Inventor In-Depth: DWF Tricks for Autodesk Inventor

14 Dec, 2005 By: Kevin Schneider Cadalyst

Collaborating and sharing designs with Autodesk DWF

Many times, you need to send your designs to someone who doesn't have Autodesk Inventor. You need a file that is small enough to e-mail, but it can capture all the parts of your assembly in one file to represent the design properly, and it must be high quality so that the recipient can print or plot the design for manufacturing.

Enter Autodesk DWF and the Autodesk DWF Viewer. The DWF file format is purpose-built for sharing compact versions of data-intensive files. The good news is that anyone can download the Autodesk DWF Viewer for free from the Autodesk Web site. More than eight million of these viewers already are out there. And all Autodesk manufacturing solutions allow you to publish DWF files.

Here's how easy it is to use Autodesk Inventor to send DWF versions of assemblies or drawing files to anyone with whom you want to share your designs.

Publishing an Autodesk Inventor Drawing to DWF
1. Open an Inventor drawing.

2. Select Publish from the File menu. A dialog box appears that lets you set the name and location of the DWF file you want to create (figure 1).

Figure 1. Choose the Publish command to start DWF file creation.

3. The Options button lets you determine whether to publish the active sheet or all sheets in the drawing. Choose Current Sheet Only to send one page to a supplier or manager for review, or choose the All Sheets option to publish a multi-sheet Inventor drawing as a single DWF file (figure 2).

Figure 2. Choose from publishing options to capture as much or as little information as you need.

4. Click OK to save the file.

5. Launch Autodesk DWF Viewer and open your published DWF file (figure 3).

Figure 3. Open the DWF file using the Autodesk DWF Viewer application.

The DWF version of the drawing looks exactly like the source drawing from Autodesk Inventor. Panels along the left side of the window offer information and navigation tools for the file in view. The display includes: o A Content Browser pane, which displays thumbnails for each sheet (just one, in this example) and lets you quickly navigate from one sheet to another simply by selecting the desired sheet's thumbnail. o A Layers pane, which displays the layers as defined by the drawing and allows the user to turn them on or off as needed. o A Properties pane, which displays information about an object the user selects in the drawing. The properties of the IDW are shown, as is important information such as file status, sheet size, author and part number.

Publishing an Autodesk Inventor Assembly
1. Open an Inventor assembly.

2. As before, select Publish from the File menu. The Options button lets you define special settings for the DWF version of an assembly (figure 4).

Figure 4. Select publication options to give users more or less information about an assembly.

For example, you may or may not want to allow a user to get part number and cost information about your assembly. The Options dialog box lets you control whether component properties are published, and it lets you hide any Inventor iProperties contained in the assembly's parts.

Other options can save time for the file recipient as well. For example, it's time consuming to generate the mass property of a large assembly, and it may not be meaningful to the user. Turning off the Publish Mass Properties option can save time.

Finally, it may be important to protect your design, and you can add a password to the DWF file by clicking the appropriate Options box. Only recipients who have the password can view the file, giving you control over who can access your design.

3. After setting file options, save the file. Autodesk DWF Viewer automatically opens the newly published file. Once again, the assembly shown looks just like its source in Autodesk Inventor, and it includes information and navigation panes. Instead of sheet thumbnails, however, a browser tree shows the hierarchy of parts and subcomponents that comprise the source assembly (figure 5).

Figure 5. Publish a DWF version to show recipients the elements that make up an assembly without requiring the source information.

Autodesk research suggests that CAD users may share design data with as many as 10 team members. DWF files give you a fast, secure way to share information -- and let recipients view, print and even redline drawings -- while preserving the integrity of the original design. With password protection and control over the information you want members of the extended team to see, you can protect your intellectual property and securely distribute designs to anyone who needs to see them.

More Publishing Possibilities
In addition to these tips for publishing assemblies and drawings, Autodesk Inventor lets you publish files for presentation such as exploded views of assemblies, as well as parts. Both Autodesk Inventor Series and Autodesk Inventor Professional let you publish from AutoCAD and AutoCAD Mechanical. Autodesk offers several tools to create DWF files from other applications such as SolidWorks and Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire software, and a generic publisher is available to capture any OpenGL window as well. Finally, Autodesk DWF Writer makes creating DWF files as simple as selecting File / Print from any application.

To download the publishing tools, click here. For Autodesk DWF Writer, click here. For more resources, don't forget to check out Cadalyst for DWF images for multiple disciplines, recently posted in the Cadalyst DWF Gallery, and read a great article about the new Autodesk DWF Composer 2 that lets you mark up DWF files with ease.

About the Author: Kevin Schneider

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