Category "Tips & Tricks"

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. […]

Space: the final frontier!

…at least that is how I am beginning to feel as design software and its features evolve. In this post, I want to talk about the basics – specifically the basics of component design.

The age-old question will arise at times: do I begin the design at 0,0,0 or do I design the component in its assembly position? Does it matter? Well, yes and no. With most CAD software packages, you have the ability to constrain or mate the feature to the component it is mating to. So technically, almost every component can be designed at 0,0,0 and then just assembled when you are done, as long as you have a mating condition to work with. This method is typically referred to as Bottom Up design. You see this most often in design of off-the-shelf items you would basically plug and play as needed, e.g. Fasteners, Tubing, Brackets, etc.

Fasteners

Fasteners

The alternative to this type of design is when you have a group of components that don’t necessarily mate together but need to come into the correct assembly position every time they are inserted. This method is typically referred to as Top Down design.  In the Automotive realm of design, all of the body panels are designed using a top down method.  Generally you will hear the term “designed in body position,” which indicates it is a top down design.

The key to working on a top down design is that every component is designed using a common axis system, aka common 0,0,0 location. The major systems in a vehicle that are used in other vehicles as well will be developed using a common axis system that won’t be the vehicle axis system.  For example, an engine would maybe have an axis system built at the rear face of the block and the centerline of the crank. […]

How many times has the first design iteration submitted to FEA modeling passed the design criteria?

The answer is close to zero, but even if it does happen by stroke of fortune, the design is not the optimal design – which means that although design requirements are met and validated by FEA, there is always scope of improvement either in terms of cost or in terms of performance. In general, it is not unusual to reach the optimal design in 15 to 20 iterations.

An analyst know the pain of creating a detailed finite element simulation model. Most of the steps involved, such as geometry cleaning and meshing, are very time-consuming, and they are primarily driven by geometry. Let’s look at the workflow in more detail:

An analyst in automotive industry often performs finite element modeling work in Hypermesh, stress analysis in Abaqus, optimization in Optistruct, and durability in Fe-Safe or N-code. An analyst in the aerospace industry often performs CAD composites work in CATIA, finite element modeling in Abaqus CAE, stress analysis in Abaqus or Nastran, and durability in Fe-Safe. An analyst working in other industries has his own suite of FEA tools to work with. The entire process requires data flow from one simulation code to the other. This means output from one code serves as an input to the other. Quite often this work is also done manually by the analyst.

This means that in situations where optimal design is obtained in 20 iterations as mentioned above, an analyst has to perform geometry cleaning 20 times, create FE meshes manually 20 times, and also transfer the simulation data from one piece of code to the other 20 times. By the time these design iterations are over, the analyst’s face and computer looks somewhat like this:

Let analysts remain as analysts and let simulation robot do the rest!

The traditional job of finite element analyst is to build robust high fidelity simulation models that gives correct results under real life load applications. The analyst is not an FE robot who can perform repetitive tasks with ease. In situations like one mentioned above, it makes perfect sense to let FE analyst create a robust FE model only once per FE code involved. Subsequently introduce a simulation robot that can capture hidden steps and workflow, create a script and execute that script multiple times. This simulation robot is called ISight. […]

Inventor 2017 R2 has introduced some useful new ballooning functionality in addition to some techniques you may not have been previously aware of.  Balloon sorting has been introduced this release, and works very well in cases where multiple balloons have been attached into one grouping.  Let’s take a look at the steps to accomplish this:

balloons1

1. Typically, balloons might look like this to start.

 

balloons2

2.Right click the balloon you want the others attached to and select one of the “attach” options.

 

balloons3

3. Pick the other items you want attached.

 

balloons4

4. Right click the balloon group and select “Sort Balloons”.

 

balloons5

5. The result should look something like this after deleting the previous balloons.

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