Field Ordering Ductwork

Want to Field order ductwork electronically? There’s several options that I’m aware of.

Autodesk Remote Entry

Autodesk’s Remote Entry can be installed on any number of computers without cost just as long as you have at least a single license of Fabrication CAMduct (~$1000/yr). You can read about Remote Entry’s licensing details here. Remote Entry is only of value if you’re shop or your duct manufacturer uses Autodesk’s Fabrication CAMduct to drive fabrication.

Note, like most of Autodesk’s Fabrication software…this is a stagnant product. Works only on Windows (no Andriod or IoS). Unless you’re already using CAMduct in your shop, there’s littererly very little reason to ever implement this software.

BuildCentrix

BuildCentrix started out as Webduct. They’ve since expended beyond ductwork and gone as far as having capabilities to integrate with a number of ERP systems. This is likely the best “Enterprise Class” tool focusedon ductwork at this time.

FieldOrderZ

One of the newer players in the market, it’s a project partnered with GTP. However you don’t need to be a GTP Stratus user to leverage FieldOrderZ. It can serve your needs even if you’re not a Stratus customer. It can also facilitate more than just Ductwork. Works best for Autodesk Fabrication users but I’d encourage you to reach out to them to see what they can do if you’re not an Autodesk Fabricatino customer. Likely one of the easiest tools for your Field staff to sketch what they need without being an AutocAD or Revit savvy detailer.

SiteTrace

SiteTrace is another newcomer I’ve just become aware of. CAD Content agnostic, it’ll help digitize your field ordering of Duct and related accessories saving you time and errors from traditional processes. They don’t integrate with any CAM software or Machine tools at this time making it the perfect fit for those smaller shops that get overlooked by the larger software companies.

Trimble FabShop

This is the old Vulcan software, one of the long timer CAM platforms for Duct fabricators. Their current platform has mobile capabilities that allow Field ordering of duct and processing within Trimble’s Shop Fabrication software.

Vicon Vi-Call

Most pepole know Vicon as a builder of Duct fabrication machinery. But they also offer a varierty of software tools. One of which facilities ordering of ductwork from your field staff to the shop into their managment platform.


If you’re aware of other field ordering tools for Sheetmetal ductwork, drop me a note and I’ll get them added to the list.

The 2 Sides of BIM360/Autodesk Construction Cloud

I see a lot of people confused about how BIM360 Docs / Autodesk Docs works when used with BIM360 Design or BIM Collaborate Pro and Revit. It doesn’t help any that Autodesk repeatedly refers to ‘Single Source of Truth‘ as one of the benefits. While BIM360/ACC does help provide a ‘Single Source of Truth‘, it’s not quite as simple as it seems.

There’s 2 Models…Not 1.

Yes, you heard me right. There’s actually 2 models and a virtual ‘Fence‘ between them. One used by BIM360 Design / BIM Collaborate Pro and another completely separate model by BIM360 Docs / Autodesk Docs. This graphics might explain it a little better…

How Things Really Work

Before anyone creates anything, Docs has no files. The following images show BIM360 Docs on the feft and Autodesk Construction Cloud on the right. This will help you see subtle differences however things really work the same.

Next, you model something in Revit and Initiate Collaboration…

Once Collaboration to the Cloud is Complete, if you look at BIM360 Docs / Autodesk Docs quickly you’ll see the file shows up as Version 1 (v1). At this point, you can’t click on the file to view it. Autodesk’s system is merely creating a placeholder while it continues to process the model in the background.

If you wait long enough, you’ll see that the files then update as Version 2 (v2). Once they’re listed as v2, they can be clicked and viewed in the Cloud. Despite saying v2, you really only initiated collaborate once from Revit. v1 was the initial file placeholder and v2 is the finished model that’s processed.

One reason for the confusion is that this v2 model shows up automatically. The common assumption is that it’s the same model as the one you opened in Revit. But that is NOT the case. The v2 model is actually a ‘Processed Copy‘ of the model you had open in Revit. That’s why it took a little while for the v2 model to show up in Docs.

The next time you open the models in Revit, you can see that it shows the models as ‘Latest Published‘. Note that you should be opening the models through BIM360 Design / BIM Collaborate Pro and NOT from the Desktop Connector. More about that later. For now, you can see the models listed when you try to open them in Revit.

If you open these models, they would look exactly the same as those viewed from Docs on the Web. The next thing that happens is people change the model and Sync to Central. This will continue for the entire development of the model. Pretty normal stuff.

Despite syncing changes to the cloud, if you view the models from the web interface of Docs, they’ll still say v2 and show the original published model.

In fact, if you were to close and then try to reopen the model from Revit, you might notice that it now says there’s an ‘Update Available‘. Note: You might need to click the ‘Refresh the current project‘ icon in the upper right to refresh the status. If you haven’t browsed to a different folder/project or restarted Revit the project status cache might be stale and need the refresh.

When an update is available, YOU as the model author can choose when to push those changes to BIM360 Docs / Autodesk Docs. This is why there’s really ‘two sides‘ to models in BIM360. It’s intentionally this way to put you in control. You can control IF and/or WHEN to release your changes to the rest of your team for viewing. After all, you don’t want them to view your partial updates while you’re still working through issues.

You can choose to update the models right from that same interface. Click the ellipsis button to the right of the file entry and select ‘Publish Latest‘.

Once you select to publish the latest version, you’ll be prompted for a confirmation with some added details. You’ll then see the interface in Revit show it’s processing. Once it’s finished processing, you’ll be able to open the model again in Revit. If you look back at BIM360 Docs / Autodesk Docs once processing is done, you’ll see the file(s) there are now listed as Version 3 (v3)

At this point, your web view of the model in BIM360 Docs / Autodesk Docs is the same as when you open it in Revit. That is, until you make more changes and Sync to Central again. Once you have new sync’d changes, you’ll have to publish to Docs again. But only when you’re ready for the rest of the team to view the model.

