The 2 Sides of BIM360/Autodesk Construction Cloud

I see a lot of people confused about how BIM360 Docs / Autodesk Docs works when used with BIM360 Design or BIM Collaborate Pro and Revit. It doesn’t help any that Autodesk repeatedly refers to ‘Single Source of Truth‘ as one of the benefits. While BIM360/ACC does help provide a ‘Single Source of Truth‘, it’s not quite as simple as it seems.

There’s 2 Models…Not 1.

Yes, you heard me right. There’s actually 2 models and a virtual ‘Fence‘ between them. One used by BIM360 Design / BIM Collaborate Pro and another completely separate model by BIM360 Docs / Autodesk Docs. This graphics might explain it a little better…

How Things Really Work

Before anyone creates anything, Docs has no files. The following images show BIM360 Docs on the feft and Autodesk Construction Cloud on the right. This will help you see subtle differences however things really work the same.

Next, you model something in Revit and Initiate Collaboration…

Once Collaboration to the Cloud is Complete, if you look at BIM360 Docs / Autodesk Docs quickly you’ll see the file shows up as Version 1 (v1). At this point, you can’t click on the file to view it. Autodesk’s system is merely creating a placeholder while it continues to process the model in the background.

If you wait long enough, you’ll see that the files then update as Version 2 (v2). Once they’re listed as v2, they can be clicked and viewed in the Cloud. Despite saying v2, you really only initiated collaborate once from Revit. v1 was the initial file placeholder and v2 is the finished model that’s processed.

One reason for the confusion is that this v2 model shows up automatically. The common assumption is that it’s the same model as the one you opened in Revit. But that is NOT the case. The v2 model is actually a ‘Processed Copy‘ of the model you had open in Revit. That’s why it took a little while for the v2 model to show up in Docs.

The next time you open the models in Revit, you can see that it shows the models as ‘Latest Published‘. Note that you should be opening the models through BIM360 Design / BIM Collaborate Pro and NOT from the Desktop Connector. More about that later. For now, you can see the models listed when you try to open them in Revit.

If you open these models, they would look exactly the same as those viewed from Docs on the Web. The next thing that happens is people change the model and Sync to Central. This will continue for the entire development of the model. Pretty normal stuff.

Despite syncing changes to the cloud, if you view the models from the web interface of Docs, they’ll still say v2 and show the original published model.

In fact, if you were to close and then try to reopen the model from Revit, you might notice that it now says there’s an ‘Update Available‘. Note: You might need to click the ‘Refresh the current project‘ icon in the upper right to refresh the status. If you haven’t browsed to a different folder/project or restarted Revit the project status cache might be stale and need the refresh.

When an update is available, YOU as the model author can choose when to push those changes to BIM360 Docs / Autodesk Docs. This is why there’s really ‘two sides‘ to models in BIM360. It’s intentionally this way to put you in control. You can control IF and/or WHEN to release your changes to the rest of your team for viewing. After all, you don’t want them to view your partial updates while you’re still working through issues.

You can choose to update the models right from that same interface. Click the ellipsis button to the right of the file entry and select ‘Publish Latest‘.

Once you select to publish the latest version, you’ll be prompted for a confirmation with some added details. You’ll then see the interface in Revit show it’s processing. Once it’s finished processing, you’ll be able to open the model again in Revit. If you look back at BIM360 Docs / Autodesk Docs once processing is done, you’ll see the file(s) there are now listed as Version 3 (v3)

At this point, your web view of the model in BIM360 Docs / Autodesk Docs is the same as when you open it in Revit. That is, until you make more changes and Sync to Central again. Once you have new sync’d changes, you’ll have to publish to Docs again. But only when you’re ready for the rest of the team to view the model.

BIM360 / Autodesk Desktop Connector Warning

It should be noted that the Desktop Connector displays what’s in BIM360 Docs / Autodesk Docs. It does NOT give you access to what you’re currently modeling in Revit with BIM360 Design / BIM Collaborate Pro. This may be perfectly well what you want when linking in a model from another team. But if you want their Live updates, you’ll want to Link from BIM360 Design / BIM Collaborate Pro.

