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Autodesk InventorReview

Autodesk Inventor 5: Time to Try Harder

excerpted from  

October 2001

Improved API

Inventor 5 expands its application-programming interface. Autodesk claims that at least 29 companies have committed to developing applications for Inventor.

Inventor 5 also incorporates Microsoft's VBA. But unlike SolidWorks and Pro/Engineer, Inventor is not able to generate code by recording user actions, forcing users to enter every line of code.

Autodesk Inventor 5 includes punch tools to create shapes like these


  • Project edges from an adjacent part and use them in sketch profiles

  • Intelligent mating constraints can be combined

  • Transitional surface constraints enables cam follower to be constrained to multiple faces, improving the ability to simulate mechanisms.

  •  Sketch patterns can be created without reference to a particular sketch.

  • Polygons may be inscribed or circumscribed

  • Sketch dimensions can show the current value, the variable name, or both

  • Punch tool lets designers incorporate features typically made on turret presses.

  • Broken views

  • Dual dimensions, simultaneous English and metric units

  • More control over text styles and orientation in dimensions and notes

  • Hole tables

  • Parts lists with multiple columns

  • Feature-control frames can be copied and pasted

Data Exchange

A strong selling point for Autodesk is the promise of converting AutoCAD drawings to the Inventor format. Inventor 5 improves this process. When opening a DWG file, Inventor asks a number of questions about scale (except with AutoCAD 2000 or later), paper space, layers, etc. Responses can be saved and used to open similar drawings. Translating Mechanical Desktop models and drawings requires a Mechanical Desktop license. Inventor will not read drawings (other than those created with Mechanical Desktop) that employ viewports.

Inventor 5 reads IGES, ACIS SAT, and STEP AP 203 formatted CAD models. It only reads Pro/Engineer release 20 or earlier. Unfortunately, most Pro/E users have by moved at least to version 21 (named 2000i).

Inventor 5 still doesn't read Parasolid files, the basis of Unigraphics, SolidWorks, and Solid Edge.

Time to Try Harder?

Autodesk has done little to improve Inventor's modeling of sophisticated shapes. Inventor 5 lacks guide curves to control lofted features. Surfaces are employed primarily for construction purposes. There are no boundary construction tools for free-form surfaces as one might find in Pro/Engineer, CATIA, Unigraphics, or ThinkDesign. SolidWorks has had guide curves, surfaces, and 3D sketches for several releases.

Autodesk says AutoCAD users who design industrial equipment and don't need exotic shapes but in doing so, they are conceding designers of consumer products, aircraft, and automobiles to CATIA, SolidWorks, Pro/Engineer, and Unigraphics.

The prerelease version of Inventor 5 we tested crashed frequently. The first release of Inventor 4 also suffered from poor reliability.

Inventor 5 has no striking new capabilities. It isn't likely to win customers who have looked at and rejected prior Inventor releases. It is intended primarily to address functional needs of existing customers.

To locate an Inventor dealer, call: (800) 964-6432 or visit http://www.autodesk.com.

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