BIM360 / Autodesk Desktop Connector Warning

It should be noted that the Desktop Connector displays what’s in BIM360 Docs / Autodesk Docs. It does NOT give you access to what you’re currently modeling in Revit with BIM360 Design / BIM Collaborate Pro. This may be perfectly well what you want when linking in a model from another team. But if you want their Live updates, you’ll want to Link from BIM360 Design / BIM Collaborate Pro.

Note that Design Collaboration does have advanced features for collaboration. It’s beyond the scope of this post but highly recommended you look into it.

I hope this helps you understand a little better about how BIM360 Docs / Autodesk Docs does and doesn’t relate to BIM360 Design / BIM Collaborate Pro. Just remember, it’s NOT the same model, it’s a published copy. The only time it shows up automatically in BIM360 Docs / Autodesk Docs is when you initiate collaboration for the first time in Revit. All other Sync to Central updates won’t show up in Docs without an intentional Publish by you or another team member.

Review/Warning – MEP Fabrication Data Manager Sync (Technical Preview)

On March 23, 2022, Autodesk released the “MEP Fabrication Data Manager Sync – Technical Preview”. That same day, I posted to several sources a warning regarding a risk in using this tool. In this review, I’ll go over the risks shortcomings as I see them along with what background I can share that’s not covered under NDA. I’ll also address Autodesk’s public response to my warning.


What is the MEP Fabrication Data Manager Sync?

Let’s start with a little background. What is the MEP Fabrication Manager Sync? This is a tool designed to Sync your Autodesk Fabrication configuration from the Cloud to your local system.

But Configuration isn’t in the Cloud you may say. Well, that’s part of the plan too.

Why would we want to do that?

The Autodesk Fabrication configuration is complex and powerful but also fragile and bug ridden beast. Because of this it’s difficult for Autodesk to make changes and fixes. If you recall, in their last big restructuring, they terminated many of the developers who were customer advocates and knew the code. So attempting to advance just about anything it to the ‘Next Level’ risks injecting a LOT of defects into the products we use. If you’re a Fabrication user, you all know what I’m taking about. You’ve lived it.

Enter their ‘Cloud’ strategy to put the Configuration in the Cloud. There, they can put it in a safe environment, refactor it, rewire it and surround it with digital bubble wrap to product it’s integrity.

This has actually been on the “Public Revit Roadmap” for a long time. I believe it even predates the existence of the public roadmap.

This strategy is one reason why Revit Fabrication parts had had little added development other than token improvements since about 2018. Lets face it, if they were to build it from scratch today, they’d do it differently then it was 20 plus years ago when CADmep came out. Makes complete sense what they want to do.

But as anyone with even the slightest electrical charge in their skull knows, you can’t put the configuration in the Cloud and have a Desktop product access it and hope to have any shred of performance. Hence, the “sync” tool to pull it back down.

So to summarize, Autodesk’s Cloud strategy for Fabrication is to push it to the Cloud where it can be protected and enhanced but not used. And then they’ve built a tool to sync it back down locally for use in Revit only….for piping only….only for your company…only if you never need a new fitting…only if you don’t use ESTmep, CADmep or CAMduct.


What’s Wrong with FDM?

There’s a long list of things wrong with what was released. Here’s a high-level overview.

  • Major Issues and Limitations are NOT disclosed.
  • FDM is NOT Disclosed as “Beta” or “Not for Production”
  • Estimating/Labor data easily distributed to others with no ability to recall it.
  • Only a single “owner” of a configuration with no way to change the owner.
  • Anyone can easily upload your Configuration and use or share it with anyone.
  • No new Parts, Seams, Dampers, Stiffeners, Supports, Ancillaries, etc.
  • Once uploaded, no way to “Re-Upload”
  • No interoperability to CADmep, CAMduct or ESTmep
  • Install Errors

Limitation & Issues Disclosure

There’s a lot of limitations with FDM and the Sync tool. Do NOT make the assumption that their list of limitations and issues in the help file are in any way near complete or comprehensive. There’s so little covered that it makes it appear the problems are trivial. They are not. It’s embarrassing how little effort they put into documenting this. You really need to read everything and infer a lot based on what’s said and not said. This is the only way to get a full picture and use this product with minimal risk.


Is FDM a Beta or Complete Product?

You may have seen Autodesk product manager Martin Schmit’s response to my post that FDM and the Sync tool are Beta and shouldn’t be used in production. You can see them here…

https://forums.autodesk.com/t5/revit-mep-forum/warning-mep-fabrication-data-manager-technical-preview/td-p/11025492

http://www.xtracad.com/forum/index.php/topic,17023.0.html

That’s flat out bullshit. Here’s why…

  1. The description in the Autodesk Desktop App does NOT say or mention ‘Beta’. So no, it’s not listed as a Beta here. Other Technical Previews in other products didn’t provide ‘Beta’ notices either of the ones I saw.
  2. During install or once installed, review the ‘Terms of Service’ in the Sync Tool. It contains 2,709 characters / 501 words and not a single instance of the term ‘Beta’. Not listed as a beta here either.
  3. The initial help file/Release Notes contained 14,290 characters / 2,698 words and again, not a single instance of the term ‘Beta’ in the initial release. In fact, under ‘What is a Technical Preview’ it stated the following…

    “Tech Preview applications are considered complete and ready for use, but are made available on a preview basis so you can get early access before a broader rollout to all customers.”