Note that Design Collaboration does have advanced features for collaboration. It’s beyond the scope of this post but highly recommended you look into it.

I hope this helps you understand a little better about how BIM360 Docs / Autodesk Docs does and doesn’t relate to BIM360 Design / BIM Collaborate Pro. Just remember, it’s NOT the same model, it’s a published copy. The only time it shows up automatically in BIM360 Docs / Autodesk Docs is when you initiate collaboration for the first time in Revit. All other Sync to Central updates won’t show up in Docs without an intentional Publish by you or another team member.

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…

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)

Autodesk Fabrication COD Object Model

I’ve added graphics to better illustrate the Autodesk Fabrication Object Model for COD Scripting,

If you write COD scripts for CADmep, ESTmep or CAMduct, this can help you better understand how the various properties and objects are structured when you write your code.

If you want to learn more about Fabrication COD Scripting and how to use these resources, register for MEP Force 2021 and look for my Fabrication Scripting sessions.

You can find links with the other Fabrication COD Language Reference items here…

Fabrication COD Scripting Language Reference

Individual Object Models can be directly accessed here…

There’s also a link to a printable PDF of the Object Models….

Fabrication COD Script Library – Updated

If you’ve not downloaded the Autodesk Fabrication Script Libraries lately, you might want to grab an updated copy. There’s been several updates over the last month. Here’s what’s changed…

  • Damper Rotation Property (undocumented) has been added to all Debug, Job and Library scripts. Support for this property was added in 2017 but never documented. It’s there to support the rotation of Dampers on Fabrication Parts in Revit. It should be noted, that this value is Added to the Angle property of the assigned damper. As such, it acts as an Adjust and not an Override. e.g. Damper w/Angle of 90 + Rotation Property in the ITM of 90 results in a damper rotated 180 degrees.
  • Stiffener Group Property added to the Autodesk Fabrication 2022.0 and later versions of the Debug, Job and Library scripts.
  • Airturn Group Property added to the Autodesk Fabrication 2022.0 and later versions of the Debug, Job and Library scripts.
  • Splitter Group Property added to the Autodesk Fabrication 2022.0 and later versions of the Debug, Job and Library scripts.
  • Insulation StatusLock Property added but listed as “Unavailable” as it stopped working in 2017. Added in the hopes it gets fixed in future versions.
  • StructureType Property added to the Autodesk Fabrication 2022.0 and later versions of the Debug, Job and Library scripts. Property was “Write Only” in 2021 and prior versions so was unable to display in prior versions.
  • Product List HasCustomData Property has been added to all Debug, Job and Library scripts.
  • Product List HasFlow Property has been added to all Debug, Job and Library scripts.
  • Item PCFSKey Property has been added to all Debug, Job and Library scripts.
  • Item CostByLength Property removed from Material Debug scripts (never really belonged there).

You can find the updated scripts here….Script Library.

New Properties are documented here…Item Property Reference.

Script Library Updated / Enhanced

COD Script Library was updated for JOB and LIBRARY Scripts. You can download them for free here. Here’s a summary of changes.


Script Consolidation

In the past, there were 69 to 75 COD Scripts to export all the various properties to separate TXT files. Properties that have multiple entries per ITM like Connectors or Seams are still exported to separate files because the data columns don’t line up between them and there are multiple lines per ITM.

All other properties where it’s a single property per ITM like Spool or Material have all been consolidated to a single script and single TXT file. The WriteAllMiscProperties(Job).cod and WriteAllMiscProperties(Library).cod scripts are where you can extract all other properties so no matter what combination of properties you want, there’s less data files to sort through or scripts to run.


Improved Script Properties Display

The properties scripts were displayed script settings before running the script. They still are but additional properties are displayed where appropriate along with some additional properties the scripts now support (both covered later). In addition to the additional items, you’ll note that clicking the No button no longer cancels the script. Instead, clicking No takes you to the Advanced Configuration (also covered later) where you can change some of those settings.


Advanced Configuration – Scan Folder (LIBRARY Scripts Only)

By default, the script looks to the root of your ITM Library folder of your database. This value can now be changed to point anywhere else. You may want to point to a folder of ITM’s outside your Configuration if that’s where you store your ITM’s. You can also scan further down the folder structure so you can perhaps skip exporting Duct ITMs but instead scan and export Piping ITMs.

