TigerStop – Tip #1

More and more mechanical contractors are installing and using TigerStops. The company has been around for a long time in a number of industries but only recently have they started to get noticed by mechanical contractors. If you’re unfamiliar with them, you can find out more from their web site www.tigerstop.com. You may also want to view their Blog post about one mechanical contractor’s experience with them here.  I’ll be posting a few tips going forward as I get more familiar with them. To get you started, here’s my first Tip.

Install TigerTouch software on your computer

One of the options you can buy when getting a TigerStop, is the Tablet package that consists of a Windows Surface PC with the TigerTouch software. This package provides your TigerStop with a much friendlier interface that can be used to control your TigerStop controller.

While this software is used to control your machine, you can also install it on any computer. Simply download the Full installer from TigerStop’s web site and install. Installing on another computer has several benefits….

  • Test, and learn some of the software workflow in a safe more comfortable environment. This is a great way to train your shop staff how to use the interface without taking your machine out of production and without wasting any material.
  • Allow you to more easily get screen captures and produce documentation for your staff.
  • Test new software builds before updating your machine.

When the TigerTouch software starts, it notifies you that it can’t find a machine connected. That’s perfectly fine, just click cancel so it doesn’t try to look again.

From here, you can now use many of the functions of the software. When you click START, instead of the software waiting for your saw to operate, your cut lists are just processed automatically for for each stock size you enter. Here’s a video of the software opening a Cut List and processing it on my system which is NOT connected to an actual TigerStop machine.

One last item…When TigerTouch installs, it assumes you’re installing a machine so it’s configured to automatically run when you log into Windows. To stop this, simply remove the TigerTouch Shortcut in the Windows Startup folder. The shortcut is located here:

C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\StartUp

When you’re browsing to this folder you may not see the ProgramData folder because it’s a Windows System folder which by default is configured to be hidden. Simply type in the folder name and you’ll be able to browse to that folder.

Autodesk Fabrication: Best Practice #6

Don’t PURGE or COMPACT Your Database When In Use

A Fabrication Database that’s well managed should have changes being made. This can mean things like materials, specifications, services, connectors and such may be occasionally deleted and removed. If there are proxy items in your database that have {brackets} around them, they should be made permanent or removed as well.

The way to do this is to PURGE and/or COMPACT your database, You can do this by typing PURGEDB on AutoCAD’s command line or by selecting File -> Setup -> Manage Database from ESTmep or CAMduct as sown in the following image.

When you initiate this process, you’ll be presented with a standard “Backup Your Database…” warning which you can click OK to.

From there, you are then presented with the following dialog.

Items that show up here are the ones that show up with {Brackets} in your database, They should either be made permanent or removed in a well managed system.

The Make Permanent option is fairly safe. The items are in your database already there and already have indexes assigned.

On the other hand, the Purge Database option will remove them from your database. When you do this, the’s a chance that some of the database indexes will change as those indexes are how the various database tables relate to each other.

If you do this while others are using the database in CADmep, ESTmep or CAMduct, they already have the database tables loaded into memory. Depending what they are doing, some activities may cause parts of the database to be reloaded while others are not. When this happens, strange things can happen to your drawing…your systems might loose their service or change services or connectors change without notice. More times than not, unless you catch it right away,by the time you find the issue you’ll need to remodel your data or retrieve it from a backup.

In a Database, records are not actually deleted so while the Purge command appears to remove items from the database, it  actually just flags them as being unused so those areas in the database can be overwritten with new data later. This is where Compacting the database comes into play. The Compact the Database Now option will rewrite and re-sequence all the database files and their indexes to recapture that unused space. Again, this causes issues for others who are currently referencing the database and doing work.

While there is danger in using these commands, they should be used to properly manage your database. The key here is to use them after hours when other users are not using the database. Another option would be to do your development work in a copy of the database so nobody is ever “using” the database you’re performing administration work in. When you’re done, you can “copy” this database to the production database but again, after hours when nobody is doing work or you could have all users log out temporarily (perhaps at lunch) and copy the database then.