    It’s since been updated (likely because I called it out) to read…

    “Tech Previews provide early access to pre-release or beta features for evaluation.”

    But while it now contains a single ‘Beta’ term, it simply states that generically. A “Technical Preview” contains “pre-release” OR ‘Beta’ features. Nowhere in there does it state that this FDM is indeed a ‘Beta’.
  4. The Blog Post also mentions that “Pre-release OR Beta” is what a ‘Technical Preview’ is and does NOT actually state that this is indeed beta. Merely that a Technical Preview may contain some Beta features. That’s a far cry from the entirety of the product being considered Beta.
  5. There’s a link in the terms of service to Autodesk’s general ‘Terms of Service‘. That page contains 67,123 characters / 12,3871 words and contains the term ‘Beta’ merely once. Here in section 12 ‘Trial Versions’ the term ‘Beta’ is listed along “Not for Resale’, ‘Free’, ‘Evaluation’, ‘Trial’ and ‘Pre-Release’ terms. It’s a generic document that does not refer specifically to this Technical Preview. And it merely says that ‘Beta’ is one of many ‘Trial Versions’ that are governed under the ‘Trial Versions’ legal limitations. So yet again, it’s NOT listed as a beta here.
  6. One of the YouTube videos linked the blog post mention using the Sync tool to distribute your database ‘Across Stakeholders’. This is not something you’d suggest for ‘Beta’ software or things you shouldn’t use in production. It implies collaboration…across stakeholders.

Am I being a bit picky? Perhaps. But the fact is that after 6-7 years of work on this, it’s still sloppy and incomplete. And unless you fully read everything and make a lot of conclusions based on interpretation and reading between the lines, the average user has no idea the risks they’re taking.


Where’s the Risk?

The risk is Autodesk’s repeated gross negligence in providing tools that expose your price and labor data. This is the 3rd avenue Autodesk has given users tools that provide easy access to your price and labor data. The other 2 avenues for this occurring still exist today with no acknowledgement from Autodesk.

Giving you a tool and telling you its to help you easily collaborate with users without generic sync tools implies you can collaborate with it. But if you add collaborators, you aren’t told that they have access to your cost and labor data. If you saw Autodesk’s public response to my initial post, you can see them hide behind the rather weak “you’re in complete control of sharing” statement.

I suppose you can give a powerful and dangerous tools to any unsuspecting person and them blame them for the carnage they create. But it would seem to me, any firm that is intent on being your partner would have a responsibility to disclose risks associated with the tools they provide.

Here’s the only warning Autodesk provides…

A mere generic warning upon sharing is NOT enough. There’s no link to details or context. From a user’s perspective a generic message like that could merely be a blanket ‘CYA’ legal statement as virtually anything a user shares could be considered ‘Sensitive’. Further, take into account that the Web based FDM shows no Cost or Labor data, it doesn’t let you add or manipulate it. This would easily suggest to a user that Cost and Labor are NOT included. Especially considering their own documentation says Cost and Labor are ‘Future’ considerations.

FDM Configurations are downloaded to this location…

%userprofile%\AppData\Local\Autodesk\Fabrication

Browse within these folders and into the Database folder and you’ll see COST.MAP, FTIMES.MAP, ETIMES.MAP and SUPPLIER.MAP. Once shared with another user, the Configurations owner can NOT pull them back. All it takes is copying this database to a new location and add it to ESTmep and you’re Price and Labor data is hacked.

This is a Known Issue yet it’s not disclosed in the ‘Known Issues’.


Only One Owner

A Configuration can only have one owner. It also has no way to be changed without Autodesk’s back end assistance….maybe. Again, a limitation you’re not told of. If whoever manages your configuration leaves and you’re up a creek.

Any because Autodesk accounts are tied to Emails, they have full access to your configuration even after they’re gone. It’s yet another security risk for which YOU are not able to manage or control.


Easy End User Manipulation

Again, there’s no control you’re allowed for users. If you install this tool to your user’s system so they can consume a configuration you shared, they can upload and share it with anyone they want. Super easy and you’ll never know. Yes, they could always give your database to someone anyway, but it’s a very intentional act and requires some technical knowledge. This sync tool merely looks like an easy way to collaborate with little warning about what the consequences really are.


Database Coverage Limited

There’s not a lot you can so with FDM at this point. You can make new services, templates, materials and specifications. But you can’t copy an ITM or make a new one. You can’t edit the product list of an ITM. Can’t make Ancillaries, Kits, Dampers, Supports, Stiffeners, Notches. Support Specs, Service Types, etc. You can’t edit Labor or Price. You can’t edit service types, custom data, oval stretch outs, etc. So there’s not a hell of a lot you can do. You can’t really manage your database. Additionally, there’s no capability to bulk edit even those things you can edit in FDM. It’s certainly not going to be faster to edit your database. At best, trivial edits are allowed. Any other use is going to be burdensome.


No Way to ReUpload

Once you upload a configuration, you can make some limited changes there. But not everything. Everything else you need to edit in CADmep, ESTmep or CAMduct. And once you do, there’s no way to upload your changes. Your only option is to delete the Configuration on FDM and loose any changes you made there.

So now you have 2 independent vectors for editing your database. One partial (FDM) and one complete like you always have. And there’s no way to reconcile those.

Now Autodesk will tell you they’ll be adding more. But judging from how they’ve implemented Fabrication Parts in Revit, they’ll never finish it according to YOUR expectations. They’ll get it to where they’re happy and call it good.


