VDC CAD – Beta CADmep Addin

Steven Micaletti recently started an Autodesk Fabrication Development related blog…https://miclogic.home.blog/.

One of the things recently posted are Beta versions on his CADmep tools for CADmep 2019 and 2020. You can get them here…https://miclogic.home.blog/2019/05/05/vdc-cad-beta/

There’s a nice Item Property Palette…

There’s also several other tools that look very intuitive to use in a Ribbon Panel…

They include tools for…

  • Item Properties
  • Number Items
  • Selection Tools
  • Packaging Tools
  • Tag Tools
  • Hanger Tools
  • Item Colors
  • Settings
  • Touch Screen Cancel

Download them and kick the tires. I’m sure he’d love to get your feedback.

Fabrication 2020 Resources Updated

Resource information for Autodesk Fabrication has been updated. They now include information on the 2020 version of CADmep, ESTmep and CAMduct. In short, nothing has changed.

The FabViewer Command Reference did have one new command added. However, this was not new to the 2020 version. The CADmep 2019.1 update added a command which was missed previously.

Pages that were updated are the following…

Autodesk Fabrication 2020 Installer Issues

If you use network licenses or create network deployments of CADmep, CAMduct or ESTmep you may encounter errors. Autodesk incorrectly pathed the Network License Manager files in the SETUP.INI files.

Even if you are using Stand Alone or User Based Subscription licenses but build Network Deployments, if you configure the deployment to include all components in the deployment (recommended if you plan on modifying the deployment later) you can encounter errors.

To correct the errors, you can replace the SETUP.INI files that are part of the installation with the ones provided in the following ZIP file…

Before you overwrite your installation’s SETUP.INI file, it’s a good idea to backup the original. The root of my installation folder looks like this…

At some point, I would expect Autodesk will update their download data and provide the proper files. Because of this, I would highly recommend NOT replacing the SETUP.INI files unless you encounter issues.

What’s Different?

If you’re curious what’s different between the two, you can open the INI files in Notepad or other text editor and view them there.

The original file contains this at the end of one of the entries…

Third-Party Component Open Source EULAs:x64\en-US\Tools\NLM.msi

The new SETUP.INI files have updated it to this…

Third-Party Component Open Source EULAs:x86\AdskLicensing\NLM\x64\NLM.msi

Disabled Material & Specification in Revit Fabrication Parts

Fabrication Parts in Revit don’t always allow editing of their Material or Specification properties. Look at the below side by side images. Revit’s properties can be seen grayed out on the left but those on the right are not.

Material & Specification Properties – Left Read Only, Right = Read/Write

Revit can obscure the reason for this because you have no access to edit your Fabrication Database within the Revit environment. The answer however is quite simple.

Fabrication Parts with the “BoughtOut” property set do not allow editing of Material or Specification. After all, a bought item is typically static and can’t be easily changed. Non-BoughtOut items do allow editing of the Material and Specification properties.

The following is another side by side image of Fabrication Part properties. The properties on the left have the BoughtOut property set. The properties on the right do not have the BoughtOut flag set. While not accessible from Revit, any of the other Autodesk Fabrication products can display and edit the BoughtOut property.

BoughtOut Property / Left = Set, Right = Not Set

Autodesk Fabrication: Best Practice #9

Use the Same Version of software to Admin your Database

Consistently use the same version of software for all administration work. You can draw/model/estimate/etc using any version. Just make sure your users don’t have administrative permissions on their login. But for administering your database, always use the same version. Here’s why…

You can work in multiple versions of CADmep, ESTmep, CAMduct and even Revit (w/Fabrication Parts) using the same database configuration. In other words, the configuration itself is “Version Agnostic“.

For Revit Fabrication Parts, database compatibility starts with version 2016. The other Fabrication products like CADmep, ESTmep and CAMduct, compatibility goes back to at least the version prior to 2013, before Autodesk acquired the software.

What’s the problem?

You often get new functionality in newer versions of software. Versions of the software that require new data, automatically adds the new data to the database tables. When you only Use older versions of the software without administrative permissions, it ignores that extra data when it encounters it. This is why old versions work with configurations edited with newer versions,

When you try to use an older version to Administer your database, it rewrites those tables but doesn’t see the added data so it gets overwritten. This is why you should stick to the same version when editing your database.

