Fabrication Reference Data Updated for 2021 Versions

Autodesk Fabrication reference data has been updated to include 2021 versions of Autodesk Fabrication software.

Updated references include…

The only change I’ve found in from 2020 to 2021 versions is the CADmep command DWNLDC Command (DOWNLOADCONTENT Alias) is no longer present. This use to download ITM content from Autodesk’s www.Building3DContent.com site. This site is no longer active and Autodesk has included all the content within the default Imperial and Metric configurations that ship with Autodesk Fabrication Content.

User’s of Trimble’s Managed ITM Content (building-data.net) use to use this command as well. It was just redirected to the Building Data site. It’s unclear how this change will affect them as the core DLL’s used for this process appear to have been removed in 2021 versions of Autodesk Fabrication.

If you’re a user of Trimble’s Building-Data, I’d suggest contacting them for support if you have issues.

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….

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…


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…

Autodesk Fabrication: Best Practice #12

Compress Fabrication Data Files.

Autodesk Fabrication configurations can Compress their data files. It’s a good idea to have this enabled. Not only does this make the files smaller and take up less space, it makes them faster to load. This increases your performance as the data is expanded in memory as opposed to read more data from disk.

You can enable this option in your database settings. Doing this does not automatically compress existing data that’s not already compressed. The following image shows a suggested sequence of operations. This would both enable compression and compress the existing data.

  1. First Enable Compression by selecting the Compress File to Save Disk Space toggle. Future writes to data tables will be compressed when if they are configured to.
  2. Next, enable the toggles for Compress Database Files (.MAP) and Compress Item Files (.ITM) options. This will tell Fabrication to Compress the existing Database and Item files. Also, “unselect” the Compress Jobs (.ESJ .MAJ) option.
  3. Click the Compress Now button. This compresses the Database and ITM files but will not scan your ESTmep and CAMduct job files.
  4. Once compressed, select the Compress Jobs (.ESJ .MAJ) option. This will compress all Future ESJ and MAJ files but not existing ones. If you wanted, you could have left that option selected in Step 2. However it would significantly increase the time it takes to perform the compression process. Because most of your ESJ and MAJ files are likely past jobs, there’s really no value in processing them now….but you could.
  5. Press the OK Button to save these settings.

Check Settings for Each Product, Version and User of Each Computer

You should also know that these settings are NOT saved in your configuration. The file that stores these settings is located here…

C:\Users\<user>\AppData\Local\Autodesk\Fabrication <version>\<product>\UserOpt.MAP

<user> = User's Windows Login Name
<version> = Autodesk product version. (e.g. 2018, 2019, 2020, etc.)
<product> = Autodesk Fabrication product (e.g. CADmep, ESTmep, CAMduct)

You can tell by the folders, that this setting is stored separately for each user on a computer. Because each product and each version is part of the path, those variations need to be set too.

Because Best Practice #9 tells you to use only one version for database administration, version may seem unimportant. But it IS important to know when you upgrade to a newer version for administration. Those versions should also have these settings reviewed.

Every user who does work in your database, should check each product and version for those settings. If they don’t, your work may compress files while their work may decompressed them.

Because clicking this just once makes it do it’s magic in your database, you don’t need to click the Compress Now button for each version, user, product or computer. The options merely need to be Set., telling those products what they should/should compressed or decompressed.

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: 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

COD Script Updates – Part 2

I didn’t plan up updating scripts again so soon but I found a couple more undocumented properties. I thought I’d post them sooner rather than later.

The two ITM properties I found are “BOX” and “E-Tag“.

BOX is only visible from CAMduct. It’s intended purpose appears to be for specifying a “Box” for the ITM in question for shipping purposes but you could use it or anything. Despite it being visible only in CAMduct, using COD Scripts, you can read and write it from ESTmep or CADmep too.

E-TAG is visible from any of the Fabrication products. It’s used for Equipment Tags. You can see both properties from here if in CAMduct or only E-Tag is ESTmep or CADmep.

Scripts Updated

  • All Debug Scripts – Nothing major, just formatting in the comments section.
  • WriteAll_Props (Job).cod – Updated to support BOX & E-TAG properties.
  • WriteAll_Props (Library).cod – Updated to support BOX & E-TAG properties.