To the best of my knowledge, this issue is NOT present for those of you using Revit with Fabrication parts. Revit loads in your services and content and caches it in the Revit model. It doesn’t reference the database configuration again while you work unless you manually “reload” the configuration, So unlike CADmep, ESTmep or CAMduct which may reload parts of your database just by using the software, Revit won’t do this unless you manually reload in which care it will reload everything and keep all those database sequences sin check.

If you’ve ever opened an AutoCAD drawing and your parts appeared orphaned from their services, connectors changed to things that don’t make sense or your Cast Iron NoHub Waste system suddenly reports as Rectangular Supply Air, this likely was the cause and this Best Practice is for you.

Autodesk Fabrication: Best Practice #5

Don’t Store Estimating Tables in Your CADmep Drawing

If your company uses ESTmep, pay close attention. CADmep stores in the DWG files most of your database with the exception of content that’s not used and reports. What this also means is that by DEFAULT, CADmep stores your Estimating Tables in every Drawing file (DWG) you produce. Most companies using ESTmep use 1.0 Factors for SMACNA, MCAA or other trade labor so exposing that data isn’t as big of a risk…everybody knows what it is. However, if you have pricing multipliers for your vendors, negotiated prices (as opposed to List Pricing) in your tables or have your own custom labor factors and rates, anyone with access to CADmep and your drawing files can EASILY extract that information from your DWG files,

This is easily changed by toggling the “Do NOT Store Est Tables with DWG Database” setting in the Edit Configuration utility as shown on the following image.

,

Setting this toggles will prevent CADmep from caching a copy of the Price Tables, Install Tables and Fabrication Tables in your drawing file, These are a few other things to note…

  • While this settings prompts you for which configuration to load (if you have more than one), the setting is not configuration specific. Meaning, it is not stored in your Fabrication Database. The setting applies to ALL configurations so you can pick any one you like to make this change.
  • This change is software VERSION specific. For example, if you run 20017 and 2018 versions of CADmep, you need to make the change in both versions.
  • This issue is NOT present when using Revit with Fabrication Parts. Only CADmep has this issue,
  • Because this setting isn’t stored in the database, that means it’s computer specific. You need to change it on each computer running CADmep.
  • This setting is also USER specific (stored in your Windows profile) so even if you change if for one user, if a different user logs in on the same computer, you’ll need to make the change again.

Because this setting is user specific and computer specific…and because the default setting if you do nothing is the RISKY option, it’s easy for this setting to revert back to it’s original value and save the Estimating Tables to the drawing. For this reason, you many want to consider creating an AutoLISP routine that sets this setting every time you start AutoCAD. You could also have it run from a Batch File or VBScript in the Windows Startup folder each time you log onto Windows or even have your IT Department force the setting via Group Policy or other methods. For any of these solutions, it’s as simple as automating the setting in the following Registry Key.

Key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Autodesk\Fabrication 2018\CADmep
Value: StoreEstDatabase
Type: REG_SZ
Data: FALSE

If you’re interested in a sample LSP, Batch File and/or VBScript to set this, drop me an Email at Dyoung@Mcwi.Com.

Autodesk Screencast

I’m amazed at how many people aren’t aware of or don’t use Autodesk Screencast. It’s a free, screen recording utility from Autodesk but it;s also a lot more.

While Screencast will record any application, a number of Autodesk applications have a lot tighter integration. Here’s some of the additional things Screencast will do that most other screen recording applications miss when you capture from an Autodesk application…

  • Record and display characters typed during playback
  • Record and display mouse picks (e.g. left button, right button, etc.) and movements during playback
  • Display product(s) and versions used during playback
  • Display commands used
  • List commands used during playback
  • List system variables/Settings changed during playback
  • List dialog boxes displayed during playback
  • Unlimited cloud storage (no limit that I could find)
  • Store recordings in Private, Unlisted or Public modes
  • Public recordings can be used as search results in Autodesk’s Knowledge Network search results.
  • Embed Screencast into web pages
  • Easily download your recordings video

Not all Autodesk applications have as much details as others (AutoCAD records a lot of data, Navis less data).

While you can use Screencast for the typical uses of any screen recording software like training, where I think it really shines is in support both internal and external, If you’ve ever had your users unable to reproduce a problem while you were looking, this gives them a good way to get that information to you. Additionally, you can see exactly what they are/are not typing and picking in the even there’s a very nuanced user interface interaction they’re missing that you pickup on or that they are having a hard time communicating.

