Collaborating with Autodesk Inventor Publisher 2011/2012

October 5th, 2011

The need for collaboration is growing tremendously throughout the world. There is no single factor pushing this growth, but instead, a world changing under the influence of communication and technology.

As companies shuffle responsibilities among offices and collective work-from-home groups continue to emerge, the ability to convey design-related information in a fast, easy-to-understand format is needed.

As clients become more focused on meeting competitive performance criteria, the ability to share information in an accessible format is now becoming a contract requirement.

As consumers become more dependent on technology, everyone is releasing help and instructional documents online, and the need to access that information is part of the value perceived by the consumer.

Autodesk Inventor® Publisher meets many needs and supplements many workflows that paves the way for conveying thoughts and instructions.

This article will briefly touch on the collaborative benefits of Publisher in the following areas:

• Autodesk Inventor Publisher
• Model access
• Manipulation
• Visualization
• Documentation

Autodesk Inventor Publisher

Inventor Publisher is a revolutionary tool that gives anyone with a computer the ability, by way of numerous formats, to access very specific information about an Autodesk Inventor design.

Publisher can load any Inventor model through both file-based projects and Vault. The user can then depict any number of feature-specific thoughts, including exploded views, assembly instructions, and design limitations through graphical views, videos, notes, and text leaders. Almost any form of graphic depiction you can think of in Inventor, is available in Publisher.

These can then be shared with others in a multitude of formats including video, PowerPoint, mobile, and document-based outputs.



Figure 1: The Publisher interface

Model Access

Within the enterprise workgroup, there are always members who can benefit the company by having access to the design model without the ability to modify it.  Publisher opens Inventor part and assembly files in read-only mode, giving access to component manipulation and BOM data in a non-destructive environment.
Not only having access to in-house design files, Publisher opens numerous other formats including DWG, CATIA, IGES, ProE, SAT, STEP, and DWF files. This gives access to files from other offices and companies, without having to have their software available, or even needing to install Inventor on a workstation.
When the Inventor model is updated by engineering, it is dynamically updated in Publisher, which allows documentation teams to start quite early in the design process rather than waiting for the design to be completed. This is great for teams that collaborate via Publisher, as the organized views update automatically when older design files are replaced by updated models.

One of the wonderful things about Publisher is that it doesn’t have to be used as a publishing tool. It’s an awesome viewer. Does the boss have a tendency to rearrange things accidentally on occasion when viewing design information? Give him Publisher. He can access anything he likes, and monkey with it to his heart’s content. No worries.

Manipulation

Conveying specific thoughts about how a motor will be mounted or a stator will be fit can be quite tricky, and often involves a video and dialog that needs to be painstakingly edited in order to relay the information properly. Publisher provides tools that make getting the point across remarkably easy, allowing components and component assemblies to be moved and positioned in any manner you like.

When it comes time to deliver instructions to crews and consumers or relate a problem to team members, a little out-of-the-box thinking can be employed. Additional components can be introduced into Publisher as desired in order to support various functions, such as a tool that’s required, in order to complete an operation.



Figure 2: Using additional models to clarify hands on instructions.

This is as easy as inserting another component and positioning it in the frames that are relevant. You can easily turn it off where you don’t want it to appear.

Positioning

The Move Triad offers 6 DOF for anything that can be selected.



Figure 3: The Publisher Move Triad

Groups of components as well as sub-assembly components can be moved to new locations and exploded or detailed as needed.

Auto and Manual Explode options make exploded views super simple to prepare. 

Figure 4: Manual Explode feature

All these operations are non-destructive, and can be sent back to their original position with the click of a button.

Snapshot and Storyboard Organization

As each component is positioned, its location and orientation is stored in a view that I like to call a frame. Each of these can be saved in a series of snapshots that either conveys thoughts on very specific features, or are played in sequence and exported in a movie format.

When videos are played, and subsequently documented, Publisher simply transitions between the frames as directed through timing and delay, which the user can fine tune as needed.



Figure 5: The Storyboard

Each frame is simply a view, and any arrangement that is needed can be applied. Changes to placements can be sent through the remaining snapshots or made selectively in specific views.

This permits a really nice way to record specific views of features in the design, and then share the information as needed with contractors and customers alike.

Visualization

Along with positioning the components, there is a host of visualization tools to use.

• Background
• Orthographic and perspective views
• Ground shadows
• Reflections
• Materials and properties
• Visual styles



Figure 6: The Autodesk Materials Library

Combining various visualization tools with exploded views and component positions can dramatically alter the way the information being conveyed is actually perceived.

Figure 7: Visual styling

Figure 8: Detailing

Is it a bid presentation? Get busy with the Autodesk Materials Library. How about instructions for assembling the components? Add some section views and detailed cutaways. It’s all in there.
 

Figure 9: Multiple adjustable section views
.
Annotations

Notes and leadered text can be applied anywhere in the document. Numerous tools from the Inventor Drawing Manager are present, allowing component properties to be dropped into fields and BOM information to be added. 

Parts lists are a cinch to produce from BOM linked in from the inserted model.