No Fabrication Interoperability

There’s NO interoperability with CADmep, ESTmep or CAMduct. And there’s no plans to near as I can tell. Read what they’ve pushed out. Their sole focus is on Revit. If they get to Cost and Labor it’ll be under the assumption that Estimators will use Revit to quantify their estimates. I can’t imagine a world where a mechanical estimator will use Revit to take off estimates. Another stupid half baked idea.

To add insult to injury, Revit does not report ‘Node to Node Length’ in Reports…it doesn’t work. So Autodesk’s official solution is to export an MAJ and run your reports from there as outlined in this KB Article. So for products they don’t want to support, they seem to be the solution to everything wrong with Revit as well as FDM.


Install Errors

I’ve had far more systems produce install errors than those that actually install properly. They knew of the error I reported it before release.

The released anyway. There’s a generic KB article that explains how to fix it.
“An error occurred while preparing the installation” when installing an Autodesk product | AutoCAD | Autodesk Knowledge Network

But there’s an easier way to get this installed if you encounter the error. Simply browse to the below file, Right-Click on it and select “Install”.

%userprofile%\AppData\Local\Temp\Autodesk_MEP_FDM_Sync\x64\MEP_FDM_Sync\MEP_FDM_Sync.msi


What’s good About FDM?

Well, a couple things. For starters, when you upload a configuration you can see the errors it contains. Ironically, they’re things that are perfectly allowed in Fabrication, just not FDM. You can use the Invalid Data portion to review the data errors. Autodesk’s own Configurations (all of them) are not even compliant as shown here…

One of the other good things about FDM is the ability to more easy visualize how your data is connected. Using their Relationship Manager you can see how your data is connected. This is good for new users as well as existing users who want to see things like which parts are connected to a material or connector or service template.

What else? Well, I can’t really think of anything. FDM is just not ready. And until you can edit your entire database in FDM, it can’t really be used. But that falls on deaf ears. They want input on what to “do next”. But that won’t increase usage. And if this takes another half decade, it’ll likely never get completed. That’s a LOT time in Autodesk years to have a project survive and get funding if it’s not used.


Summary

The Fabrication Database in the cloud has been done before. It was there and much more complete. I saw it. It was previewed at Autodesk University years ago. But it never saw the light of day. They killed it. It wasn’t built on Forge. So they did it again and built it on Forge. But Forge wasn’t ready or capable. So it took 6-7 years to get where we are today. Half assed and incomplete. A year into the project they said it would take another year. I told them it would be at least 5. I was wrong. It took longer. And it’s still not usable. It’s poorly documentation and so disjointed in their messaging that it risks your data.

They have no strategy or end game for how to work in EST or CAM. Now they want your input into what to do next. Except it’s obvious if they listened to everyone they ignored for the last 5 years. Their exclusively Revit based strategy has no promise for you any time soon. Worse yet, it lacks vision and doesn’t even strategically align with where Autodesk is going. That’s not just my opinion, it’s that of several insiders I’ve spoken with too. Their strategy is based on a 20 year old software called Revit.

So kick the tires if you like. But don’t install this garbage for anyone else. And for the love of God, don’t share your configuration with anyone else.

Lastly, if you want to know what you should or should not do with it, you can’t rely on the documentation. Apparently Autodesk’s official guidance and policy is buried in a single blog post per their response to me.

Autodesk Flex Licensing – What You Need To Know

Autodesk Flex is Autodesk’s replacement for Network Licensing (FlexLM). Network licenses were supposed to go away a couple years ago. However Autodesk pushed back a lot of their plans and policies to make life a little bit easer when Covid hit.

While many customers had already been arm twisted into changing prior to the timeline extension, that offer still exists today. If you haven’t taken advantage of it, you will need to before it expires on your next renewal before Feb 7, 2024.

What is ‘Autodesk Flex’

Autodesk Flex is a ‘Token’ based system. Each product has a certain number of ‘Tokens’ it costs when you use them. Launching a product consumes that set amount of tokens and gives you access for the day to that product for that user on any computer. If you launch multiple products, each product will consume it’s daily tokens upon launch for that user.

You assign ‘Flex’ to a user in the accounts portal just like any other product and it lets you run anything Flex has available.

You can also pick and choose which products you want to allow Flex to use if it’s helpful to not allow everything. An example would be that maybe a user needs Revit all the time, but Navis Manage only some of the time. You can give them a dedicated license of Revit and configure Flex to only be used for Navis.

(Note: This example is only if you have separate Navis and Revit licenses. AEC Collections come with both so this configuration isn’t valid in that scenario.)

Tokens are pre-purchased in set increments. They’re currently $3/token. Tokens will expire if unused for a year. You can add to your pool of tokens any time. Oldest tokens are automatically consumed first.

Autodesk has a token calculator that helps you estimate the number of tokens you need for a given product. That calculator is here…

https://www.autodesk.com/benefits/flex/estimator-tool

If you want to know the Token rates for the various products, Autodesk has published their rate sheet here…

https://damassets.autodesk.net/content/dam/autodesk/www/benefits/flex-rate-sheet.pdf

‘Flex’ Calcualtions…

Lets look at a couple examples of Flex in action.

ProductTokens/DaySubscription CostFormulaFlex CheaperSubscription Cheaper
AutoCAD7 ($21)$1,775$1,775 / $21 = 84.5<= 84 days>= 85 days
Navis Manage9 ($27)$2,400$2,400 / $27 = 88.5<= 88 days>= 89 days
Revit10 ($30)$2,545$2,545 / $30 = <= 84 days>= 85 days
Inventor8 ($24)$2,190$2,910 / $24 = 91.25<= 91 days>= 92 days
AEC CollectionAcad + Revit$3,115$3,115 / $51 = 61<= 61>= 62 days
MFG CollectionAcad + Inv$2,855$2,855 / $45 = 63.4<= 63>= 64 days

You’ll see the cost difference between Flex and a dedicated Named Standalone license is about 85 days. If a user uses a product about 85 days a year, a Standalone Named User license is a better option.

