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.

IT Hack Every BIM/CAM Manager Should Know

How many times have you had to reconfigure a system because a server changed? Remapped Drive letters? Links that used UNC paths? It’s downright annoying when IT needs to replace a server and it’s name is different. But it is understandable…systems get old and outdated and need upgrading or replacing.

What I don’t understand is why we use server names at all. Most Ethernet networks use IP addresses to route traffic, not server names. But nobody can ever remember all those numbers. When you type a server name, it pings the DNS server to locate the IP address of that server. Makes sense right.

But we don’t have to use server names…or IP addresses. DNS can be configured with a CNAME Alias (CNAME – Canonical Name). A CNAME Alias is just another human friendly piece of text that’s used to point to another Server Name, IP address or even another CNAME Alias.

What a CNAME Alias do for us?

To understand what a CNAME Alias can do for us, lets take the example of license server. All your client software points to the server name…let’s say is’s something like “P-LA-LIC01“. Now your IT rolls out a new server for licensing…it’s not going to be “P-LA-LIC02“. All your clients need to be updated to the new server name. Depending on the sophistication of your IT and the software they mightbe able to push an update. But more often than not, the local CAD/BIM Manager is left updating clients.

With a CNAME Alias, you could create a nice user friendly name like “ADSK-LICENSE“. All your software would use this name instead of the server name.

This CNAME Alias is setup on your DNS server. Most IT groups won’t give you access but if you know how it works, you can request and have them set it up for you. Just tell them you want a CNAME Alias named “ADSK-LICENSE” that points to “V-LA-LIC01(ADSK-LICENSE -> V-LA-LIC01). Now when you’re ready to cut you users over to the new license server, have them update the DNS record for the alias to the new server overnight. The next morning, everybody is pointed to the new server, no reconfiguration required.

If someone has left on their computer, they may need to reboot to see the changes. In the unlikely event is still doesn’t work, they can open a DOS prompt and flush the DNS cache with the command line “IPCONFIG /FLUSHDNS

Where does this work?

Just about where ever and ever where you would type a server name. You can make a drive letter using an Alias. You can use an Alias in a UNC path. We can even specify them to point to the IP address of network printer or other equipment.

The only real down side to using a CNAME Alias is that it doesn’t show up when browsing your network, But all things considered, that’s not a bad idea. If it were up to me, no user anywhere would ever know the names of the servers…only the Aliases. I really don’t know why this trick isn’t used more often. IT uses it for their own purposes, it just rarely gets implemented to affect the users. Using this approach, I’ve migrated hundreds of users in multiple locations to new servers with a 3 second DNS update in the evening. I suggest you give it a try.

Shop Floor Computer Tip

We’ve all been there. Moving our mouse around trying to find the pointer on the screen. This can be especially troublesome in a shop floor environment. Computer screens are small. Full of dust and dirt. Poor lighting and perhaps even a poor mouse surface. All of these factors can make use of a computer on as shop environment annoyingly painful.

Beyond the obvious improvements like a larger, regularly cleaned monitor and improved lighting, there’s a couple simple tweaks you can make to keep your staff providing value as opposed to looking for a mouse pointer.

Advanced Mouse Options

Using your Additional Mouse Settings, you can make a couple quick changes that will significantly improve the usability of a shop floor system. Simply press the Windows key on your keyboard and type Mouse.

This should display the Mouse Settings option in the search results, that’s what you’ll want to click. This will bring up the Mouse Settings window. Here you’ll want to click the Additional Mouse Options link.

Now from the Mouse Properties dialog, there’s a few things, you should make adjustments to.

  1. Select a pointer speed – You may want to turn down your pointer speed. It can be hard to find and track a mouse if it’s moving really fast.
  2. Automatically move pointer to the default button in a dialog box – This setting may help depending on the software used on the shop floor. It may also be annoying. However, every time a dialog or window is opened, you’re cursor will be in a predictable location.
  3. Display pointer trails – This leaves a few images of your cursor trailing around as you move your mouse. The longer the trail, the easier it will be to spot your mouse as you move it. Longer trails will have the most visibility.
  4. Show location of pointer when I press CTRL key – You’ve likely seen this trick in software presentations. Press and release the CTRL key and a series of circles will radiate out from your mouse position.

A Word About Machine Controls

A lot of machines now are using Windows based controls. If these systems rely on the use of a Mouse instead of a touch screen, you may want to make these same changes. However these systems can often launch upon startup and make it appear you have no access to the Standard Windows interface. You can often simply plug in a keyboard and mouse into a USB port for quick access. You can then use standard Keyboard tricks to get you to a more familiar interface.

  • Press the Windows key on the keyboard to bring up the standard Windows menu.
  • Press Alt-Tab to gain access to other running or hidden applications.

If the control is running in Kiosk mode, you may not have access to the standard Windows options. In this case, press CTRL-ALT-DELETE to bring up the Task Manager. From the Task Manager, you can launch a new process or run a new program. You can simply type Explorer.exe and this will reload the Windows interface you’re use to allowing you to make the mouse changes.

Tip: Add Member to BIM360 Design Project

When you host a BIM360 Design project, adding members to the project is a common task. If you haven’t done this before, you may notice after typing the address thatBIM360 Design doesn’t seem to recognize it.

