Your Inventor Design: Share It, Protect It

14 Nov, 2004 By: Kevin Schneider Cadalyst

Autodesk's compact DWF file format makes it easy to collaborate with non-CAD users

Sending someone an assembly created with Autodesk Inventor is pretty easy if that person has the application. With the application's Pack and Go feature, you can collect the potentially large number of files someone else would need in order to open the assembly in Autodesk Inventor.

But many times you just need a fast, easy, Web-friendly way to send a design to reviewers who do not own or know how to use 3D CAD tools.

Autodesk Inventor and Autodesk DWF Viewer make this a snap. The recipient can use Autodesk DWF Viewer to view and print 2D and 3D drawings and models in DWF format. It's easy to share data-rich design files electronically using the free viewer software. And because the file format is small, fast to transmit, and secure, DWF preserves the fidelity and integrity of your designs.

What are DWF Files?
DWF (Design Web Format) files offer the following advantages for sharing design information:

  • Compact yet data-rich files that can include drawing scale, views, and hyperlinks.
  • Highly compressed format that makes it easy to transmit huge design models by e-mail or the Web. DWF files can be 1/20th the size of AutoCAD DWG files and 1/25th the size of Inventor files.
  • Support for 3D, enabling a fully interactive presentation of the design model.
  • Support for multisheet drawings sets, so designers can build a complete set of complex design documents into a single DWF file.
  • Compatibility with many different design applications.
  • No need for CAD expertise.
  • No cost to create files. The capability is built into Autodesk design applications or available with the free Autodesk DWF Writer.
Get Autodesk DWF Viewer
Autodesk DWF Viewer is available online. It is free for you, your suppliers, and customers to download.

Start Using DWF
Autodesk Inventor includes a Publish command for parts, drawings, and assemblies. The command creates the DWF file that's ready and easy to e-mail to a customer, supplier, or design team member.

To publish an assembly, open your design in Autodesk Inventor 9. In this example, we will use the sample bracket assembly (figure 1).

Figure 1. Sample bracket assembly as it appears in Autodesk Inventor.

From the File pull-down menu, select Publish (figure 2).

Figure 2. Select the Publish command from the Autodesk Inventor drop-down menu.

The Publish command will display the Save As dialog box, which allows you to choose the location to save the DWF file, and to control some exciting options (figure 3).

Figure 3. The Publish dialog box provides access to advanced settings.

Clicking the Options button gives you control of the following advanced settings in the Publish Options dialog box (figure 4):

Figure 4. Publish options let you control what your recipient will see.

  • Publish Component Properties. This option controls whether Autodesk Inventor's iProperties, such as part number, title, revision, or release state, are published for every component in the assembly. This gives the viewer more information about your design, rather than just the pretty 3D model. The recipient now can get all the important information contained in the properties of the design.
  • Publish Mass Properties. This setting determines whether Autodesk Inventor will publish detailed mass properties for every component in the assembly. The viewer can find out the mass, weight, and movements of any component in a design.
  • Password Protection. Want to secure your design and ensure that only the recipient is able to view the file? Add a password.
  • Display Viewer When Done. On completion, the Autodesk DWF Viewer will open automatically and preview the published file you are about to send.
For this example, accept the default options and click OK to return to the Publish dialog box. Click Publish to save the DWF-formatted file.

The Autodesk DWF Viewer will pop up (figure 5) and you can begin to explore the 3D DWF image and related data. It is important to remember that the Publish command wraps up all the components and properties into a single DWF file that is compact in size. This makes it easy to send complex assemblies out for review.

Figure 5. Autodesk DWF Viewer presents a complex image without the file size of the originating design.

Navigating a DWF Image
File recipients have many features and functions available to examine designs in DWF. Here are just a few.

  • Autodesk DWF Viewer allows users to pan, rotate, and zoom into the 3D graphics. You can hide and select components as well as learn about components' mass properties and iProperty information by using the navigation tools along the left side of the application window.
  • At the top left side of the Autodesk DWF Viewer application are two tabs that provide more insight. The Model tab presents a browser window that shows the assembly hierarchy. Users can expand and select components in the tree to work with the 3D data easily. The Bookmarks tab offers a list of standard 3D views, such as Front, Side, and Top.
  • At the bottom left side of the window are two tabs. The Model tab shows the properties data for the active DWF file. The Object tab shows the properties for the object selected in the graphics window or in the model tree browser.
Sending and Archiving DWF Files
Finally, send an e-mail with this DWF file as an attachment. This simple action offers quick proof that publishing DWF files makes for lightweight, fast, and secure collaboration using high-fidelity images of the designs you've created.

In addition, when you publish Autodesk Inventor drawings using Autodesk DWF Viewer, you create very high-quality prints and plots. This makes DWF a great way to archive drawings. It's the closest thing to digital paper!

When used in conjunction with other DWF technologies such as Autodesk's free DWF Writer, a Microsoft Windows operating system-based printer will allow any application to print to a DWF file. Purchasing Autodesk DWF Composer allows advanced editing, mark-up, and measure of 2D DWF files. These technologies show how powerful a tool DWF-based publishing can be for collaboration.

About the Author: Kevin Schneider

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