Here’s what this looks like. Note that the path may use forward slashes ( / ). You can however paste a new path that uses backslashes ( \ ) and it should still work. There’s no option in COD Scripts to allow you to browse to a folder so make sure you type or copy/paste carefully.


Advanced Configuration – Export File (JOB and LIBRARY Scripts)

Similar to the Scan folder configuration, you can now also change the default export file name and location. Specifications for specifying paths are the same as above.

Also note that while you CAN specify “CSV” as the file extension, I recommend using “TXT“. When Excel sees a CSV file, it just opens it without giving you the ability to specify how data is interpreted. Using a “TXT” extension makes Excel prompt you for “How” the file should be read like which character is used as the delimiter or defining which columns are Text vs other data types.

Some numerical data or values can be interpreted incorrectly by Excel if you don’t explicitly tell Excel to treat them like Text. A good example of this is the size 1-1/2″ or 1-1/4″. Excel thinks these are dates and will display them as 1/1/2012 or 1/1/2014 respectively if you don’t explicitly tell Excel to treat them as Text. Using that “TXT” extension on the export file is a safe guard against this issue.

A lot more detail that you likely wanted but hopefully it’s helpful, here’s what that looks like….

Note you may see an extra slash character between the path and file name. This is can happen if your MAP.INI (Edit Configuration Utility) includes or doesn’t include an ending slash. I may add code to clean this up later but COD Scripts and Fabrication seem tolerant of this extra slash so no need to worry about it (or edit it out if you like).


Advanced Configuration – Folder/Path Wildcard (LIBRARY Scripts Only)

Instead of editing the folder you’re going to scan, alternatively you can specify a wildcard to use to limit which folders to export data from. As an example, you could specify *WELDBEND* and properties will only be extracted for ITM’s within folders containing the name “Weldbend”. Wildcard specification is not CaSe SeNsItIvE. By default, the wildcard is ( * ) to extract from all folders. Here’s what that looks like…


Advanced Configuration – File Wildcard (LIBRARY Scripts Only)

Just like the Folder/Path Wildcard specification, you can specify a wildcard for which ITM files to extract properties from. As an example, you could enter *PIPE* and you would export only from ITM files that contained the work “Pipe”. Again, the wildcard is not CaSe SeNsItIvE. You can use both Folder and File wildcards to very narrowly specify your data export scope. Default wildcard is an ( * ) to extract from all ITM files. Here’s what that looks like…


Advanced Configuration – Delimiter (JOB and LIBRARY Scripts)

Data exports by default use a Comma ( , ) to create a Comma Separated Value file. If your Fabrication Database uses commas in folder names or ITM file names this can cause data fields to shift in Excel when opening the export file. If this is the case for you, you can specify a different character to use to separate the data fields in the export file. The Pipe ( | ) character is always a good “rarely used” character for this purpose.

As a side note, it’s not a good practice to have commas in folder or file names. You can read more about that here. This option is really here in case you’re stuck with commas and haven’t fixed them yet.


Advanced Configuration – Max Custom Data Index (Only Scripts that export Custom Data)

Only used for scripts that export Custom Data, you can specify the maximum Custom Index value. Unfortunately, COD scripts have no ability to determine how many custom data entries you have or which index numbers are used without jumping through some hoops. To work around this, you need to specify the maximum Custom Data Index value. The script will then loop through all those numbers and find which ones contain values and remembers them. It then exports only those custom index values so that the script runs efficiency.

By default the script uses 5000 as the maximum index number. But as you can see from the below example, the maximum index number is 10000 so we need to specify that. We look at all 10000 possibilities (it goes fairly quick) and takes note that there’s only 8 indices used and then extracts only those 8 from the ITM’s. In the past, the script would loop through all 10000 for each ITM really slowing things down. Now, even if your largest number is 6 or 7 digits (not recommended) the script will still be fairly quick.

