One of the most anticipated new features for Autodesk Vault this year was the inclusion of out-of-the-box PDF publishing. This has been the top feature request on the Vault Ideas forum for some time. Now that PDF publishing in Vault has arrived what do you need to know to get it implemented? I have taken a look at the nuts and bolts of creating PDFs using Vault 2018. While it is fairly straight forward there are a few details I want to share so you can navigate the implementation of this new feature smoothly.
PDFs are created in Vault 2018 from 2D AutoCAD or 2D Inventor drawings only, on state changes via the Job Server. Once generated, PDFs can take the Revision number of the source file and can be attached to that file as well. This way the PDF will be included as a child of any operation done on the source files. A full history of PDF files is kept so you can look back at previous versions as you would any other Vaulted CAD file. Finally, the Vault Publish command can print the PDFs in a batch operation, although, they must be selected directly for publishing and not as a linked file like a DWF might be printed by selecting the source IDW file.
PDFs are created on a lifecycle state change only
PDF creation is triggered via a lifecycle state change and uses the Job Server (Job Processor) to generate the file. Two new options exist in the Actions tab of the Transition setup dialog box in the lifecycle editor.
Synchronize properties and update pdf using Job Server
Synchronize properties, update view and pdf using Job Server
To configure PDF creation triggers; edit the lifecycle scheme of the source CAD files. You will need to pick a state transition (typically any transition into a Released state) and add one of the two options above as the action for that particular state change. Any lifecycle state transition performed by a user, matching the actions you configure, will add the PDF creation job to the job queue for processing by the Job Server.
Note: If you have not implemented the Vault Job Processor in your environment then this might be the right time. For more information on implementing and using the Job Server you can take a look at this class: Unlocking the Power of the Job Processor from Autodesk University in 2014.
Categorizing PDFs (Lifecycles and Revisions)
You can categorize PDFs however you like; either using the same category as the source files or using a separate category for PDF files themselves. However, if you want your PDFs to attach to the source CAD files and/or take the source file’s revision number then you must have PDFs use the same revision scheme as the source files. If your PDF revision scheme is different, or null, then PDFs will generate but will not be attached to the source file.
So PDFs need to be categorized to have the same revision scheme and a lifecycle scheme and properties applied to them. When you create a categorization rule for PDFs, as long as the Apply rules on object creation is checked, they will be categorized accordingly once created by the Job Server.
My recommendation is to create a separate PDF category that has the same revision scheme as the source file but a different lifecycle scheme with a default state of Released. This way your PDFs can take the source file’s Revision, get attached to the source file and be immediately put in to a released state.
PDF Creation Options
With your triggers, rules and categories set it is time to take a look at the PDF options. These are found on the Files tab of the Vault Settings dialog box. This is where you decide what content to publish in the PDF file and their specific behaviors like whether or not to attach PDFs to their source files, where to save the PDFs and if they should take the source revision number, etc.
Note: if your PDFs use a different revision scheme from the source files then the Add As An Attachment and the Sync Revision As Source options have no affect on the published files.
Overall, the PDF solution in Vault performs well and is not hard to configure. However, as you can see, PDFs do not replace DWFs in 2018. DWFs are still an integral part of Vault and their functionality has not changed. Also, there is no out-of-the-box PDF solution without the Job Server so PDFs can’t be created on a check-in or by ‘Updating’ a view as we have done with DWFs in the past. This also means that you’ll need to be running Vault Workgroup or Vault Professional 2018.
For on-demand PDF publishing in Vault, you might consider the IMAGINiT Utilities for Vault Client. The annually updated utility, with support for the latest Vault version, is typically released towards the end of June. It includes on-demand (and queued) PDF, DXF and DWG creation and additional features like lifecycle state change email notifications, template folder creation, CAD BOM extraction etc. If you’re an IMAGINiT subscription customer these tools are free too!
However you need to create your PDFs, Vault can accommodate your company's workflow. Whether submitting PDF packages with transmittal documentation, publishing/printing PDF drawing packages, or creating PDFs individually for consumption by your production department, there are solutions in Vault 2018.