When you get to Collections…it gets a little more difficult. Collections don’t have a Token rate so you’ll need to add the tokens for the products you use. The examples above are assuming you’re 2 products a day. You’ll see the cost benefit of Flex drops to 60 days. But it’s also more complicated…if you run three products one day and only one product another, the formula gets pretty complex. You’ll need to estimate how many times a user will use each product in the collection a year and add up the costs.

When Does ‘Flex’ Make Sense?

So what does this mean? Flex is really a benefit for users who use one or two products infrequently. The more days a product gets used and/or the more products that get used by a user, it might be better to consider a Named User license to a Collection.

On the other hand, if someone uses a product every day but only for a few minutes, Flex just doesn’t work. Tokens are consumed on a Daily basis regardless if you use it for 5 minutes or 15 hours in a day. In that way, Flex does not come even close to the old FlexLM network licenses.

Do your math carefully. Estimate conservatively. You can easily spend MORE on Flex than you would a Named User Subscription. As an example if you used AutoCAD 5x a week for 50 weeks a year, it’ll cost you $5,250 annually compared to $1,775 for the subscription.

It’s Not All Roses

There’s several issues with Flex that are not well known or discussed. You really need to understand how Flex works to keep from getting bit. Here’s some of the major areas of concern that you should be aware…

  • Not All Products Available – Flex allows you to run most products but not all. Some of the products that are commonly used infrequently like Fabrication ESTmep and Autodesk Point Layout are not part of Flex. I routinely hear Autodesk and resellers say you can “run anything you want” but that’s simply not true.
  • Cloud Products Not Included – This doesn’t seem like a big deal but consider the case of Revit. You can run Revit on Flex for someone who needs occasional access. But if your data is on BIM360 or Autodesk Construction Cloud, you’ll still need a full desiccated license of BIM Collaborate Pro.
  • No License Timeout – The old FlexLM Licenses could be configured to automatically check in their license if the product sat idle for too long. Flex does NOT work this way. If you have users that leave their products open when the leave, you’re racking up Token utilization over the weekend or while they’re on vacation. You’ll definitely need to train your users to CLOSE unused products at the end of the day.
  • Reporting – You can get Token reporting for Flex licensing. But user level reporting that isn’t in aggregate or data usage exports of daily details, you’ll need to have a Premium subscription.

Summary

Autodesk Flex is a great option for people who use a product occasionally.

Autodesk Flex is NOT a good option for people use use products frequently but for short durations.

You can easily exceed the cost of a dedicated license with Flex is you’re not careful.

Proceed slowly with Flex. Start small. Watch usage frequently.

CAMduct Machine Setup – Axis & Orgin

One of the things that can make machine setup difficult in CAMduct is setting up the coordinate system. This coordinate system must reflect the actual configuration of the machine. Some machines can be reconfigured to swap the axes or set the origin to any corner. This lets you configure the machine to match the software. Others can’t be reconfigured and require you to configure the software to the machine.

It doesn’t really matter where the origin is on the machine, just as long as the configuration in CAMduct matches. Matching the machine isn’t difficult, just as long as you understand what’s happening.

Default Origin and Axis Orientation

In the Machine Setup Dialog, the default Origin is in the lower left. Take a look at the settings and note the X-Axis and Y-Axis directions.

From this configuration, here’s a simulation of the code that’s generated.

If this configuration doesn’t work for your machine, it typically means the machine has a different origin and/or Axis configuration.

Coordinates Rotated 90 Degrees / X-Axis & Y-Axis Swapped

This next configuration rotates the coordinates which results of the X-Axis and Y-Axis being swapped. It also looks like the Origin location changes given the picture, but that’s not the case. This is why Machine Setup can be confusing. This picture does NOT change the origin location. This will become clear shortly.

With this configuration, you’ve now rotated the Coordinate System. When you look at the Simulation below, you’ll that the origin doesn’t actually move. The sheet is still oriented the same way. Long direction is the Rail and the Short direction is the Beam.

What you’ll notice here when looking at the code, is that the Part is Still oriented in the Lower Left Corner of the sheet. However, the X-Axis and Y-Axis are swapped. Additionally, looking at the code on the right, you’ll see how the Y-Axis goes into Negative coordinates. This also isn’t what most machines want, they typically work in positive coordinates but this is easily fixed which we’ll show a little later.

Coordinates Rotated 180 Degrees / X-Axis & Y-Axis Mirrored

This next configuration sets the X-Axis and Y-Axis so that both are mirrored…or rotated 180 degrees.

Looking at the simulation of this configuration, you’ll see both X & Y Axes are using negative coordinates.

Here the both Axes are in negative coordinates and the Part is still located in the lower left of the sheet. Again, not what a machine wants typically, but easily fixed and covered in a little bit.

Coordinates Rotated 270 Degrees / X-Axis & Y-Axis Reversed

Here’s the last configuration. Again notice which way the Axes are oriented.

In this next configuration, the X-Axis and Y-Axis are reversed like before. But this time, the X-Axis is in negative coordinates where as the Y-Axis is in positive coordinates.

Fixing Negative Coordinates

What makes this hard, is that the setting in the dialog makes you think you’re moving the origin of the code. You are not. You’re merely rotating the coordinate system. This is critical when using a machine tool like a Lockformer or Vulcan that uses Trimble’s TookShop controller (formerly called Vulcan). Those are a couple of the most common machines where the X & Y Axis are reversed.

