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.

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.

Revit 2020 Fabrication Extension

For MEP fabricators using Revit, Autodesk has finally released the Fabrication Extension for Revit 2020. This extension allows you to Export and Import MAJ files from Revit. Imports have always been problematic and prone to issues but Exports typically work well.

You can download the extension 3 different ways…

1: Autodesk Desktop App

Likely the easiest way, check your Autodesk Desktop App for available updates and download/install from there.

2: Autodesk Accounts – Updates

The second easiest way is to log into your Autodesk Accounts portal and click the Product Updates button on the left. This lists all the available product updates associated with the products you have.

3: Product Download Page – Updates

The least easy way to get product updates is to do to the Revit product downloads and look at the Updates section. Takes a little longer to get here but all the updates associated with a single product can be found here.

Critical Update for Older Autodesk Products

If you’re using 2017 or older Autodesk products, your software may stop working on June 15th, 2019. Newer versions will continue to work but may have intermittent issues with any of their cloud related services. Exact services and product versions vary.

Many products and services use Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.0/1.1. Due to known vulnerabilities, on June 15, 2019, Autodesk will be updating their systems to no longer support this protocol. This service is what’s used for Autodesk to determine your “Identity” when providing access to your products and services.

You can read more about the affected products and versions here. This article is specific to which older products will stop working completely. It does not cover newer products that have services which may stop working.

https://knowledge.autodesk.com/search-result/caas/sfdcarticles/sfdcarticles/Transport-Layer-Security-TLS-Updates-Required-to-Maintain-Software-Access.html

A fairly comprehensive description of the issue was also posted to the Autodesk forums. You can read it here…

https://forums.autodesk.com/t5/installation-licensing/transport-layer-security-updates-required-email-notifications/td-p/8798819

What You Really Need to Know

This issue isn’t nearly as bad as it seems. Based on Autodesk’s information you only need to be concerned if…

  • Login access to use your core product will be affected subject to the following
    • You are NOT using Perpetual Licenses
    • You are NOT using Network (FlexLM) Licenses
    • Your product IS using Single User Subscription Licensing
    • Your product IS listed in the Knowledge Base Article
  • Newer products (2018-2020) Not mentioned in the Autodesk articles are also affected subject to the following….
    • Ancillary related services and newer products have their own security updates
    • Access to core product is Not an issue
    • Ancillary cloud connected services May be affected such as…
      • Revit Cloud Worksharing
      • Personal Accelerator (PAC) for Revit Cloud Worksharing
      • Communicator
      • Energy Analysis
      • Dynamo Package Search/Upload
      • P&ID Modeler
    • Licensing type of product does NOT matter

Most products have updates available however there are a few that do not. Autodesk Fabrication products in version 2014 or 2015 do not have updates. So unless you’re using those version with a Single User Subscription, you don’t need to worry. If you are using a product that does not have an update, you will need to upgrade to continue working.

Autodesk Product Install Order

Back in the day, I briefly worked for an Autodesk reseller. This particular reseller was classified as an “Education Reseller”. In short, this meant they were one of a few resellers that sold Autodesk products into the educational market (high schools, universities etc.).

As you can imagine, a school would likely have most of not all the products. Back then, Autodesk provided a complete list of all the products and their recommended install order. Fast forward to today, they’ve either gotten incredibly lazy or in all their massive layoffs over the years, the domain knowledge is gone. I suspect both.

Autodesk’s Recommendation

Take a look at Autodesk’s current recommended install order from this link. which was last updated 6/6/2018 at the time of this writing. In the event the link changes, here’s what they say…

What’s wrong is that they tell you within the same product year, the install order doesn’t matter. This is outright false for many reasons. They try to note a couple “exceptions” stating that if there’s any add-ins, the base product should be installed first. But which products have add-ins to what other products?

CADmep is obviously running on top of AutoCAD so AutoCAD should be installed first. That seems obvious. But Navis also installs Exporters depending which products it finds and it doesn’t always show up in an Add-ins tab. So this is less obvious. Buy there’s also other dependencies that are even more obscure. Should you install Revit or Inventor? Should either go before or after 3ds Max? This is less obvious to most users.

This is really why someone would ask that question. It’s a real dis-service then to start out telling them it doesn’t matter. In fact, it matters most of the time, and it doesn’t matter as the “Special consideration”.

Determining The Real Install Order

There’s a few ways to handle this. If you’ve been around a while and had one of the old “Design Suites”, install in the same order as the Design Suite did. But note that this did change between product years and types of Suites. Plant Deign Suite 2013 for instance installed Autodesk before Revit where as Building Design Suite 2016 installed Revit before AutoCAD.

One of the other ways is to look at the install media folders to see if you can find any dependencies. Take for example 3ds Max. Look in the x86 or x64 folders and you’ll see references to Revit and Inventor.

This means we should install Revit and Inventor before installing 3ds Max. But what if we’re using both Inventor and Revit? Which of those goes first?

