Move Your AutoCAD Workflow to BIM360

If you’d like to move you AutoCAD workflow to BIM360, you can now easily accomplish this. It’s really quite simple and requires a couple things….

First, you nee to install the Autodesk Desktop Connector. This adds a BIM360 Drive” to your computer much like OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. This BIM360 drive provides access to your BIM360 Projects that you’ve been granted access to from your BIM360 Administrator.

Once the Autodesk Desktop Connector is installed, you can access your BIM360 projects from this drive. You may need to login first to see your projects. You can do this by right-clicking on icon in the System Tray.

You can get the Autodesk Desktop Connector using this link.

Second, there’s a new utility called File Locking for Autodesk BIM360. This utility allows AutoCAD to “lock” the drawings you open on BIM360 so that no others can edit them at the same time.

You can download and install the File Locking for Autodesk BIM360 from the Autodesk App Store using this link.

When you now open a DWG from the BIM360 drive, BIM360 will lock the DWG and prevent others from editing it at the same time.

A final word….Once the File Locking utility is loaded, you can use the CloudCollabModifiedOption system variable to control how file locking is handled when you close the DWG in AutoCAD. Details here…

Autodesk Fabrication: Best Practice #13

Use “Match by Name only” in Database Settings

Do you have issues with duplicate entries in your Fabrication Database? These could be proxy entries…those followed by text enclosed within {brackets}. Or they could be identical..if someone made the proxy item permanent,

This can be caused by using the Strict matching setting in your database setting. It’s recommended to use Match by Name only.

When you use Strict naming, when you open drawings or MAJ files, the database settings within those files are compared to those in your configuration. If the data is deemed relevant and it varies, even something as small as a number 3 decimals vs. 4 decimals can add another entry into your configuration.

When using Match by Name only, as long as the name (and group) matches, the entry is considered the same and you don’t end up with duplicate entries.

MEP Fabrication Online Training

Not sure why Autodesk has this stuffed away under “Civil Engineering” but they’ve released 3 introduction online training sessions for Autodesk Fabrication. If you’re new to Autodesk Fabrication content creation, these will get you up and running with some of the basics.

Courses are…

  • Patterns and the Image
  • Create Product Lists
  • Connectors

You can access these them here…

https://customersuccess.autodesk.com/disciplines/civil/challenges/item-creation-for-fabrication

Fabrication Reference Data Updated for 2021 Versions

Autodesk Fabrication reference data has been updated to include 2021 versions of Autodesk Fabrication software.

Updated references include…

The only change I’ve found in from 2020 to 2021 versions is the CADmep command DWNLDC Command (DOWNLOADCONTENT Alias) is no longer present. This use to download ITM content from Autodesk’s www.Building3DContent.com site. This site is no longer active and Autodesk has included all the content within the default Imperial and Metric configurations that ship with Autodesk Fabrication Content.

User’s of Trimble’s Managed ITM Content (building-data.net) use to use this command as well. It was just redirected to the Building Data site. It’s unclear how this change will affect them as the core DLL’s used for this process appear to have been removed in 2021 versions of Autodesk Fabrication.

If you’re a user of Trimble’s Building-Data, I’d suggest contacting them for support if you have issues.

Where Did The Revit 2021 Fabrication Extension Addin Go?

Have you tried to Import or Export an MAJ file in Revit 2021? Have you tried to run a Fabrication Report or Export in Revit 2021? If so, you may have noticed that it’s not in the Add-Ins ribbon any longer.

Your first thought might be you need to install the Revit Extension for MEP Fabrication 2021. But even after installing, it’s still not there. You might then be tempted to submit a support ticket to Autodesk to help troubleshoot your install. No need. Autodesk simply moved the commands and made them more integrated to Revit.

MAJ Exports

MAJ Exports can now be found in two locations in Revit 2021. The first location is under File -> Export.

The second location shows up in the context ribbon when you select Fabrication Parts….

MAJ Import

MAJ Imports have moved as well. This is a little easier to find if you think about it, it’s located under the Insert ribbon.

Fabrication Reports / Fabrication Exports

Your Fabrication Reports and Fabrication Exports will also show up in the context ribbon when you select Fabrication Parts.

Context Ribbon Doesn’t Show MAJ Export or Fabrication Reports/Exports?

If you select parts in Revit and the context ribbon does not show the MAJ Export or Fabrication Reports/Exports drop-downs, take a look at the Ribbon’s title.

