Autodesk Flex Licensing – What You Need To Know

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

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

What is ‘Autodesk Flex’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Flex’ Calcualtions…

Lets look at a couple examples of Flex in action.

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

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

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

When Does ‘Flex’ Make Sense?

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

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

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

It’s Not All Roses

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

Options for BIM/VDC in your MEP Shop

Updated: 2022.06.27

I have a lot of people contact me and ask about software tools. They usually only know of some of them but not all of their options. Often they don’t fully understand what all they do or don’t do and how they may compare to each other.

So I figured I’d throw together a little summary of the better options that I’m aware of. There’s others out there but they’re really not penetrating the market or working toward integrating with other solutions near as I can tell. OR perhaps I’m just clueless and haven’t run across them yet.

I’ve listed the tools below in Alphabetical order to minimize suggestions of bias hopefully. But I tend to be pretty opinionated so take that for what it’s worth.

I’m sure everyone I’ve listed below will have issues with my descriptions to some degree and that’s ok. While I personally know many of people involved with these companies, I’m not an expert on their solutions. I highly recommend you talk to all of them and ask them your specific questions.

Note: I have not listed machine tool specific software like TigerStop‘s TigerTouch or Watt‘s new 3dPP Software. If you have tools like those, you likely already have those software options available to you and are familiar with them.

Other tools specific for Duct fabrication like Autodesk Fabrication CAMduct or Trimble ToolShop (Vulcan) are not covered because the Sheetmetal trades have been using them for years and are quite familiar with them.

The last thing to note is that just because a few solutions have an ‘X’ in the same column does NOT mean they even come close to addressing that category the same way or equally as well. Just that the tool helps with those major/broad categories I’ve listed. These tools do much more than I outline, I’m just covering some of my major observations. Review software demo’s and workflows closely.

ToolContentModel
Authoring
Spool
Automation
Hanger
Automation
Production
Management
Machine Tool
Integration
Allied BIM
– Fabrication Center
– Fabrication Desktop
– Fabrication Tools






X



X



X

X



X
BIMrx (Microdesk)
– BIMrx Core
– BIMrx Fabrication
– BIMrx Fabrication DBS
– BIMrx MEP



X

X
X

X


X



X









BuildCentrix (Webduct) X X X
eVolve
– eVolve Electrical
– eVolve Materials
– eVolve Mechanical
– eVolve Origin




X

X

X

X

X

X

X


X


X

X
GTP
– FieldOrderZ
– GTP Connect
– Stratus
– Syclone
– Wireworks






X


X
X



X




X


X
X
X




X

HangerWorks Pro (Dewalt) X X
Manufacton (ViZZ Technologies) X
MSuite
– BIMPRO
– FABPRO
– FIELDPRO




X


X


X



X
X


X
X
PypeServer
– PypeServer Connect
– PypeServer Enterprise
– PypeServer Lyte














X

X
X
X
SiteTrace X
Trimble
– BuildingData
– Connect2Fab
– EC-CAD
– MEP Content
– SysQue

X


X



X

X



?

X



?

X


X







X
Victaulic Tools X X X
Virtual Building Supply (VBS) X

Allied BIM (https://www.alliedbim.com)

Allied BIM is a great group of guys. They’re a little smaller than some of their competitors but don’t let that fool you. They integrate with more variety of machine tools than their larger competitors. So what do they do?

  • Fabrication Center – This is your production management system. Helps you keep track of what you’ve fabricated, what’s in process and what’s in the pipeline.
  • Fabrication Desktop – This is a machine control application that integrates with their other tools. It’s a huge upgrade to what you’d get out of the box from TigerStop or Razor Gauge.
  • Fabrication Tools – Help automate model and drawing production, spooling, etc. all in Revit. (you know, all those things Autodesk should have done but didn’t).

Allied BIM also sells machines last I knew. I’ve seen one of their setups and I tell you…if you want “White Glove” treatment and support….these are your guys. I don’t know anyone else installing a camera so they can remotely watch and assist your team on the shop floor. As they started out as a set of in house tools as a fabricator, they’re also the only company I know who’s run by guys who actually worked production. They’ve also recently partnered with ATG USA (Autodesk Reseller) to help support their sales efforts.


