Welcome to the new ECAD, Inc. blog. Here you will find valuable information regarding Autodesk, COADE, Edgecam, DezignWorks and other CAD/CAM related products, as well as tips and tricks to help you with your design and engineering needs.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

A word about your custom Tool Palettes

As some of you have enjoyed the flexibility of custom tool palettes, you may be asking, “What is new for tool palettes in the 2009 release?” I think it’s something pretty useful that in the 2009 release we can now associate a Palette Group with a Ribbon Panel.

How this works is simple, when you right click on a Panel, the context menu shows you the options shown here.

What we are looking for is in that first/upper section of the context menu, the grayed out selection of “Show Related Tool Palette Group and the fly-out for Tool Palette Group. The fly-out just shows a list of the groups. Now I know what you’re thinking, he was talking about tool palettes and now he’s talking about palette groups? If you have not already created a palette group for your palettes, now would be the time. Even if it’s just a single palette in the group (and there are some already listed like Cameras, Generic Lights, Leaders, Tables & Visual Styles), it’s actually the group that associated and not the single palette.

That works out a little better, like in the “3D Modeling” workspace; the “3D Make” group is associated with the 3D Modeling panel on the Home tab. The “3D Make” palette group has the Modeling, Draw & Modify palettes, allowing for the use of the tools on those palettes as well as the tools available on the ribbon panels.

To associate a Palette Group with a Panel, you just right-click on the panel and select the desired group from the list of Tool Palette Groups. To turn the Palette Group associated with the panel on, or to make it visible, right-click on the panel and select “Show Related Palette Group”. By the first time you do this it will bring the palette group up docked on the right side of your program window, you know, like the old default location for the Dashboard.

If at any point in time you decide that you don’t need or want the palette group associated with that particular ribbon panel, just select the last choice from the list of palette groups. The “None” option releases any palette group associated with that particular ribbon panel.

But no matter what palette groups you associate, or change to “None”, don’t forget to save your workspace. I would hate to think of all the practice you’ll get doing it all again if you forget to save those changes in a workspace. It could be a new workspace (probably the best choice), or you could redefine an existing one.

Well, I hope that this little tip will help you to continue to utilize your tool palettes in conjunction with the new ribbon and panels.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Moving Land Desktop Point Data to Civil 3D

Like Land Desktop, Civil 3D allows you to work with intelligent Point Objects that can carry multiple pieces of information in addition to their coordinates. Land Desktop stores these Point Objects in a Project database, allowing you to access these Points from multiple drawings in the Project.
Civil 3D stores Points, and all other intelligent objects, in drawings instead of in a Project database. For this reason, it is necessary to perform some amount of conversion of Land Desktop points to place them intelligently in a Civil 3D drawing

Step 1 - Open Import Points Dialog
Open the drawing you'd like to import the Points into. From the Points menu, choose "Create Points". The Create Points toolbar will appear. (Note: In Civil 3D 2008, you can also choose "Import/Export Points", then "Import Points" in the Points menu to skip the next step).

Step 2 - Select Options
In the Import Points dialog, choose "External Project Point Database" from the "Format" drop-down. If you'd like to add these Points to a Point Group, put a check in the "Add Points to Point Group" box and choose the appropriate Point Group from the drop-down. You can also use the button to create a new Point Group on-the-fly. Look over the advanced options at the bottom of the dialog and select any necessary options.

Step 3 - Choose LDT Database
Now that you have all the options chosen, you must choose the Point database to import. Choose the button to browse for the correct database. In the dialg that appears, navigate to the desired project, and then to the folder in the project that holds the Point Database (usually the "cogo" folder). From this folder, choose the database (usually called "Points.mdb") and hit "Open".

Back in the Import Points dialog, hit "OK" to import the Points into the drawing. The Points will be imported into the Civil 3D drawing as Civil 3D Points which will appear in the drawing window and under the drawing in the Prospector tab of the toolspace.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A different look at the model

As you folks have figured out, CADWorx Plant and Plant Professional run a quit a few Autodesk platforms besides “Vanilla” AutoCAD. And for the most part that’s all we do is run CADWorx on the AutoCAD version of the vertical. But sometimes we can make use of the tools in the flavor of AutoCAD we are using. Or we can see about working with someone in a different discipline/department (preferably a Civil designer). As an example, with AutoCAD Map 3D there’s a little something you can do for your ‘Overall” or “Project” model that has everything referenced into it. I’ve done this on a few projects, and know some other folks that like it and use this as well. Long before we had annotation objects, Map 3D has “Visual Scale Thresholds” in the Display Manager.