Here’s what that Delimiter Character configuration option looks like…


Summary

In the past, if you didn’t like the export files names, where they went, or wanted to change the scope of which files or folders you extract data from, you could have always changed the COD script code yourself. You now shouldn’t have to. Hopefully this makes running these scripts a little more flexible and user friendly.

COD Script Extension for VS Code

If you write COD Scripts for Autodesk Fabrication, take note. There’s now an Extension for Microsoft Visual Studio Code (VS Code) which is Microsoft’s free code editor. If you use Notepad or Notepad++ to edit your code today you may want to consider switching. The COD Extension has some really nice features. Color coding of your code is the most obvious as shown below. However, there’s a lot more than just color coding. Features like Auto-Complete, Folding Sections and Dimension/Option Picker are nice additions in addition to a lot more robust documentation.

Installing The Fabrication COD Extension

If you don’t already have it, you can download and install VS Code here…https://code.visualstudio.com/. Once installed, go to the Extension section, type FABCOD and click the Install button.

Extension Summary

Once you’ve installed the Extension, you can review a summary of extension details here…

From here, you can review a couple of the key features and their keyboard shortcuts….

VS Code Feature – Mini-Map

Not a feature of the extension, but one reason VS Code is a nice editor is the Mini-Map which helps you visualize where you are your code.

FABCOD Extension Feature – Folding

One of the features the FABCOD extension exposes in VS Code is the ability to collapse/expand sections of code for Looping and Conditional function and other areas. When you move your cursor to the left margin, you see symbols that activate this functionality called Folding.

In addition to Folding sections of code, you can create your own areas of code to collapse/expand. These are Folding Regions and can be inserted (or typed manually using the proper syntax) by highlighting the code and pressing CTRL+SHIFT+/.

FABCOD Extension Feature – AutoComplete

Auto-Complete is another core feature of any code editor. VS Code’s Auto-Complete features is leveraged by the FABCOD extension. You’ll need to be editing a saved file with a COD file extension so the VS Code extension knows which code extension to use.

ABCOD Extension Feature – Hover Tips

If you hover over known functions/properties and their context can be determined, VS Code will display a tooltip for the function you’re hovering over. This can be a great way to learn coding as it’ll help you with the syntax.

FABCOD Extension Feature – DIM / OPTION Picker

One of the best features of the FABCOD extension is the ability to get suggestions for the Dimension (DIM) and Options. You can activate the DIM picker with SHIFT+F1 and the OPTION picker using SHIFT+F2 keyboard shortcuts. When using these features, you are presented with an edit box. You type the CID/Pattern Number you’re interested in and press Enter. You are then given a list of Dimensions or Options you’re interested in. It’s not fool proof because some patterns have variable DIM/OPTION values but it seriously helps none the less. Take a look here…

FABCOD Extension Feature – Additional Help

Sometimes you need added help for a function. The FABCOD extension is an open source project on GitHub (https://github.com/AgileBIM/FabCOD). This project contains added help for every function and property and is Auto-Generated and updated as the extension is developed. You can access this help from any of the popup ToolTips by clicking on the BLUE hyperlinked text.

FABCOD Extension Feature – AutoCAD Launcher

One of the other neat features of the FABCOD extension is the AutoCAD Launcher. Pressing F5 in the editor will initiate the script in CADmep. Simply Alt-Tab to AutoCAD and press enter. AutoCAD and CADmep must be loaded at the time for this to work. Due to Autodesk’s limitations in their API’s, this functionality does not work with ESTmep or CAMduct.

VC Code FABCOD Extension – Wrapup

There’s a lot more to VS Code that I won’t get into here. I’ve only covered the highlights of how it and the FABCOD extension can be used to help edit COD file in Autodesk Fabrication. As it’s an open source project, there’s instructions on how to become involved if you have the coding skills. You can also just head over and log issues or suggestions. (https://github.com/AgileBIM/FabCOD)

Digital Transformation for the Average Contractor (Part 1)

There’s a lot of buzzwords in the construction space. Digital Transformation…Industrialized Construction…Machine Learning….Generative Design…Augmented Reality…Drones…Robotics….and the list goes on. So what do you do? Today? Tomorrow? Next year? What actions do you take to prepare for a an unknown future? All while managing the challenges of your current projects, staff, backlog and cashflow.