Scripts Added

  • Debug ITEM Box.cod
  • Debug ITEM E-Tag.cod
  • WriteAllBox (Job).cod
  • WriteAllETag (Job).cod
  • WriteAllBox (Library).cod
  • WriteAllETag (Library).cod

You can download the *current* versions here.

Scripting property reference has also been updated here.

VDC CAD – Beta CADmep Addin

Steven Micaletti recently started an Autodesk Fabrication Development related blog…https://miclogic.home.blog/.

One of the things recently posted are Beta versions on his CADmep tools for CADmep 2019 and 2020. You can get them here…https://miclogic.home.blog/2019/05/05/vdc-cad-beta/

There’s a nice Item Property Palette…

There’s also several other tools that look very intuitive to use in a Ribbon Panel…

They include tools for…

  • Item Properties
  • Number Items
  • Selection Tools
  • Packaging Tools
  • Tag Tools
  • Hanger Tools
  • Item Colors
  • Settings
  • Touch Screen Cancel

Download them and kick the tires. I’m sure he’d love to get your feedback.

Autodesk Fabrication: Best Practice #10

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

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

Database view of an Ancillary entry

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

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

Database view of an Ancillary Kit entry

Ancillary / Kit Breakpoints

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

Database view of an Ancillary with Breakpoints

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

Database view of an Ancillary Kit with Breakpoints

Nested Breakpoints

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

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

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

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

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

Autodesk Fabrication: Best Practice #9

Use the Same Version of software to Admin your Database

Consistently use the same version of software for all administration work. You can draw/model/estimate/etc using any version. Just make sure your users don’t have administrative permissions on their login. But for administering your database, always use the same version. Here’s why…

You can work in multiple versions of CADmep, ESTmep, CAMduct and even Revit (w/Fabrication Parts) using the same database configuration. In other words, the configuration itself is “Version Agnostic“.

For Revit Fabrication Parts, database compatibility starts with version 2016. The other Fabrication products like CADmep, ESTmep and CAMduct, compatibility goes back to at least the version prior to 2013, before Autodesk acquired the software.

What’s the problem?

You often get new functionality in newer versions of software. Versions of the software that require new data, automatically adds the new data to the database tables. When you only Use older versions of the software without administrative permissions, it ignores that extra data when it encounters it. This is why old versions work with configurations edited with newer versions,

When you try to use an older version to Administer your database, it rewrites those tables but doesn’t see the added data so it gets overwritten. This is why you should stick to the same version when editing your database.

You do not have to use the latest version to maintain your database. You can continue to use an older version for administration. Just don’t use a newer version then go back to the old. You’re perfectly fine to stick with an older version. You just won’t be able to take advantage of new features that rely on added data the new version offers. When you are ready to start using a newer version for Administration, you can make that change anytime but you should also stop using the older versions for administration.

Let’s Demonstrate the Issue

You can watch the video at the end of this article to see an example. In 2019 Autodesk added a new Connector setting for “Connector Matching”. We won’t go into what this does here but you can see in the following image the difference in the right-click menu of connectors.

Fabrication 2019 Added ‘Connector Matching

When you watch the video, you’ll see me switch between 2 different versions of ESTmep. I could use any product but ESTmep lets me quickly open and close a database so I can move between versions quickly.

If you look at the configuration icons, you can see which version of software is being used. ESTmep 2019 has all BLUE icons. You can see ESTmep 2018 uses RED icons except the one BLUE 2019 configuration.

ESTmep 2018 has RED Configuration Icons, 2019 uses BLUE Icons

The video starts with “A Test Config” loaded in ESTmep 2019. I select one of the Connectors and change its ‘Connector Matching‘ value. Next, I exit and go back into the same configuration again in 2019 to show the value remains the same. At this point, everything is working as planned.

After exiting the database in 2019, I then switch to ESTmep 2018 and load the same “A Test Config” database. I make a copy of a completely different connector. This is where the problem starts. ESTmep 2018 has no knowledge of this ‘Connector Matching‘ data. Your “Connector Matching” data is over written as soon as ESTmep writes the Connector tables using the format it knows.

Finally, I go back into ESTmep 2019 and verify the data is gone. The default value for the Grooved Coupling’s “Connector Matching” data changes back to “Same“.

You can see for yourself by watching this video.