I especially like using Screencast when submitting Support tickets to Autodesk. They are easily able to see what I see and what I type and pick eliminating a lot of unnecessary Email communication about steps to reproduce. This alone makes Screencast worth it’s weight in gold because it cuts down on the non-value added time spent during the support process. The Autodesk tech immediately sees everything and can jump start their troubleshooting and/or research.

You can download and learn more about Screencast from this link.

Autodesk Fabrication: Best Practice #4

Make sure ALL of your ITM content has a Database ID assigned to it.

A database ID is a unique identifier for content. There should be a single Database ID for any ITM that is NOT Product Listed. For Product Listed ITM’s, there should be Database ID for each entry in the product list.

For ITM’s that are not product listed (typically fabricated sheet metal fittings or other content where the ITM only represents one size, you can put the Database ID in the “Code” field of the ITM Properties as shown in the following image…

For ITM’s that are Product Listed, the Database ID should be in the ID column of the Product List. When you place an instance of a product listed ITM in your model, you select a size from the product list, When you select that size, the Database ID associated with that size it automatically entered into the Code field of the ITM Properties like shown earlier, The following image shows the Database ID column in a Product List…


Why Use A Database ID?

The Database ID is a useful component to managing an Autodesk Fabrication configuration. This Database ID can be referenced by other aspects of Autodesk Fabrication should you choose to use them. The Database ID is what can link your content to….

  • Price lists
  • Fabrication Labor
  • Installation Labor
  • Product Information (ProdInfo)

Even if you don’t use ESTmep for estimating  and don’t want to use the Price and/or Labor features of the database, Product Information is tied to the Database ID and is used to store additional meta data about your content like Manufacturer, Size, Description, etc. Even if you’re not using ProdInfo now, it’s still a good idea to use Database ID’s because adding them to the content is the most time consuming part. It’s easy to add them when building content, more cumbersome later after the fact. If all your content had Database ID’s assigned, it’s much easier to implement ProdInfo, Price and/or Labor later down the road.

The following Video shows how to access the Database ID of Product Listed and Non-Product Listed ITM’s. It also shows you 2 different sizes of a product listed ITM in a drawing and how Autodesk Fabrication automatically assigned the Database ID from the Product List for the corresponding size into the Code field of the ITM Properties.


Key Database ID Takeaways

Here’s a few pointers when working with Database ID’s:

  • Each Database ID should be unique and not assigned to other content or sizes.
  • Managing Database ID’s using a spreadsheet or other database makes managing them much easier.
  • Your database ID can be anything you want but should have some sort of naming standard associated with it.
  • Your Database ID Naming standard can be as simple as a prefix followed by incremental numbers to something complex with special codes and formatting to indicate other aspects of your content. (e.g. Valves, Pipe, Sheetmetal, etc)
  • You can use Autodesk or other Vendors ID’s if they already have them assigned and use your for anything you create or replace them all with your own company Database ID’s if you are particular about naming standards,
  • Don’t reuse ID’s if the content that once used them is now obsolete. Legacy/Archive drawings still reference these numbers. Simply flag them as being obsolete in the Spreadsheet you are managing them with.

Beware: Autodesk Subscriptions, Industry Collections and Trust

Everything Must Change

It’s no secret that Autodesk is moving to an annual subscription model. There’s a number of reasons Autodesk tells you it’s for the flexibility and benefit of the customers. Some of these benefits include…

  • Predictable annual licensing costs
  • Lower initial cost for procurement (no more large initial upfront cost)
  • Flexible licensing model (add/drop licenses as your business needs)
  • Ability to release product updates anytime

All these benefits are true, legitimate reasons a customer would want to move to a subscription model. If you look at the current pricing promotions, converting existing licenses to the Industry Collections looks very financially attractive.

