Autodesk Multi-User Licensing – The End is Near

Update to the below article located here.

This is the end of perhaps one of Autodesk’s last truly invaluable offerings. Decades ago it was free. Over the years it’s transitioned from a One-Time upgrade cost to an annual fee. Now it’s going away completely for most products.

Anyone that knows me knows I’ve spoken about how Autodesk can do what they want when it comes to Licensing. They’re in the driver’s seat. This is yet another example. All you can do is respond in the best manner possible.

What’s Happening?

Starting May 7, 2020 and renewals after that date, you’ll be offered an option to move to new “Per User” plans at a discounted rate. Much like the “Maintenance to Subscription” offer about 3 years ago, you’ll get discounted pricing that’s guaranteed not to increase more than 5% every other year through 2028.

While that doesn’t sound too bad on the surface, it’s a very shitty deal. I’ll explain why in a bit but it’s a deal you should take it none the less. Why? Because the alternative is going to be much worse.

If you don’t take up Autodesk on the offer during your next renewal come May 7, 2021 and after, you’ll no longer be able to renew those Multi-User plans. You’re done. Your choices are stop using Autodesk products or buy new subscriptions at full MSRP.

Why is the Deal Bad? It’s the Alternative That Sounds Bad.

I describe this as a shitty deal because it’s going to cost you in may ways. Most construction related engineers and architects can run 2.5 to 3 users per license in a multi-user configuration. The deal will allow you to get 2 named user licenses for each single multi-user license you trade in. This is described as being roughly a “similar price to what you’re paying today”. To make up any shortfall, you’ll be buying more “Named User” licenses at full MSRP to make up the difference.

What’s really bad is where a single license serves large numbers of users. Most often because it has very low or occasional use across a wide user base. I’d venture to say, our Point Layout license gets less than 20 hours use a year and it’s spread across 30+ users as it “floats” in a multi-user environment. Nobody will be buying multiple copies and dedicating them to that quantity of users. Your option is to direct all work requiring Point Layout to the few dedicated users. Autodesk licensing policy is now dictating your workflow. That’s not what’s best for your organization.

The only other alternative is to have an administrator log into the licensing portal and un-assign and reassign the license to users as they need. This is not the “Simplified” license management Autodesk says it is. The term they use is “Flexible User Access”. Something that use to just happen automatically is now an administrative task.

Why Are They Doing This?

Revenue. Plain and simple. As a publicly traded company, it’s their fiduciary responsibility to shareholders to maximize revenue. Especially when the rest of the software industry is moving in that direction and using similar models. Companies like Adobe and Microsoft. Microsoft doesn’t even consider you to have licenses of anything anymore. It’s all services. Windows is a service. Office 365 is service. The difference with Microsoft is I get a whole lot more for my money. I can get just about everything they offer for an enterprise for less than $100 per user per month. With Autodesk we pay $100/month per user to share PDF’s with Plangrid.

I suspect they also want to take more of an approach like Microsoft where they send you an Email letting you know who your top collaborators are and the number of hours of “focus time”. While those are interesting Emails from Microsoft, I don’t know anyone that’s changed their behavior because of them.

Where Can I Get More Info?

Donnie Gladfelter’sThe CAD Geek” blog gives a good summary. Neil Cross also has a good YouTube video outlining the changes.

Or you can get the details directly from the horse’s mouth along with a lot of misinformation and misleading statements here…


Terms & Condittions…


Autodesk Discussion Forum…

What’s Autodesk Saying That’s Misleading?

A lot actually. I don’t begrudge them for trying to maximize revenue. I’d do the same if I were them. Especially in light of an industry moving that way. They’re simply trying to modernize their business and revenue model like others have. Failure to do so would likely lead to more activist investors attempting to hijack the board much like Carl Bass had to contend with toward the end of his CEO tenure there. Activist investors on Autodesk’s board is not a good thing for customers.

What I really take issue with is their explanations and reasons that this is good for you. It’s the equivalent of sitting at the park, enjoying a nice ice cream cone on a hot summer day. All of the sudden a stranger appears. They take a big lick of your ice cream cone and proceed to tell you how they’ve just improved the flavor and you should enjoy it.

The other issue I have is it will eliminate a number of licenses and software for a lot of users. I don’t suspect that’s what Autodesk wants. But they really don’t understand how network licensing benefits users even when it’s not about sharing licenses.

Here’s my breakdown on what’s misleading…

“You’re Not a Number To Us”

Dedicated licensing is being sold as a way for them to give you a better user experience. This is just rubbish. Large customers (+$1M annual Autodesk spend) who have Enterprise TokenFlex accounts use network licenses for their enterprise. Everyone has access to everything, no limits. Network license usage is reported back to Autodesk on a “per user” (not computer) basis to determine the utilization. Simply put, providing an identified user experience can be accomplished without eliminating multi-user licenses. They just choose not to.

