Why It’s Important to Have an Organized Structure for Inventor and A Properly Configured Project File (Part 1)
Posted on October 22, 2014 by Mark Lancaster, Product Support Specialist:
Have you ever opened a co-worker’s model and Inventor is unable to locate certain components?
What about the “Non-Unique Project File Names” dialog? Have you ever come across it while trying to open a model?
Are your seeing “not responding” messages in Inventor while opening an assembly?
Or when you do open an Inventor model it has outdated parts or the incorrect ones?
At some point we all have seen these types of situations and you may experience them on a daily basis. So how do you resolve them? Most of the time it can be resolved by having an organized structure and a properly configured (Inventor) project file. In part 2 of my article I will cover how to set up an Inventor project file.
So what do I mean by an organized structure? You may assume I am talking about how the model is structured within Inventor. In this case, I am actually referring to your structure outside of Inventor.
Here are some common reasons why you may be experiencing these types of issues within Inventor:
- Component files are located all over the place.
- Same files located in different folders.
- Files are stored under a Windows user’s profile folder that you do not have access to.
- Commonly shared files are stored only on certain PCs.
- Entire model is located on the network
- Content Center file location is not set properly or it’s different for each users.
- Different components having the same (file) name
- Files were moved using Windows explorer
- Long files names and/or files are buried deep in a folder structure
- Improper project file configuration
Yes, the design and structure of your model within Inventor is still important. But another key factor to your success is having a clean well-organized structure outside of Inventor. If not, you will continually run into these situations as I pointed out in the beginning of this article.
So looking at your structure, do you fall into one or more of these common reasons?
How to address them:
Component files are located all over the place: When I see an Inventor model containing files located all over the place, I first ask “Is there a reason why you have structure like this?” Ask yourself, do I really need to have my files scattered all over the place? Can I just create a couple of locations where this information will reside? Also if you need a certain (folder) structure, make sure it’s the same for all of your models.
Same files are located in different folders: I know it doesn’t take much for files on your hard drive and/or network to get out of control. Sometimes we are under time constraints and don’t always have the free time to manage them. However, I cannot stress enough the importance of performing this task. The solution, basically keep your hard drive (or network location) organized as much as possible.
Files are stored under a Windows user’s profile folder that you do not have access to: I’ve never been a big fan of storing CAD files under a given Windows user profile. If possible, I would recommend storing them in a common location where all users have access to.
Commonly shared files are stored only on certain PCs: If users are creating commonly shared components only on their hard drive, I would recommend for you to create a shared location and instruct your co-workers to start using it. In addition, if other users are unaware of what their co-workers are creating, it will only lead to duplicate parts or eventually, an assembly using the incorrect ones.
Entire model is located on the network: A lot of times this is a common practice especially when sharing your model with your co-workers and not using Vault. The inner workings of your network play a big role in how Inventor responds when you open (and save) your model. You may have a powerful PC but if your network traffic holds you back it’s like a driving a car and being stuck in traffic. My advice, work locally on your model if possible. Leave only those common files on your network and move your model back and forth using a file management tool.
Content Center file location is not set properly or it’s different for each users: Placing Content Center components in your assembly is a pretty straight forward process. Configuring and understanding the settings may not be as easy. Many times I am asked “Why is Inventor looking for Content Center components when I know they exist in my Content Center?” This is an excellent question and it has to do with the settings related to where your content components are stored
First let’s understand what happens when a Content Center (CC) component is placed into an assembly. If “User A” places a CC component into his/her model, the component is actually created in the designated location per their settings. When “User B” opens the assembly, Inventor will fail to locate the component if the (same) file doesn’t appear in his/her location.
However, we know for a fact the component does resides in the Content Center interface, why doesn’t Inventor actually find it then?
The Content Center interface is only used to place the component into the assembly and to refresh any out of date information. Once a CC component is placed into an assembly, Inventor will always look for that part based on the (user’s) settings. If it can’t be located, Inventor will not search the Content Center library for it. This is the main reason why you would receive the resolved link for Content Center components when opening your assembly.
The solution is to make sure all of your users have the same settings in Inventor for Content Center. In addition, if you are sharing assemblies and use the desktop version of Content Center, I recommend that you create a common Content Center file location where all users have access to.
As a reminder, the Content Center file location settings are located under the Inventor Applications Options and in the project file.
Inventor Applications Options/Files tab
Inventor project files (more about this setting in Part 2 of my article):
Different components having the same (file) name: Sometimes this can happen by mistake but it’s important to always avoid this situation. My recommendation for you is to develop a file naming convention for all of your components. However if this happened while creating a model from another one, please make sure you are always using either the Vault Design Copy utility or the Inventor iLogic Copy Design (see the post on iLogic Copy Design here). The iLogic Copy Design tool can only be found on the Tools ribbon tab when no files are open in Inventor.
Files were moved using Windows explorer: I know this is a common practice for many especially if you are not using Vault. However, in doing so, you run the risk of “breaking” the model structure depending on where you moved the files to. My advice:
Vault users: Always relocate the files within vault to ensure the structure remains intact.
- If you are moving files from a network to a local drive to work (locally) on your model, please make sure all of the necessary files are included in the move operation. Don’t leave project specific files in different locations, include them all and make sure your project file is pointing locally to the correct (project) folder.
- If you did make a mistake within your model and want to relocate certain files to another folder, use the Inventor Design Assistance instead. This utility is part of the Inventor installation and can be located under the Autodesk/Inventor section of the Windows start menu.
Long files names and/or files are buried deep in a folder structure: Is it really necessary to do this type of structure? To me it over-complicates the matter and I have seen cases where it leads into these types of issues we are talking about. Creating a standard folder structure and naming convention for your model and components will help this situation. Don’t use the “naming” aspect of a folder and/or component to describe the entire information about it. Keep it simple and limit the number of sub-folders you are using. Remember Windows has a 256 character limitation when it comes to the path and file name of your model. Getting close to or exceeding this limitation will only lead to other issues with your model.
Improper project file configuration: Another key factor in resolving these issues is to have a properly configured Inventor project file. Stay tuned for part 2 of this article next week where I will discuss the Inventor project file.
Hopefully this information has helped you understand the importance of an organized structure outside of Inventor. The Synergis Engineering Design Solution team can also sit down with your organization and discussed other ways of improving this structure in order to maximize the use of the Inventor application.
Until next time.
Mark Lancaster is a Product Support Specialist on our Helpdesk team working to support customers to create data-rich designs and efficient workflows. Mark’s most previous experience is as the CAD Design Manager of Pall Corporation, one of our long time customers. In that position, he was responsible for workstation optimization and design management, established uniform standards for the local and global offices, and developed global systems to control and manage their design data.