Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 11, No. 40)

5 Nov, 2006

Untitled Document

What's New at

New! Cadalyst to Award $100 Monthly to Selected Tipsters
Cadalyst announces a new prize program for those who contribute tips to its Tips & Tools Weekly e-newsletter. Cadalyst editors will continue to award an official Cadalyst T-shirt to the contributor of every original published tip and, effective immediately, will also randomly select one of those contributors each month to receive $100.

Visualization Software Roundup
If you're in the market for visualization software, you'll want to take a look at October's Cadalyst Labs Review, "Make It Real -- Visualization Software Brings Designs to Life." Reviewer Ron LaFon discusses how today's visualization software can mimic reality with amazing results, offering an overview of software from Abvent, ASGvis, auto-des-sys, Luxology, NewTek, Robert McNeel and Associates, and Okino Computer Graphics.

Cadalyst Daily Update
For all the latest news and new products, subscribe to Cadalyst Daily e-newsletter. Plus, every issue includes a feature you won't find anywhere else --hardware and CAD software reviews, success stories, AutoCAD tips and much more! Here's a sample of what you missed recently:


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Autodesk Supplies Software for Pre-Engineering Education Program
Autodesk announced it will continue to be the exclusive provider of 3D design software for engineering to more than 1,700 PLTW (Project Lead the Way) schools for the next five years. PLTW, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of pre-engineering instruction for middle and high school students, is working to enhance science, technology, engineering and math education with pre-engineering courses that employ project-based curricula. PLTW will provide supplemental curriculum to Autodesk's secondary education program, the Autodesk Design Academy.

3D Software for Artists, Animators
Software developer e-on Solutions announced a "pre-release" version of its Vue 6 Infinite and xStream 3D software. According to e-on, this "last step before the official release of the program" offers fully functional versions of the software. Infinite is designed for professional 3D animators and production studios. xStream reportedly allows users to load, edit and render any Vue scene from within 3ds Max, Maya, Lightwave or Cinema 4D. The pre-release versions are offered at a special price.

Multilingual Web Site for Engineering Software
VISTAGY, a provider of specialized engineering software, launched a new multilingual corporate Web site to help customers more efficiently obtain information about the company's products and industry process improvement initiatives. Among the site's new features are a new graphical home page, a section that addresses solutions for specific industries, updated product pages, online product support and services information.


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This Week's Software Tips

Divide Equally
Stephen Robbins offers this tip on how to equally divide using reference dimensions within the Part Sketch environment in Autodesk Inventor releases 8 through 11. You can use this tool for tasks such as equally dividing center points along a linear path and creating symmetrical relationships with only center points.

When placing a point or hole center along a linear path, you can quickly divide the spacing equally by linking the spacing of each point or hole center to a reference dimension. For example, if you have a sheet-metal panel and the mounting holes are placed along one edge, with each corner hole offset from the adjacent sides by a different value due to design constraints, you can divide the other mounting holes equally between the space of those corner holes.

Click here to view a sample image.

  • Fully constrain the two-point hole centers by their respective distances and ensure that they are linearly aligned.
  • Place a few (two or three) points or hole centers linearly aligned between them.
  • Place a dimension from one corner point hole center to the next point hole center.
  • Continue adding dimensions until the last one is placed at the opposite corner point where you started.
  • The last dimension placed will default as a reference dimension.
  • To equally divide the spacing of these points or hole centers, you must edit the values of the nonreference dimensions to equal the reference dimension.

Note that Inventor automatically equates the divided value by making all dimensions equal, including adjusting the reference dimension.

You can use this method for aligning three point hole centers symmetrically when the middle point is constrained and the other two are to be equally spaced beside it.


New and Improved Mtext Background Mask Routine
Shawn Samaniegohas an update to an old favorite, MTEXTMASK.LSP. He says, "The firm I work for uses MText/Background Mask to hide text over lines. MTEXTMASK.LSP applies a background mask to mtext without having to open the mtext editor. This routine prompts you for the following:

  • Specify Background Mask: [None/Background/Color] <Background>: (Enter for default)
  • Specify border offset factor: <1.50>: (Enter for default)
  • Select Objects:

I've edited the original code to default-specify a border offset factor of 1.15 -- you can see the highlighted text in this week's code: Download MTEXTMASK-UPDATE.LSP with this week's code. This routine defaults to the last user input for each drawing. Also, it would be beneficial if the user alters the command alias to MM for MTEXTMASK. Shawn's version is based on an original routine by Lee Ambrosius. This program lets you add Background Mask to several mtext objects at one time instead of using the mtext editor for each object or using the Properties palette. The Properties palette in AutoCAD 2005 doesn't let you set background color or border offset. More information is available on Lee's Hyperpics Web site.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Works great! This is a very nice routine.

Up Arrow
James Culver offers this quick tip: To retrieve a previous input (such as a number with six decimal places) rather than retyping it, press the Up arrow. The previous input appears on the Command line. Repeatedly press the Up arrow to recall earlier inputs.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Patrollers agree and have used the Up arrow to go back to previous input. Note that with the introduction of dynamic input, long-time users might experience some unexpected results when using commands and the arrow keys in new versions of AutoCAD.