If the Title of the ribbon says Multi-Select, this means you have a more than just MEP Fabrication Parts selected. You can quickly filter your selection to just MEP Fabrication Parts using the Filter tool in the lower right of Revit.

Un-check all items except anything that begins with “MEP Fabrication …”. This will deselect any non-Fabrication Parts and your MAJ Export and Fabrication Reports/Exports tools will then show up.

Still Can’t Find These Tools?

Unlike prior years which required a separate install, Revit 2021 installs the Fabrication tools as part of the product install. However, if the tools somehow become uninstalled, and you don’t find them, you can reinstall them by downloading the Revit Extension for MEP Fabrication 2021 from your Autodesk Account. Alternatively, you should be able find it in the Autodesk Desktop App in the updates.

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…

Fix – Revit Fabrication Parts Suddenly Become Invalid

If you’re using Revit 2018 or 2019 with Fabrication Parts, you may notice that upon loading or reloading your configuration some (or many) of your parts become “Invalid”.

I’m not talking about Fabrication Parts who’s CID/Pattern isn’t supported in Revit. I’m referring to perfectly valid Fabrication Parts. Parts that once worked. They may even be currently in your model but are no longer active in your Parts Browser. Here’s a couple examples…

You may even notice valid parts become invalid after unloading a service or that invalid parts become valid again after loading a new service.

What’s happening is that your Fabrication Configuration’s Image Cache has become corrupt. The issue is in Revit 2018 and 2019. Revit 2020 does not experience the issue. Whatever changed in Revit 2020 made it more resilient to a corrupt image cache.

The only known fix until recently was editing your service template. You would have to remove and re-add the part. Reloading the Fabrication Configuration in Revit and it would be fixed. Unfortunately, future database changes would often revert back to the invalid state.

Quick and Dirty Work-Around (Revit 2019 Only)

If you’re using Revit 2019, there is a quick and easy work-around. That’s assuming you only have a few parts that are invalid. To work around the issue, reload your Fabrication Configuration and individually load the invalid part in the Parts tab. The following image shows one invalid part added to the Parts tab.

Once added, the Part then becomes valid in the Parts Browser.

A Permanent Fix (For both Revit 2018 & 2019)

The prior work-around was only available in Revit 2019. This didn’t help Revit 2018 projects which do not have the Parts tab in Fabrication Settings.

To properly fix the issue, you need CADmep. Load your Fabrication Configuration in CADmep. Once loaded, find an open area of your service and press CTRL+SHIFT+Right-Click and select Clear Cache.

Next type the REFRESHALLBTNS command. You’ll see a progress bar while CADmep refreshes your button image cache.

At this point, your button cache should be rebuilt. However I’ve seen instances where you have to “coerce” or otherwise persuade CADmep into saving it back to disk. To verify the changes are saved, go to the Service Editor and click the Apply button then close the dialog.

At this point, you should be all set. If you go back to the problem Revit file and reload your Fabrication Configuration, you should see the Fabrication Part become active again.

Preventing Future Corruption

To prevent future corruption, you first need to understand how it happens. When loading CADmep, you may have noticed the “Button Validation” as shown in the following image…

Because this can be a slow process, most users simply hit the Escape key to terminate the validation. This isn’t a big deal for a user. For a database administrator, this can leave your image cache partially built and corrupt it.

While you can simply stop canceling the process, the better option is to prevent it in the first place. By default, CADmep enables Button Validation. But you can turn it off. To do this, use the Edit Configuration utility that comes with CADmep.

Note that this utility is named the same between versions and between CADmep, ESTmep and CAMduct products. It may be tricky to pick the right one. You need to select the one that comes with CADmep.

You also need to perform this for each CADmep version that’s installed. To help, you may want to choose the Open file location option. This will bring you to the folder with the shortcuts. You can then easily navigate to the proper version of Edit Configuration that you’re looking for.

When you run the utility, it’ll prompt for a configuration. You can pick any, it doesn’t matter. The setting to change is not specific to the configuration, only the product and version for the currently logged in user. The following image shows the Skip Validate Buttons at Start-Up option.

Select this option and the next time you launch CADmep, you’ll no longer see the button validation. This prevents you from canceling out of the validation as well as speeds loading of CADmep.

Credit Goes To…

Special thanks to Martin Schmid and Craig Farish of Autodesk for helping with this issue. We’d been experiencing this issue on and off for over 1/2 a year. Autodesk Support had indicated that nobody else had reported the issue and provided the 2019 work-around. They repeatedly assured me it was fixed in 2020 and not a problem with my data. They had no fix for 2018 which is used by several projects.