A number of years go, Adobe rolled out subscription licensing. Revenue suffered for a couple years and then rebounded. Customers were no longer making large upfront purchases but as time went by and subscriptions increased, revenue rebounded and higher profits ensued. And because revenue wasn’t tied to an annual “release” cycle of software updates, it’s a more predictable and stable revenue stream. It’s no wonder Autodesk is following in Adobe’s footprints. As a business, they’d be foolish not to and even as a customer, I don’t begrudge them to make a profit and give them more flexibility in running their company.


The Problem

When Adobe made the transition, revenue was significantly impacted and returned in a couple years. Autodesk is seeing the same thing with one key difference. Autodesk has underwent 11 straight quarters of losses. Adobe never lost money. Clearly, Autodesk’s customer base isn’t as understanding and you see a lot of public facing criticism in public forums against being forced into this model.

Part of the problem is the longevity of the data Autodesk customers produce compared to Adobe. Autodesk customers often maintain engineering or product documentation for decades. That pretty marketing graphic made from Adobe products likely isn’t managing product or building data 2 decades later.

The other part is Autodesk’s horrible track record with pricing. Autodesk isn’t a software company, they’re a sales organization and they’re very good at it. They have a history of squeezing the re-seller channel, taking over their major accounts and competing with their third party partners.

Here’s a few examples…

  • Autodesk tells their re-seller channel they’ll partner with them on major accounts. The fact is many find themselves frozen out of the discussions, especially if there’s any hint of looking out for the customer’s interest.
  • It was very common to be able to “upgrade” your annual maintenance contracts to higher end software. To go from AutoCAD to AutoCAD Mechanical or AutoCAD MEP or was cheaper or only slightly higher than staying on AutoCAD. When your maintenance contract was up for renewal a year later, you then see the deferred price increase you just were hit with. If you wanted to “downgrade”, you paid a fee, typically the cost difference between the two products.
  • When Autodesk stopped selling the Revit MEP Suite, they rolled out the Building Design Suite. If you were already on the Revit MEP Suite, you were grandfathered in could maintain your contract. It was during this time the sales channel was running a “promotion” to upgrade and telling customers they should act fast before they were enforced to upgrade at a higher price. The problem, a) The Design Suite promotions ran almost continually to show vertical product sales increases to Wall Street and b) They would “uplift” customers to the Design Suites for free a mere 6 months later. One company I worked with, Autodesk tried to sell over $300k in upgrades this way only to get them for free months later. They claim they didn’t know but how could they not? I’m just a dumb customer, I knew…because it’s happened before.
  • Autodesk had their sales staff and resellers promoting selling Perpetual licenses “while you can still get them”…and customers did. All the while I suspect they knew they’d just increase the maintenance subscriptions to more than the annual subscriptions. Your “savings” in cheaper annual renewals just was wiped out.

If you look at the various changes has made over the last 2 decades, rolling out maintenance subscriptions and finally making them mandatory to replace upgrade charges or rolling their new annual subscription model, you’ll notice a common theme. All of these changes create an “Artificial Crisis” for customers which results in collecting as much as they can while delivering as little as possible,  Given their track record of deceptive and misleading sales, it’s no wonder customers have a lack on trust and are resisting these changes.


What Should You Do

Customers like to think they have control. Autodesk likes them to think that as well. But the fact is, you don’t. I hear a lot of talk from customers about maintaining their existing perpetual licenses and resisting the move to subscription, Personally, I think that’s misplaced.

Autodesk wants you on subscription and that’s where you’ll go, sooner or later. You don’t have a choice without switching software, Want to Upgrade, Downgrade, Cross-grade to another product, move from Standalone to Network Licensing, you’ll have to go on subscription. Unless you don’t want to pay more annually to maintain your perpetual licenses than it would to go to subscription, you’ll move…sooner or later.

Willing to stick it out? Feel free but in industries like construction that are really evolving with new technology workflows and require all team members to be on the same page to leverage collaborative project workflows it’ll be tough to do. Even with the evolution of technology to the cloud and big data analytics, other industries are going to be hard pressed to not upgrade. How many people do you know running AutoCAD r14 or even 2008 for that matter?