When you look at the simulations, the sheet is still oriented in the same location and the part starts in the same location on the sheet.

You can look at the configuration and see that the Rail is set to the long direction and the Beam is set to the Short setting. Remember this….it’ll be important in just a bit.

For this example, we’ll again use the 90 Degree rotated configuration (our second example) where the X & Y are reversed and the Y-Axis coordinates are negative. You can see in the code, that the Y-Axis is the LONG sheet dimension due to the rip cut along the Rail that’s cut at the end of the program.

Because the Rail Rip Cut starts at Y=0.0 and goes to Y-120.0, you can see that the Origin is still on the left side of the sheet not the right as the configuration screen suggests. Here’s a reminder of the Axis directions…

So if cutting the Rip Cut on the sheet from Left to Right for 120 units means the coordinates go negative, it’s clear the Origin is on the left. To make those coordinates go positive, you need to shift the Origin to the right on the Beam (Y-Axis). You can do this on the Controller tab and entering the shift amount for the Rail.

How, when you run a simulation on this setup, you’ll see the Y-Axis is still the long sheet direction, but they’re all positive coordinates.

Notice on the simulation that the part is STILL on the left side of the sheet and because we shifted the Origin to the right side the Rip cut along the Rail (long side) goes from Y=120.0 to Y=0.0.

You’ve now successfully swapped the X&Y Axis and corrected the coordinates to they’re all in positive units. From here, you can go back and finish configuring all your other preferences like where the parts get nested on the sheet, starting cut location, etc.

Stratus Dashboard Header Trick

Quick little Stratus tip. This on for headers on your Dashboards. A normal dashboard doesn’t have the ability to customize the header. However, being Stratus is a web based application, you can inject some simple HTML tags to perform some limited modifications.

Take a look at the following headers….

These headers are a result of inserting some very simple HTML tags. Here’s a look at the Report configuration for these header modifications…

Here’s an explanation of these HTML Tags…

HTML Tag(s)DescriptionUsage
<br>Break Line / Carriage ReturnPlace between text to create a
new line
<i> </i>Italics Text placed between these tags will be italic
<u> </u>UnderlineText placed between these tags will be underlined

A few things to note…

  • You can nest <i>Italics</i> and <u>underline</u> to transform text to <i><u>both</u></i>.
  • More complex HTML tags don’t work, there’s just too many special characters.
  • HTML tags may (will) show in other places like in the output of CSV files and/or other types of reports.

The usage of HTML tags in your Dashboard headers is likely not supported. If you find any errors within Stratus on pages that you’ve used these, you may want to remove them to verify the special characters aren’t the cause of your issues.

Autodesk Prior Version Access – A Bad Good Idea

Autodesk recently made a policy change to its prior version usage policy. Previously Autodesk’s policy was to allow customers current on subscription or maintenance to run the current release and the prior 3 versions. However this policy recently changed on November 2, 2020 to allow 5 prior versions.

You can read about that policy here.

One important thing to note however, is this change does NOT affect support. Autodesk Support will only help you with the 3 prior versions.

Because it was likely what customers wanted, it sounds like a good change . But it’s really bad news for the industry. The intent was to help customers who were not able to upgrade for some reason. But this change wasn’t needed to serve that purpose. Autodesk would (and did) grant exceptions from the “3 prior version” terms on an as-need basis. Whenever you needed an exception, just ask your reseller. They could then request an exception from your regional Autodesk rep.

Unintended Consequences

This change is bad because it’s one more reason customers can use to not upgrade. That’s not the purpose of the policy but it will be the result. Because most customers are now on subscription, the policy really doesn’t affect Autodesk’s revenue. As such, it was really not hard for them to do. You still have to be on a subscription plan.

When customer’s don’t upgrade, they don’t benefit from new features and functionality. In the case of MEP, Fabrication Parts are still relatively new to Revit. This means there are significant functionality improvements in newer versions. But because there’s not as many improvements for Architects, they may not upgrade. And because they lead on the project, MEP has no choice but to use the version the project team is on. This easily leads to a significant lost productivity and added cost for MEP contractors.

Policy Summary

VersionOld PolicyNew Policy
2021 (Current Version)Allowed / SupportedAllowed / Supported
2020 (1 Prior Version)Allowed / SupportedAllowed / Supported
2019 (2 Prior Version)Allowed / SupportedAllowed / Supported
2018 (3 Prior Versions)Allowed / SupportedAllowed / Supported
2017 (4 Prior Versions)Prohibited / No SupportAllowed / No Support
2016 (5 Prior Versions)Prohibited / No SupportAllowed / No Support
2015 (6 Prior Versions)Prohibited / No SupportProhibited / No Support

Renumber Revit Fab Parts – No Purchase or Coding Required

Most MEP contractors moving to Revit with Fabrication Parts at some point wrestle with renumbering parts. You can purchase tools or add-ins to make this easier or even write your own with Dynamo or C#.

But most contractors aren’t coders. And buying more software can also be a challenge. The good news is that those are not your only options, There’s some well written FREE Revit Add-Ins that make this a breeze.

Required Tools

Head over to DiRoot’s web site (https://diroots.com/) and download the OneFilter Add-In found here and the ReOrdering Add-In found here.

Once installed, you’ll find the tools in the DiRoots Ribbon in Revit along with any of their other tools you may have installed.

Getting Started

The following image shows 2 runs of Rectangular and 2 runs of Round duct work drawn in Revit using Fabrication Parts. One is drawn in a +2in WG service and the other -2in WG service. All duct has a tag configured to display the Fabrication Part’s Item Number property.