After experienced a large volume of invalid buttons, our database administrator spent 6 hours before users arrived rebuilding service templates. The the issue resurfaced within hours of a simple database update. With $5k-10k of lost productivity over 2 weeks with several detailers unable to model certain services, I called in a favor with Martin and Craig. They quickly had their team analyse our data and identify the fix.

I’ve since run into 4 other companies experiencing the same issue and this fix has worked flawlessly for them as well. Hopefully you’ll not need it but if you do, it’ll save you load of time, frustration and money.

Update: Autodesk Multi-User Licensing – The End is Near

Update:

Since the below article was originally published, the Covid-19 virus has spread into the US. As a result, Autodesk has pushed back the dates. Multi-User Licensing purchases have been extended from May 7, 2021 to August 7, 2020. Retirement of multi-user licenses has also been moved from May 7, 2021 to August 7, 2021.

Interestingly enough, this changes was sold as a means to “simplify” things for end users. Now, Autodesk is pushing back the date because they don’t want to introduce a change during a difficult time. If the change were truly for “simplification” they should implement it anyway. But I suspect they know, it’s not going to simplify anything and its going to cost more.


Original Article follows…

This is the end of perhaps one of Autodesk’s last truly invaluable offerings. Decades ago it was free. Over the years it’s transitioned from a One-Time upgrade cost to an annual fee. Now it’s going away completely for most products.

Anyone that knows me knows I’ve spoken about how Autodesk can do what they want when it comes to Licensing. They’re in the driver’s seat. This is yet another example. All you can do is respond in the best manner possible.

What’s Happening?

Starting May 7, 2020 and renewals after that date, you’ll be offered an option to move to new “Per User” plans at a discounted rate. Much like the “Maintenance to Subscription” offer about 3 years ago, you’ll get discounted pricing that’s guaranteed not to increase more than 5% every other year through 2028.

While that doesn’t sound too bad on the surface, it’s a very shitty deal. I’ll explain why in a bit but it’s a deal you should take it none the less. Why? Because the alternative is going to be much worse.

If you don’t take up Autodesk on the offer during your next renewal come May 7, 2021 and after, you’ll no longer be able to renew those Multi-User plans. You’re done. Your choices are stop using Autodesk products or buy new subscriptions at full MSRP.

Why is the Deal Bad? It’s the Alternative That Sounds Bad.

I describe this as a shitty deal because it’s going to cost you in may ways. Most construction related engineers and architects can run 2.5 to 3 users per license in a multi-user configuration. The deal will allow you to get 2 named user licenses for each single multi-user license you trade in. This is described as being roughly a “similar price to what you’re paying today”. To make up any shortfall, you’ll be buying more “Named User” licenses at full MSRP to make up the difference.

What’s really bad is where a single license serves large numbers of users. Most often because it has very low or occasional use across a wide user base. I’d venture to say, our Point Layout license gets less than 20 hours use a year and it’s spread across 30+ users as it “floats” in a multi-user environment. Nobody will be buying multiple copies and dedicating them to that quantity of users. Your option is to direct all work requiring Point Layout to the few dedicated users. Autodesk licensing policy is now dictating your workflow. That’s not what’s best for your organization.

The only other alternative is to have an administrator log into the licensing portal and un-assign and reassign the license to users as they need. This is not the “Simplified” license management Autodesk says it is. The term they use is “Flexible User Access”. Something that use to just happen automatically is now an administrative task.

Why Are They Doing This?

Revenue. Plain and simple. As a publicly traded company, it’s their fiduciary responsibility to shareholders to maximize revenue. Especially when the rest of the software industry is moving in that direction and using similar models. Companies like Adobe and Microsoft. Microsoft doesn’t even consider you to have licenses of anything anymore. It’s all services. Windows is a service. Office 365 is service. The difference with Microsoft is I get a whole lot more for my money. I can get just about everything they offer for an enterprise for less than $100 per user per month. With Autodesk we pay $100/month per user to share PDF’s with Plangrid.

I suspect they also want to take more of an approach like Microsoft where they send you an Email letting you know who your top collaborators are and the number of hours of “focus time”. While those are interesting Emails from Microsoft, I don’t know anyone that’s changed their behavior because of them.

Where Can I Get More Info?

Donnie Gladfelter’sThe CAD Geek” blog gives a good summary. Neil Cross also has a good YouTube video outlining the changes.

