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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Next User Group Is......

Thanks to Jenifer Swiderski for setting up the date for the next AutoCAD Electrical Web Based User Group. The official date is September 15th, from 10 am to 11 am.  This is a Friday morning and I hope the date works with everyone.

I am still working with a Guest presenter on the content and I will post the topics here in the next couple of weeks that we will co-present. If you want to sign up click here. 

Have a great day and stay tuned for more information...

Rob Stein

Friday, July 21, 2006

The first of many.....

Today marks the first of what hopes to be many AutoCAD Electrical User Group meetings. This first meeting was web based as will many that follow.  For the first meeting we had 22 people logged in and I know for a fact that one company had 4 people on the same login in a conference room. I am pretty sure there was a second doing that same thing. Great idea. That is awesome for the first meeting. Anyway I wanted to put a post up here thanking everyone who attended and remind anyone who hasn't completed our quick 10 question survey that they can do it Here.

I also wanted to thank everyone for their input and suggestions on some of the things that will get revised for the next user group meeting like the beeping when someone joins the conf call. That did get annoying and distracting. I also plan to make some minor changes to make it easier for everyone to join into the open discussion portion.

There has been several ideas submitted for future topics and I will wait until I think we have all of the feedback before posting the ideas and choosing one to discuss at the next meeting.

Once again I wanted to thank everyone for making this user group successful. So I say, thank you to the users. I also want to thank Scott Reese at Autodesk and all of his team for the support they have given me. Last but not least I wanted to thank Jenifer Swiderski for the time she spent calling, emailing and coordinating this meeting. I want to thank Dan Miles for approving this idea and making it happen.

Have a great weekend and I am looking forward to the next meeting.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Visual Basic .NET and AutoCAD

I have recently completed a class on Visual Basic .NET programming. Man that was a fun class. It cleared up a lot of things that I had questions on with programming. I have played around with VB in the past working on some simple programs, well should have been simple if I had training on it, but nothing major. Now that I took the class and understand some of the concepts a little better I have some ideas for programs. VB is a great tool to create either stand alone programs or programs that can interact with Autocad or even office products like Excel or access. I just wanted to share a couple of things with you regarding AutoCAD and Programming.

First thing is everyone who has AutoCAD (excluding LT) has VBA included in the package. This is Visual Basic for Applications. A version of VB geared toward the application. or you can buy a version of VB that will allow you to create stand alone applications. I have listed a link below that will allow you to download Microsoft Visual Basic 2005 .NET Express edition. This is a free version that allows you to do most of the things that the purchase version does. Happy coding and maybe I will put some code examples up in the future.


Monday, July 17, 2006

Upcoming User Group

Hello Everyone,

We are just a few days away from the first user group meeting. This is so exciting. There are about 25 people signed up so far. I have some good content planned and hope that everyone likes it. This first meeting will be pretty relaxed environment. I want to give everyone the opportunity to get to know eachother.

The general plan for the meeting is to start out with a general discussion of what we all hope to gain from the user group meetings. After the general discussion I will do a demonstration on some of the new features in AutoCAD Electrical and we will wrap up with a few minutes for open discussion and maybe future topic idea discussion.

So long for now from Grand Rapids MI.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Reason Number..... To Follow Standards

As many of you might know I work for a reseller (INCAT) and I work on many different types of projects ranging from Inventor, AutoCAD Electrical implementations to my recent Vault and Productstream implementations. As I go though these implementations I find the same thing over and over again. Almost every company has some form of standards for their AutoCAD drawings in place. The main problem is they don't follow or ENFORCE them. Typically I hear users say, why should I use standards it takes more time to make sure I am following the rules. Or I don't like the way this looks etc....

The truth of the matter is that if Standards are set up correctly it is pretty easy to follow the standards. When it comes to the way things look, well that is something to take up with the CAD Manager or people who created the standards.

Let's talk about one reason I find to follow standards. Imagine you have 10,000 AutoCAD files from various releases of AutoCAD. Also imagine that you have several different versions of title blocks, layering schemes and some drawings with your electrical symbols being blocks and some without. Now imagine trying to (A) write a program to manipulate these into some new standard or CAD System like AutoCAD Electrical. or (B) use conversion tools in AutoCAD Electrical to convert things to the new CAD System.

Imagine this one..... I have 10,000 AutoCAD Files from different versions of AutoCAD. I have one set of title block names that I have used for all of the files, and I have one set of attribute tags I have used in the files. The Layers have been the same layer naming convention for years and the electrical symbols within the drawings are all blocks with attributes. Now imagine the same two (A & B) questions from above.

This theory goes much farther than converting files from AutoCAD to AutoCAD Electrical. Lets imagine that we are going to take those same 10,000 files and bring them into a Data Management system like Autodesk Vault or Productstream.  If I try to take the first set of 10,000 that didn't follow any standards with the title blocks it will make it very difficult to extract the attributes from the title block to populate the metadata within the DM system. Take the second set of 10,000 I could map and extract that data and get it imported with a much larger success rate.

Having said all that, I think standards are important from a move forward standpoint. Be sure to think about things you might do in the future and try to prepare for them by making your data as consistent as possible. Remember with consistency we can write programs to make changes or prepare the data for some task.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Conversion Tools

A question I get asked quite often is how do I get all my existing AutoCAD Data into AutoCAD Electrical?  I think the question should be: Do I need ALL of my existing AutoCAD Data in an Intelligent AutoCAD Electrical Format? The truth of the matter is no you probably don't.

I can think of a few reasons you may think you need to "Convert" All of your legacy data and I have listed them below with some of my thoughts on them.

  • AutoCAD Electrical is a different format. - No AutoCAD Electrical uses AutoCAD dwg technology and utilizes blocks with layers and attributes with some added programming to accomplish that black magic we all love.
  • What if I need to view my data? - Since AutoCAD and AutoCAD Electrical both use dwg technology you will be able to open any old AutoCAD drawings with AutoCAD Electrical.
  • What if I need to copy an existing design and complete it in AutoCAD Electrical? - In this case you have a couple of routes you could take.  It mostly depends on what you are doing with the "Copied" design and what your end intentions are.
    • Retro-fits - Depending on how much re-design work needs to be done you could use AutoCAD Electrical just like the AutoCAD you have been using for years. In this case it might not make the most sense to use AutoCAD Electrical functionality. On the other hand if it is a larger retrofit you could use AutoCAD Electrical tools for the new portions of the retrofit then next time you need to copy that design you have a decent percentage already converted to AutoCAD Electrical.
    • Copy designs - These are designs that are very similar than old ones but maybe you are putting new line of Allen Bradley switches in. In this case some of my clients sit back and think for a few minutes to decide how many times they have copied that same type of job forward. In most cases if it is several or even a few times they choose to completely start from scratch and take the up front time cost to save more time long term. The thought with this is that if I spend the extra time now I can save it in the back end by using all of the electrical tools in AutoCAD Electrical. This works good for most of my clients.
    • Mix and Match New Designs - In this case it will be very similar to the first one that I mentioned, utilize the Conversion tools in AutoCAD Electrical. Do this especially if you think you will re-use this data again in the future.

I know this is always a big topic of discussion when companies change from AutoCAD to AutoCAD Electrical. Just remember there are tools in the software to assist in this "Conversion" process.