Revit Fabrication Parts – Control w/Dimensions

AutoCAD was famous for it’s command line. It was easy to move items and type locations, distances or coordinates. Revit isn’t quite as intuitive for those coming from AutoCAD.

There’s a lot of reasons you need more control of Fabrication Parts in Revit. You may want to align the ends of pipe for a rack. Or perhaps you want to control the spacing between pipes in a run of parallel pipes.

At first it appears like the best you can do is drag items close. Eyeball them up so to speak. The traditional methods used in AutoCAD just won’t work. Methods like drawing construction geometry and using point filter and/or object snaps.

You can precisely control placement and location when moving to Revit from CADmep. In Revit, you simply place dimensions and edit them. Seems easy enough but there’s a couple nuances that can leave users frustrated. We’ll cover how to do this below.

Adding Dimensions in Revit

You can use the Annotate tab on the Ribbon in Revit. You’ll use the Linear, Aligned and Angular dimensions the most.

When you place a dimension between parts in Revit, the obvious thing would be to double-click the dimension to edit it. You’ve likely seen the following dialog…

If you see this dialog, you’re on the wrong path. This is not where you’d edit a dimension to control part placement. For controlling parts with dimensions in Revit, you actually select one of the parts you dimensioned.

The following image shows a Fabrication Part selected. But there’s still a problem. If the dimension text is black, you can not edit it. This is because one of the parts are over constrained. If you find a Lock icon on one of the parts, try unlocking it.

After unlocking the part, you may need to deselect and re-select the part for the dimension text to be editable. In the following image, you’ll see the dimension text is now Blue.

With the dimension text Blue, you can now click on the text to edit it as shown in the following image.

With the edit box for the dimension text activated, simply type the desired value and press <Enter> or click out of the edit box.

You’ll see the part move to the dimension you entered. The key to determining which part moves when editing a dimension is based on the part you select. If you just wanted to align the parts, you can delete the dimension afterward. On the other hand, if you want to maintain that relationship, highlight the dimension. You’ll see a unlocked Lock icon as shown in the below image.

If you click to Lock the icon, this relationship between parts will be maintained going forward.

The below video shows three pipes modeled with various end lengths. We’re using dimensions to align the ends of the pipe. We also delete the dimensions afterward. Moving one of the pipe ends later will not move the ends of the other.

Pipe spacing is set using dimensions just like before only this time, the dimensions are retained and the lock icon locked When one pipe later moves, the other moves to maintain the spacing.

Autodesk Fabrication: Best Practice #11

Don’t use Commas (,) in Database Entry Names, ITM File Names, Don’t Use Them Anywhere.

Similar to Best Practice #1 (Don’t use Double Quotes), you should avoid using commas. Commas are the delimiting character in a CSV file. Using a comma can throw off the data columns in data exports that use the CSV file format.

Below, you can see Autodesk let a comma slip into a file name in their Metric Configuration.Yes – Ancillary in Ancillary Kit

Autodesk Fabrication Attacher Tips

CADmep, ESTmep and CAMduct all use the concept of an Attacher. This is what tells Fabrication which way to route elbows and branches.

Most people know how to place and rotate the Attacher. There are a few other tricks to working with the Attacher that you may not know about.

Up or Down, How to Get Around

Depending on your view orientation, you may notice part of the Attacher turns from Red to Blue or Green. As you rotate the Attacher it’s color will change to indicate the direction the arrow is pointing.

  • Green = Grass (Attacher is pointing away from you)
  • Blue = Sky (Attacher is pointing toward you)

Rotation Tricks

Depending oh which program you’re in (CADmep, ESTmep or CAMduct) and the keys you press, the Attacher rotates differently. Here’s a chart explaining those nuances.

RotationMethodCADmepESTmepCAMduct
90 Degrees CCWClickYesYesYes
90 Degrees CWShift+ClickNoYesYes
180 Degrees (Flip)Ctrl+ClickYesYesYes
15 Degrees CCWAlt+ClickYesNoNo

CADmep – Click Attacher to Rotate Counter Clockwise 90 Degrees

CADmep – Ctrl+Click Attacher to Rotate 180 Degrees (Flip)

CADmep – Alt+Click Attacher yo Rotate Counter Clockwise 15 Degrees

ESTmep / CAMduct – Click Attacher to Rotate Counter Clockwise 90 Degrees

ESTmep / CAMduct – Shift+Click Attacher to Rotate Clockwise 90 Degrees

ESTmep / CAMduct – Ctrl+Click to Rotate Attacher 180 Degrees (Flip)

Merging Autodesk Fabrication Databases (Method 4 of 4)

Warning: This is last part (4 of a 4) in a series on merging Autodesk Fabrication Databases. Autodesk Fabrication software is extremely powerful and flexible but that also makes it very fragile. Use the below guidance with caution. I highly recommend backing up your configuration before attempting anything I’ve recommended. It never hurts to have a firm grasp of how Autodesk Fabrication functions from an administrative perspective. Consider yourself warned!

