Improved integration is the key

Tom Shelley reports on the latest enhancements to Autodesk Inventor 2008 and improved interoperability between the various engineering products

Key to the Autodesk products being launched for 2008 is improved interoperability.
According to Kevin Ison, sales director manufacturing: “Interoperability with Alias is growing, as is interoperability between 2D and 3D and between electrical and mechanical.”
“Changes in AutoCAD Electrical will be reflected in Autodesk Inventor Professional 3D models and vice versa”. Pressed to explain how this would work in practice at the UK launch event, Ison explained, referring to the effect of an added connection in a circuit schematic in AutoCAD Electrical on the Inventor model, “All you get is a notification that you need to make a change. You have to choose whether it is going into an existing harness or you need to make another one. If you do this [choose to make a separate wire] it will automatically route it by the shortest route.” On the reverse process, where a change is made in the Inventor model, he said, “You get an automatic update from 3D to 2D although you may need to tidy the drawing.”
Despite its desire that all users should upgrade from AutoCAD to Inventor, the company accepts that many will continue to use AutoCAD – so continues to upgrade both its AutoCAD Mechanical and AutoCAD LT drafting offerings. “When moving from 2D to 3D, people rarely want to re-do the whole product in 3D,” said Ison. “Now you can keep the layout in 2D.”
To assist this process, Inventor 2008 now includes a facility called TrueConnect, allowing it to directly open DWG files and save as DWG files. Previously, Inventor files could only be opened and saved in their own special formats. In Inventor 2008, if the user makes a change in an Inventor file, a warning message comes up to indicate that there has been a change in the 2D DWG files associated with it.
“This is the closest that we can get to true 2D/3D interoperability,” said Ison.
In addition, there are new sheet metal design tools and the means to “incorporate manufacturing information such as tool parameters and flat pattern optimisation in the digital prototype”. On the electrical side, ribbon cable design tools support the insertion and routing of ribbon cables with full control over the shape of the cable – including the ability to define multiple twists and folds. Assembly constraints can now be automatically translated into joints. FEA integration is with software provided by Ansys. There is no sign of an integrated CFD package yet, but we gather that Autodesk is thinking about it – in the light of SolidWorks and FloXpress.
A new DWG export from Autodesk AliasStudio provides a reliable way of transferring concept designs into Inventor. Both AliasStudio and Autodesk Showcase have been enhanced. AliasStudio 2.0 now works with a Wacom tablet.
“If you roughly draw a circle, it will make it a circle, also an ellipse,” said Ison.
It also now includes “Dynamic shape modelling”, which means that the user can take a 3D shape, and either twist it round an axis or otherwise deform it. In Showcase, there are new materials such as various car paints and carbon fibre and additional lighting controls. Integration is assisted by DWG file exchange with Inventor, an updated IGES translator, an independent Catia V5 translator and an independent JT (Jupiter Technology) translator.
Inventor interoperability with non-Autodesk products has also been enhanced.
“We have agreed to license PTC’s Granite modelling kernel and they have agreed to use our DXF,” he said.
The PDM product, ProductStream, is also being updated. Vault is not PDM software, despite the number of people who try to use it as such.
And last but not least, Autodesk Design Review is now available free of charge as a download from the Autodesk website. This is not only a free viewer for Autodesk CAD models but also allows 3D measurement, mark-up and annotation.


* There is a strong move towards improving interoperability between Autodesk products, including former Alias products, AutoCAD and Inventor

* Total integration is not possible, but users can expect sufficient connectivity to ensure that changes in one drawing or model are reflected in associated models and drawings in some way

Tom Shelley

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