Or you can get the details directly from the horse’s mouth along with a lot of misinformation and misleading statements here…

Announcement….
https://www.autodesk.com/campaigns/transition-to-named-user

Terms & Condittions…
https://www.autodesk.com/campaigns/transition-to-named-user/terms-and-conditions

Info-graphic…
https://damassets.autodesk.net/content/dam/autodesk/www/campaigns/tnu/20014-named-user-infographic.pdf

Autodesk Discussion Forum…
https://forums.autodesk.com/t5/subscription-changes/bd-p/6073

What’s Autodesk Saying That’s Misleading?

A lot actually. I don’t begrudge them for trying to maximize revenue. I’d do the same if I were them. Especially in light of an industry moving that way. They’re simply trying to modernize their business and revenue model like others have. Failure to do so would likely lead to more activist investors attempting to hijack the board much like Carl Bass had to contend with toward the end of his CEO tenure there. Activist investors on Autodesk’s board is not a good thing for customers.

What I really take issue with is their explanations and reasons that this is good for you. It’s the equivalent of sitting at the park, enjoying a nice ice cream cone on a hot summer day. All of the sudden a stranger appears. They take a big lick of your ice cream cone and proceed to tell you how they’ve just improved the flavor and you should enjoy it.

The other issue I have is it will eliminate a number of licenses and software for a lot of users. I don’t suspect that’s what Autodesk wants. But they really don’t understand how network licensing benefits users even when it’s not about sharing licenses.

Here’s my breakdown on what’s misleading…

“You’re Not a Number To Us”

Dedicated licensing is being sold as a way for them to give you a better user experience. This is just rubbish. Large customers (+$1M annual Autodesk spend) who have Enterprise TokenFlex accounts use network licenses for their enterprise. Everyone has access to everything, no limits. Network license usage is reported back to Autodesk on a “per user” (not computer) basis to determine the utilization. Simply put, providing an identified user experience can be accomplished without eliminating multi-user licenses. They just choose not to.

No more anonymous serial numbers

I’m not sure what that means. I haven’t had issues managing serial numbers for two decades before they allowed multi-seat standalone serial numbers. The mess back then was a result of poor reseller performance. The few remaining resellers are much more sophisticated today. They do a much better job of guiding their customers.

Streamlined Management

Where I work, I have 5 serial numbers, 7 Products and 50+ users/installs. Which would you rather manage? When they talk about “Flexible User Access”, they’re referring to the ability to log into their portal, un-assign a license and reallocate it to a new user. This use to happen automatically in a network license server environment. It’s now a manual process. That “one” license that floats to everybody, I’ll be performing that reassignment on a weekly basis if not daily sometimes. While folks are waiting for me, others are waiting on them for deliverables. Yet again workflow is interrupted due to Autodesk licensing policy and technology.

With dedicated user licenses I also now review every Email from HR about departures and terminations. Those Emails get reviewed against my user list in PlanGrid, BIM360, and now Autodesk Accounts. This wasn’t required with a multi-user setup.

“No More Managing Complicated License Servers”

They’re not complicated although a lot of folks seem intimidated by them. Resellers will gladly manage them for you. I spend less that 10 minutes a year on it. Once IT hands me a new server, I can stand it up in about 15 minutes.

License servers also allowed me to run a utility like JTB Flex Report and get highly customized data rich utilization reporting. I’ve begged for years for more robust reporting from Autodesk and it’s always been disappointing. Autodesk reporting always appears to provide value but only for those who don’t understand how Autodesk products work. It’s rare it actually provides the insight I want or need. Insight that allows me to gauge new production adoption or training needs or just volume of work types.

If you’re using multi-user licenses, I highly recommend purchasing JTB Flex Report now and start capturing data before your next renewal. This will give you the data you need to understand what to convert and what you can drop. No commissions or kickback to me. Just a long time user and fan.

No More Managing Multiple Deployment Types

Technically true but to be fair, there were only ever two. Stand-Alone and Multi-User. Either could be deployed as needed. Multi-User would just “work”. Stand-Alone would require activation..anyone could be logged in to do it. Now I need to log in “as the user” to get a system setup when on-boarding a new user.

Get 2 Trade In Licenses for Every Network License

Sounds like a deal until you realize you need more than that to replace the functionality of your multi-user license. Those will be purchased at full cost or you’ll go without. We’ll likely drop our Manufacturing Collection which provided us with Inventor and pick up Solidworks for our needs in construction.

In a construction firm, shop and field staff rotate quickly depending on workload and project phasing. Many “Could” use Autodesk software but don’t need it. They won’t get it any more. I’m not going to pay for multiple full licenses for an hour’s use a month.