What this tool allows us to do is set which layers are visible at certain viewing scales. Or in other words, you could start our zoomed to extents on the site model. At this point you could see the property boundary, maybe the main roads or streets. As you scroll your wheel to zoom in, at some point you would begin to see a little more detail. It starts to look more like an equipment arrangement drawing for the facility. As you continue to zoom into the model, more detail pops into the view such as the pipe racks and main structures. As you get closer, more and more detail is visible. At some point you will see all the piping and geometry in the model, but by then you are zoomed in enough to select lines easily.
Now keep in mind, this is really only for presentation and review. And is even easier to set up on a grass roots project too! But that’s a bit of work just so you can zoom in and out while you’re working on a single model.
Hey, working with the other departments/disciplines can come in handy. Besides, there are so many different design disciplines at engineering companies involved with any project, why not collaborate.

So anyways, what have some of you done with other Autodesk applications to help improve the presentation of your drawings? Aw come on, I know folks working with Civil 3D surfaces to make it look more realistic. So come on, tell me what you do.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Weld tracking on your ISOGEN Isometrics

Sometimes when you work closely with the fabrication effort, you may need to track the welds on your isometrics. With ISOGEN we have switches that will allow you to track the welds per line or drawing, even distinguishing between them.
As you may have guessed, we need to go to our old friend the Options Switch Editor. Once there you need to adjust switches 53&54WELD PLOTTING/NUMBERING”.
If you use the Find Options Switch tool it will bring you to the first page of the Welding tab. Now since every fabricator wants the information in their format, we’ll just go over the basics to get you started. You will be able to smooth out the “rough edges” to get it just like what you want after we are done.
The first thing we need to change is the selection for “Welds to be numbered/Welds to be Plotted”. The default selection there is “None to be numbered” and “All to be plotted”, we need it to be 180° out from that, or in other words we need to select the option for “All welds to be numbered and plotted”.
Next is the section for Weld Numbering Sequences, that one is up to you and the project, but I selected to restart the numbering on Each Drawing. If you are using spool identifiers, you may also want to select the option to allow Spool Iso Weld Numbers to match Full Iso Weld Numbers.

The next section is for starting from “1” on each type of weld, that’s not a bad choice either.
Of course it’s up to you as to if you use numeric or alphabetic identifiers.
Now on page 2 of the Welding tab, you can adjust switch 75 “WELD NUMBER ENCLOSURES”. The main thing folks adjust here is the weld prefix added to the weld number. Another one is switch 77 “WELD NUMBERS at SO FLANGES and PADS”, which is defaulted to Two Weld Numbers at Slip-On Flanges. For those Victalic fitting users, you will notice the ability to track the Clamps as well.

Page 3 of the welding tab is switch 78 “SUPPORT WELD NUMBER ENCLOSURES", which with CADWorx is a mute switch.
So if you make the changes shown/outlined above, and generate an isometric, you will notice that the welds are numbered, and depending on your selection, the FFW is called out differently than the other shop welds (just like the one in the red circle below).

Now let take a look at that Weld list (that’s the option of switch 53/54 that is a dropdown below the Welds to Plot/Number Chart. The default is “No Weld/Operations Box”, your choices are “Plot Weld Summary Box” or “Plot Operations Summary Box”. What I chose was the Operations Summary Box just as an example.

Now the other thing that we need to address is the use of a Weld Definition File (*.WDF). Much like the 2 styles of Material Lists that everyone has become accustomed to, there are also 2 styles of Weld Lists as well. And just like the MDL, it is either column based (like a style 2 MDL) or positional based (like a style 3 MDL).

I created a positional based MDL which looks like this:


'WELD-NO' 457
'N.S.' 468

And before you ask, the coordinates are in millimeters (mm’s), so you have a chance to use your units converter. Of course you may wish to locate your table elsewhere on your drawing.