No more anonymous serial numbers

I’m not sure what that means. I haven’t had issues managing serial numbers for two decades before they allowed multi-seat standalone serial numbers. The mess back then was a result of poor reseller performance. The few remaining resellers are much more sophisticated today. They do a much better job of guiding their customers.

Streamlined Management

Where I work, I have 5 serial numbers, 7 Products and 50+ users/installs. Which would you rather manage? When they talk about “Flexible User Access”, they’re referring to the ability to log into their portal, un-assign a license and reallocate it to a new user. This use to happen automatically in a network license server environment. It’s now a manual process. That “one” license that floats to everybody, I’ll be performing that reassignment on a weekly basis if not daily sometimes. While folks are waiting for me, others are waiting on them for deliverables. Yet again workflow is interrupted due to Autodesk licensing policy and technology.

With dedicated user licenses I also now review every Email from HR about departures and terminations. Those Emails get reviewed against my user list in PlanGrid, BIM360, and now Autodesk Accounts. This wasn’t required with a multi-user setup.

“No More Managing Complicated License Servers”

They’re not complicated although a lot of folks seem intimidated by them. Resellers will gladly manage them for you. I spend less that 10 minutes a year on it. Once IT hands me a new server, I can stand it up in about 15 minutes.

License servers also allowed me to run a utility like JTB Flex Report and get highly customized data rich utilization reporting. I’ve begged for years for more robust reporting from Autodesk and it’s always been disappointing. Autodesk reporting always appears to provide value but only for those who don’t understand how Autodesk products work. It’s rare it actually provides the insight I want or need. Insight that allows me to gauge new production adoption or training needs or just volume of work types.

If you’re using multi-user licenses, I highly recommend purchasing JTB Flex Report now and start capturing data before your next renewal. This will give you the data you need to understand what to convert and what you can drop. No commissions or kickback to me. Just a long time user and fan.

No More Managing Multiple Deployment Types

Technically true but to be fair, there were only ever two. Stand-Alone and Multi-User. Either could be deployed as needed. Multi-User would just “work”. Stand-Alone would require activation..anyone could be logged in to do it. Now I need to log in “as the user” to get a system setup when on-boarding a new user.

Get 2 Trade In Licenses for Every Network License

Sounds like a deal until you realize you need more than that to replace the functionality of your multi-user license. Those will be purchased at full cost or you’ll go without. We’ll likely drop our Manufacturing Collection which provided us with Inventor and pick up Solidworks for our needs in construction.

In a construction firm, shop and field staff rotate quickly depending on workload and project phasing. Many “Could” use Autodesk software but don’t need it. They won’t get it any more. I’m not going to pay for multiple full licenses for an hour’s use a month.

The other hit is user training. I’d typically give Multi-User licensed products to everybody. Some would then use breaks and lunch to learn new products like 3ds Max or Inventor. This helps organic growth of Autodesk products. If I have an ambitious user, it helps me add more capabilities and capacity and a lower cost. I’ve never had a contractor approve a 3ds Max license. But when I’ve had a user learn on their own, they magically are in demand once the company sees what they can do. That all goes away on our next renewal.

Option to Buy Premium Plans for Additional Value like Reporting and Single Sign-On (SSO)”

I spoke earlier about loss of meaningful reporting. Technically you’ll be able to get it direct from Autodesk. But you’ll be paying for it. $300 per subscription. For a firm with 100 subscriptions, that’s an additional $30k annually.

Autodesk also has a poor track record of license reporting. Anyone care to explain how BIM360 Docs licensing works? It’s confusing. Back in October 2017 when licensing enforcement of C4R was “Fixed”, project teams all over couldn’t work and reseller’s phones were ringing off the hook.

Today at work, my BIM360 Docs account says I’m using 110 of 30 licenses. Am I out of compliance? No. Just broken licensing and poor implementation of reporting of a confusing and inconsistent license structure.

Single Sign-On (SSO) on the other hand is a welcome and long overdue addition. But again, you only get it if you purchase the additional “premium” upgrade. It also remains to be seen how robust SSO will be. Does it simple enable/disable accounts? Or will I be able to provision licenses to different products using Azure Active Directory groups?

The real value of Single-Sign On is from a security standpoint. When a user leaves, they’re access is shut off. This isn’t really a risk with desktop products. Where it is a risk is with BIM360 and other cloud offerings. It’s unclear of SSO will apply to BIM360 out of the gate. I assume it will at some point.

What’s in it for Autodesk?

