CAD Central

31 May, 2007 By: Kenneth Wong

Autodesk Inventor LT free for one year, and more CAD news

Autodesk is giving away Autodesk Inventor LT, a limited version of Autodesk Inventor, as a technology preview. Americans and Canadians can download it immediately from Auto-desk Labs (; customers in other countries will have to wait. Numerous posts in the Inventor LT discussion thread cited an error message that read, "The file you attempted to access is only available in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia and New Zea-land." It suggests that the software might have originally been intended for a wider distribution.

Autodesk shook up the mid-range CAD market by distributing Autodesk Inventor LT as a free technology preview.
Autodesk shook up the mid-range CAD market by distributing Autodesk Inventor LT as a free technology preview.

Sam Antos, product manager for Inventor, posted an apologetic note: "Current demand for the Inventor LT technology preview has far surpassed our initial estimates . . . we have decided to limit availability to participants in the U.S. and Canada at this time . . ." According to Autodesk press officials, "Autodesk does hope to add additional countries in the near future, and the Inventor LT Web site will post these updates."

The LT preview version cannot be installed on the same computer with Inventor 2008, but it gets along fine with Autodesk Inventor 11 or earlier versions. The software is primarily intended for part-level work, so it doesn't let you model an assembly. You can, however, open a regular Inventor assembly file in the Inventor View mode in LT. The software doesn't support Inventor assembly drawings (IDW or DWG), Inventor sheet metal parts (IPT) or Inventor presentation files (IPN). It reads and writes STEP, IGES and SAT files, among others.

To work with Unigraphics NX, Parasolid, Pro/E and GRANITE files, you'll have to download additional translators. The download expires one year from now in May 2008; after that, the product is expected to sell for $999.

Considering the fierce competition between Inventor and SolidWorks, it would appear to be quite possible that SolidWorks LT will show up at SolidWorks Labs in the near future.

Are You a Wiki?

In a Webcast titled "Closing the Last Mile —PLM for the People," Manufacturing Insights PLM Program Director Joe Barkai discussed the rise of a new workforce: the Wiki workers. Poised to reshape the current PLM (product lifecycle management) market, these tech-savvy data jugglers are characterized by their Web reliance, rapid work cycles, collaborative tendencies, virtual community ties and preference for personalization. "Forward-thinking PLM vendors must offer flexibility, openness and personalization to support, encourage and cultivate creativity and accelerate innovation," Barkai suggested. To appeal to the pixel-pushing Wikis, vendors may need to develop a new generation of tools. They should include

  • 1. support for processes and better decisions, not just engineering tasks;
  • 2. features for collaboration, including significantly better search functions;
  • 3. better support for mechatronics (a harmonious mix of mechanical, electrical and software components); and
  • 4. support for design for X (purpose-driven design methodologies), especially design for supply chain and serviceability.

Barkai predicted, "The number of key player [in PLM] will continue to be small, dominated by a handful of traditional PLM vendors and top-tier ERP vendors (Oracle and SAP). All vendors will continue to make small acquisitions and strike partnerships with smaller best-of-breed vendors."

Contact Manufacturing Insights for Barkai's new report titled Next Generation Product-Lifecycle Management.

Archicad Advances

Now under the tutelage of its new owner Nemetschek North America, Graphisoft has just released Archicad 11 for both PC and Mac platforms. Its maker highlights three principal areas of improvement: coordination, control and virtual building.

Aimed also at those architects who prefer 2D design tools, the new version introduces the Virtual Tracing Paper function for matching and comparing virtual building components with 2D drawings. For the documentation phase, the software offers tools to automatically align drawing elements in different views. When working on unlinked model views, users can use the Linework and Fill Consolidation tool to trim overlapping fills and merge adjoining fills.

This new version also features tools for creating walls and building elements with complex geometry. The software lets you build slanted or curved walls, beams and columns by assigning geometric profiles to them. The multistory Hotlinks function lets you insert external files into the master project. With this feature, modifications done to the hot-linked modules are automatically updated in the host project.

Google Earth Connections allows users to publish Archicad designs to Google Earth or grab terrain and coordinate information from Google Earth.

Kenneth Wong explores the innovative use of technology as a freelance writer.

About the Author: Kenneth Wong

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