I use the mechanical engineering/contracting industry in my examples. However the essence of what I’m about to say is applicable to almost any contractor. If you don’t have an unlimited budget, time and/or resources, knowing how to prepare for an uncertain future in the heat of battle can be alarming.

But it doesn’t have to be. You don’t need a crystal ball. You don’t need unlimited overhead and staff to properly prepare yourself and prevent yourself from becoming obsolete from business disruptors. What you need is a good plan. A plan that helps you understand what’s happening, why it’s happening and most importantly how to make the correct turns when you’re not sure exactly where you need to navigate.

The problem…

The contracting business is changing. This is creating a few big challenges to maintaining profitability and efficiency. To survive, we need to tackle these changes head on. Don’t worry, it’s not that hard.

What’s Driving This?

A lot of things are driving these changes, most of which can be grouped into one of two categories. The following lists outline some of the major trends and shifts occurring.

Current trends contributing to “Industrialized Construction”
“Technology Evolution” is driven by several changes.

If you look at any of these trends individually, that all seem obvious. Not only obvious, but it’s hard to argue that any of them are negative or harmful. In fact, they all seem like good things. And they are. But when they’re all happening in unison, all these “good things” are creating a lot of the problems the industry is currently experiencing.

The Chaos of Today

To help manage these disruptions, it’s helpful to understand what’s happening today. Below shows an example of today’s workflow. Most groups work in silos. As they work and create more data and information over the duration of a project, they start throwing it over the fence to others within an organization. Meanwhile, other parts or the organization throw data to them.

Existing project workflows…Separate groups and processes throwing data at each other.

For most this feels like we’re juggling a ball, an egg and a chainsaw. And while we’re juggling we’re also simultaneously in the middle of a game of dodgeball.

So what happens when…

  • We forget to throw data to others
  • Too much / too little information is thrown
  • We don’t catch data thrown to us
  • Too much / too little information is caught
  • We miss the catch or forget to throw
  • Information is caught or thrown early / late
  • We loose information
  • Information was unclear
  • We throw or catch data to fast / slow
  • Data is obsolete or unapproved
  • We get duplicate data

The Solution for Tomorrow

To combat these problems, we need a new process. The below is what we really want. A single stream of data everyone accesses. With this model, you don’t give anyone data, they inherently have access to the data you have which they need. It’s not a copy of the data or a report of the data. It’s access to the source data. Now, when someone needs information, they have access to it.

New project workflows…We all share in a pool of data.

Throughout the construction process, because our data is less fragmented, it’s easy to warehouse. This allows you to better inform design by pulling the historical data from the service group. Sales can now leverage this data to explain the lifecycle savings when your bid may be higher. In reality, any data from any phase can more readily be accessed from any other phase. Quality of the entire process improves when this happens.

A New Technology Stack

This “Future” process is very likely a utopian state we can never fully accomplish. At least not in our lifetime. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get closer. This doesn’t mean we can’t take a more thoughtful and meaningful approach to the solutions we use. The fact is we can. We may still have to use technology we would rather not. Things we can’t integrate as well as we’d like. But we can get closer.

The following are examples of a technology stack portfolio. Key technologies thoughtfully selected which form the backbone of your digital process.

Example of a “Microsoft / Autodesk” based Technology Stack.
Example of a “Trimble” based Technology Stack.

These are just two examples. You don’t have to follow these examples. Your technology stack may be mixed or match differently. You may even have different solutions than those shown in the example.

In these examples, we could use Building Data with Stratus, or Autodesk Fabrication with MSuite. Stratus and MSuite are both model based production management systems. They can both leverage your BIM platform and your BIM content and integrate with your company’s back end ERP system. For a mechanical (or electrical, general, etc.) contractor you can look at a more simplified representation below.

A good “Generic” Technology Stack Model.

Again, your model may differ. You may have two or three circles. The names in those circles may be different. But you shouldn’t have six or seven or twenty circles. It’s important that you put thought into how these systems can be used and work together. It’s also important that you understand their limitations.