BIMrx (https://www.microdesk.com/)

While a well known Autodesk reseller, they’re the new kid on the block competing against eVolve MEP. It’s hard to describe but while they’re competing against eVolve Mechanical, they’re approach to tools they’re building seems quite different. I’m pretty impressed with what they’re doing and where they’re going. General feel is instead of big complicated commands that you use once in a while and do a lot, theirs are more a suite of simpler more elegant tools that you’re going to use again and again putting money back in your pocket.

Here’s a few offerings under the “BIMrx” branding…

  • BIMrx Core – A lot of general Revit management tools.
  • BIMrx Fabrication – Modeling automation and efficiency. Focus here is on Fabrication ITM workflows.
  • BIMrx Fabrication DBS – Don’t have a Fabrication ITM database? Here’s one you can just buy vs build yourself.
  • BIMrx MEP – Modeling automation and efficiency. Focus here is on RFA/Family workflows.

Microdesk has other offerings too but they’re not focused exclusively on MEP so I’m not going to cover them. I do however encourage you to take a look.


BuildCentrix (https://buildcentrix.com/)

Formerly known as WebDuct, they started out as a field ordering tool for Ductwork and other materials. Their Ductwork workflows have various integrations to CAMduct, ToolShop(Vulcan), PractiCAM, etc. But don’t let their Sheetmetal origins fool you. They’re a material logistics tool (pipe, consumables, tools, etc.) that integrates into a number of ERP systems used by MEP contractors like Viewpoint, Coins and others.

One of their more recent additions is an online duct builder which might be a good competitor to GTP’s FieldOrderZ. But because of their field logistics focus, they’re not really competing against Msuite, Stratus Connect2Fab or Allied BIM….yet. There are customers of those products that also using BuildCentrix.


eVolve (https://www.evolvemep.com/)

eVolve MEP is a company and suite of tools spun out of Applied Software. Applied Software ended up picking up Fabrication support after TSI’s demise when they acquired Enceptia (formerly DC CADD).

Their bread and butter (among other things) are tools to help model authoring, spooling, hanger placement, etc. Once again, this is a company that really shouldn’t exist except for Autodesk’s inability to listen to customers. They’ve built all the things you’d need and more to model with ITM content in Revit in contrast to Trimble’s RFA/Family based SysQue. On the ITM side, Microdesk is really the only major competitor with MSuite’s FabPro and Victaulic Tools taking a good sized bite of the apple too.

  • eVolve Electrical – Electrical based model authoring and automation. Not sure but I think this is RFA based.
  • eVolve Materials – This is a materials management and procurement system.
  • eVolve Mechanical – ITM based model authoring and automation for duct, pipe and plumbing.
  • eVolve Origin – This is eVolve’s custom prebuilt ITM Fabrication database.

GTP (https://gogtp.com/)

GTP’s Stratus product is another one of the big competitors in the production managements space. Their differentiator IMO started as a focus on machine tool integration but as other’s have caught up, it’s become their ability to highly customize the system. This makes it a bit unwieldly to manage but if you master it, you can make it do a lot of things nobody ever envisioned and things their competitors can’t do. This flexibility also makes it a little easier to incrementally implement IMO as opposed to a larger more encompassing rollout common with other software implementations.

Here’s some of the products GTP offers…

  • FieldOrderZ – This is a newer offering designed to facilitate ordering materials and even field based sketching of fabrication. It does intigrate w/Stratus but can also be used standalone.
  • GTP Connect – This tool is designed to facilitate procurement from models.
  • Stratus – This is GTP’s production management system. Works with CADmep or Revit as well as both RFA and ITM content. While GTP doesn’t have Spooling solution inside Revit, you can Spool completely within Stratus.
  • Syclone – This is a tool used to import PCF file into Revit to generate a model. PCF is a format that can be exported from a number of applications to exchange piping component data.
  • Wireworks – This is GTP’s model authoring tool but it’s specific to Electrical only. content in Stratus. There is no equivalent for mechanical that I’m aware of.

HangerWorks Pro (https://anchors.dewalt.com/anchors/)

HangerWorks Pro is a Revit Add-In to help with Hanger placement and modeling. It was originally written by GTP for Dewalt. It then disappeared for a while and it’s just recently resurfaced again but completely rewritten by the developers at MSuite from my understanding. I’ve not seen what the new rewrite looks like but do have a demo scheduled.


