Sunday, February 19, 2012

Creating and Managing Projects and Project Files in Autodesk Inventor®



As a digital prototyping application, Autodesk Inventor is, quite often, used for large-scale designs that might involve hundreds of separate design files including part, assembly, presentation, and drawing files. For Inventor to able able to easily locate or reference files, related files must be properly organized and linked together. This organization is easily done through the concept of "Projects."

A project is simply a group of settings that "defines the locations of all files associated with a project, including where design data are stored, where you edit files, how many versions of the file are retained when you save a file, Content Center configuration settings, and the project type. Project file information is used to locate referenced files."

As an example, you might have been given a contract to design or re-design a gas cooker unit. You would set up a new project that is probably called "Gas Cooker Design." You would assign the project location to a sub-directory of your "My Documents" directory called "Gas Cooker Design." (As you would see soon, Inventor helps you create directory with the same name as the project.) This way, all files generated during the design phase are stored in this "Gas Cooker Design" directory. It is also advisable create sub-directories for parts, assembly, drawing, and presentation files in your project directory. This is a good housekeeping skill. If your designs require image or spreadsheet files, you could also store them in sub-directories of the project directory.

A project definition is stored in a file whose file extension is ".ipj". So our hypothetical project might be saved in your file system (or hard disk) as Gas Cooker Design.ipj. This is called a "Project File." A project file created in say Autodesk Inventor 2012 cannot be opened by any previous version of Autodesk Inventor say Autodesk Inventor 2010. It's a good practice to backup design files and project files before migrating them to a new version of Autodesk Inventor.


At the end of this lesson, the reader should be able to:

  1. Describe the purpose of Projects.
  2. Describe the purpose of Project Files.
  3. Set up an Autodesk Inventor Projects.
  4. Edit an existing Project.


Now we are going to look at how set up an Autodesk Inventor Project File. To set up a new Project File, follow the following steps:

  1. On Autodesk Inventor, Click menu broswer button > Manage > Projects (OR) Ribbon > Get Started tab > Launch Panel > Projects.

  2. Figure 1

  3. The Projects dialog box is shown in Fig. 2.

    Figure 2
    On the Projects dialog box, click the New button (at the bottom). The Inventor project wizard dialog box opens.
  4. On the Inventor project wizard dialog box, click the New Single User Project radio button and click Next.
  5. In the Project File area > Name field, type the name of the new project, say Gas Cooker Design. The Project (Workspace) Folder and Project file to be created field are automatically filled.

    Figure 3
    The Project (Workspace) Folder can be redefined by clicking the button beside it. Click Next and Finish. Click Ok to close the message box.
  6. The Gas Cooker Design project is created as shown in Figure 4. The tick preceding the name of the project indicates that the project has been made active.
    When a project is made active, all designs are placed in the project folder that was defined during the project setup.
  7. Click Done to close the Projects dialog box.

    Figure 4



The upper pane of the Projects dialog box lists all the projects whose shortcuts are located in your ..../My Documents/Inventor folder. The following actions can be carried in the upper pane:

  1. Single Click: If you single click on any project name, you can edit the options for that specific project in the lower pane of the Projects dialog box.
  2. Double Click: If you double click on any project name, the project is set active or current.
  3. Right Click: If you right click on any project name, a shortcut menu appears with the following: Rename, Browse, New, and Delete.

    FIGURE 5
    1. Rename: Allows you to rename the project. Note that you cannot rename an active project.
    2. Browse...: If you have a project file that is not listed on the upper pane of the Projects dialog box, use Browse to browse to its location in system. Once the the project file is located and opened, a shortcut is created in your .../My Documents/Inventor folder.
    3. New...: This launches the Inventor project wizard so that you can set up a new project.
    4. Delete: This deletes the selected project. Note that you cannot delete an active project.


The lower pane of the Projects dialog box contains project-specific settings. Here you can edit the project type,

Figure 6

location, Style Library access permission, Workspace settings, Libraries, etc.

  1. Type: Defines the type of the active project as single user, shared, semi-isolated, or vault.
    1. Single user type is used when you work alone and all the files in your project are in one location, except for library locations.
    2. Vault type is used if the project will be executed by many designers who will have to check out files from the vault edit them and check them into the vault for other designers to be able to have access to them. You must have Autodesk Vault client and Autodesk Vault Server installed ( or have access to the Server) to be able to use the Vault type effectively.

  2. Location: Indicates the location of the selected project.

  3. Included Files: This is used to link other project files to the selected project file so that all files belonging to the linked projects will be available in the selected project. Select Included Files and click on the Edit button Edit button beside the lower pane to browse to a project file.

  4. Use Style Library: Defines the Style Library access permission of users of this project. Right click Use Style Library to access the various access permissions.
    1. Use Style Library = Yes uses the style library defined in the style library folder options. The library is writable so all designers can create and edit the styles and save them to the style library, replacing previous style definitions.
    2. Use Style Library = Read Only prohibits designers from saving new and changed styles to the style library. Library definitions cannot be replaced.
    3. Use Style Library = No prevents a style library from being used. Styles used in project documents can be accessed only through styles created with the Style Editor, imported into the document, or present in the document template.

  5. Workspace: Shows the location were your files are saved for the selected project.

  6. Libraries: Shows paths to locations of files that are referenced and used, but not modified as part of the project. Each project can have one or more libraries.

  7. Options: When expanded Options shows the Project-specific options
    1. Old Versions to Keep On Save: Sets the number of versions to store in the OldVersions\ folder for each file saved. The first time a file is saved in a project, an OldVersions\ folder for that file is created. When the file is saved, the prior version is moved automatically to its OldVersions\ folder. After the number of old versions reaches the maximum, the oldest version is deleted when a newer version is moved into the folder. Click the variable, and then change it to the maximum number of file versions to keep in all OldVersions\ folders in the project.

    2. Using Unique File Names: Specifies intent to create unique names for all files in the project (including the subfolder). Not applicable for library locations.
      1. Select Yes to indicate that no duplicate file names are used in the project. If a file is moved into the project, Autodesk Inventor searches through all editable project locations to find the file name, even if it was last accessed from a different folder.
      2. Select No to indicate that duplicate file names exist in the project. If No, and duplicate file names are found when resolving files, the Resolve Files dialog box opens so you can browse to the correct file to manually reestablish the link.

    3. Name: Shows the name of the project. Right-click Name and select Edit to change the name. The name updates in the Select Project pane, but does not update the folder name.

    4. Shortcut: Shows the name of the shortcut to the active project. Stores shortcuts in the projects folder. The project name is taken from the name of the target project file, not the name of the shortcut. Right-click the name of the shortcut, and then click Edit. Enter a new name. You can select Delete to delete the shortcut. The shortcut is deleted from the projects folder, but the project is not deleted.

    5. Owner: Identifies the project owner, typically the lead engineer or CAD administrator.

    6. Release ID: Identifies the version of the released project data. If a project is used as a library by another project, the release ID may be useful in identifying which project to use.

    7. Imported Components Folder Name: If you select to save imported component files to your Workspace, this folder is created and the component files are saved to it.

    8. Imported Top Level Assemblies Folder Name: If you select to save imported assembly files to your Workspace, separate from your parts, this folder is created and the assembly files are saved to it.

I hope you learnt a lot in this lesson. If you have a problem, please post a comment and I'll reply ASAP. Thank you.