First Up – DiRoots OneFilter

Using the DiRoot’s OneFilter Add-In, you can easily select not just Fabrication Parts, but also select them based on their properties.

Once selected, you can see Revit selects the specified items in your model.

Next – DiRoots ReOrdering

Now that your desired parts are selected, you can use the DiRoots ReOrdering Add-In to renumber those parts.

After applying your renumbering parameters, you can see how Revit then displayed the updated Item Numbers for the Fabrication Parts.

Wrapup

As you can see, with a couple free (well written) utilities you can quickly and easily select and renumber your fabrication parts in Revit.

There’s a lot of other reasons beyond renumbering to use some of these Add-Ins. They’re very functional for a lot of workflows. Those uses are beyond the scope of this post but feel free to explore these Add-Ins or some of the other DiRoots tools when you get a chance. They’re some of the highest quality free Add-Ins for Revit than you’ll find anywhere.

TigerStop Setup for Autodesk Fabrication

Setting up Autodesk Fabrication to communicate with a TigerStop isn’t difficult. But there really isn’t any good resources that explain how to do it. I’ve explained it multiple times to multiple people so I thought it might make sense to document it here.

This following instructions are not needed of you’re using a system like GTP Stratus or MSuite (formerly FabPro1) as they have their own process for interfacing with TigerStops. However, you can easily run a TigerStop from Autodesk Fabrication without buying any additional software. All you need is a TigerStop and Autodesk Fabrication.

Step 1 – Install TigerLink

From Autodesk Fabrication, you’ll be exporting CSV files. TigerLink is a free software from TigerStop that will take those CSV files and break them down and reformat them into files your Tigerstop software can use.

You can get TigerLink software from TigerStop.Com. Go there and search for “TigerLink” and download the latest version (6.x used in this documentation).

Once installed, you’ll notice a TigerLink folder on your desktop…

And an icon in your system tray…

Right-Click on the TigerLink icon in your system tray and select Open. This will display the following dialog. TigerLink can do several things but we only want it for one purpose. You’ll want to ensure the Auto Connect toggle is Unchecked so that TigerLink does not look for a TigerStop machine.

Be default, TigerLink runs automatically when you start your system and clearing this toggle will prevent it from warning you that there was no machine found. If you don’t want it to run automatically, remove the shortcut it places in the Windows Startup folder.

For now, close the dialog. Then, Right-Click on the system tray icon again and choose Exit. We don’t want the software running when we do our initial configuration a little later.

Step 2 – Creating Your Fabrication Export (Items)

For Tigerstop to work, you need to export data from Autodesk Fabrication. Tigerstops need a minimum of 2 pieces of information. One is a length (decimal format) , the other a quantity. That’s it. However in practice, you’ll want a little more information.

Cutting Pipe is one of the primary uses for TigerStop. So we need to configure a CSV export to do this. But let’s also plan the data we want. We may want to export all types of pipe and sizes in a single export. But you can’t cut mixed materials or sizes from the same stock. So we’ll need material and size in our export so TigerLink can use those fields to break down the data. Let’s breakdown our list of data fields here that we’ll want to send to the TigerStop….

NumberPropertyPurpose
0Item CIDThis won’t be output but is used in the Report to filter the Exports to CID 2041 (pipe) only.
1Item QuantityRequired by TigerStop
2Item Centerline LenthRequired by TigerStop. Must be decimal.
3Job File NameMay be helpful in the TigerTouch display for the operator
4Item NumberWe want to know the piece number for a label
5Item Description This typically holds the “Size” of pipe in product listed ITMs. e.g. 1/2″, 3/4″, etc. TigerLink will use this data so files are separated by “Size”. We’ll also use it on the label.
6Item Centerline LengthWe’ll include this again formatted in Ft-Inch for the shop guys who may want that on the labels
7Item Material NameTigerlink will use this data so files are also separated by material name. .e.g. Copper vs PVC vs Cast Iron, etc.
8Item Spool NameWe’ll want this on the label too.

Use the CSVEXPORT command in CADmep to create your export report. When done, your report configuration might look like the following….

When your report is done, the resulting data might look like the following. Notice how all the sizes and materials are mixed together. This is what TigerLink will fix for us.

Qty,Length,Job Name,Item No,Description,Length,Material,Spool
1,39.146,Sample Data Export,12,4'',3'-3 1/8",Pipe Systems: Cast Iron,
1,40.421,Sample Data Export,12,4'',3'-4 3/8",Pipe Systems: Cast Iron,
1,48.250,Sample Data Export,12,4'',4'-0 1/4",Pipe Systems: Cast Iron,
1,11.835,Sample Data Export,12,4'',11 7/8",Pipe Systems: Cast Iron,
1,42.242,Sample Data Export,10,2'',3'-6 1/4",Pipe Systems: Cast Iron,
1,21.542,Sample Data Export,10,2'',1'-9 1/2",Pipe Systems: Cast Iron,
1,18.024,Sample Data Export,8,2'',1'-6",Pipe Systems: Cast Iron,
1,35.939,Sample Data Export,6,3'',3'-0",Pipe Systems: PVC,
1,22.101,Sample Data Export,6,3'',1'-10 1/8",Pipe Systems: PVC,
1,22.101,Sample Data Export,6,3'',1'-10 1/8",Pipe Systems: PVC,
1,54.987,Sample Data Export,6,2'',4'-7",Pipe Systems: PVC,
1,22.101,Sample Data Export,6,2'',1'-10 1/8",Pipe Systems: PVC,
1,22.101,Sample Data Export,6,2'',1'-10 1/8",Pipe Systems: PVC,
1,16.664,Sample Data Export,6,2'',1'-4 5/8",Pipe Systems: PVC,
1,17.845,Sample Data Export,4,2-1/2'',1'-5 7/8",Pipe Systems: Carbon Steel,
1,14.678,Sample Data Export,4,2-1/2'',1'-2 5/8",Pipe Systems: Carbon Steel,
1,33.388,Sample Data Export,4,2-1/2'',2'-9 3/8",Pipe Systems: Carbon Steel,
1,38.282,Sample Data Export,4,2-1/2'',3'-2 1/4",Pipe Systems: Carbon Steel,
1,12.919,Sample Data Export,2,3/4'',1'-0 7/8",Pipe Systems: Copper,
1,13.923,Sample Data Export,2,3/4'',1'-1 7/8",Pipe Systems: Copper,
1,7.293,Sample Data Export,2,3/4'',7 1/4",Pipe Systems: Copper,
1,10.252,Sample Data Export,2,1/2'',10 1/4",Pipe Systems: Copper,
1,10.252,Sample Data Export,2,1/2'',10 1/4",Pipe Systems: Copper,
1,10.252,Sample Data Export,2,1/2'',10 1/4",Pipe Systems: Copper,
1,19.558,Sample Data Export,2,1/2'',1'-7 1/2",Pipe Systems: Copper,
1,19.558,Sample Data Export,2,1/2'',1'-7 1/2",Pipe Systems: Copper,