Manufacton (https://www.vizztechnologies.com/)

Manufacton was really one of the first ‘Production Management’ solutions available in the industry. I’ve been told their original founder was from Autodesk and a lot of their funding came from some Autodesk insiders. However, unlike their 2 primary competitors at the time (MSuite and Stratus) they really seemed to struggle to gain market share in MEP. When I had my demo, they weren’t even able to tell me who any of their MEP customers were…I ended up telling them who they were.

Ultimately they looked for a buyer and were acquired by Vizz Technologies. I’m not familiar with Vizz Technologies or where they’ve taken the product since. However, it still appears to me to focus more as a high level, generic (not MEP focused) production management tool. Executive management may really like it but it doesn’t appear focused as much on the end users in Detailing or the Shop like you see with Allied BIM, MSuite, Stratus. Still, it’s worth a look of you’re looking for a solution to help manage your shop.


MSuite (https://www.msuite.com/)

MSuite is one of the big players when it comes to production management. If you’re looking for a solution and don’t look at them, you’re not doing your due diligence. They have a number of things they do but the big differentiator of MSuite in my opinion is their incredible focus on productivity. If managing the labor (productivity/scheduling) for your fabrication and install is your focus, there’s nobody that does it better IMO.

I hear a number of Union contractors dismiss Msuite claiming they’re not allowed to “track labor” but I find this a bullshit argument and excuse personally. There’s a number of union contractors using MSuite including some of my friends working at one of my competitors locally. I’m more than happy to put you in touch with a number of users if you think production tracking and scheduling is an issue.

Here’s a high level list of some of their tools…

  • BIMPRO – This is MSuite’s set of tools for Model authoring. Spooling automation, Hanger Layout and more.
  • FABPRO – This is MSuite’s production management system. Track everything your shop fabricates and have complete visibility to the labor effort it takes. Works with both RFA and ITM workflows.
  • FIELDPRO – This is MSuite’s tool for tracking in the field. What’s been received…what’s been installed.

While MSuite has it’s roots in MEP, you’ll also see they’re making more headway in the industrial space than their competitors (IMO) near as I can tell. If you also do industrial work….take a serious look.

In a further boot to their credibility and playform, on May 13, 2022 MSuite announced they were acquired by Stanley Black and Decker. I’m expecting to see development excelerate even more with Stanley backing this suite of tools.


PypeServer (https://pypeserver.com/)

PypeServer is a little more difficult to explain. Most are familiar with it is from it’s early days as the programming and control system for Watts pipe profiling machines. But it’s changed in recent years and you’re likely not as familiar with who they are today.

Watts has since moved to using their own software 3dPP for their new machines. 3dPP looks to me like an almost identical clone (a very strong nod to PypeServer IMO). But PypeServer now supports a lot more machines…

  • Pre-2020 Watts
  • HGG
  • Machitech
  • Vernon
  • TigerStop
  • RazorGauge

At it’s core, PypeServer is most similar to a CAM program but yet it’s still quite different. So lets try to explain…

How PypeServer is different than other CAM programs from my perspective is their approach to a variety of things. For starters, most CAM programs output a CNC file for programming a part. PypeServer uses a database which can be used to recall production run parts or even queried to run reports on past production.

They also are starting to heavily leverage the cloud to facilitate data transfers eliminating the need to manage lots of files to program parts. One added benefit to this is it makes this a LOT easier to install a machine safely in your corporate network without having to add it to your domain and deal with antivirus or firewall issues that can affect machine performance. Instead, give it a connection to the web and that’s all your IT needs to do.

Another key distinction is that most CAM programs at best import exports from other CAD systems. PypeServer goes out of their way to integrate with others. Their list of importers is impressive. Each custom tailored to the CAD system they’re designed for. The Stratus import as an example, works automatically without the need for any operator actions. This minimizes the work within PypeServer to program the parts.

Another example of this is the ever growing list of Addin’s for other CAD systems to export more streamline the workflow. For our industry, their Add-ins for AutoCAD and Revit will push data to the cloud where it’s easily imported into their products without the need for file management. Here’s a rundown of their core products…

  • PypeServer Connect – This is their Addin that exports parts from Revit, CADmep, Plant3d to PypeServer Lyte or PypeServer Enterprise.
  • PypeServer Enterprise – This is their original program that’s used for Pipe Profilers.
  • PypeServer Lyte – This is their newest addition used to drive linear cutting equipment like TigerStop and RazorGauge.

In the interest of disclosure, I am on PypeServer’s Board of Advisors. That means that for whatever reason, the listen to my ramblings about the industry. They’ve not in any way compensated me to write this and I’ve not submitted anything written here for their review. These are just my thoughts…consider them bias or not as you see fit.