Still not convinced and plan on hanging onto your perpetual licenses forever? Good luck. That “Navisworks Manage” you have you’re free to run forever as long as you can find the hardware that will run it. In fact, you can’t even buy a maintenance subscription anymore because we at Autodesk stopped making it. You’re welcome to buy a subscription to our new “Navis Quantum” anytime however,

If you’re really dead set on maximizing that initial investment you paid for your perpetual licenses, you really have only one option…stop paining maintenance subscription now. Ride it out a couple years and buy subscriptions when you need them. They’ll be running a promotion sooner or later. With a fiscal year end of January, the new years is always a good time to negotiate pricing.


What’s the Future Hold?

So let’s just assume you’re on annual subscriptions down the road. What can you expect next?

Because you can add/drop licenses easily with annual subscriptions, they’re easy to scale with your business. When business is good, so is Autodesk. But what if there’s another recession and people start dropping licenses?

While most resellers and Autodesk are promoting Industry Collections, there’s a little know catch that every contact I asked either in the reseller channel or at Autodesk didn’t know (and I asked many). The Industry Collections limit you to running 2 concurrent products for the same user on the same computer. If you’re in the Mechanical Electrical and Plumbing construction industry, it’s common to run AutoCAD, with CADmep (runs in AutoCAD) and Navisworks at the same time…maybe ever Revit too.

You literally can’t find information on the FAQ’s regarding this restriction and the sales people are telling you that you can drop your Navis and CADmep licenses and migrate your Revit/Acad to an AEC Collection and save money and licenses without disclosing this restriction.

The only place you find information is on the Knowledgebase (if you search for “concurrent usage”)…

https://knowledge.autodesk.com/search-result/caas/sfdcarticles/sfdcarticles/Industry-Collections-Licensing.html

Or in a single Discussion group post by Autodesk…

https://forums.autodesk.com/t5/installation-licensing/industry-collection-licensing-basic-information-amp-licensing/td-p/7250896

It’s not found in the other countless pages and links your most often referred to. Reading closely, you’ll notice, one talks about the restriction generically and the other only pertaining to network versions. Autodesk re-sellers don’t have access to Collection licenses (only individual products) and can’t even test. So hows this work and how does it apply?

Upon much research by myself, my industry colleagues and Autodesk, come to find out it’s not a “technical” limitation rather a “policy” that’s not enforced with technology. So, what happens if/when…

  • They start enforcing the policy?
  • They perform your next license audit and see you use more products that you should concurrently?
  • The economy slows and their revenue drops so they implement a “no concurrent usage” policy?

As you can see, Autodesk is in complete control and your only option once on subscription is to pay or or stop using the software. There is no longer a perpetual license to fall back on.

Ok, fine, you can just buy an extra Navis or Revit subscription. But those need to be assigned to a specific user who also has access via the Collection. Or if you’re preference is network licensing, forget it. Revit and Navis are no longer able to be purchased with network licensing unless on a subscription.

If you don’t think it’ll happen, think again. For the second time in just a few short months, Collaboration for Revit isn’t enforcing licensing. The first time this happened, when they turned it on many users were left without access to their projects and unable to work. They should have had licenses, true but C4R configuration and setup is not straight forward. It’s common to grant access to people in a project. They may not realize you also need a license provisioned in another system. In fact, it’s very easy to have multiple licenses assigned to the same user from different companies essentially giving Autodesk double revenue and you’ll never know.

Given their misleading tactics in the past, how do you know this disabling of license checking isn’t intentional in an effort to get people to start using and depending on the software only to force a purchase down the road? It’s well known that AutoCAD was as popular as it was due to the easy of piracy back in it’s infancy.

So in summary, there’s really only a few practical options,..

  1. Give in and move to subscription, you’ll be there anyway eventually.
  2. Drop your maintenance subscription now if you can and ride it out a few years
  3. Move to another product/vendor.
  4. Maintain your perpetual contracts and pay more than any other option,

 

CAMduct, OPUS Parts, Edited Developments and Proxies

Two Problems….One Solution

In CAMduct using OPUS parts and/or ITM’s with developments that have had edits made to them can on occasion cause some headaches. The following process can be used to resolve 2 different issues in CAMduct, Those are….