This isn’t to say you don’t use a lot of additional applications. But they shouldn’t be major data stores without connectivity to some of the pillars in your technology stack. Ideally they’ll connect to one of the existing pillars but not be a major pillar in themselves.

Wrapup

This wasn’t really intended to be a roadmap. It’s more of a vision. Something you should be trying to achieve with careful thought and consideration. There’s no magic formula or combination. Nothing you should blindly copy and follow from others. Your technology stack needs to match your organization. The speed and effort to put it place based on your company culture and organizational readiness.

Regardless of how long it takes, the important thing is you’re working toward that vision. We don’t know what the future will bring in our industry. Some things will never change while others may abruptly disrupt your business. No matter what changes are forced upon you, the less impactful these changes will be the closer to this model you are. When required to, you’ll be better positions to respond in an agile manner.

In my next article, I’ll cover some things you can start doing right now that can help prepare you to implement this new model.

TigerStop Setup for Autodesk Fabrication

Setting up Autodesk Fabrication to communicate with a TigerStop isn’t difficult. But there really isn’t any good resources that explain how to do it. I’ve explained it multiple times to multiple people so I thought it might make sense to document it here.

This following instructions are not needed of you’re using a system like GTP Stratus or MSuite (formerly FabPro1) as they have their own process for interfacing with TigerStops. However, you can easily run a TigerStop from Autodesk Fabrication without buying any additional software. All you need is a TigerStop and Autodesk Fabrication.

Step 1 – Install TigerLink

From Autodesk Fabrication, you’ll be exporting CSV files. TigerLink is a free software from TigerStop that will take those CSV files and break them down and reformat them into files your Tigerstop software can use.

You can get TigerLink software from TigerStop.Com. Go there and search for “TigerLink” and download the latest version (6.x used in this documentation).

Once installed, you’ll notice a TigerLink folder on your desktop…

And an icon in your system tray…

Right-Click on the TigerLink icon in your system tray and select Open. This will display the following dialog. TigerLink can do several things but we only want it for one purpose. You’ll want to ensure the Auto Connect toggle is Unchecked so that TigerLink does not look for a TigerStop machine.

Be default, TigerLink runs automatically when you start your system and clearing this toggle will prevent it from warning you that there was no machine found. If you don’t want it to run automatically, remove the shortcut it places in the Windows Startup folder.

For now, close the dialog. Then, Right-Click on the system tray icon again and choose Exit. We don’t want the software running when we do our initial configuration a little later.

Step 2 – Creating Your Fabrication Export (Items)

For Tigerstop to work, you need to export data from Autodesk Fabrication. Tigerstops need a minimum of 2 pieces of information. One is a length (decimal format) , the other a quantity. That’s it. However in practice, you’ll want a little more information.

Cutting Pipe is one of the primary uses for TigerStop. So we need to configure a CSV export to do this. But let’s also plan the data we want. We may want to export all types of pipe and sizes in a single export. But you can’t cut mixed materials or sizes from the same stock. So we’ll need material and size in our export so TigerLink can use those fields to break down the data. Let’s breakdown our list of data fields here that we’ll want to send to the TigerStop….

NumberPropertyPurpose
0Item CIDThis won’t be output but is used in the Report to filter the Exports to CID 2041 (pipe) only.
1Item QuantityRequired by TigerStop
2Item Centerline LenthRequired by TigerStop. Must be decimal.
3Job File NameMay be helpful in the TigerTouch display for the operator
4Item NumberWe want to know the piece number for a label
5Item Description This typically holds the “Size” of pipe in product listed ITMs. e.g. 1/2″, 3/4″, etc. TigerLink will use this data so files are separated by “Size”. We’ll also use it on the label.
6Item Centerline LengthWe’ll include this again formatted in Ft-Inch for the shop guys who may want that on the labels
7Item Material NameTigerlink will use this data so files are also separated by material name. .e.g. Copper vs PVC vs Cast Iron, etc.
8Item Spool NameWe’ll want this on the label too.

Use the CSVEXPORT command in CADmep to create your export report. When done, your report configuration might look like the following….

When your report is done, the resulting data might look like the following. Notice how all the sizes and materials are mixed together. This is what TigerLink will fix for us.