Method 4: MERGEDB (CAMduct only)

This last method is very quick and powerful but only available in CAMduct. If you’re not a CAMduct user, simply download and install to perform this process while in the 30-day trail period.

This method doesn’t let you pick and choose individual database entries but you can pick certain database types and quickly merge all of them into a new configuration. Unlike prior methods were you typically started in the old Database to export an *.IOX / *.IEZ file or create a Proxy ITM first, in this process, you start with the database you want the items to be imported into.

In addition to make of the database entries Method 1 supported, this method also supports these additional entries.

CutoutsLeadsRates
FacingsMaterialsSilencers
Hanger SpecificationsNotchesVanes

To use this method, start CAMduct and type CTRL-SHIFT-C to display the command window as shown below.

From the command window, type MERGEDB and press <Enter>. This doesn’t do anything other than tell you the data the command needs as shown below. The Strict/Unstrict options tell the merge process if it should only look at the name or the data to determine if it’s duplicate. If you choose strict and the items are already in your database, something as simple as 3 vs 4 digits after a decimal will cause a duplicate entry. In most cases, unstrict is all that’s required.

For this example, we’ll type MERGEDB UNSTRICT NOTCHES to import all the notches from one database to another as shown below.

When you press enter, you’re prompted to select a folder. You should select the Database folder of the old database you want to merge into your current database.

If new items are found, you’ll be notified and prompted if you want to save the changes or not.

Upon completion of the merge, you’ll need to go to those items in your database and make permanent any you intend to keep and remove those you didn’t want.

Pros:
> Only way to import some database entry type.
> Easiest way to merge the bulk of 2 database together.
> Extremely fast and efficient.
Cons:
> Requires CAMduct.
> Can not pick and choose database entries, only database types.
> Requires post merge cleanup of deletion or making entries permanent

Merging Autodesk Fabrication Databases (Method 3 of 4)

Warning: This is Part 3 of a 4 part series on merging Autodesk Fabrication Databases. Autodesk Fabrication software is extremely powerful and flexible but that also makes it very fragile. Use the below guidance with caution. I highly recommend backing up your configuration before attempting anything I’ve recommended. It never hurts to have a firm grasp of how Autodesk Fabrication functions from an administrative perspective. Consider yourself warned!

Method 3: Service Export/Import

This method is very similar to Method 2 above except that it works on a full service and all the items within it’s service template. If you have an existing service you want to post from one Database to another, this is a great method. Even if you just have a library of multiple ITM’s, it’s very common to create a transport service. That service holds those ITM’s and can be used as a means to get ITM’s from one database to another. Here are the steps.

From CADmep, type EXPORTSYS at the command line or in ESTmep or CAMduct, while in the Takeoff screen, select Takeoff -> Services -> Export as shown below…

This displays the Export Systems dialog. Use the Browse button to select the location and name of the *.IEZ export file. Select the service(s) you wish to export and click the Export button.

Importing is a similar process. Type IMPORTSYS from CADmep or from the Takeoff screen in ESTmep or CAMduct, select Takeoff -> Services -> Import as shown below…

You are prompted to select an *.IEZ file for import. The file will be read and display all the services that were exported. Select those you want to import and click Import.

Because IEZ imports can contain a lot of data, it’s likely you may have a lot of duplicates. Upon import, you are prompted if you’d like to Import ALL or NEWER item. Select as appropriate for your situation as shown below.

If Estimating data is found, you are also prompted to Replace or Keep existing tables. Because the database you are importing to is likely your current desired database, I’d recommend to Keep existing tables and only Replace if you intend to bring over labor and cost data in the Import. Once again, choose the option that best suits your needs as shown below.

Like in Method 1 earlier, if the import finds a service or template it thinks is the same, it’ll prompt you how to proceed. I highly recommend NOT selecting the “….To All” options as it’s common for the database index to cause false matches and mislead you.