Step 3 – Configure TigerLink via XML

TigerLink uses the file “C:\Users\<user>\AppData\Roaming\TigerLink6\CutListLinks.xml” to understand how to process exports. We’ll edit this file in Notepad. If you’re familiar with editing XML, it’ll be easy and you may want to use an XML editor however Notepad will be just fine.

I highly recommend making a backup copy of the CutListLinks.xml file in the event you ever need to start over. If you recall the dialog for TigerLink, it listed a number of Export formats in the left column. Each export format are enclosed between a set of XML tags named <LinkType> & </LinkType>.

I’m never going to use any of those formats so I delete all of them from CutlistLink.xml except a single entry which we’ll edit for our purposes. Take some time to study the file before editing. It’s not difficult to see what’s going on with a little close examination.

When we have only one set of <LinkType> & </LinkType> tags, we’re ready to start editing. I’ve highlighted the lines that I edited and/or verified in the following image…

  • Edit the Link Name which is the name of the Export configuration that will display in the left column of TigerLink.
  • Verify the Extension matches that of the export…CSV in this case.
  • As you recall, we have 8 columns of data in our export so use the Columns field configures this.
  • The DataRowStart tells TigerLink that the data starts on row 2 as our export has headers. Adjust as your export report requires.
  • Delimiter is set to a comma for a CSV but if your data has commas, you may need to use a different character.
  • Verify Decimal is set as required. Typically only different in some other countries.
  • LengthColumn tells TigerLink which column is the length TigerStop will use to drive the machine.
  • QuantityColumn tells TigerLink which column stores the quantity of parts.

At this point, we’ll ignore the other data as it’s easier to set via the TigerLink interface. Save your CutListLinks.xlm file and restart TigerLink.

Step 4 – Configure Tigerlink via User Interface

When you restart TigerLink, your version should look similar to the following…

The checkbox next to Fabrication Items tells TigerLink that this Export configuration is active and ready to be used. If you Right-Click on Fabrication Items and select EDIT, you get to the configuration user interface as shown below…

Here, we’ll want to do several things to finalize your configuration.

  • Put a check-mark next to Column entries 5 & 7. These columns hold the Size (Item description) and Material Name. This tells TigerLink that for this export, anytime there’s a new Size and/or material, it belongs in a separate file.
  • Unless you’re doing something unique, Style should be set to Push
  • Optimized tells TigerLink that the material will be optimized for best yield/utilization when nesting.
  • Send File Name is not required but can be used to display the file name on the TigerStop system.
  • Use the Add button to add data fields to your label. You can add a lot but TigerStop’s label system only works with up to 5 lines. Drag where you want and Right-Click to edit the header, font size and assign to a data column. Thje preview isn’t the most accurate as you can see. My data is off the display but does print properly. You can later go into the CutListLinks.xml file and get a little more fine control over the font size and placement in the <PrintLabel> & </PrintLabel> XML tags.

You’re now done configuring TigerLink and Fabrication. The only thing left is to process data from an export.

Step 5 – Process Fabrication Exports

To process data from an export, take a file with Fabrication piping in it and run the CSVEXPORT command. Once you;ve run the report you created earlier, look for the the CSV file and copy or move it to the TigerLink folder on the Desktop. Once the file is in that folder, TigerLink will process the file and break it into separate *.tiger files. One for each Material and Size if pipe.

These *.tiger files are what the TigerStop machine will use to cut your pipe.

If your CSV file is not processed into separate files, verify that the TigerLink software is running before you copy your CSV to the Desktop folder. Also make sure that the Fabrication Items entry in the TigerLink interface is selected to make sure it’s active.

The following image shows how your file should look once opened in the TigerTouch interface…

Summary…

Ancillaries can be cut on a TigerStop in a similar way. Use the ANCILLARYEXPORT command to setup your ancillary exports. Using Ancillary Type and Names, you should be able to generate reports for your TigerStop to cut ancillaries.

Because filtering is limited, it may be a little harder to get a single export for all ancillaries. You may find it’s easier to create a report for each ancillary type. As long as all reports for Ancillaries have the same fields and number of columns, you should be able to just add a single “Fabrication Ancillaries” entry to the TightLink’s CutListLinks.XML file to process any of them.

For a copy of the CutListLinks.xml file and CSV Export report used in this example, you can download them from this file…