One of the biggest and best releases in CAD let alone Inventor.
When Inventor 2015 was released I thought it was one the No.1 CAD system on the planet, Inventor 2016 cements it. Inventor blows away anything else on the market, add to that you get it in a Suite of other best of breed products and nothing else comes close.
So what’s new? It’s #TheFutureofMakingThings
These are the main new features and enhancements:
- AnyCAD – What’s that you ask?
- New Electromechanical Workflows
- New Freeform Tools
- New Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) Module
- New Rendering Engine
- Multi-Body Sheet Metal
- Presentation Module Enhancements
- Drawing Enhancements
- New Home Screen
- Part Modeling Enhancements
There have also been other enhancements but these are the main one’s that stand out.
This is probably the most exciting feature in Autodesk Inventor 2016. AnyCAD allows you to open other CAD files natively with associativity, so if the source file is modified, it will automatically update inside Autodesk Inventor, allowing you to work with virtually AnyCAD format.
Previously, when you opened another CAD file, it would translate and make a copy of the file in Inventors native format *.ipt or *.iam.
You can still open and convert CAD data that way however, Autodesk have modified the interface, where you can either translate the file and lose associativity or import the file as a reference and maintain associativity.
This feature has been around for a few years, giving users associativity between Inventor and Alias. In 2016, this functionality extends to AutoCAD DWG and other non-Autodesk CAD platforms.
This video shows the new AnyCAD functionality in Autodesk Inventor 2016 at the Assembly level:
Here’s another video of AnyCAD where modifications are made to the source file inside Inventors Assembly environment:
At the assembly level in Autodesk Inventor, you have the option to choose which parts and/or sub-assemblies you would like to bring in too and can go back at anytime, edit the import and choose to add or remove parts from the assembly you are importing.
When a change is made to the source file, a lightning bolt will emerge on the imported file.To update the change, the user will need to manually update the file so the changes come through. This is a deliberate option made by Autodesk to give the user control over whether they wanted the update to modify the design.
If the user selects reference model’ during the import, the model comes in as a reference and you cannot do any direct editing (except for move face) or feature recognition to the model. You can use the Sketch and 3D Model commands however and add features to the model such as extrusion, holes, fillets, etc.
AutoCAD DWG files import much faster as you will see in the video below as they don’t require translation.
The new underlay feature and Project DWG geometry command you can easily turn 2D blocks into 3D models and maintain associativity. Users have the option of suppressing or breaking the associative link and turning layers on and off from a simple right click.
Here’s what AnyCAD looks like with DWG files:
At the part level, the user needs to import the model as you would at the assembly level. The benefit of importing at the part level is that you can utilise the hybrid parametric direct editing tools to modify the reference model being imported. The down-side is that the metadata like part numbers don’t come through and you cannot do an assembly level commands (i.e. constraints, etc.) in the part environment.
You can, however, open the part in an assembly and have an assembly version of the imported model in the assembly environment too as a workaround. Obviously, if you make a edit to a part that is also being modified by the source CAD program, when the model refreshes, you will have errors that will need correcting.
Here’s a video of AnyCAD at the part level: The
AnyCAD import functionality supports the following formats:
- Autodesk Alias
- Autodesk AutoCAD 2D dwg
- Dassault Systemes Catia V4 and V5
- Dassault Systemes Solidworks
- Pro Engineer Wildfire
- PTC Creo
- Siemens NX
Here’s where I see the benefits of AnyCAD for an Inventor user:
1: Associativity – I’m working on the part of the project, a stakeholder is working on another part (partner, client, supplier, fellow employee (for those running multiple CAD systems)) in a different CAD system, changes get made and they automatically update making collaboration easier.
- Speed – Importing as a reference file is a lot faster than translating the data and converting it to an Inventor file.
Geometry Integrity – As it is imported as reference geometry, there are no translation errors and issues with repairing geometry.
Flexibility – At anytime you can filter which part of the imported assembly you want to bring in.
Data Management – When you import 3rd party CAD data as reference model, you are working with the one file, the true source. You are not doubling up creating a copy of the file as an Inventor file and having to manage duplicates.
Migration – A new Inventor user can migrate easily over to Inventor, work with their old CAD system when they need to, work on new projects in Inventor, import their old CAD data, work in one environment and bypass all the issues with translating, migrating and feature recognition.
Multi-CAD Environments – Use the right tool for the right job. For example, If AutoCAD is the best tool, use that, if Inventor has the best tool for another part of the project, then use Inventor, etc., and tie it all together work in one ‘master’ environment (Inventor).
Connected Concept Design – Many clients who have a Design Suite, in the product design phase, still use AutoCAD for concepts or quick designs. Now they have associativity between the concept and the 3D parametric model when they develop the product further.
For anyone who needs to work with other CAD formats or is looking for a reason to be able to upgrade and transition to a better solution, look at these Suites that has Inventor:
- Factory Design Suite – Inventor, AutoCAD and Factory Utilities plus more
- Product Design Suite – Inventor and AutoCAD
- Building Design Suite Ultimate – Inventor, Revit and AutoCAD plus more
- Plant Design Suite Ultimate – Inventor, Plant 3D plus more
AnyCAD functionality is available in Inventor and Inventor Professional.
Electromechanical Live Link
The next big thing with Autodesk inventor 2016 is the live link with AutoCAD Electrical. Previous releases had a Bi-directional import function via XML. The Electrical catalogue got added in the 2015 making it easier to import and export.
The 2016 release is a true Electromechanical solution that synchronises Autodesk Inventor and AutoCAD Electrical. Whether you are in Autodesk Inventor or AutoCAD Electrical, there is an Electromechanical Link Setup button, where you can create a project and via an EMX file, the user can link the Inventor assembly to the AutoCAD Electrical project.