When you watch the video, you can notice the blue “Select” button grayed out after typing the Email address. You can type a ‘comma’ (,) after the address to make BIM360 recognize it. You’ll see the Email address converts to a boxed control when you type a properly formatted address.

When you type a comma, this tells BIM360 Design that you’re done typing the address. You can also use a comma to separate multiple addresses. This is why the comma works even when typing a single address.

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

Revit Fabrication Parts – Pattern Support Analysis

It no secret that not every Autodesk Fabrication pattern is supported in Revit. I’ve recently finished a more in-depth analysis of which patterns are and are not supported in Revit. Each of the 703 different pattern types were tested in each version and each update of Revit.

On the Fabrication COD Scripts page, you can find a Revit Support Report script. That script will analyse your ITM library and generate a CSV report of the status of every ITM in your Fabrication Configuration.

You can also find the complete results of my testing on the Revit Support page. Here’s a summary of the the testing…


Tested Version

Each of the below versions of Revit were tested with all the the 704 different patterns:

20162016R22061R2SP7
2017.02017.12017.2
2018.02018.12018.22018.3
2019.02019.12019.2

Testing Criteria

“Supported” for purposes of this testing is based on whether Revit allows a particular pattern to be used in the Fabrication Part Browser.


Testing Results

Testing results will have one of the following status descriptions.

  • No – No Revit support
  • Varies ({verison}) – Revit support varies between Revit version
  • Yes (Risk) – Revit does support but use NOT recommended due to issues
  • New ({version}) – New Pattern supported in later Revit versions
  • Yes – Pattern is supported in all Revit versions with no significant issues

Support Status = No

No – Parts not supported by the Parts Browser are obviously listed as having “No” support. There are a total of 84 different patterns listed in this category. They are as follows…

125126127
128129130141158202203
204205206207208209210211212213
215216218220221228230301302308
503505521530764765803804805806
833873910913928960961964966969
974980983985994996999104911021106
1114114211501152115711611162116511681169
1181119411961198218521892190219121922199
2200287331083873

Support Status = Varies

Varies (version) – In some cases, Fabrication Parts were initially allowed or supported in earlier versions and later were restricted. These parts have a status of “Varies” followed by the version where the change occurred. It’s recommended you avoid use of these patterns even in versions where they work as they will not be supported in later versions. There are 17 patterns that once worked in Revit but are no longer supported. They are as follows…

0182222381845853855864876898
903912915971110511701175

Support Status = Yes (Risk)

Yes (Risk) – Patterns that list “Yes (Risk)” are technically supported in Revit but I highly recommend avoiding their use. Patterns with this status have issues like inserting at the Revit’s Project Base Point and not the cursor location. They also have a tendency to crash Revit if you attempt to grip or edit them. As a result, I highly recommend avoiding their use. There are 29 patterns in this category. They are listed here…

119189317346347348349350351352
353368369390392397398415810828
922930962963968973115911601176

Support Status = New

New (version) – Some patterns were not around in earlier versions of Revit but later added and supported in Revit. These patterns are listed as “New” followed by the version of Revit they became available in. These patterns are generally safe to use for Revit. There are 19 patterns in this category which are listed here…

217120612071238123912401241124212431244
124512461247124812491250219721982217

Support Status = Yes

Yes – Parts allowed by the browser that work across all versions of Revit are listed with e “Yes” status. There are 555 patterns in this category. They are listed here…

12345678910
11121314151617181920
21222324252627282930
31323334353637383940
41424344454647484950
51525354555657585960
61626364656667686970
71727374757778798081
82838586878889909192
939596979899100101102103
104105106107108109110111112113
114115116117118120121122123124
132133134135136137139140142147
148149150151152153154155159160
162163165166169170171172173183
184185186231250251252253254255
309311313314315316318319320321
322323324325326327328329330336
338340341342343344345354355356
357358359360365366367376377378
379380382383384385386387388391
393394395399401410411412413417
420421430431440441450451460461
470471472480501502504506507509
514515518519522523524525526533
535555556557580751760761800801
802807808809811812813814815817
818819820821822823824825826827
830831832834835836837838839840
841842843844846847848849850851
852854856857858859860861862863
865866867868869870871872874875
877878879880881882883884885886
887888889890891892893894895896
899900901902904905906907908909
911914916917918919920921923924
925926927929931932933934935936
938939940941942943944945946947
948950951952953954955956957958
959965967970972976977978979981
9849869879889899951000110111041107
1108110911101111111211131115111611171118
1119112011211122112411251126112711281129
1130113111331134113511361137113811391140
1141114311441145114611471148114911511153
1154115511561158116311641166116711711172
1173117411771178117911801183118411851186
1187118811891190119111921193119711991200
1201120212031204120515221972204020412042
2044204720512060207120722082209721082148
2149215521602182218321842186218721882193
2194219521962326238623882522252325242751
2814282128572868286928752881288228832884
2885288628992900290129022903290429052906
2907291629382965296629672979304130513060
30713386352235234522

Fabrication – Attacher Tip #2

Here’s another simple Attacher tip for Fabrication products. If you hold down the Shift key while clicking on the Attacher arrow in CADmep, ESTmep or CAMduct,. the arrow rotates the opposite direction.


Clicking the Attacher – Notice it Rotates in the “Clockwise” Direction

Clicking the Attacher – Notice it Rotates in the “Counter-Clockwise”┬áDirection