  1. Retain edited pattern developments
  2. Eliminate proxy database entries with {curly brackets}

1) Retaining Edited Developments

It’s fairly common for CAMduct users to edit pattern developments. Occasionally, they may want to save these edited developments for later use. A good example is using a number of separate ITM’s for damper blades. Each ITM is a different size with perhaps some edits to the pattern for slots/holes for U-Bolts, notching to clear screws, etc.  A CAMduct user can use any CID Pattern for the basis of their edits. For example, they could use an Elbow CID, delete all the developments belonging to the elbow and redraw something completely from scratch. The problem with this is that if you ever try to change materials or edit the ITM in any other way, the development edits are lost and the original development is back minus your changes.

In the following image, you can see that Right-Clicking on an ITM made from CID 41 offers a couple editing options In this case, we’re going to select the Edit Developments option.

When you select the Edit Developments option, you’re brought to the OPUS Part editor shown in the next image. Here you’ll see that there’s been a 45 degree slot added to the development.

On the other hand, you can also Right-Click on the ITM and select EDIT from the menu as shown in the next image.

This option brings up the standard ITM editor which you should be fairly familiar with. The part you see in the ITM editor may not look anything like the development, it may look very similar or in fact be the same part developed if there were no edits made. From the ITM Editor, click the “Develop” button in the lower right and you’ll again be brought to a dialog that displays the part(s) developments. This time you’ll notice that the 45 degree slot is not shown. In fact, it’s displaying the unedited development for the CID you’ve selected based on the Dimensions, Options, etc. as entered in the ITM Editor. From the ITM editor, the dimensions, options and other settings drive the size/shape of the developments. It wouldn’t know what to do with your edits so it gets rid of them,

When you Edit the part in the ITM Editor, even if to change something simple as a material, the pattern gets redeveloped and the edits you made to the developments are lost. This makes ITM’s utilized this way very prone to getting wiped out of you’re not careful.

The solution to protecting these developments is to change them to a different CID pattern used exclusively for OPUS parts…CID 998 (or 0 depending how it’s created) OPUS parts contain only the development and not the originating ITM pattern. When you select the Edit option for an OPUS part, you go directly to the Opus Editor.


2) Proxy Database Entries

The other problem with edited developments is they can bring in proxy entries into your database. As an example, lets say the CID Pattern used was pointed to a Material, Connector or Seam in your database that no longer exists, was renamed or moved to a new group. As explained earlier, you can’t go back and edit the ITM to change them or your edits to the development will get wiped out.  You can change the seams/connectors/materials with a COD script to avoid this but most people are not familiar with this process. When you use this type of ITM, the old materials, seams and.or connectors that were originally used come back into your database with {brackets} around them.

Even then, a Development Part is assigned a material separate from the material on the ITM. There is no way to change the development part’s material from a COD script. You can however, change it from the Development tab of the Properties dialog.

The following image shows the Properties option when Right-Clicking on an ITM.

After clicking the Properties option, the properties dialog box will appear. Here, you can switch to the Developments tab to see the developments of the ITM. From this tab, you can then edit the Development Part material. This still presents a few possible difficulties…

  • You have to edit the development part material one ITM at a time.
  • You can’t script changing the development part material
  • You can’t set the development part material to “None” as this is not an option
  • Depending on the “Catalog” and/or other options of the ITM, the Development Part material drop down may not be enabled for selection.

As we mentioned earlier, a native OPUS part CID only contains the developments and avoids a lot of these issues.

The obvious thing to do is to go to the edited developments of the original ITM and copy the geometry to the Windows Clipboard (Ctrl-C). You could then go to an Empty OPUS part and paste the object there from the Windows Clipboard (Ctrl-V). But again, this presents yet more issues.

Even though you would only be copying/pasting the development entities, CAMduct still remembers there were seams and connectors applied and this data hitch hikes along for the ride on the geometry even though you can’t see it. Except now, you can’t get to the ITM editor any longer to change them and COD scripts can’t find any connectors to seams to change because an Opus part doesn’t have those options. The information i there,, hidden, but inaccessible.

In the following image, you’ll see two ITM Properties dialog boxes side by side.

In the LEFT image, you’ll see what the Developments tab looks like on an ITM with edited Developments or even. It alo look this way on an OPUS part that was created using Copy/Paste method from a different CID. The OPUS Editor doesn’t show you, but the Developments tab in Properties displays text for the Seams/Connectors.  The image in the RIGHT is an OPUS part created with a completely different process that we’ll show shortly.