The other hit is user training. I’d typically give Multi-User licensed products to everybody. Some would then use breaks and lunch to learn new products like 3ds Max or Inventor. This helps organic growth of Autodesk products. If I have an ambitious user, it helps me add more capabilities and capacity and a lower cost. I’ve never had a contractor approve a 3ds Max license. But when I’ve had a user learn on their own, they magically are in demand once the company sees what they can do. That all goes away on our next renewal.

Option to Buy Premium Plans for Additional Value like Reporting and Single Sign-On (SSO)”

I spoke earlier about loss of meaningful reporting. Technically you’ll be able to get it direct from Autodesk. But you’ll be paying for it. $300 per subscription. For a firm with 100 subscriptions, that’s an additional $30k annually.

Autodesk also has a poor track record of license reporting. Anyone care to explain how BIM360 Docs licensing works? It’s confusing. Back in October 2017 when licensing enforcement of C4R was “Fixed”, project teams all over couldn’t work and reseller’s phones were ringing off the hook.

Today at work, my BIM360 Docs account says I’m using 110 of 30 licenses. Am I out of compliance? No. Just broken licensing and poor implementation of reporting of a confusing and inconsistent license structure.

Single Sign-On (SSO) on the other hand is a welcome and long overdue addition. But again, you only get it if you purchase the additional “premium” upgrade. It also remains to be seen how robust SSO will be. Does it simple enable/disable accounts? Or will I be able to provision licenses to different products using Azure Active Directory groups?

The real value of Single-Sign On is from a security standpoint. When a user leaves, they’re access is shut off. This isn’t really a risk with desktop products. Where it is a risk is with BIM360 and other cloud offerings. It’s unclear of SSO will apply to BIM360 out of the gate. I assume it will at some point.

What’s in it for Autodesk?

There’s a lot of reasons Autodesk might want “User” based licenses. Revenue is obviously one of them. But they’ve never streamlined anything and made it cost less. Instead the complicate things and then charge more to “simplify” them. This has been the cycle for over 2 decades.

I suspect as Donnie pointed out in his Blog, they want to drive insights from users and provide that for a fee. Take away your ability to gain insight yourself and instead you pay them for information about your data.

Quite frankly, I don’t trust Autodesk to provide that insight to our users or workflows. They’ve already taken away our data, it sits on the BIM360 accounts of the architect or general contractors. Not sure how I’m suppose to maintain the operations of an MEP system using BIM360 post construction when I don’t even have the data any longer.

The frequent mass layoffs and pivot from a desktop software company to a platform company really stagnated MEP contractors who use Autodesk Fabrication. MEP Contractors have been using digital models for over two decades. We did “BIM” before anyone else in construction was in 3d. Now, we use 4 year old CAM software because of multi-year defects that are not being fixed. Even if I used the latest version, that CAMduct software which outputs data to my new $1M coil line…guess how I communicate what file the operator needs to load? A black Sharpie marker. The software can’t even report the name of the file it just generated. The only other option is to hire a programmer for most firms who don’t have the capability to do it themselves (most don’t).

The Real Lost Value – Lost Users

Perhaps the real lost value in all of this in construction is the reduction of software access to users. We’ll have less people using less Autodesk software. Think this number is insignificant? My last employer (against my guidance) signed one of those $3.5M/3-Year Enterprise Tokenflex deals. (They’ve since dropped it).

As part of a TokenFlex engagement, you run their licenses for a trial period to gauge usage so you can forecast your purchase for 3 years. Autodesk’s abysmal analysis was simply add 5 of each license over 3 years. Didn’t matter if it was 150 seats of Revit or 1 seat of 3ds Max. They just added 5 to everything.

For this reason, I performed my own analysis. With a company directive to double in revenue, migrating users from AutoCAD/CADmep to Revit Fabrication Parts and rolling out Collaboration for Revit, my forecast was within %0.1 over the next two years.

In short, I know Autodesk licensing VERY well and I know users and their usage patterns EXTREMELY well. We knew our engineers were 2.5-3 users per license. Piping, Plumbing and Sheetmetal detailers were 1-to-1. But there was another 1/3 of our user base that fall into the “part time” or “low usage” category. Their usage was low. Very low. Those ~200 regular users (120 Engineers, and 80 Detailers)….they had another 100 users. One day a month. 5 Minutes a day once every couple weeks. In Autodesk’s new “Named User” model, 1/3 of the users will loose access to licenses.