Figure 10: Parts list from BOM

In addition to text-related items, there are curved and straight arrows that can be added to really deliver a better understanding of complex instruction.


Figure 11: Linear and curved arrows

Documentation

Aside from the fact that a Publisher file can be saved along with the model information, it can also convey information through numerous formats including DWF, PDF, Microsoft Word, mobile formats such as the iPad, iPhone, Android, and, of course, video.

Each function has its own dialog that directs the output. Each has the ability to selectively and globally write out the organized snapshots to these formats.

While this is great, we often need more than a few notes and some video. Having the documentation sent straight to Word, where the remainder of the documentation can be completed, is considered a huge blessing. Templates for these formats are available and can be tailored to make documentation substantially easier.

Video and Flash

Publisher played storyboards are simply transitions from one designated snapshot to another. We can then save these videos to both AVI and Flash formats.

The intended output resolution can be set, and options for video compression and annotation scaling are available as well.

DWF, PDF, PowerPoint, and Word

These formatted publications are created by exporting still images of the indicated Snapshots, along with their name and descriptions, into pages or frames of the output document.


Figure 12: Publishing PDF
   
PowerPoint, Word, and PDF document creation provides templates to more easily customize the process. Language selection is available for document formats that support these, and PDF files can be developed as both 2D and 3D documents as well.

Images produced along with the text for these types of formats can be made with transparent backgrounds in order to deliver additional flexibility in the output document.

Document Templates

Whether you are documenting the assembly of a new toy to a consumer, or depicting the fuel line connections for a team mounting a turbo-jet engine, preparing your documents is a critical and often tedious job.

Publisher employs templates that are customizable and, once formatted properly, make your documentation job much smoother.

In addition, we can tune our templates to meet the basic requirements of various companies to really streamline the workflow of publishing.

The existing document templates that are provided with Publisher are stored in the Vista path:
C:\ProgramData\Autodesk\Inventor Publisher 2011\Templates

We can easily copy one of the standard templates found there, and rename the file as our own.

Open the template with Word, and enable the “Developer” tab in the Word options dialog located in the Popular settings list.

Tags are used in a template to extract information from the Publisher document at the time of publishing. The tags supported by a word template are:

• Storyboard\Number
• Storyboard\Name
• Storyboard\Description
• Storyboard

The Storyboard Tag must be used to wrap up all the other Tags for the template to work.

Images

Images can be produced from the Snapshots and saved in one of six formats as shown in the image below.

Figure 13: Image formats.

Since the images are likely to be used in other documentation, transparent backgrounds are optional as well as Anti-Aliasing.

Vector

The Adobe .svg format is available; it is used to create 2D images without loss of clarity and actually takes up significantly less space than many other formats.

Mobile

Publishing to the Publisher Mobile format produces documents that can be viewed on iPads, iPhones, and iPod touch devices.  As of June 2011, Android devices have been added to the list. The Autodesk Inventor Publisher mobile viewer app is free to download from the Apple App Store as well as from the Android Market.  The file format used is the Autodesk Inventor Publisher .ipb.

Once the snapshots and videos are published, they can be downloaded to the respective mobile devices and watched from wherever the job takes you.

Video instructions not enough? The actual 3D model is present in the mobile file.

You can zoom, pan, orbit, etc. during any portion of the presentation in order to get a better feel for the operation being discussed. I consider this to be one of the finest capabilities in the entire Publisher lineup.


Figure 14: Autodesk's Rob Cohee Mobile Lego how-to video.

Publisher will save the output files locally or to the Autodesk Online Account that makes sharing the information easy and accessible using the published document’s URL.


Figure 15: Publish to mobile

Locally saved files can be emailed and shared easily, and then loaded onto the appropriate devices through the iTunes application.

To publish online, you’ll need to register for the free Autodesk Account. Once Publisher is logged into the service, it will remember the settings and automatically send the .ipb file to the account.

To set up an account go to  http://accounts.autodesk.com.

Comments

I have enjoyed using Publisher. It is simple to use, and after the R1 update for 2011, most everything I wanted to be available in the application has been added.
This tool is a great addition to your collaborative effort, both in issuing instructions and reviewing components emailed from almost anyone—without having to install Inventor.
The mobile features are some of my favorites. Once the Android view became available, I installed it. Viewing documents from the Autodesk site was a built-in function in the Viewer framework. It asked for login information (which it automatically uses now) and logged me into my account. Sitting there were all the files I had published nearly a year ago. Nice.

One last thing: I cut a video that I showed at Autodesk University 2010, which depicts how I put some of the cool features in Publisher to work in order to convey some specific instructions. I’ll post it to Design & Motion so you can check it out. http://designandmotion.net/blog/Content/Actuator Seal Removal.avi

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About the Authors

John Evans

John Evans is an Autodesk Certified Inventor Professional . He provides technical troubleshooting at Gustin, Cothern, and Tucker, Inc. He works as design consultant and author from his company John Evans Design and manages the blog “Design and Motion.” He can be reached at john@johnevansdesign.net

 

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