Maximize the Power of Autodesk Vault

15 Jun, 2004 By: Kevin Schneider

Two simple tips encourage design reuse and increase file security

Autodesk Vault is an easy-to-use data-management tool integrated with Autodesk Inventor Series, Autodesk Inventor Professional, and AutoCAD Mechanical. Vault helps design teams track work in progress, maintain version control in a multiuser environment, and improve design reuse by consolidating product information in one place.

If you are new to Autodesk Vault, the following two tips will help you get the most from everyday use.

Tip 1: Add Custom Properties
One of the most common ways to use Autodesk Vault is to encourage design reuse. So much of effective mechanical design is based on reuse of previous designs -- they've proved successful and it's efficient to do so. Yet this process becomes difficult when, for example, a design department must sift through thousands of drawings and documents to find the desired file.

Vault simplifies this process by making it easier to quickly locate existing documents. The Vault automatically extracts properties about the design data added to it. Characteristics such as a component's parent and child references, part number, and description are available for searching.

Figure 1. Add a custom property to files in Vault.
A simple way to further improve your search is to add a new custom property to all your files (figure 1). I like to call this custom property "component family." You can use this custom property to hold a family name that you enter from a list of agreed-on standards for your company. Adding this information helps you use Autodesk Vault's powerful search and sort tools and better organize your data. If you enter existing projects into your Vault, take the time to add this information. Though not required, it gives you more options for sorting, finding, and reusing your existing project data.

Some ideas for standard family names include:

  • Plate
  • Shaft
  • Fastener
  • Gasket
  • Hose
  • Wire
  • Casting
  • Weldment
  • Sheet metal
  • Molded part
  • Purchased part

By adding this one property and filling in a consistent value, you can quickly locate and sort your data. This lets you create more effective queries that return fewer parts, helping you find the right part to reuse.

Tip 2: Set Up User Accounts
Properly setting up your engineering team's user accounts in Vault can help secure data and bring peace of mind that each person has the right access to the right information. Here are some general tips on setting up user accounts:

  1. Unless it's absolutely necessary, disable the Guest account. It's just a good, sound security practice not to provide unsecured access to your valuable design data.
  2. If you are administering the Vault, set a password for your Administrator account. Make sure you write it down and never, ever give
    Figure 2. Vault Manager with users added.
    it to general users. A secure Administrator account is key to controlling and fixing your data.
  3. Often you have project-related documents that you don't want others to check out. These may be locked versions of files that are no longer allowed to be edited or files of parts that are purchased and can't be changed. Vault provides an easy way to secure these documents to prevent unwanted changes: Create two new users in the Vault Manager. Call one Locked and the other Purchased (figure 2).

I like to add these new users to the Administrator group and set each password to be the same as that of my Administrator account. Use these new accounts to check out design data and prevent others from accessing the files. For files you want listed as locked, use the Locked user. For parts that you purchase, use the Purchased user. Using separate users lets your team know why these files can't be

Figure 3. Vault Explorer with files locked.
modified. Once you check out the required data files that shouldn't be changed, they appear as checked out and can't be edited (figure 3). You'll sleep better knowing your important design data is secure.

Using these two tips with Autodesk Vault can release the potential of lean design teams, boosting efficiency and effectiveness considerably -- and immediately. By consolidating product information and reducing the need to recreate designs from scratch, you can maximize the return on your engineering investment and deliver products on time.

About the Author: Kevin Schneider

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