There’s a lot of reasons Autodesk might want “User” based licenses. Revenue is obviously one of them. But they’ve never streamlined anything and made it cost less. Instead the complicate things and then charge more to “simplify” them. This has been the cycle for over 2 decades.

I suspect as Donnie pointed out in his Blog, they want to drive insights from users and provide that for a fee. Take away your ability to gain insight yourself and instead you pay them for information about your data.

Quite frankly, I don’t trust Autodesk to provide that insight to our users or workflows. They’ve already taken away our data, it sits on the BIM360 accounts of the architect or general contractors. Not sure how I’m suppose to maintain the operations of an MEP system using BIM360 post construction when I don’t even have the data any longer.

The frequent mass layoffs and pivot from a desktop software company to a platform company really stagnated MEP contractors who use Autodesk Fabrication. MEP Contractors have been using digital models for over two decades. We did “BIM” before anyone else in construction was in 3d. Now, we use 4 year old CAM software because of multi-year defects that are not being fixed. Even if I used the latest version, that CAMduct software which outputs data to my new $1M coil line…guess how I communicate what file the operator needs to load? A black Sharpie marker. The software can’t even report the name of the file it just generated. The only other option is to hire a programmer for most firms who don’t have the capability to do it themselves (most don’t).

The Real Lost Value – Lost Users

Perhaps the real lost value in all of this in construction is the reduction of software access to users. We’ll have less people using less Autodesk software. Think this number is insignificant? My last employer (against my guidance) signed one of those $3.5M/3-Year Enterprise Tokenflex deals. (They’ve since dropped it).

As part of a TokenFlex engagement, you run their licenses for a trial period to gauge usage so you can forecast your purchase for 3 years. Autodesk’s abysmal analysis was simply add 5 of each license over 3 years. Didn’t matter if it was 150 seats of Revit or 1 seat of 3ds Max. They just added 5 to everything.

For this reason, I performed my own analysis. With a company directive to double in revenue, migrating users from AutoCAD/CADmep to Revit Fabrication Parts and rolling out Collaboration for Revit, my forecast was within %0.1 over the next two years.

In short, I know Autodesk licensing VERY well and I know users and their usage patterns EXTREMELY well. We knew our engineers were 2.5-3 users per license. Piping, Plumbing and Sheetmetal detailers were 1-to-1. But there was another 1/3 of our user base that fall into the “part time” or “low usage” category. Their usage was low. Very low. Those ~200 regular users (120 Engineers, and 80 Detailers)….they had another 100 users. One day a month. 5 Minutes a day once every couple weeks. In Autodesk’s new “Named User” model, 1/3 of the users will loose access to licenses.

Any Yet More Cost

Companies that have a dedicated CAD or BIM manager will now need a dedicated license of everything though they rarely use it. No more floating licenses which allow them to fire up a product quick and solve a problem. Or they’ll need to take away the license of a user in need to give themselves access to troubleshoot an issue.

Added License Compliance Risk

Lastly, this is a huge licensing compliance risk. With all software being driven by only an Email address that doubles as an Autodesk ID any user can freely download and install the software at home or on a friends system. As long as they’re employed and have a license, IT compliance will be non-existent. I can’t stop it. I won’t even know about it.

Now it’s true, I can purchase a premium plan add-on and get reporting and SSO. Assuming the user (and their friends) aren’t using a glaringly obscene amount of hours, I simply won’t know. In a large organization, if that part time user wants to setup a friend or another business with your license, you simply won’t know unless you personally know that user.

Even if the employee leaves, a lot will still have access. Especially in union construction firms. Signatory employees in many firms are not handled through traditional IT channels. IT often struggles with terminating account access to IT systems and cloud services because people are Hired and Fired outside IT and HR’s control. Union contract dictates employment process so most HR departments are happy to step aside. Luckily, I don’t have this issue where I am now (our HR does a great job) but it exists in other firms. At my last job, I routinely reported users who weren’t employed but still had access…sometimes for years…when I ran across them.

Is There Any Silver Lining In All Of This?

Perhaps. As I said earlier, I’ve asked for better, more robust and sometimes just any reporting before. Over a decade I’ve attended countless “Customer Sessions” at Autodesk University covering these topics as well as surveys, phone calls and in person meetings.

Nothing has ever happened because lets face it, there will be zero additional customers buying Revit or Inventor because of license reporting. Usage reporting isn’t a purchasing factor. It didn’t have a product owner or a revenue stream and as such, received no attention from Autodesk.

Perhaps that will change now. I don’t want to pay an extra $30k a year just to remain license compliant, secure and informed about our users. But I likely will. And because there’s now a revenue stream behind it, perhaps Autodesk will finally give it the attention it’s long deserved.