MicroStation Tip: Single-Line and MultilineText Justification
Question: In MicroStation's Text Style dialog box, is there a variable or a setting that allows the justification to be set differently for the single-line and multiline setting for the text styles? If one is changed, the other is changed.

Answer: You can set the justification on Text Strings with active txj <justification> and for Text Nodes with active tnj <justification>. In both instances, <justification> can be found in the Key-in browser.

Axiom offers many MicroStation tips on its Web site.

Send us your tip, code or shortcut for your favorite CAD software. If we publish it, we'll send you a "Cadalyst: CAD the Way You Want It" T-shirt, and each month Cadalyst editors will randomly select one published tip and send $100 to its author. Please submit only code and other tips that are your original work, or provide the original source so we can include proper credit. By submitting code to Cadalyst, you grant Cadalyst the right to print and distribute your code in print, digitally and by other means. Cadalyst and individual authors retain all rights to the code; any published code is not to be used for commercial purposes.

Tips & Tools Weekly software tips for AutoCAD are reviewed by Cadalyst staff and the Cadalyst Tip Patrol before publication. Use tips at your own discretion, please, and watch later editions of this newsletter for updates and corrections. Many thanks to our volunteer Cadalyst Tip Patrol members: Don Boyer, Mitchell Hirschklau, R.K. McSwain, Don Reichle, Kevin Sawyer, Ivanhoe Tejeda, Billy Wooten and Ben Young.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Hardware: SmartLF Gx 42 Series
Colortrac releases three new large-format technical document scanners.  Read more

General Software: GHOST 3D Plugins for 3ds Max 9, VIZ
New tools add 3D modeling, conversion, digitizing and reverse engineering functions to Autodesk applications.  Read more

General Software: Camtasia Studio 4
With TechSmith's software, users can create screencasts deliverable to portable media players.  Read more

General Software: CADWrite 1.0
DotSoft's word processing application runs inside AutoCAD, reading and writing Word documents as its native file format.  Read more

General Software: Polygonal 3D Models
DOSCH DESIGN offers models of airplanes, architectural details, electronics, engineered structures and more.  Read more

Visualization: Photorealistica for KOMPAS-3D
Photo rendering application from ASCON and PRA Estetica enables creation of photorealistic images of 3D parts and assemblies.  Read more

AEC: DProfiler with RSMeans
Beck Technology and Reed Construction Data integrate modeling and cost data solutions for BIM.  Read more

AEC: ParkCAD 2.1 and AeroTURN 1.0
Transoft Solutions products are now compatible with AutoCAD 2007 and MicroStation V8 XM.  Read more

MCAD: CAD Configurator
Users of MISUMI's new software can configure custom components for assembly automation, submit an RFQ online and more.  Read more

MCAD: VXScan Version 1.2
Updates to Creaform's capture software include support for user-selectable measurement units.  Read more

MCAD: CFD-ACE+ 2007, CFD-FASTRAN 2007, CFD-CADalyzer 2007
ESI Group's computational fluid dynamics solutions offer multiphysics, aerodynamic and aerothermodynamic simulation.  Read more

MCAD: PolyWorks Version 10
Updates to InnovMetric's 3D metrology platform for manufacturing include a new user interface and probing device package.  Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

Cadalyst'scomplete list of upcoming industry events is always available on our Web site.

ESI Group CFD Training
Various 2006 and 2007 dates
Various locations
ESI Group has added 2007 dates to its training schedule. The company's CFD (computational fluid dynamics) training solution takes basic, intermediate and advanced training needs into consideration. Read more

North American Symposium on the Integration of Analysis in Product Design
November 13, 2006
Chicago, Illinois
In a roundtable format, industry leaders will share their vision for the future of analysis as an integrated component in product design. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear directly from the developers about how they plan to handle integration challenges in coming years. Read more

RhinoMarine Seminar
November 14, 2006
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Representatives from Proteus Engineering, McNeel Europe, Design Systems & Technologies and RhinoCentre NL will present the capabilities of the latest versions of Rhino and RhinoMarine during this no-cost seminar. Read more

Microdesk Go Vertical Tour
November 14 and 16, 2006
Connecticut and Pennsylvania locations
Microdesk is offering a free seminar on the benefits of BIM (Building Information Modeling) with its Go Vertical Tour. Read more

FEA and CFD: Challenges and Best-Modelling Practices for the Aerospace Industry
November 15, 2006
Anaheim, California
This industry-focused workshop will bring together analysts from across the aerospace industry to discuss, review and discover best-modelling practices, while highlighting the challenges that all users of analysis, and their management, should be considering. Read more

ESPRIT World Conference 2007
May 8-11, 2007
Newport Beach, California
ESPRIT World Conference 2007 is the basis upon which the company will launch the next version of ESPRIT. The foundation of the program will be education and technical training on this new version. Read more