Updates, Big and Small

This year, Autodesk has gone after the “No Stone Unturned” award. This may be the longest list of changes I have ever seen. If the company was scaling back on support for Inventor, they forgot to tell their development team.

Numerous Inventor workflows and dialog boxes have been cleaned-up, cleaned-out, and generally reorganized to a more direct approach. Continued advancement of the surfacing capabilities, visualization, a new Additive Manufacturing Environment, and drawing enhancements are some of the big ticket items this year.  I’d love to see some more simulation technologies handed down, but the multi-body Sheet Metal is a fair trade.


  • User Interface
  • Sketch
  • Parts
  • Assembly
  • Drawings
  • Studio Visualization
  • Simulation
  • Presentations
  • Interoperability
  • Other Enhancements

Note: In this article, we tried to add a symbol (*nLT) where we discovered improvements that were not handed down to Inventor LT. We endeavored to note every instance that was applicable (please forgive any oversights). Please check with your reseller about these to verify. Features appearing in bold are among the author’s favorites.

User Interface

The User Interface (UI) throughout Inventor has been tweaked—from dialog box behavior to the workflows they contain. Visualization changes and the new 3D Printing Environment are two of the notable big items.

Figure 1: New Inventor Home panel

  • Escape key cancellation of certain processes
  • Copy model parameters to user parameters
  • Drag a sketch above the parent feature in the browser to share / make visible
  • Add all window tile styles to the task bar
  • Dock browser on any window edge (some *nLT)
  • Hide all sketch dimensions
  • Import/Export iLogic external rules configuration (*nLT)

Countless Dialog Box Enhancements

I tried to list everything that had been enhanced or edited, but it was seemingly impossible (and honestly boring as it dragged on). I will neglect here all the little details and let you be surprised when you see them all.

New 3D Printing Environment

Position your design within the print space of a specified 3D printer and transfer the print data directly.

Figure 2: New Additive Manufacturing Environment

Non-destructive “environment only” adjustments can be made to components.

  • 3D Printer  list
  • Direct editing in environment
  • Partitioning of oversized components


  • All lighting styles now associated with Image Based Lighting (IBL)
  • 11 lighting styles available in workspaces under View > Appearances panel
  • Ray Tracing modes changed to Low / Draft / High
  • Ray Tracing progress bar now reflects quality, not % complete
  • Save Ray Traced image at any point in the rendering process
  • Enhanced visual effect for shaded visual style more consistent with realistic visual style

Figure 3: Ray Tracing Progress dialog box


Sketching enhancements encompass numerous workflows that many of us have wished for or areas that we have had to settle for a workaround.

  • Identify sketch plane origin. FINALLY!!
  • Show All or Hide All Constraints display setting remains active while editing
  • Create tangent dimensions between curved geometry
  • New snap points added to the context menu - Endpoint, Apparent Intersection, Quadrant, and Mid of 2 point
  • Sketch Dimensions added to the Object Visibility list
  • Sharing a sketch is made visible by dragging above the feature in browser
  • Enhanced 3D sketch wrapping and projection

Figure 4: Hide Sketch Dimensions option


Numerous alterations and enhancements are scattered throughout the Part interface. Various dialog boxes and interfaces were adjusted to meet user requests.

Figure 5: Non-Linear solid-body patterns

General Modeling Improvements 

  • Face draft now contains option to Fix or Move the parting line
  • Ruled Surface added to surfacing commands
  • Boundary Patch no longer requires close edge selection
  • Work Plane tangent / parallel respond to NURBS-based surface
  • Mirror and Pattern support multiple solid body selection
  • Create nonlinear patterns for solid bodies
  • Measure angle to midpoint of any segment by hovering
  • Copy / Paste available in Parameters context menu
  • Window selection of faces during Delete Face and Thicken commands
  • Surfaces used as parting lines

Figure 6: Surfaces used as parting lines

Sheet Metal  

  • Zero bend radius support
  • Material thickness detection in standard part to sheet metal part conversion
  • Punch tool shows center selection count
  • Dialog enhancements
  • Export DWG/DXF updated with Trim Centerlines option

Multi-body Support for Sheet Metal

Top down workflows through Make Components and Make Parts allows users to write out components and generate separate flat patterns.

Figure 7: Sheet metal multi-body support

New Solid Body option includes Face, Contour Flange, Contour Roll, Lofted Flange, and Split, with multi-body workflows for any others.

Thicknesses are determined by detection from a selected face when prompted during the “Convert Part to Sheet Metal” option.

Freeform Environment / Edit Form

Freeform command activates a ribbon tab providing full access to the environment; work features are now accessible from that tab.

There are numerous new commands and features available, and there was just not enough room in this article to state it all. Intelligent body management is provided now, as well as Freeform Plane / Cylinder / Face objects, Mirror, Thicken, Unweld edges, and so much more.

Figure 8: Convert to Freeform option


Color override options were the most obvious change in this environment; however, the Tube and Pipe part numbers were a good addition.

  • The Midplane option in patterns (*nLT)
  • Replace All feature command for highlighted components (*nLT)
  • Design Doctor allows multiple sick constraint deletion (*nLT)
  • Content Center standards updates (*nLT)
  • Large Assembly Performance options added

Analyze Interference Improvements

Users can select multiple components simultaneously to include in the analysis. A Zoom to Interference command is added as well.

Figure 9: Assembly conflict zoom-to

Color Override in Derived Components

“Use color override from source component” option added to Derived Assembly (*nLT), Derived Part, Make Part, and Make Component dialog boxes. A global override is available in the Application Options.