SiteTrace.io (https://www.sitetrace.io/)

This company’s focus is field ordering of Duct and other accessories, hardware & material from the Field to Shop. Their application elminates the need for paper orders, spreadsheets, emails, faxes and phone calls for a more error free experiance eliminating the wasted time of traditional procurement methods.


SysQue (https://mep.trimble.com/)

I’ve been a big critic of Trimble for a long time. They’re history of buying multiple solutions, allowing them to get obsolete and then buying new ones always bothered me. However….I’m seeing signs of a new Trimble. A Trimble that’s interesting in bridging their solutions together and providing more open access via API’s an integrations.

So imagine my surprise to see their new Connect2Fab product in Tampa this January at the MEP Innovation conference. This looks like it’s going to go head to head against GTP’s Stratus, Msuite and Allied BIM.

So it’s new and that likely means it’s not as mature as some of their competitors. But it looks good and is impressive for just getting out of the gate. Considering all the other things Trimble offers in the market, this should be considered a real threat to competitors and a viable option for contractors.

Trimble’s other main tool is SysQue, their Model Authoring offering. Unlike eVolve Mechanical that’s focused in ITM/Fabrication Part workflow, SysQue is based on Revit’s RFA content. SysQue comes with it’s own content making it an attractive offering to many who don’t have the time, skills or money to invest in making their own.

Once again, this is a tool that shouldn’t need to exist except for Autodesk’s gross neglecte of the MEP contractor industry. But if you want to do fabrication modeling in Revit efficiently, you’ll need something so it’s worth a serious look.

Let’s face it…Trimble’s had everything they’ve needed and more to compete directly against Autodesk for some time. But their offerings didn’t integrate well and that wasn’t ever really a big strategy within Trimble. But that seems to be changing….from Detailing w/SysQue, Content (RFA & ITM), Submittal Management, Estimating, Collaboration and even ERP….imagine if (when) all that’s connected.

If Trimble manages to pull this off well and repair some of trust they’ve lost with some customers in the past, they’ll be well positioned to knock Autodesk flat on their ass IMO. Autodesk rarely shows up with a booth to any event with actual trades people in attendance. On the other hand you always see Trimble with a well staffed booth. I suspect you’ll see where this is going and how much traction it’s getting within 2-5 years.

  • BuildingData – This is Trimble’s Fabrication ITM content library. Hands down, the largest collection of ITM on the planet.
  • Connect2Fab – Trimble’s new Production Management solution for managing your shop from models.
  • EC-CAD – This is Trimble’s AutoCAD MEP based modeling tool (Formerly East Coast CAD)
  • MEPContent – This is Trimble’s AutoCAD Block, IFC and RFA content library.
  • SysQue – Trimble’s Revit Addin for Model Authoring

Note: In the interest of disclosure, I’m not a user of SysQue and RFA content for MEP fabrication modeling. I use ITM content. That said, a lot of folks think I’m anti-SysQue. That’s not the case. I actually was involved in it’s early beta testing/development at a past employer. It’s a perfectly valid tool and is the right tool for many companies. The only thing I was ever against were some of the early marketing tactics like “Native Revit” and other bullshit sales tactics which for the most part have ceased now that Trimble acquired it.


Victaulic Tools (https://www.victaulicsoftware.com/)

Victaulic Tools is another interesting software offering. They’re not really a software company trying to capture the fabrication modeling market. Rather they built the tools in large part for their own BIM Services group and they sell them for a very modest cost to customers. Regardless of which tools people buy, they often also buy Victaulic tools due to it’s low cost and very helpful utilities.


Virtual Building Supply (https://itembuilders.com/)

Virtual Building Supply (VBS) provides ITM content for Autodesk Fabrication users. Whether you work in CADmep, ESTmep, CAMduct or Revit with Fabrication Parts, if you need ITM’s added to your database, VBS is a good source of high quality content. If they don’t have what you need, reach out and they’ll quote you to build it. Unlike many other content providers who provide “subscription” content services, VBS content is a “buy it once” model.

VBS also will provide a full database if you are in need as well. They’ll even manage your database. So if you need a full database or just a few ITMs, they’re well worth looking at.


Summary

So that’s my list of many of the major software tools available. There is no perfect solution. Many can be used alone or in conjunction with the others on the list. Some are even both competitors and partners with each other.

