Autodesk released information on the AutoCAD 2012 and AutoCAD LT 2012 product release today and while a lot of my readers are heavy on Inventor, there is one thing that almost any designer can agree on. No matter how much 3D you have, there is always AutoCAD for something. I am pleased to see the acceptance of 3D into the AutoCAD powerhouse in this release especially. Over the last couple releases, we have seen Inferred Constraints and Parametric Dimensions. This year we see some functionality from AutoCAD Mechanical get brought down to the AutoCAD base level and then given a shot of steroids. That my friends is...
3D Model Documentation (not in LT)
To develop 2D model documentation from 3D CAD data, designers and drafters typically import the data into AutoCAD, one of the world’s most widely used CAD software solutions. Many companies use Autodesk products throughout their entire workflow and rely on Autodesk Inventor 3D mechanical design software. In such cases, data flows more smoothly from Inventor to AutoCAD. Other companies, however, use non-Autodesk software to develop 3D models, which may present data translation issues.
Usually, a manufacturer imports non-native data into AutoCAD in one of two ways—exporting the data to either an open-source DWG file format or to a neutral file format such as IGES, STEP, or ACIS. Exporting data as open-source DWG files, however, may lead to problems; dimensions and lines may shift, formatting may be lost, and objects may lose associated intelligence. Exporting to a neutral file format, on the other hand, is a two-step translation process that can degrade data quality significantly. In both cases, the manufacturer must clean up the 2D documentation before sending it to the shop floor.
But now, thanks to new integrated translators, AutoCAD 2012 and AutoCAD Mechanical 2012 have overcome historic translation challenges to support the file formats of all major modeling applications. Manufacturers and designers can now import Catia, GT, NX, Parasolid, Pro/ENGINEER, Rhino, and SolidWorks surfaces, solids, and 2D and 3D wire geometry directly into AutoCAD. The data is translated into native AutoCAD geometry and inserted into model space. Parts and assemblies in the original models are preserved, helping to maintain data integrity.
For manufacturers and designers using Autodesk Inventor, the import process is even smoother. There’s no translation at all—the native files are used to create drawings directly in AutoCAD. The AutoCAD file maintains its associative relationship with the Inventor file—and whenever the Inventor file is updated, the AutoCAD documentation updates automatically. Importing 3D CAD data into AutoCAD is now easier than ever. A user accesses the Import tool from the Import panel of the Insert ribbon tab, then selects a desired file format from the dropdown list of file types. Because the translation process happens in the background, users are free to do other tasks.
When the import process is complete, a bubble notification displays the translated file name. Once a file is imported, the user can modify its data using standard AutoCAD editing tools—and document the 3D model using new model documentation tools discussed below. The ability to bring 3D model data from virtually any source directly into AutoCAD can help manufacturers speed the model documentation process, reduce the potential for error, and reduce barriers when partnering with companies using any type of CAD software.
Quickly find design content based on file objects or text attributes. The Autodesk Content Explorer functionality creates an index of your data based on where you instruct it to look, helping you quickly access files. You can explore, or browse into, DWG files in order to access and insert blocks, layers, linetypes, styles, and more. Unlike the Design Center tool, Content Explorer is built on a Google®-like index, so you can quickly search for design objects across folders containing thousands of files; the results appear instantaneously. In addition, Content Explorer provides a single interface for browsing and searching other content sources, such as Autodesk Seek web service.
The Content Explorer searches for content in specified locations that are included in an index. Their activity is continually monitored by the Content Service, which is installed with AutoCAD, and the index is automatically updated to reflect changes. By default, the search index includes the AutoCAD Sample and Downloaded Content folders as well as the Autodesk Seek site. You can easily add your own local and network content to the index.
Add your own local folders to the Content Explorer index using the Add Watched Folder option at the bottom of the Content Explorer window or by dragging folders from Windows Explorer to Content Explorer. The folders are not moved or copied; they’re simply added to the search index.
In addition to searching content on your local computer, Content Explorer can also search one or more network computers. However, it requires the Content Service to run on the network computers and build an index on that machine. This provides a single index that all clients can access and search. Therefore, in order to support searching on network drives, software needs to be installed separately on the network computer. This software, called Autodesk Content Service, is available from your AutoCAD 2012 installer under Tools and Utilities. Make sure this program is checked; then install it on one or more network computers.
This is the same functionality included in the 2011 Subscription Pack and is now available to all users. This will give you publish to the web app options for your drawings for enhanced collaboration and usability.
Inventor Fusion 2012
In 2012, all versions and flavors of AutoCAD (except LT) will ship with Inventor Fusion and the option to launch the Direct Modeler from AutoCAD (see image above). Fusion has now graduated from the Autodesk Labs site and is now a full fledged product. A lot of features have been added to it since TP3 and TP4. If you really want Inventor with your LT though, you should really consider the AutoCAD Inventor LT Suite which comes with Inventor LT and AutoCAD LT for a really low price compared to buying them separately.
Those are the big enhancements for me, the rest you can see here as well as a comparison matrix for AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT...
Be sure to also check out the new suites available as well. These suites include additional programs for a very small up charge, but really help take your designs to new levels.
I will be posting updates to this blog throughout the week as well as additional videos as they become available. Feel free to post in the comments area if you want to see something specific from the What's New Preview. I do have the ready to ship build on my machine. :)