Any Yet More Cost

Companies that have a dedicated CAD or BIM manager will now need a dedicated license of everything though they rarely use it. No more floating licenses which allow them to fire up a product quick and solve a problem. Or they’ll need to take away the license of a user in need to give themselves access to troubleshoot an issue.

Added License Compliance Risk

Lastly, this is a huge licensing compliance risk. With all software being driven by only an Email address that doubles as an Autodesk ID any user can freely download and install the software at home or on a friends system. As long as they’re employed and have a license, IT compliance will be non-existent. I can’t stop it. I won’t even know about it.

Now it’s true, I can purchase a premium plan add-on and get reporting and SSO. Assuming the user (and their friends) aren’t using a glaringly obscene amount of hours, I simply won’t know. In a large organization, if that part time user wants to setup a friend or another business with your license, you simply won’t know unless you personally know that user.

Even if the employee leaves, a lot will still have access. Especially in union construction firms. Signatory employees in many firms are not handled through traditional IT channels. IT often struggles with terminating account access to IT systems and cloud services because people are Hired and Fired outside IT and HR’s control. Union contract dictates employment process so most HR departments are happy to step aside. Luckily, I don’t have this issue where I am now (our HR does a great job) but it exists in other firms. At my last job, I routinely reported users who weren’t employed but still had access…sometimes for years…when I ran across them.

Is There Any Silver Lining In All Of This?

Perhaps. As I said earlier, I’ve asked for better, more robust and sometimes just any reporting before. Over a decade I’ve attended countless “Customer Sessions” at Autodesk University covering these topics as well as surveys, phone calls and in person meetings.

Nothing has ever happened because lets face it, there will be zero additional customers buying Revit or Inventor because of license reporting. Usage reporting isn’t a purchasing factor. It didn’t have a product owner or a revenue stream and as such, received no attention from Autodesk.

Perhaps that will change now. I don’t want to pay an extra $30k a year just to remain license compliant, secure and informed about our users. But I likely will. And because there’s now a revenue stream behind it, perhaps Autodesk will finally give it the attention it’s long deserved.

Autodesk Fabrication: Best Practice #12

Compress Fabrication Data Files.

Autodesk Fabrication configurations can Compress their data files. It’s a good idea to have this enabled. Not only does this make the files smaller and take up less space, it makes them faster to load. This increases your performance as the data is expanded in memory as opposed to read more data from disk.

You can enable this option in your database settings. Doing this does not automatically compress existing data that’s not already compressed. The following image shows a suggested sequence of operations. This would both enable compression and compress the existing data.

  1. First Enable Compression by selecting the Compress File to Save Disk Space toggle. Future writes to data tables will be compressed when if they are configured to.
  2. Next, enable the toggles for Compress Database Files (.MAP) and Compress Item Files (.ITM) options. This will tell Fabrication to Compress the existing Database and Item files. Also, “unselect” the Compress Jobs (.ESJ .MAJ) option.
  3. Click the Compress Now button. This compresses the Database and ITM files but will not scan your ESTmep and CAMduct job files.
  4. Once compressed, select the Compress Jobs (.ESJ .MAJ) option. This will compress all Future ESJ and MAJ files but not existing ones. If you wanted, you could have left that option selected in Step 2. However it would significantly increase the time it takes to perform the compression process. Because most of your ESJ and MAJ files are likely past jobs, there’s really no value in processing them now….but you could.
  5. Press the OK Button to save these settings.

Check Settings for Each Product, Version and User of Each Computer

You should also know that these settings are NOT saved in your configuration. The file that stores these settings is located here…

C:\Users\<user>\AppData\Local\Autodesk\Fabrication <version>\<product>\UserOpt.MAP

<user> = User's Windows Login Name
<version> = Autodesk product version. (e.g. 2018, 2019, 2020, etc.)
<product> = Autodesk Fabrication product (e.g. CADmep, ESTmep, CAMduct)

You can tell by the folders, that this setting is stored separately for each user on a computer. Because each product and each version is part of the path, those variations need to be set too.

Because Best Practice #9 tells you to use only one version for database administration, version may seem unimportant. But it IS important to know when you upgrade to a newer version for administration. Those versions should also have these settings reviewed.

Every user who does work in your database, should check each product and version for those settings. If they don’t, your work may compress files while their work may decompressed them.

Because clicking this just once makes it do it’s magic in your database, you don’t need to click the Compress Now button for each version, user, product or computer. The options merely need to be Set., telling those products what they should/should compressed or decompressed.