I really encourage everyone to look at all these tools if they address the issues they’re trying to solve. Just don’t get caught up on buzzwords. There’s a lot of users in the industry that will give you the pros and cons of each of these tools.

Fabrication Reports – All One Folder

Those of you who used CADmep, CAMduct or ESTmep prior to it’s acquisition by Autodesk remember when all the reports were in one folder. Once Autodesk took over, they moved to a system where each product used a separate subfolder for their reports. After all, ESTmep is likely using different reports than CADmep and yet different than CAMduct. Here’s what your configured reports folders now look like (you may not have all products/folders). Notice how each product has it’s own older.

The reality is, many reports are helpful across products. This means you need to make the same report multiple times or copy it from one folder to the others. This leads to duplication of data and a chance than one of the copies gets changed different from the others.


Consolidating All Report to a Single Folder

It’s commonly asked if it’s possible to configure the different Fabrication product to use the same folder. The answer you always hear is No. Technically that’s correct. You can’t configure Fabrication products to look at the same folder. However….

You CAN configure Windows to make multiple folders look at the same folder. It’s just done at the Windows level with a feature called Junction Links.

So lets walk through how to configure CADmep, CAMDuct and ESTmep to all look at the same reports.


Step 1: Find Where Your Reports Are Located

Using CAMduct or ESTmep you can pick Help -> About or type AppInfo at the command line in CADmep. You can then scroll through the window to see where the Reports are located. Alternatively, you could use the Edit Configuration utility to find this folder as well.

Note that this screencap was done in ESTmep so you see the ESTmep subfolder. The mis folder is actually the root where all your reports are.


Step 2: Copy All Report Folders to a New Folder

The next step is to copy all the reports from the various product specific folders to a new master folder location to store the reports. In this case, we’ll call it (Master) just to make it super obvious. Notice we also deleted the folders for CAMductComponents, Tracker and RemoteEntry because I’m not using them. You can choose to include them if you need them,


Step 3: Backup and Delete the Original Reports Folders

When you’re done, you should back a backup of the product specific reports folders elsewhere incase you want to go back to the original config. Once backed up, you need to delete the original product specific reports folders. When you’re done, your reports folders will look like this…


Step 4: Create Junction Links for the Product Folders

Here’s where we do the magic. Windows allows you to create what’s called a Junction to other folders. A Junction is just another virtual folder that looks at the contents of another. Junctions are how Windows has a “My Documents” folder that really points to “C:\Users\<Username>\Documents“.

To create a Junction you need to open a Command Prompt with Administrative permissions. One that’s done, you use the MKLINK command to make a Junction Link to a Junction Target. The syntax looks something like this….

MKLINK /J "link folder" "target folder"

Here’s a screencap of my DOS Command Window where I make Junction Links to the (Master) reports folder…

When done (if Successful) you’ll see those product specific folders again for CADmep, ESTmep and CAMduct. But this time, you’ll notice the icons are slightly different and look like a shortcut icon even though the folder acts like a regular folder.

Here you can see a side by side recording of the process happening in real time…


Step 5: Use Fabrication As Normal

Once you have the junctions created, you can use your products as normal. Each fabrication product looks to the folder specific to it, which Windows redirects to the file in the (Master) folder.

One thing to note, is that when browsing the (Master) and product specific folders, the only clue that these are Junction Links is the Shortcut looking arrow on the icon. If you don’t know what’s going on, it would appear that you have 4 folders each with the same files. But if you try to delete the files in one, they will indeed disappear from the other folders too. After all, these folders are Links back to the Target.

Here’s a recording of all 4 folders show at the same time. You’ll see that changes to any one also happen to the others. You may need to Refresh the views to see the changes but they indeed are seen from the Target and all Junction Links. This means that while there’s 4 folders showing the same files, they only take up the size on disk in one folder.


Summary

Junction Links work well for letting all (or some) of your Fabrication products use the same list of Reports. But there are a few noteworthy items to be aware of….