Qty,Length,Job Name,Item No,Description,Length,Material,Spool
1,39.146,Sample Data Export,12,4'',3'-3 1/8",Pipe Systems: Cast Iron,
1,40.421,Sample Data Export,12,4'',3'-4 3/8",Pipe Systems: Cast Iron,
1,48.250,Sample Data Export,12,4'',4'-0 1/4",Pipe Systems: Cast Iron,
1,11.835,Sample Data Export,12,4'',11 7/8",Pipe Systems: Cast Iron,
1,42.242,Sample Data Export,10,2'',3'-6 1/4",Pipe Systems: Cast Iron,
1,21.542,Sample Data Export,10,2'',1'-9 1/2",Pipe Systems: Cast Iron,
1,18.024,Sample Data Export,8,2'',1'-6",Pipe Systems: Cast Iron,
1,35.939,Sample Data Export,6,3'',3'-0",Pipe Systems: PVC,
1,22.101,Sample Data Export,6,3'',1'-10 1/8",Pipe Systems: PVC,
1,22.101,Sample Data Export,6,3'',1'-10 1/8",Pipe Systems: PVC,
1,54.987,Sample Data Export,6,2'',4'-7",Pipe Systems: PVC,
1,22.101,Sample Data Export,6,2'',1'-10 1/8",Pipe Systems: PVC,
1,22.101,Sample Data Export,6,2'',1'-10 1/8",Pipe Systems: PVC,
1,16.664,Sample Data Export,6,2'',1'-4 5/8",Pipe Systems: PVC,
1,17.845,Sample Data Export,4,2-1/2'',1'-5 7/8",Pipe Systems: Carbon Steel,
1,14.678,Sample Data Export,4,2-1/2'',1'-2 5/8",Pipe Systems: Carbon Steel,
1,33.388,Sample Data Export,4,2-1/2'',2'-9 3/8",Pipe Systems: Carbon Steel,
1,38.282,Sample Data Export,4,2-1/2'',3'-2 1/4",Pipe Systems: Carbon Steel,
1,12.919,Sample Data Export,2,3/4'',1'-0 7/8",Pipe Systems: Copper,
1,13.923,Sample Data Export,2,3/4'',1'-1 7/8",Pipe Systems: Copper,
1,7.293,Sample Data Export,2,3/4'',7 1/4",Pipe Systems: Copper,
1,10.252,Sample Data Export,2,1/2'',10 1/4",Pipe Systems: Copper,
1,10.252,Sample Data Export,2,1/2'',10 1/4",Pipe Systems: Copper,
1,10.252,Sample Data Export,2,1/2'',10 1/4",Pipe Systems: Copper,
1,19.558,Sample Data Export,2,1/2'',1'-7 1/2",Pipe Systems: Copper,
1,19.558,Sample Data Export,2,1/2'',1'-7 1/2",Pipe Systems: Copper,

Step 3 – Configure TigerLink via XML

TigerLink uses the file “C:\Users\<user>\AppData\Roaming\TigerLink6\CutListLinks.xml” to understand how to process exports. We’ll edit this file in Notepad. If you’re familiar with editing XML, it’ll be easy and you may want to use an XML editor however Notepad will be just fine.

I highly recommend making a backup copy of the CutListLinks.xml file in the event you ever need to start over. If you recall the dialog for TigerLink, it listed a number of Export formats in the left column. Each export format are enclosed between a set of XML tags named <LinkType> & </LinkType>.

I’m never going to use any of those formats so I delete all of them from CutlistLink.xml except a single entry which we’ll edit for our purposes. Take some time to study the file before editing. It’s not difficult to see what’s going on with a little close examination.

When we have only one set of <LinkType> & </LinkType> tags, we’re ready to start editing. I’ve highlighted the lines that I edited and/or verified in the following image…

  • Edit the Link Name which is the name of the Export configuration that will display in the left column of TigerLink.
  • Verify the Extension matches that of the export…CSV in this case.
  • As you recall, we have 8 columns of data in our export so use the Columns field configures this.
  • The DataRowStart tells TigerLink that the data starts on row 2 as our export has headers. Adjust as your export report requires.
  • Delimiter is set to a comma for a CSV but if your data has commas, you may need to use a different character.
  • Verify Decimal is set as required. Typically only different in some other countries.
  • LengthColumn tells TigerLink which column is the length TigerStop will use to drive the machine.
  • QuantityColumn tells TigerLink which column stores the quantity of parts.