Now before anyone “freaks out”, yes that is a dynamic block being used for the weld list. There are plenty of folks that also include a dynamic block for their B.O.M. as well so that they can get lines between each line item. If you do want to create and use a dynamic block in your ISOGEN template, simply create the dynamic block, and save the definition in your isometric style template drawing (also known as a drawing frame). Just like any other graphic changes you make to your isometric style template; you have to save the drawing in the AutoCAD 2000 format. But this way it will be there as soon as you open your ISOGEN isometric drawing.
To learn more about the different options available for weld tracking, you may want to review the Options (OPL) Editor Welding Help file. You can access that from your Start>Programs menu, under your CADWorx Plant – ISOGEN>Options (OPL) Editor programs.

[Ask your local ECAD office for more information about training opportunities on Dynamic Blocks as well as training for ISOGEN.]

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Another word about ISOGEN dimensions

Over the years folks have picked on poor little ISOGEN for dimensioning everything. It dimensions every fitting, especially small bore fittings. It shows the dimensions for small bore valves (end to end), every bit of fitting make-up (FMU). Makes for a lot of checker traps, and generally busies up a drawing like the one below.

Don’t you just love all those gaps around the valve and small bore fitting make-up!

Well, the bad news is that ISOGEN will always dimension the open leg of fittings. The good news is there are switch options that allow us to show a true overall for the run, include the gaskets in the valve dimension, dimension to the center of small bore valves, put the support dimensions with the rest of the dimensions and show the total FMU dimensions rather than the breakdown dimensions.

So here are the switches and positions that need to be adjusted to have ISOGEN produce drawings like the one below.

Notice the “normal” appearance of the small bore FMU on the branch. It also included the gaskets with the valve. This looks a lot cleaner.

So off to the Options File for the Isometric Style you want to change. The first switch to edit is 9 “Dimension Form”. If you use the Find Option Switch tool, it will bring you to the first page of the Dimensioning tab.
First you are going to choose the Composite, Support & Message Dimensions from the first dropdown list (the default is Basic String, Supports & Message Dimensions). Next select Gaskets Included In Composite Dimensions from the second dropdown list (the default is Basic Gaskets Not Included In Component Dimensions). The rest of the dropdown lists and selections are just fine in the default position.
The next switch is 40 “Pipe Supports”. Everything else is fine in the default position, except that we need to change is the Support Dimension position to be On the same side of the pipe as normal Dimensions.
Now its time to have the small bore valves dimension to the centers rather than showing us the body dimension. That’s switch 80 “DIMENSIONS – TO VALVE CENTERS” on the second page of the Dimensioning tab. I usually recommend that you select Butt Weld, Screwed, Socket Weld and Hygienic (as these are most commonly dimensioned to the center).
Last but not least, switch 118 “DIMENSIONS – OVERALL” on the third page of the Dimensioning tab. We just need to select Overall Dimensions – across Branches from the dropdown list (the default is No Overall Dimensions).

Hopefully with these setting you can now produce more cleaner and clearer isometrics, at least as far as the dimensioning is concerned.

As a tip, you may want to open the OptEd_Help.pdf file and turn to page 200 of 345 in your PDF reader (its marked as page 181). From there to page 338 of 345 (marked as page 319) are all the graphic switches. ALIAS included these for quick reference. As a good number of the changes that folks want to make to their isometrics is the appearance, some people will print these pages out for quick reference. The other area of concern is of course the appearance of the B.O.M., but that's all about the Materials List Definition file style that you are using.

Dynamic blocks in COADE CADWorx P&ID – Part 1 – Getting Set up

Autodesk introduced a new tool in 2006 that few users seem to take advantage of. COADE was not one of them, but as a CADWorx user you need to know how to take advantage of these new features.
I will show you a few of the default blocks in CADWorx P&ID plus a couple I have added to make drawing P&IDs simpler and faster. That is after all what we are all after.
First thing we need to do is make use of all the new dynamic block COADE has put in the program.
You have probably noticed the addition of several DWG files in the COADE P&ID support directory that start with DYN_??. These are the dynamic blocks COADE provided just to give you a tasted of how these new blocks can work.

These blocks mostly cover the valves and
Instruments and allow you to change the location of an instrument, or the type of a valve and it’s condition, open or closed…without erasing and replacing.
To take advantage of these blocks you have to set the symbols file to point to them. Go to the setup DLG and the Edit config button, about ¾ of the way down you will see a path to the MENUSYBOLFILE that looks something like the following.