  • Junctions Links and Point to Targets on a different DRIVE or FOLDER as long as it’s on the SAME machine. You can’t make a link to a target from a computer to a server for example.
  • If you access your database from a network location, you need to make make the links from the server so your IT Department may need to get involved. Your local software when accessing the server share will honor the junctions it sees on the server.
  • If you don’t know what’s going on or look closely, it appears you have duplicate data. Make sure you don’t delete things from one folder thinking they’ll still be in the others.
  • If you want to undo this setup, you should delete the Junction Links FIRST just like any other folder before deleting the Target folder. If you delete the Target first, the you’ll have trouble deleting the links.
  • IF you Sync your database from a master source location like Dropbox or using a utility like Robocopy, the Junctions are NOT copied, but are instead copied like regular folders. There may be some special utilities that copy the junctions but I’ve not found them. So what is 4 views of 1 copy of a file on a network, when synced to your local system becomes 4 copies of the files in 4 folders. For the most part, it’s not an issue as you manage from the master source location. None the less, this nuance is worth mentioning. Most Sync utilities do NOT recognize the special nature of a junction and treat them just like a folder.
  • If you want to read more about Junction Links check out this article…https://www.addictivetips.com/windows-tips/create-delete-a-junction-link-on-windows-10/

Fabrication Pricing, Labor and Product Information

I have a lot of people ask how Pricing, Labor and Product Information (ProdInfo) works in Autodesk Fabrication. It’s a simple concept once you understand it. But it’s also rarely illustrated graphically so I’ll attempt a more graphical explanation here.

At it’s core Product Information requires the use of an ID, sometimes referred to as a Database ID. Pricing and Labor can be handled two separate ways depending how you need to price and labor your items. One of those ways is using Product Listed Pricing and/or Labor. When using Product Listed Prices or Labor, you also use an ID.

Generally speaking, 100% of your parts should have and ID. ID’s should also be unique without a very good reason for duplication. There are a couple good reasons to duplicate ID’s across content but we won’t get into that here. If this article is helpful to you, those reasons would only serve to complicate the issue at this point.


Product Information & Product Listed Prices & Labor

When you have an ID associated with your ITM content, that ID serves as the “Glue” to tie together all the other database tables in Autodesk Fabrication. An ITM with an ID, looks up that ID in the Product Information database to find the related product information. IT also does the same for Pricing, Fabrication Labor and Installation Labor.

The following images shows where the ID is stored in your ITM Content. For ITM’s which are NOT Product Listed, you simply type the ID into the “Code” field from the Properties window.

For Product Listed ITM’s, it’s handled slightly different. You add the ID column to the Product List and add the ID’s there. When you add a product listed ITM to your model or takeoff, the value of the ID for the size you select gets automatically placed in the “Code” property. When that ITM is merely sitting in your library on disk, the value here doesn’t matter. It can be blank or any one of the ones in the Product List. Adding the ITM to your model then updates it to the proper ID.


Product Information

Product Information or ProdInfo for short lists additional data about the fitting or item. The following image shows the related data in ProdInfo with the ID column outlined.

In addition to standard product information, you can also change to a Supplier view of ProdInfo where you can add additional columns for any other types of data or numbers you want to track. The following image shows some added data fields like UPC Code and Harrison HPH codes.


Pricing

The following image shows a Product Listed Pricing Table. The ID is outlined. Here’s where you can add pricing information to the ID of the ITM. Note, the term Product Listed Price here is a little confusing because “Product Listed” prices can apply to non-product listed ITM’s. While an ITM may not contain a “Product List“, the pricing table is still a “List of Products” that are referenced by ID.


Labor (Fabrication & Installation)

In the same way Price List’s work, Fabrication and Installation Labor work in a similar way. Product Listed labor can apply to any ITM, Product Listed or not as long as it has an ID. The following image shows Fabrication labor but Installation Labor works identically.


Breakpoint Pricing & Labor

A second way to specify Price and Labor doesn’t require ID’s because they’re not looked up from a list. These would be Breakpoint Price and Labor tables. With this type of Price or Labor table, you build a 1d or 2d Breakpoint Table that uses the part’s size as a guide to look up the proper price or labor rate in a matrix.


Price Breakpoint

The following image shows a Pricing Breakpoint table. You can make more than one breakpoint grid and have each apply to a different material if you have the need.


Labor (Fabrication & Installation) Breakpoint

Similar to a Price Breakpoint, you can make a matrix for Labor as well. With Labor Breakpoints, you can also make more than one matrix and have it apply to various properties of the item labor is being applied to like Insulated or Non-Insulated.


Finding the Right Price & Labor Tables

While all you need for ProdInfo is an ID on an ITM and matching ID entry in the ProdInfo Database, Price and Labor need an extra step.