You do not have to use the latest version to maintain your database. You can continue to use an older version for administration. Just don’t use a newer version then go back to the old. You’re perfectly fine to stick with an older version. You just won’t be able to take advantage of new features that rely on added data the new version offers. When you are ready to start using a newer version for Administration, you can make that change anytime but you should also stop using the older versions for administration.

Let’s Demonstrate the Issue

You can watch the video at the end of this article to see an example. In 2019 Autodesk added a new Connector setting for “Connector Matching”. We won’t go into what this does here but you can see in the following image the difference in the right-click menu of connectors.

Fabrication 2019 Added ‘Connector Matching

When you watch the video, you’ll see me switch between 2 different versions of ESTmep. I could use any product but ESTmep lets me quickly open and close a database so I can move between versions quickly.

If you look at the configuration icons, you can see which version of software is being used. ESTmep 2019 has all BLUE icons. You can see ESTmep 2018 uses RED icons except the one BLUE 2019 configuration.

ESTmep 2018 has RED Configuration Icons, 2019 uses BLUE Icons

The video starts with “A Test Config” loaded in ESTmep 2019. I select one of the Connectors and change its ‘Connector Matching‘ value. Next, I exit and go back into the same configuration again in 2019 to show the value remains the same. At this point, everything is working as planned.

After exiting the database in 2019, I then switch to ESTmep 2018 and load the same “A Test Config” database. I make a copy of a completely different connector. This is where the problem starts. ESTmep 2018 has no knowledge of this ‘Connector Matching‘ data. Your “Connector Matching” data is over written as soon as ESTmep writes the Connector tables using the format it knows.

Finally, I go back into ESTmep 2019 and verify the data is gone. The default value for the Grooved Coupling’s “Connector Matching” data changes back to “Same“.

You can see for yourself by watching this video.

Microsoft PowerBI w/Autodesk Fabrication

For years, I’ve shared my Fabrication COD scripts with the industry. These can be used to examine database content using Excel.

Tyler Phillips of Bruner Corporation recently posted a nice article on LinkedIn about using Microsoft PowerBI. His PowerBI dashboard provides a great way to help visualize the data behind your Autodesk Fabrication content.

Simply put, the scripts I share dump property data to multiple CSV files. Tyler used that data for some of the PowerBI data sources. This allowed him to built a dashboard which helps him visualize and navigate the data in a more meaningful way. And better yet, he publish a fantastic article on LinkedIn that explains how to do it.

Microsoft PowerBI Dashboard of Autodesk Fabrication Content

This is a great example of leveraging data from multiple sources. PowerBI help you mash it together to give you meaningful information that’s simple to understand and navigate.

If you’ve ever struggled with ESTmep reporting, just think of the possibilities. By taking the above concept and using it across CSV exports from ESTmep you could easily overcome gaps in estimating reporting.

Great job Tyler! Really appreciate you sharing.


Additional Resources

ATTN: Autodesk Fabrication Part Users – Revit 2019.2.1 Hotfix

For Autodesk Fabrication Part users, this is a Hotfix you’ll want to get applied. Since the first release of Fabrication Parts in 2016, there’s been ongoing issues with MEP Systems modeled with Fabrication Parts.

The issues is that to add/remove or update Fabrication services, you need to reload your configuration. This often would cause “disconnects” between parts. Often this would happen for no good reason or explanation as the parts involved may not have even had changes to them.

This has been a difficult issue for Autodesk to resolve because it’s been difficult to reproduce. Since the 2016 until now, Autodesk has slowly made the issue better but it’s still not eliminated. With this hotfix in 2019, Autodesk is taking another stab at it and hopefully it’ll be eliminate. IF not fixed once an for all, hopefully it’ll be another small incremental step better.

You can review the release notes for all Revit 2019 updates here. Look for the notes under 2019.2.1 Hotfix and you’ll see the following note…

“Resolved an issue that could cause MEP Fabrication elements to disconnect when reloading a Fabrication configuration.”

Downloading The Update

The Update is available from the Autodesk Desktop App provided it’s working for you. (Note: Mine seems to lockup or crash repeatedly since installing the Autodesk Desktop Connector. Uninstalling and reinstalling the Desktop App seems to only resolve the issues for a short while)

Alternatively you can download from the Autodesk Accounts portal if you have download permissions given to you from your contract administrator.