C:\CADWorx P&ID 2009\Support\Flow_alt.dat

You will need to use the Browse button to point to the following file;

C:\CADWorx P&ID 2009\Support\DYN_Flow_alt.dat

Or you could copy this one and rename it to your own, which is what I did.

C:\CADWorx P&ID 2009\ECAD Support\DYN_Flow_alt_ECAD.dat
This is just good practice that way if I modify anything it is not in the original file.

You can test this out by placing a valve then picking on it once. You will notice a small blue selection arrow that will allow you to select the type of valve and the existing condition. Notice the valve to the right is the non – dynamic and does not have a selection arrow.

Instruments will work the same, allowing you to change the location of each instrument.

These type of simple edits are perfect when you get into a job where thing change often.

Next time we will take a look at how we can use this type of feature on our own custom blocks.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Setting your part on your machine Correctly in Edgecam

We get this question quite a bit, "If I have machine graphics in my Edgecam post processor, how can I position the part inside Edgecam where it would be on the actual machine."

It is a fairly straight forward process that is best demonstrated in a video.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Getting more from your solids

It seems that everyone is using solids now, the only problem is when one solid object passes behind another, or more specifically for CADWorx Plant, how to show a line that passes under the platform/deck (or even equipment if you like). Hopefully everyone has discovered that if you try to make 3D deck grating it makes a really huge (file size) model. And that makes it hard to navigate around. So what can we use instead of 3D decking? By using modeling objects like Solids or Regions along with the Grate hatch pattern.
A lot of folks are using a solid box to represent the foundation (and other concrete objects). We can also create a solid based on the “open” bay of the structure.

Let’s set the scene, we have a steel frame drawing referenced into our piping model along with equipment. As we route the design we notice that a line passes below the decking in one bay. What we would like to see when we plot are hidden lines as it passes beneath the deck (without having to actually draw any additional geometry).

So here we are looking at both the SW Isometric and plan view. Our piping extends beyond the structure. So to make it appear that the piping that extends into the structure is “hidden”, the first thing we need is either an AutoCAD solid or a Region. In either case you will need to create a Boundary. You have 2 choices when creating a Boundary; to create a Polyline closed shape or a Region.

To create a solid as representing the deck, one quick method is to use the PRESSPULL command after creating a Polyline Boundary. So to start that procedure you would start the Boundary command, choosing the Polyline object type. Then select the “Pick Points” tool and select in the bay that you need. It’s a good idea to turn off your piping layers (including the CL layer) as the Island detection will find the centers and solid pipe as well. You will notice that even though you select in the open bay, your current AutoCAD elevation is still applicable (see the dotted outline at “0” EL.).

So at this point you have the option of either editing the boundary properties to adjust the elevation (say to 10’ or what ever the T.O.S. is), or set your current elevation before you start the command. I usually just edit the elevation, that way I can pick the bays in the plan and adjust as needed (including copying if necessary from one deck elevation to another. Once the boundary is at the correct elevation, to create a solid to represent the deck you can then use the PRESSPULL command and select in the boundary you just created, then pull vertically and enter the thickness of your decking (about ½” minimum).
Or to speed things along, you could forgo the entire Presspull command and when you create your Boundary, choose the Region option. Yes, you will still have to adjust for the elevation, but once your have the Region at the correct elevation, your set to go on to the system variables that will give you hidden lines when you print/plot.

So now that we’ve turned back on our piping layers, let’s take a minute to review some other settings.
Your viewport should be on a layer that does not plot (Viewl), along with your router line (I recommend putting the router on the system layer), the System (bolts and gaskets) and the Dim2 (View box) layers. Don’t turn these layers off or freeze them, it works better if we can see them, we just don’t need these layers to print/plot.
The next thing is to ensure that the viewport is set to “Hidden” under the Shade plot options, not “3D Hidden”, just plain “Hidden”.

If you do a Plot Preview at this point we can see that the solid object (yes Regions are considered solids, just really, really thin solids) is obscuring the piping that passes below it.