Price and Labor can have multiple tables to help you organize the values or even manage the price for the same item from multiple suppliers. To handle this, you set the tables in the ITM properties. This is true for both Product Listed ITM’s as well as Non-Product Listed ITM’s.

Setting these tables tells Fabrication which table to look in to find either the ID or the Breakpoint table which uses size and property criteria to apply to the ITM.

The following image shows where those tables are configured in the Costing tab of the ITM properties.

M-Rate is were the Price of the material comes from. This is set typically for bought items where you pay a set price. If you leave this set to “None“, material pricing would be calculated on a “Price per Pound” formula based on the material weight. This is typically done for Fabricated Sheetmetal fittings where the weight of the Sheetmetal is calculated based on area and gauge and then priced per pound. For piping or bought items, this table would typically point to a table that contains the pricing.

F-Rate is where you select the Fabrication Table to use to look up the Breakpoint Table or ID if Product listed labor. This is most commonly set to “None” for Piping items or other bought items where you just buy them but don’t fabricate them. It’s usually set to a specific table for Sheetmetal fittings which you fabricate and want to calculate fabrication labor.

E-Rate – This table is for Installation Labor. The “E” in “E-Rate” stands for “Erection” if that helps you remember. This will be set for most contractors who are installing duct or piping. It would typically be set to “None” if you were a fabricator only selling to others who install.


Summary

Hopefully this helps give you an idea how pricing, labor and product information functions (at a high level) in Autodesk Fabrication. There’s a lot more strategy and nuance you can get into but this is a good place to start understanding the basics of how it all works.

Windows Quick Assist

Are you familiar with Windows Quick Assist? Windows already had Remote Assistance which can typically require special permissions or setup to work. Windows Quick Assist is more like TeamViewer or GoToAssist and very ease to use.

Quick Assist is a Windows 10 feature that lets you give assistance to other users or receive assistance from other users. No special permissions or setup required other than the person giving assistance needs a Windows account. The person receiving assistance is not required to authenticate.


To start Quick Assistance press the CTRL+WINDOWS+Q keys on your keyboard.

From here, a dialog is displayed giving you a choice to GET or to GIVE assistance.

  • If you intend to GIVE assistance, you’ll be given another window with a code to give to the person you want to help.
  • If you’re going to GET assistance, enter the code given to you and share your screen.

That’s pretty much it. The rest if pretty self explanatory.

If you’d like more details into how Quick Assist works, check out this post on Microsoft’s web page…

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/client-management/quick-assist

Fabrication Button Descriptions

Seems obvious once you see it but sometimes the easy things are the most ellusive.

If you’re noticed descriptions on some of your computer’s fabrication palettes and not others, it’s likely the “AutoSize” option you’re looking for.

Right-Click on an open area of the service palette and select the option you prefer. This applies to CADmep, CAMduct and ESTmep. Revit…not so much. Revit likes to do it’s own thing.

Autodesk Fabrication – Determining C1/C2 Connectors in Revit

Fabrication Parts in Revit allow you to edit their connectors just like in CADmep. However, unlike CADmep, you can’t simply hover over a connector to determine if it’s C1 or C2.

So if you need to change a connector, you’re essentially guessing which one to change. Trial and error is at best 50% unless you’re lucky.

So how can you improve this “guessing” based workflow?

Thankfully I have a great network of people smarter than myself. I often get the credit for sharing the information but really, the credit belongs to those who show me. In this case, two of my industry friends showed me ways to improve the odds.


Method 1 – Slope

For this first method, credit goes to Liz Fong from MacDonald Miller. When you place a piece of straight pipe or duct, when you select it you’ll see a Slope indicator (< or >). This by default points to the C1 connector.

Duct/Pipe placed defaults the Slope symbol pointing to C1
Duct/Pipe mirrored also defaults the Slope symbol pointing to C1

There’s a couple downsides to this approach that may apply in some scenarios….

  1. This doesn’t work for fittings. Only Straight Pipe/Duct.
  2. If you click the Slope Symbol, it changes direction and is no longer accurate.
    • This should really only affect Plumbing or sloped Grease Duct systems. Otherwise there’s not a lot of reason to change direction on a non-sloped system.
    • Symbol could still be accidentally clicked and reversed anyway and then be wrong.
  3. Once changed, Slope symbol direction is remembered and there’s no good way to “reset” it.

Still, despite the downsides of this approach, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that even on a plumbing system, less that 50% of the slope symbols will be changed from their default. This alone makes this method better than a 50/50 guess like before.