Also notice the image on the LEFT shows a material in the drop down list where as the image on the RIGHT does not. Using the ITM that was the source of the Left image will bring in proxy Materials, Seams and Connectors if they no longer exist in your configuration. Using the ITM that was the source for the Right image, will not bring in these Proxy items. This means if you later reorganize your materials/seams/connectors, the ITM for the left image will keep corrupting your database and the ITM for the right image will not.


The Solution

To resolve both of these issues, Edited Developments on none OPUS CID Patterns and eliminating proxy database entries, we can use the same process. This process involve creating DXF files for the existing ITM’s an then creating new ITM’s from those same DXF files.

The following image shows how to Right-Click on the ITM and Export the DXF to a file on disk.

Once the DXF files are create, you can Right-Click on an empty area of the Folder display and select New, then Import as shown in the following image.

The import process is fairly self explanatory end leaves you in the Opus part editor. Here are can make any final changes and when clicking OK, you can overwrite the existing ITM or give it a new name. This new ITM is based on CID 998, has no material set in the developments and contains no traces of any seams or connectors. You also don’t need to worry about accidentally deleting the edited developments because editing this ITM brings you directly to the OPUS Part editor and does not bring you to the ITM editor.


Additional Considerations

What’s nice about the above process, is that you can select multiple ITM’s at one time to Export to DXF. And when you Import the DXF’s, you can also select multiple DXF files. There will be some additional or changed prompts in this process but it allows you to quickly clean up your existing OPUS parts and protect ITM’s made from non-OPUS CID’s.

One thing to watch for is complex geometry with a lot of curves/arcs/lines. You’d typically see this type of geometry when cutting patterns that represent art or a lot of text. When dealing with this type of geometry, before you Import the DXF’s, you may want to explore some of the settings used by CAMduct to automatically detect a complete profile without any small gaps or overlaps causing issues, The following image shows where these settings can be made.

Use of these settings goes beyond the scope of this article so I’d recommend using a little trial and error to get the best results only if you encounter problems with importing DXF’s.

The other thing to watch for is the Kerf or offset used on the tools assigned to the profiled part and which types of lead in/out paths are used to start and end the profiles, While you can always edit these settings of the OPUS parts later on a case by case basis, you can set the defaults to use in CAMduct. The following image shows where to set these default values.


Taking a Closer Look

If you want to take a closer look, at the entire process, you can view the process this these two videos.

Here’s the process to cleanup a single ITM…

 

Here’s the process to cleanup a multiple ITMs…

 

If you want to play with a couple ITM’s yourself, you can download them here.

If you play with the original ITM Test Plate (CID 41 – Dev Edits).ITM or the OPUS part created with the flawed Copy//Paste method Test Plate (CID 998 – Copied to OPUS).ITM, you’ll see a custom Material, Seam and Connector added to your database, Delete them out and try again with the next ITM. You’ll see that the ITM created with the DXF process Test Plate (CID 998 – DXFed to OPUS).ITM we showed earlier does not bring the old materials, seams or connectors shown in the below images.

Autodesk Fabrication: Best Practice #3

Don’t leave proxy items in your fabrication database.

You’ll notice these as they appear with curly brackets { } around a piece of text like an ITM name or DWG name.

These proxy objects can show up many places. Services, Service Templates, Materials, Connectors, Seams, etc. They occur when an ITM or drawing containing ITM’s references a database entry that no longer exists in your Fabrication configuration. As an example, if you delete a connector from your database, let’s say “Copper Cup” then later add an ITM to your drawing that contains a reference to that connector, it gets added back to your configuration and displays the ITM name in the curly brackets.

If there’s bracketed items in your database they should either be made permanent or deleted. If deleted, they may keep coming back.  If you truly want them gone, you need to find the objects bringing them back and update them to the new item in your database configuration that they should point to.

A properly managed Fabrication database configuration should have everything configured properly. Items with curly brackets are an indication that things are not configured properly.

Future posts will explain various techniques to help identify where these bracketed items come from as well as how to correct them efficiently.