The first system variable that we will adjust is OBSCUREDLTYPE.
This specifies the linetype of obscured lines. Obscured linetypes are independent of zoom level, unlike regular linetypes. The linetype values are defined as:
0 - Off
1 - Solid
2 - Dashed
3 - Dotted
4 - Short Dash
5 - Medium Dash
6 - Long Dash
7 - Double Short Dash
8 - Double Medium Dash
9 - Double Long Dash
10 - Medium Long Dash
11 - Sparse Dot

So once we have set that to, say Dashed (2), the preview now looks like this:

Notice that the centerlines are being picked up in this as well, but as simple dashed lines not the center lines that we like (yup, 2D Rep is still the best way to go for center line representation in the plans/sections).

Just in case you were wondering, an obscured line is a hidden line made visible by changing its color and linetype. OBSCUREDLTYPE is available only in 2D views. In 3D views, the VSOBSCUREDLTYPE system variable is used. But since we are creating plans and sections, they are 2D.

HALOGAP is the next variable we will look at. This specifies a gap to be displayed where an object is hidden by another object. The value is specified as a percent of one unit and is independent of the zoom level.
So if we set it at a value of 5, then it produces a gap like we see here:

(I turned the Cl layer to be frozen in the current viewport to cut down on the confusion). Notice the difference between the setting of 0 on the left and 5 on the right. I usually recommend that you make a few adjustments so that it looks right.

Much like OBSCUREDLTYPE, HALOGAP is available only in 2D views. In 3D views, the VSHALOGAP system variable is used
The last variable is OBSCUREDCOLOR. For those of you able to print/plot in color, this specifies the color of obscured lines. Value 0 designates ByBlock, value 256 designates ByLayer, and value 257 designates ByEntity. Values 1-255 designate an AutoCAD Color Index (ACI).
So if I set the color to 3 (Green), the preview will look like this:

I know this looks wild, but keep in mind it is trying to do just what we told it, show all of the obscured lines as green and dashed. And since these are all 3D objects, the “underside” of every component is obscured. Don’t worry though, the solid lines will “hide” all of the redundant line work from your print/plot (it’s hard to see a dashed line where there is also a continuous line).
An obscured line is a hidden line made visible by changing its color and linetype. And just like the previous variables, OBSCUREDCOLOR is available only in 2D views. In 3D views, the VSOBSCUREDCOLOR system variable is used.
Just a reminder, the OBSCUREDCOLOR setting is visible only if the OBSCUREDLTYPE system variable is turned on by setting it to a value other than 0.

Now over the years some of you folks have discovered the SOLPROF command. However this has one major drawback, it creates 2D blocks and layers in your drawing. The same can be said of the SOLVIEW command as well. Although SOLVIEW is best used for aligned section and detail views in Vanilla AutoCAD, as it also creates named views. Personally I like using the View Box in CADWorx better, but in a pinch it works.

(Note: All images created using AutoCAD 2009)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A Little Addition for FFW’s in ISOGEN

By now a lot of you folks have figured out the little trick of placing a modified weld gap so that will represent the field fit-up weld (FFW) on the face of your ISOGEN isometric. However some checkers bring up the point that the cut length is “wrong” since the call out is F.F.W. ± 6”. Well to make everyone happy, and so that the model will have the correct actual lengths of pipe and the isometric will have the plus or minus lengths of pipe, we need to go to the Option Switches for the Isometric style.
I know what you’re thinking, all those switches, which tab would we start on? Well so you don’t have to slog through them all, it is switch 22 “Cut Piece Add-on Allowances”. If you use the find switch tool it will bring you right to the second page of the Material List tab. At this point I would highly recommend that you have a unit converter handy, because yes, our British cousins that developed ISOGEN prefer the options to be in metric units. Now if you are just adding 6 inches at your FFW’s, then you can enter a value of 153 (mm) into the values for both “On” and “Off” Shore, FFW/Loose Flange (just incase) so you will get a result of an additional 6” on your total and individual cut lengths without having to modify the pipe in the model. And as an added twist, the overall dimension in the isometric will reflect the same as the model.
Below are some images, just because we're pipers and we like seeing pipe.

Here is a small model, notice the length of the pipe in the model (2’-0”).

But once we’ve made that change to O.S. 22, we can see that the dimension matches the model, but the 6” has been added to the cut and total lengths.