You are prompted once the import is complete. As with Method 2, if ITM’s imported through this process contain new database entries, you’ll need to find those and make them permanent in a similar way.

Pros:
> Easiest way to import large numbers if ITM’s and their related database entries.
> Easy way to import Services and Service Templates
Cons:
> Slowest of all process do to all the verification the Import process needs to do.
> Can Import a lot more data than you intend.
> Can not pick and choose individual database entries to import

Stay tuned for Method 4 in my next and last post in this series.

Merging Autodesk Fabrication Databases (Method 2 of 4)

Warning: This is Part 2 of a 4 part series on merging Autodesk Fabrication Databases. Autodesk Fabrication software is extremely powerful and flexible but that also makes it very fragile. Use the below guidance with caution. I highly recommend backing up your configuration before attempting anything I’ve recommended. It never hurts to have a firm grasp of how Autodesk Fabrication functions from an administrative perspective. Consider yourself warned!

Method 2: ITM’s as Proxy

Another method of transferring data from one database to another is by using ITM’s. Simpy take an existing ITM or make a new one and set some of it’s properties to those you want to transfer. After you’ve completed this, copy the ITM to your desired database.

In your desired database, right-click on the newly copied ITM from the Folders view and select Edit or Properties as shown below.

Once the Edit Item or Item Properties dialogs are displayed, you can simply close them. The only purpose in calling them up was to force Fabrication to read all of their settings which in turn causes them to be created as Proxy entries in your database if they don’t already exist.

Once the database entries are in your new database, you’ll want to navigate to those database entries and make the proxy items permanent as shown below.

Pros:
> Every property an ITM uses is supported.
> Dependent database entries supported (e.g. Fixings on a Support)
Cons:
> Can bring in more properties than you want which need to be cleaned.
> Time consuming for large property sets as multiple ITM’s required.
> Proxy items must be manually made permanent afterward

Stay tuned for Method 3 of 4 in my next post.

Merging Autodesk Fabrication Databases (Method 1 of 4)

Warning: This is Part 1 of a 4 part series on merging Autodesk Fabrication Databases. Autodesk Fabrication software is extremely powerful and flexible but that also makes it very fragile. Use the below guidance with caution. I highly recommend backing up your configuration before attempting anything I’ve recommended. It never hurts to have a firm grasp of how Autodesk Fabrication functions from an administrative perspective. Consider yourself warned!

Preface

You shouldn’t find yourself merging parts of different Fabrication databases very often. If you do, you may want to revisit your database management workflow and practices.

However there are a number of legitimate reasons you may do it. Most common is the database you’re using now isn’t the one you used a few years ago because you started over. It’s common for a Fabrication database to be a mess. They’re hard to learn and understand and while you learn, you do a little damage unknowingly. Maybe it’s turnover of the staff managing your configuration. Each new person will say they know how to manage Fabrication and what you’re doing is wrong. So they fix it. In the end, you end up with a mix of database management “Styles”.

And last but not least, it’s because trades men and women manage your data. Don’t get me wrong. Your trade staff are hands down the most qualified to manage an Autodesk Fabrication configuration. This is why the task gets assigned to them. But ultimately, what do companies “want” them to do? Detailing and modeling….run piping, plumbing, sheet metal, electrical, etc. Management more often than not pushes them to get back to modeling because management really doesn’t understand the importance of a good database. This leads to shortcuts and mismanagement through no fault of those doing the work. They’re doing the best they can given the constraints their under.

Whatever the reason, if you need to merge parts of different Fabrication Database configurations together, I’ll explain four different methods in the coming posts.

Method 1: Importing / Exporting Database Items

Export/Import Database is the most commonly used method. It’s also the most widely know. In 2014 and earlier versions, many of these were separate commands for each part of the database. In the 2015 version, they were wrapped up in a single command. This process allows you to export and import the following items…

AirturnsInsulation SpecificationsSplitters
Ancillaries (except Kits)Installation TimesStiffeners
ConnectorsSeamsSupplier Costs
DampersSectionsSupports
Fabrication TimesSpecifications

To initiate the Export process, type DBEXPORT at the command line in CADmep. In CAMduct or ESTmep, select File -> Export -> Database Export from the menu as shown below…

Once you start the command the Database Export dialog is displayed. You can switch tabs and select various database entries to export.

Once you’ve selected the items you wish to export, click OK and save the export file.