Tube and Pipe (*nLT)

File names for Fittings can be customized and part numbers can be populated in Parts Lists


The Drawing Environment received a huge share of attention this round. Numerous view-related workflows have been cleaned up or moved to create a more direct approach of manipulation, as well as many annotation enhancements that were needed.

  • Add projected geometry to view sketches
  • New Reflection Environment settings in the Drawing Document Settings—apply specular effect and specify reflection map in a drawing (.idw) file
  • New Hidden Line options for Content Center and Sheet Metal
  • Drawing sketch creation more similar to model sketch
  • Merged Format for Dual Hole notes

Completely Overhauled Base View Creation and Editing

The In-Canvas Base View creation tools simplify workflows associated with base and projected view creation. Initial View Scale is set to a best fit and can be changed by dragging the corner to produce the new scale. Direct editing of orientation is now available, as well as a slew of refined features throughout the interface.

Figure 10: Big changes in Drawing View creation

Create Drawing View from Any Open Model

Drawing Views can be created rapidly through this command, which is available in most environments in Inventor. This command groups numerous steps into one simplified process. Simply arrange the components as desired in the respective space, pick the root component in the browser, and click “Create Drawing View.” The current model view orientation and representation are carried over.

  • Initial View Scale added to title blocks
  • Transparent components in Drawing Views

Annotation Enhancements

The Symbols list has been reorganized, and new symbols have been added. Surface texture symbols have been updated to correspond to numerous standards.

  • Standardized drawing symbols have been updated throughout
  • Double-click direct editing of symbols
  • Feature Control Frame enhancements
  • Pressed Joint Welding symbol available
  • Split leader corrections
  • Single segment leader option
  • One-step leader alignment
  • Leader angle snap is now off by default

Drawing Balloon Enhancements

Balloon creation has been enhanced, including balloon alignment tools, split balloons, selection, and more. Custom balloon styles can be created, too.

Figure 11: Drawing balloon enhancements

New Text Options

Text editing finally received some enhancements and a revamped dialog box, including:

  • Text case
  • Bullet / numbered lists
  • Strikethrough
  • Text preview in graphics window
  • In-Canvas text rotation, including leadered text
  • Retains original document format during copy/paste

Figure 12: Enhanced annotation symbols list

New External Sketch Symbols Library

Browse, share, and customize sketch symbols from Inventor drawing file designated as the library. New sketch symbol library folder option is available as well. New functionality includes:

  • Search and filter dialog box
  • Preview
  • Both IDW and DWG formats permitted

Studio Visualization

  • New Technical Illustration command creates a realistic illustration effect—Studio Render Illustration settings moved to  View tab > Appearance Panel > Visual Styles drop-down menu
  • Ground plane and shadow settings in View tab now display in rendered model

RapidRT is new rendering engine in Inventor Studio

Enhanced render quality with additional features:

  • Time duration/iterations/unlimited mode
  • Lighting and Material Accuracy modes

Figure 13: Improved rendering in Studio

New IBL Lighting Styles

  • All lighting styles now associated with Image Based Lighting (IBL); created styles associated automatically
  • Legacy local lights are now disabled by default
  • Background turn on/off


Stress Analysis

  • New safety factor calculation warning


(This section is not available in Inventor LT.)

Presentations has been the red-headed stepchild of Inventor since Inventor Publisher came along (which is sadly gone). The good news is that the development team did not forget us, and has added some improvements to this rather neglected area of Inventor.

  • Trail creation and editing enhanced
  • Component selection simplified
  • Enhanced representations support
  • Triad Manipulator modernized and can be aligned to component geometry

Auto-Explode Enhancements

Improved Auto Explode command is now on the ribbon. Auto Explode now features a dynamic preview and contains two levels and trail creation options. Tweaks created by Auto Explode can be edited individually.

Tweak Command Enhancements

Tweak Components command is redesigned to include direct manipulation. A mini-toolbar is available with new commands including Undo option.

Figure 14: Tweak mini-toolbar

Dynamic previewing of tweaks now occurs, and components are rolled back during tweak editing to preview the changes.

  • Tweaked component selection sets amended dynamically
  • Enhanced trail editing and manual creation
  • In-Canvas editing of distance and angle


There were a lot of little details involved in the interoperability changes this year. Various importation and associativity enhancements in certain model formats are heavily summarized here:

  • Simplified importing of non-Autodesk CAD files
  • New Import/Export *.smt file for Shape Manager files
  • Updates  to export formats for BOM, parts lists, and Revision Tables (*nLT)
  • Associative 2D DWG references maintained in Part and Assembly components


Associative CAD file import maintains and updates links with:

  • SolidWorks
  • NX
  • Pro-E/Creo
  • Alias

Selective import support allowing users to select only the data they need, including the above formats plus:

  • Rhino

AutoCAD Electrical and Inventor (*nLT)

A new Electromechanical tab has been added to the ribbon. The new Electromechanical link between Inventor and AutoCAD Electrical provides smooth data exchange and update between the two.

Location View command displays components that are common between linked AutoCAD Electrical and Inventor assemblies.

Other Enhancements

  • Multi-thread support
  • 64-bit-only support for Inventor 2016, including Win 7, 8, and 8.1
  • Inventor LT 2016 continues to support 32-bit processors
  • Security enhancement to Add-In Manager(*nLT)
  • Cleaner learning tools and search organization

Mockup 360

This is no longer installed with Inventor installation. It can be accessed from the Inventor App Store.

This article was developed with the benefit of personal experience along with information and imagery provided courtesy of Autodesk, Inc.

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