Alternative Search Engine – DuckDuckGo

My preferred Internet Search engines is DuckDuckGo. Why use a an obscure search engine? Especially one with a long name to type? Three reasons…

  1. Privacy / Security – Zero Tracking of Searches
  2. No Advertising following you
  3. Search Results not Gerrymandered

Most folks understand the issues surrounding Privacy and Security. For this reason, we won’t do deep dive here. Suffice to say, DuckDuckGo does NOT track your searching activity.

They also don’t bombard you with advertising that follows you wherever you go. Ever wonder why that Ad in Facebook just happened to be something you looked for on Amazon or Google earlier? Because the other search engines track you and sell your data.

Better Search Results

While Security and Privacy are important, there’s a larger reason I often use DuckDuckGo. They do NOT filter search results. Why is this important?

Part of understanding an issue or topic is knowing multiple viewpoints. Understanding people requires understanding those with alternate views than yours. Not to get political, but let’s take an extreme example to illustrate the point…

In the US, Guns are a hotly debated topic with two major groups. Those FOR increased gun legislation to help curb violence are on one group. And those AGAINST gun legislation viewing it as an infringing on Second Amendment rights. The two sides never seem to find common ground.

With traditional search engines, they track your search history and filter your results based on what they THINK you are looking for. This leaves you with a deficit of information contrary to what you may personally believe. Or just contrary to what the programmer of the search results algorithm thought you wanted.

Filtering search results can be very beneficial if you’re looking for specific type of thing. But they are absolutely the wrong approach if you’re trying to research a topic.

That’s where DuckDuckGo comes in. If you want raw, unfiltered search results, I’d give them a try. Because they’re not tracking your searches, they can’t assume what you want or how to think. In society has ever needed a better understanding and tolerance of views alternate to our own, it’s now. DuckDuckGo helps provide that.

Revit Can’t See Fabrication Configuration

Every once and a while, a Fabrication Configuration can lose data or become corrupt which leaves Revit unable to access it. This after you’ve already been working in a model and using the configuration without issue.

When this happens, it’s likely a result of the Fabrication Configuration loosing it’s GUID or “Global Unique Identifier”. You really only notice when attempting to reload the configuration in one of your existing models. The error will look like the following image…

When you launch of the other Fabrication products (CADmep, ESTmep or CAMduct) you can view the data from the database editor. In the image below, you can see the data is missing.

Retrieving Lost Data

The good news is that you can the data back. For this, we’ll use Revit and Dynamo, Revit’s visual programming environment.

Start Revit and open up one of your existing project that already had a Fabrication Configuration loaded. From the Manage ribbon, click the Dynamo button.

Once in Dynamo, you’ll need to load a Fabrication Dynamo package. Click the Package menu to display the Online Package Search dialog. You’ll need to wait a little while for the dialog to populate. Once populated, you can type Fabrication in the search box. In the results, select the DynaFabrication2018 package. Next, click the down arrow button on the left to install it as shown in the following image…

Once installed, the dialog will show the loaded modules at the bottom. It should look like the following image…

After the Dynamo packages are installed, you can build a Dynamo program that will extract the needed data. But instead of walking you through that, simply download, unzip and open the Dynamo program I’ve already created.

One Dynamo program Get Missing Fabrication GUID.dyn is loaded, your Dynamo screen should look like the following image…

In the lower right corner, if the button says Manual click the Run button otherwise if it’s set to Automatic, the information you need is already populated. Record the data in the fields marked A, B & C. This is what you’ll enter back in the database.

Add Data Back to the Fabrication Configuration

Launch of one the Fabrication products (CADmep, ESTmep or CAMduct). In the database editor, enter the information from Dynamo into the fields marked A, B & C as shown below…

Exit the database editor and exit from the Fabrication product you launched. If you still have Revit/Dynamo loaded, close both. Now, relaunch Revit again and open the model you opened before.

When you go to reload the configuration again, Revit should successfully find and reload your configuration.

Revit Fabrication Parts – Control w/Dimensions

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

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

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

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

Adding Dimensions in Revit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Autodesk Fabrication Attacher Tips

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

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

Up or Down, How to Get Around

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

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

Rotation Tricks

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

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

CADmep – Click Attacher to Rotate Counter Clockwise 90 Degrees

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

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

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

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

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

Autodesk Fabrication: Best Practice #11

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

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

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

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.

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.

> Only way to import some database entry type.
> Easiest way to merge the bulk of 2 database together.
> Extremely fast and efficient.
> 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.

> Easiest way to import large numbers if ITM’s and their related database entries.
> Easy way to import Services and Service Templates
> 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.

> Every property an ITM uses is supported.
> Dependent database entries supported (e.g. Fixings on a Support)
> 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!


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
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.

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

Stay tuned for Method 2 in my next post.