Inventor In-Depth: Four Tricks for Inventor 10

14 Nov, 2005 By: Kevin Schneider Cadalyst

Mechanical design's answer to some friendly and familiar AutoCAD tricks.

Autodesk Inventor packs great features and functions for mechanical design -- and some will remind you of handy commands in AutoCAD with a twist. Here are a few shortcuts and tricks that are easy to pick up and can save you time.

Zoom All
If you've spent any time using AutoCAD software, you know that double-clicking the middle mouse button initiates a zoom extents. Autodesk Inventor 10 has a similar time-saving trick for getting the whole design on your screen. It's literally a click or two away: When you're working in a close-up view (figure 1a), simply double-click the middle mouse button to zoom out to a view of the entire design (figure 1b). You may never again go back to using the toolbar button for a complete view of your design.


Figure 1. Go from close-up (a) to complete view (b) by double-clicking the middle button on your mouse.

Create New Parts at the Assembly WCS
When you create parts in the context of an assembly, the first part is always created at the assembly's origin or what's referred to as WCS (world coordinate system) in AutoCAD software terminology. Then, in the graphics area, you choose where you plan to create subsequent parts.

Now, Autodesk Inventor 10 makes it easy to create that second part or subsequent parts at the WCS. Simply click on an originating point in the browser. You can pick any point, and the new part will have a WCS that matches exactly the WCS of the selected origin. This technique works for new part creation as well as existing part placement.

To try it, open an existing assembly -- one that has a few parts already -- or try one of the sample files shipped with Autodesk Inventor 10, such as the TUNER.IAM assembly (figure 2).

  • Start the Create Component command.
  • In the browser, expand the First Origin folder from the top.
  • Click on the Center Point node in the folder.
  • The new component is created with a WCS that matches the assembly's WCS.

Figure 2. Click on the Center Point node in the First Origin folder to create a new component that matches the assembly WCS.

This technique comes in handy for aligning all components to the WCS. This method of placing components can make it easier for others to use drawings downstream from the design process, especially when you need to share designs through file translation. The receiving CAD system or user can position all the components to a common coordinate system without requiring assembly constraints, and the designs will still assemble exactly as intended.

Convert Projected Geometry to Construction in 2D and 3D Sketches
When you're working with part sketches, often you need to reference other geometry for size or placement. Most often you probably use the Project command to project the geometry you need into your active sketch. The geometry that results is considered normal sketch geometry, meaning that you can use it to create profiles for designing solid features.

However, sometimes you may want to reference only the projected geometry -- for instance when you're working in a complex part and do not need the geometry for profile creation. Autodesk Inventor 10 allows you to select projected geometry and change it from normal to construction geometry by using the toolbar buttons along the top of the graphics window.

Figure 3 shows a new part is started on the yellow plane. The face shown was projected.

Figure 3. Normal projection automatically shows all geometry.

Notice that both the outer face boundary and the boundaries of the two holes within the face were projected automatically. To project only the outer boundary, select the two projected circles and then use the Toolbar command to change them to construction geometry (figure 4). Now they will not appear as part of the automatic profile detection.

Figure 4. Change selected elements from normal to construction to eliminate them from the geometry profile.

Choose Extrude and the program extrudes only the geometry designated as normal (figure 5).


Figure 5. Before (a) and after (b) extruding the normal geometry.

The Extrude command acts on normal geometry only and completes creation of the part.

By designating selected drawing elements as construction geometry, you can simplify profile detection and streamline the task of selecting shapes for feature creation.

Save as DWG to Go
AutoCAD DWG files may have line types, font files and other resources that are custom additions to your drawings and templates. Autodesk offers DWF files and a free DWF viewer to make collaboration a breeze, but on occasion you might need to give a contractor or customer a DWG to work with. To guarantee that a recipient has the necessary resources to open your DWG file, Autodesk Inventor 10 lets you save a DWG file into a ZIP file. This ZIP-format archive contains everything a user needs to view a drawing, and it ensures the drawing is viewed the way you intended it.

To save a DWG in this way, choose the Export Options command and select Pack and Go (figure 6).

Figure 6. Choose Pack and Go to share DWG format files and ensure users can see your custom style elements.

The Pack and Go command produces smaller files that are e-mail-friendly, to streamline distribution of drawings.

Autodesk Inventor 10 has plenty of new features and functions to explore for more efficient, effective mechanical design. But don't forget to check out the tools and techniques that take a page from the utility you know and love in AutoCAD software.

About the Author: Kevin Schneider

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