At this point, we’ll ignore the other data as it’s easier to set via the TigerLink interface. Save your CutListLinks.xlm file and restart TigerLink.

Step 4 – Configure Tigerlink via User Interface

When you restart TigerLink, your version should look similar to the following…

The checkbox next to Fabrication Items tells TigerLink that this Export configuration is active and ready to be used. If you Right-Click on Fabrication Items and select EDIT, you get to the configuration user interface as shown below…

Here, we’ll want to do several things to finalize your configuration.

  • Put a check-mark next to Column entries 5 & 7. These columns hold the Size (Item description) and Material Name. This tells TigerLink that for this export, anytime there’s a new Size and/or material, it belongs in a separate file.
  • Unless you’re doing something unique, Style should be set to Push
  • Optimized tells TigerLink that the material will be optimized for best yield/utilization when nesting.
  • Send File Name is not required but can be used to display the file name on the TigerStop system.
  • Use the Add button to add data fields to your label. You can add a lot but TigerStop’s label system only works with up to 5 lines. Drag where you want and Right-Click to edit the header, font size and assign to a data column. Thje preview isn’t the most accurate as you can see. My data is off the display but does print properly. You can later go into the CutListLinks.xml file and get a little more fine control over the font size and placement in the <PrintLabel> & </PrintLabel> XML tags.

You’re now done configuring TigerLink and Fabrication. The only thing left is to process data from an export.

Step 5 – Process Fabrication Exports

To process data from an export, take a file with Fabrication piping in it and run the CSVEXPORT command. Once you;ve run the report you created earlier, look for the the CSV file and copy or move it to the TigerLink folder on the Desktop. Once the file is in that folder, TigerLink will process the file and break it into separate *.tiger files. One for each Material and Size if pipe.

These *.tiger files are what the TigerStop machine will use to cut your pipe.

If your CSV file is not processed into separate files, verify that the TigerLink software is running before you copy your CSV to the Desktop folder. Also make sure that the Fabrication Items entry in the TigerLink interface is selected to make sure it’s active.

The following image shows how your file should look once opened in the TigerTouch interface…

Summary…

Ancillaries can be cut on a TigerStop in a similar way. Use the ANCILLARYEXPORT command to setup your ancillary exports. Using Ancillary Type and Names, you should be able to generate reports for your TigerStop to cut ancillaries.

Because filtering is limited, it may be a little harder to get a single export for all ancillaries. You may find it’s easier to create a report for each ancillary type. As long as all reports for Ancillaries have the same fields and number of columns, you should be able to just add a single “Fabrication Ancillaries” entry to the TightLink’s CutListLinks.XML file to process any of them.

For a copy of the CutListLinks.xml file and CSV Export report used in this example, you can download them from this file…

Update: Autodesk Multi-User Licensing – The End is Near

Update:

Since the below article was originally published, the Covid-19 virus has spread into the US. As a result, Autodesk has pushed back the dates. Multi-User Licensing purchases have been extended from May 7, 2021 to August 7, 2020. Retirement of multi-user licenses has also been moved from May 7, 2021 to August 7, 2021.

Interestingly enough, this changes was sold as a means to “simplify” things for end users. Now, Autodesk is pushing back the date because they don’t want to introduce a change during a difficult time. If the change were truly for “simplification” they should implement it anyway. But I suspect they know, it’s not going to simplify anything and its going to cost more.


Original Article follows…

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…

Announcement….
https://www.autodesk.com/campaigns/transition-to-named-user

Terms & Condittions…
https://www.autodesk.com/campaigns/transition-to-named-user/terms-and-conditions

Info-graphic…
https://damassets.autodesk.net/content/dam/autodesk/www/campaigns/tnu/20014-named-user-infographic.pdf

Autodesk Discussion Forum…
https://forums.autodesk.com/t5/subscription-changes/bd-p/6073

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.