Once this has been setup, Inventor and AutoCAD will synchronise, so if a change is made in either program, the other will update. Synchronsiation can be setup automatically in intervals or manually.
More information can be found on how this functionlaity works in the What’s New in AutoCAD Electrical 2016 page here. Inventor Professional and AutoCAD Electrical are available in Product Design Suite Ultimate
Freeform Modelling Features
Autodesk Inventor 2015 came out with a Freeform modelling module based on N.U.R.B.S. with T-Splines, a Sub-D surfacing technology which is amazing. Compared to the Freeform features in Fusion 360, it was limited to starting with primitives and a few other features like Bridge, Match Edge, Crease Edge, etc. In December, 2014, Fusion 360 was included as a subscription service in Product Design Suite.
Autodesk Inventor 2016 has many of the features in Fusion 360 now in it’s Freeform module such as:
- Convert to Freeform – Convert a Solid Face, Body or a Surface to a Freeform Surface
- Create Freeform Face – Sketches out a Freeform face
- Create Freeform Plane – Like a Freeform face with perpendicular edges
- Make Uniform
- Add Distance – gives you the distance between a point and plane
- Flatten – flattens the surface
- Weld Vertices – welds points to change the surface
- Align Form – aligns a form to a plane
- Merge Edges – merges two separate edges together
- Unweld Edges – separates edges
- Thicken – thickens the freeform surface
- Toggle Translucent – turn on transparency
- Soft Modification – modify surfaces for a finer finish when making tweaks
With these new set of tools, users can work with Solid’s, B-Rep Surfaces, T-Splines Primitives and/or Faces, input Freeform and Parametric parameters all in one environment. Here’s some videos of the new features.
Convert to Freeform & Soft Modification: Here’s a video of the other new tools:
The Freeform modelling capabilities should be available in Inventor LT and are definitely in Inventor and Inventor Professional.
Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) Module A
dditive Manufacturing has exploded as one of the fastest growing industries. Autodesk has some nice tools like Meshmixer and Momento that you should check out if your are 3D Printing and working with meshes. In the 2016 release of Inventor now comes an Additive Manufacturing Module.
Under the Environments tab, there is a 3D print icon. This module allows you to setup a test bed and work out the best way of printing your part. when you enter the environment the part snaps to the test bed, where it has the tools to re-orientate and partition parts on the test bed to make parts fit if they are too large.
There’s a range of 3D Printers already in the module and you can view the print mesh and export to STL. For all you Makerbot and Ultimaker fans (or potential one’s), you can buy your 3D printers and consumables here
The engine has gotten an overhaul and has some nice features. With Ray Tracing on, you can save at anytime, there are additional IBL’s, there is a new command called ‘refine appearance’, a new drawing view called ‘Technical Illustration’, there is a transaparency button under the view ribbon and there are specular and refraction options in drawings.
As the name suggests, Inventor now support multi-body sheet metal parts which is a long, long time coming! You can convert a multi-body part to a multi-body sheet metal part and create new bodies like you would in the part environment. Support for zero bend radius is in many commands, the material thickness is detected when you convert a part to sheet metal part and the punch tool shows a count of the number of selections you have made.
Presentation Module Enhancements
The Presentation part of Inventor hadn’t been touched in a while, so it is good to see enhancements in this area. The biggest thing is the UI being revamped with a triad like you see in the Direct Editing command. It gives more control over continuous move, trails and placement.
Enhancements have been made to having the view cube when dropping in a view and being able to dynamically change orientation. You can start a drawing from any open model, and automatically apply the current model camera and representations in the base view. There has been enhancements to the symbol library, making it easier to create new symbols and also making it more centralised.
New Home Screen
The home screen has changed with a more graphical interface, searching capabilities, pinning files, filters, view properties of selected files and adding directory paths and shortcuts to links. Part Modeling Enhancements
- The Mirror and Pattern commands support multiple solid body selection.
- Previously, nonlinear patterns of a solid body in a multi body part file have not been possible. You can now create nonlinear patterns for solid bodies.
- Drag a sketch above the parent feature in the browser to share it.
- The Measure command now allows you to measure an angle to the midpoint of any segment. This option is achieved by hovering your mouse over the midpoint of a segment until a yellow dot appears.
- Identify which workplane or face a sketch was created on.
- The selected Show All or Hide All Constraints display setting remains active as you sketch and throughout your editing session.
- You can now create tangent dimensions between circular or arc geometry within a 2D sketch.
- The Initial View Scale property of the first drawing review placed on the sheet is added in the Sheet Properties group within the Format Text dialog box.
- The Sketch Dimensions option is added to the Object Visibility list. Select this option to display 2D or 3D sketches and hide all related sketch dimensions.
- Sharing a sketch is made visible by dragging above the feature in browser.
- New snap points added to the context menu: Endpoint, Apparent Intersection, Quadrant, and Mid of 2 points.
- You can now modify Start Sketch and select a view or sheet before sketching.
- New safety factor calculation warning displays in Stress Analysis.
- The Midplane option has been added to the assembly Pattern command. Select the Midplane option to create a pattern distributed on both sides of the original component.
- Replace All feature available for highlighted components within an assembly.
- Select multiple sick constraints within Design Doctor to delete.
- Attach undocked browsers to screen edges
- Copy/Paste and Copy to User Parameters
- the Esc key will terminate, interrupt or cancel operations
Autodesk has produced an excellent release and what’s more exciting is that the next release slated has some great new features too, so it just shows how serious Autodesk are about putting in innovative technology into Inventor and keeping clients satisfied that they are getting their money’s worth for their subscription dollar.