This *.IOX file contains everything you selected for export. You can then use this file to import those settings into another database configuration. The process for importing is very similar. Type DBIMPORT at the command line in CADmep or pick File -> Import -> Database Import in ESTmep or CAMduct from the menu shown below…

Upon initiating the command, you’re prompted to select an *.IOX file for import. Select the file you wish to import and click OK.

After selecting the file, you are presented with a dialog just like the Export dialog. In this one, you can navigate the various tabs and select what you would like to import.

There is no good way to see what’s available for import without checking all of the tabs. Only items included for export will be displayed. You can pick and choose to import some or all of the items that were in the export file.

If an item you are importing already exists, you can choose to Skip, Duplicate or Overwrite the item. A word of caution, if your configuration has not been managed well, be very careful selecting the Apply to All button. There are times when the items Fabrication thinks are duplicate are indeed different items. This can be due to database corruption or misaligned indexes or any number of other reasons. If you’re concerned, select Apply for each item one at a time to verify the duplicates aren’t unexpected.

Pros:
> Easy to use
> Most common items supported
> Dependent items (e.g. Ancillaries attached to a Support) are included even though they are not displayed.
Cons:
> Not all database areas supported (e.g. Materials, Ancillary Kits, Notches, etc.)

Stay tuned for Method 2 in my next post.

COD Script Updates – 2019.11.10

I’ve made a couple updates to the Autodesk Fabrication script libraries. If you use them, you can download updated versions from here.

Scripts Updated

  • Job Items
    • All Scripts updated to now include the Item Number which makes it easier to track back report entries to ITM’s in your job.
    • Fix a couple syntax issues in a few scripts which caused errors.
  • Revit Support Report
    • Added Reporting on Revit 2020 status
    • Changed CID/Pattern # 1175 from NO to YES.

Known Issues

End Location properties appear to be crashing 2020.1 Versions of Fabrication. Other versions may/may not crash as well.

COD Script Updates – Part 2

I didn’t plan up updating scripts again so soon but I found a couple more undocumented properties. I thought I’d post them sooner rather than later.

The two ITM properties I found are “BOX” and “E-Tag“.

BOX is only visible from CAMduct. It’s intended purpose appears to be for specifying a “Box” for the ITM in question for shipping purposes but you could use it or anything. Despite it being visible only in CAMduct, using COD Scripts, you can read and write it from ESTmep or CADmep too.

E-TAG is visible from any of the Fabrication products. It’s used for Equipment Tags. You can see both properties from here if in CAMduct or only E-Tag is ESTmep or CADmep.

Scripts Updated

  • All Debug Scripts – Nothing major, just formatting in the comments section.
  • WriteAll_Props (Job).cod – Updated to support BOX & E-TAG properties.
  • WriteAll_Props (Library).cod – Updated to support BOX & E-TAG properties.

Scripts Added

  • Debug ITEM Box.cod
  • Debug ITEM E-Tag.cod
  • WriteAllBox (Job).cod
  • WriteAllETag (Job).cod
  • WriteAllBox (Library).cod
  • WriteAllETag (Library).cod

You can download the *current* versions here.

Scripting property reference has also been updated here.

COD Script Updates

I’ve made a couple updates to the Autodesk Fabrication script libraries. If you use them, you can download updated versions from here.

Scripts Updated

  • Debug
    • Debug ITEM Library.cod
    • Debug ITEM Sealant.cod
  • Job Items
    • WriteAllLibrary (Job).cod
    • WriteAllSealant (Job).cod
    • WriteAll_Props (Job).cod
  • Library Items
    • WriteAllLibraries (Library).cod
    • WriteAllSealant (Library).cod
    • WriteAll_Props (Library).cod

Issues Corrected

Issue 1: Scripts accessing the “Library” property were failing on CID/Pattern 2199. Scripts have been updated to watch for this and report it as an ‘Unknown‘ Library.

Issue 2: Some CID/Patterns can be configured to be pipework or duct work depending on the “Pipework” option’s “Yes/No” status. Scripts were updated to properly report or ignore this property depending on the Sealant value being present.

If the option is set to “Yes“, the pattern is a pipework item. If set to “No”, the pattern is a sheet metal item. Sheet metal items contain the “Sealant” property where as Pipework items do not.

This condition is present in the following CID/Patterns…

149838 902110112381239
12401241124212471248

Special thanks to Kyle Speropoulos of MMC Contractors in Kansas City for alerting me to this issue.