You’ll see the RXI folder in the install files. Hard to tell what it is. When you drill into the folder, there’s just a single MSI. If you right-click on it and select Properties and do to the Details tab, you can see it’s Revit Interoperability for Revit. Other folders deeper in the structure also confirm this by their naming,

Based on this findings, it suggests installing Revit first so Inventor can see it and install the Interoperability tools.

Here’s My Order

So, if you’re an Autodesk Fabrication user, here’s what I typically do (and why)….

  1. Revit (doesn’t seem to depend on anything else)
  2. AutoCAD (I can’t find a dependency for AutoCAD. But anything with an Object Enabler will want it here and it’s a core product so as a matter of safety, I install it early just in case)
  3. AutoCAD based Verticals like MEP, Arch, etc. (These use AutoCAD as its core. I’ve not checked dependencies between verticals but it’s likely safe to install them in any order. I usually do Arch first if I’m going to include it as MEP is built on top of Arch but it’s really not needed as MEP installs what it needs)
  4. Inventor (because of the Revit dependency covered earlier)
  5. 3ds Max (because of the Revit/Inventor dependencies)
  6. Navis – Freedom/Simulate/Manage (Navis exporters only install for products already installed so we install this toward the end)
  7. Fabrication CADmep (allows CADmep Object Enablers to install for Acad, Navis, etc.)
  8. Fabrication – EST/CAM/etc. (order doesn’t matter)

If there’s anything on the list you don’t use, just skip it. If you happen to install Navis before some of the dependent products, just use “Add/Remove Programs” in Windows Control Panel to modify the install to include new exporters or download the Exporter installs separately from Autodesk’s web site.

COD Scripting References Added

Under the resources menu for Autodesk Fabrication, the COD Scripting section has been updated. This now points to another sub-menu of additional COD Scripting reference information.

The link to the COD scripting libraries has also moved one level deeper so if you have a bookmark and it comes up blank, you many need to re-link it.

I still have more information to add that I’ve not previously documented. These are more advanced functions or other undocumented functions. I’ll post notices as I update them.

You can find the additional COD Scripting information compiled here. Direct links to all the scripting reference information is below…




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: Best Practice #10

Don’t use Ancillaries with Breakpoints inside an Ancillary Kit.

Ancillaries are virtual items you can add to your Fabrication configuration. ESTmep users use Ancillaries to help quantify cost and labor. Material quantification for purchasing and/or fabrication is another use for Ancillaries. These are virtual items because they typically don’t affect modeling or coordination. They aren’t even typically drawn yet they are critical to your fabrication as a purchased, fabricated or installed item.

Database view of an Ancillary entry

At times, you many need multiple Ancillaries associated with an item. However the fabrication software typically only allows you to assign a single ancillary to an item or database entry like a connector. For this reason, Autodesk Fabrication includes a type of entry called an “Ancillary Kit” in which you place multiple Ancillaries.

These Ancillary Kits are where you can group multiple Ancillaries that are often used together. A Bolt, Nut and Washers are a good example of an Ancillary Kit.

Database view of an Ancillary Kit entry

Ancillary / Kit Breakpoints

Often, Ancillary items are defined by the size of the item they are associated with. As an example, a flange gasket would be different depending on the type and size of flange it’s used with. You can configure an Ancillary to have Breakpoints to reference a different parts depending on the size of the item the Ancillary is associated with.

Database view of an Ancillary with Breakpoints

Just like Ancillariess, an Ancillary Kit can also have Breakpoints. Using a flange as our example again, depending on the type and size of a flange, or what it’s connecting to (another flange, valve, pump) it can have different bolt/nut sizes and quantities. You would manage this using an Ancillary Kit with Breakpoints.

Database view of an Ancillary Kit with Breakpoints

Nested Breakpoints

If you watched the example images closely, you can see Autodesk’s own database breaks this Best Practice rule. The rule is to never add Ancillaries that use Breakpoints to an Ancillary Kit. Here’s how to keep that straight…

  • Yes – Ancillary in Ancillary Kit
  • No – Ancillary w/Breakpoints in Ancillary Kit
  • Yes – Ancillary in Ancillary Kit with breakpoints
  • No – Ancillary w/Breakpoints in Ancillary Kit w/Breakpoints

I’ve not tested Autodesk’s configuration for reporting accuracy. I have enough work managing my own fabrication configuration. However I did create a sample of my own and submitted to Autodesk support. After demonstrating inconsistent results with my sample, their recommended guidance was not to use Ancillaries with Breakpoints in an Ancillary Kit.

Based on testing in other data sets, I would say this is sound advice. Even if you can get it to work, the setup and configuration is less intuitive and confusing. Your Ancillary Kit can reference different Ancillary types using different Breakpoint criteria. The Ancillary Kit could also have conflicting Breakpoint criteria (e.g. Length x Width vs Diameter) compared to the Ancillary.

Keeping this Best Practice can create more Ancillary entries as well as make building Ancillary Kits a little more time consuming. But the results will be more predictable and what’s really happening in your configuration will be more obvious and less obscure. Even where Breakpointed Ancillaries do function within an Ancillary Kit, it’s advised to avoid this where possible.

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