Method 2 – View Cube/Viewing Direction

This next method takes slightly more work, but is almost 100% accurate. Credit for this method goes to Alina Y. from JH Kelly.

In short, from a 3d view, if you make sure the View Cube in the Part Editor window is aligned to the Revit View you’re in, the fittings is oriented in the same direction in the editor as in Revit. You can then select the connector in the Part Editor window and it highlights the connector end associated with it.

Duct/Pipe placed in Revit matches the editor when View Cubes are aligned. Selected Connector highlights.
Duct/Pipe mirrored in Revit matches the editor when View Cubes are aligned. Selected Connector highlights.

This method is almost fool proof and has a few benefits over the sloped method we showed earlier.

  1. Works on Fittings in addition to Straight Duct/Pipe.
  2. Slope direction doesn’t matter.

But we did say Almost. Where this method fails, is if the View in Revit is redefined.

When you set a new Front View, the view in Revit no longer matches the orientation in the Part Editor window as seen in the following image…

Luckily, this is easily remedied by simply resetting the Front View in Revit.

This method also works in Plan and Elevation Views with a slight twist. There’s no View Cube in the Revit window so it’s up to you to understand which viewing angle Revit is in. Next, you can make the View in the Item Editor match but when you look at a connector straight at the edge, you don’t see it highlight. You can then hold the SHIFT key and use the Middle-Mouse Button to slightly rotate the view so that you can see the connector that’s highlighted.

Here you can see what that looks like…


Summary

While not as quick and efficient as hovering over a connector in CADmep, either of these methods or even used in combination can increase your odds of changing the Correct connector on the first try.

While method #2 is more fool proof than method #1, there’s a reason I explain both and here’s how I’d use them both.

For non-sloped systems, the chances the slope symbol is reversed is very low. Because you’re likely selecting the part anyway to edit a connector, a quick glance is all you need to know which connector to change. Quick and easy for straight part on non-sloped fittings. No fuss. No muss. In this scenario, Method #1 is super quick.

For fittings and sloped systems, I would then shift to Method #2. Take a little more time, but it’s certainly quicker than being wrong 1/2 the time and then undoing the connector you just changed and then changing the other. That “trial and error” method results in 3 connector changes when you guess wrong. This is where Method #2 really shines…you get it right every time. If you’re Front View happens to be redefined, it’s easily rest.

Thanks again to Liz Fong (MacDonald-Miller) and Alina Y (JH Kelly) for their great input in coming up with these methods. They’re two of my favorite “Go To” people when I get stumped or need a little help orienting my thoughts.

Autodesk Fabrication – Profile Error w/UNC Paths

If you use UNC pathing to get to your Autodesk Fabrication Database, you might find issues when trying to create Profiles if you use them. UNC pathing or (Universal Naming Convention) is where you specify a server and share vs a drive letter. You can see below, the Metric Autodesk Fabrication Configurations is using a UNC path…

When using this configuration, you can create a profile from the File drop down menu in ESTmep and CAMduct or by typing MAPPROFILES in CADmep.

Creating New Profiles

You go to create a new profile by clicking the Green button.

From here, the New Profile dialog starts with the default name “Untitled”. Notice also, the double leading forward slashes before the server name in the UNC path. (Yes, ‘little-stink’ is the server name)

When you start to type a profile name, the leading forward slashes get stripped. This is likely a bug. You can see that in the following image…

If you click the OK you’ll get an error that the profile can’t create the required folder.

However, the fix is easy. If you just add the leading forward slashes again, you” be able to create the profile.


It may be easier to see from a video. You can watch the process here…

CAMduct Machine Setup – Axis & Orgin

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

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

Default Origin and Axis Orientation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fixing Negative Coordinates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fabrication 2022.0.1 Update Released

Update: 2022.09.04

It’s recommended NOT to install this update for CAMduct or ESTmep. Installing the 2022.0.1 Update will prevent access to the Projects folder. CADmep does not appear to have issues with this update.

Thanks to Chris Nash of William R. Nash Company for reporting this issue on the XtraCAD.Com forums.

It’s been a long time, but Autodesk finally released an update to Autodesk Fabrication. 2022.0.1 Update was released recently and contains several fixes for 2022 versions of CADmep, CAMduct and ESTmep.

Install from the Autodesk Desktop App or download from your Autodesk Account portal (https://manage.autodesk.com)