plane, at each point along the edge, is equal for both faces/surfaces. They share a common angle; the best example of this is a fillet, or a blend with Tangent Continuity or in some cases a Conic.  In the examples below, you can see what this could look like on both curves and surfaces. […]

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