Scratching the Surface: Creating Clean Contours in Civil 3D

[fa icon="calendar'] August 30, 2019 / by Korey Gaddy posted in AEC, Four Minute Friday

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In today's webinar we will discuss the best practices for cleaning up surfaces in Civil 3D.
One of the main reasons firms don’t use the 3D tools in Civil 3D is how jagged the contours can come in when creating surfaces. This video presents a solution to this problem.

Thank you for joining us for this week's webinar, if you enjoyed this week's video, be sure to check out other videos from our Four Minute Friday Series


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Using the Intersection Design Tool in Autodesk Civil 3d

[fa icon="calendar'] August 23, 2019 / by Korey Gaddy posted in AEC, Four Minute Friday

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In this week's Four Minute Friday, we will show you how to use the intersection design tool in Civil 3D.


Thank you for joining us for this week's Four Minute Friday, if you enjoyed this week's video, be sure to check out other videos from our Four Minute Friday Series


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Taking to the Woods with a SOLIDWORKS-Designed Ultralight Tent

[fa icon="calendar'] August 22, 2019 / by Luke Woodard posted in Manufacturing, SOLIDWORKS, Three Minute Thursday

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Luke Woodard, TPM Application Engineer

Warning: DO NOT TAKE UNTESTED GEAR INTO THE WOODS.  Especially if said gear would be essential to survival in a worst-case scenario. With that preface, here we go...

Living in Greenville, SC, Pisgah National Forest is an outdoors enthusiast’s playground just an hour and a half outside of my door. While my default in these woods is mountain biking, lately I’ve enjoyed getting into hiking and backpacking.

On the trail.

As I have gotten into this new method of exploration, I’ve also developed an obsession for gear. Due to ultralight gears’ big price tags and a drive to create things myself, I have been playing around with some of my own gear ideas. Shelter was my first priority, because it’s an essential piece of gear, takes a substantial amount of room in a pack, and light, compact set-ups cost a fortune.

So here is the question:

Can I use SolidWorks to design and build a lightweight, low cost sleeping set-up?

Preliminary Research

My dabblings into backpacking have led me to spend nights in a variety of, let’s call them, sleeping situations… Lessons learned:

1-A Hammock without a canopy is a horrible idea.

2-A Hammock with a canopy isn’t that much lighter than a tent. And a lot colder.

3-Bivys are basically glorified trash bags. Light, compact, and usually waterproof. But you have to ‘shimmy’ in and can’t sit up. I wasn’t a huge fan.

4-Flat roofs tend to pool water. Water is heavy and cold. And wet, although heavy and cold is bad enough. Avoid flat surfaces.

The solution between the tension of size and comfort seemed to be a single-wall, one-person tent.

Design Goals

They were straightforward:

1-Waterproof. ‘Nuf said.

2-Pack down under 35cm in length. Combine backpacking and bikes and you get bikepacking. The handlebars are a great place to mount a tent, but that means the packed tent has to be narrower than your handlebars.

3-Weigh less than 900 grams (2lbs). I have found pack size is more impressive in person and more applicable than weight, but weight is a fun metric

4-Time Crunch-By the time I had this idea on paper, I only had two weeks until a 2-day, 2-night backpacking trip on the Art Loeb, a 48km trail through Pisgah.

Design Process

I started this project with the same motto I start most: KEEP IT SIMPLE. At least with the actual design. Tents aren’t complex; don’t make this one so.

To design a tent in SolidWorks, there are two applications that aren’t often used: soft goods and bent structural members. Could I use SolidWorks for these applications? I was about to find out.

General Design-

After playing with some bivys (see 3 and 4 from “Preliminary Research”), I knew I wanted a single ridge down the middle, which meant a single primary pole. While considered ‘freestanding,’ I would rely on stakes to tension out areas instead of using additional pole structure. I also wanted the door to be in the front with secondary poles around said door.

The general shape that I was after.

A tent is obviously more than one part. But all the parts fit smoothly together, at least in a functional tent. Which raised some questions. How do I get all the curves of the poles to match? And the tent body to follow the poles?

Enter top-down assembly modeling. I started everything at the assembly level with some general profiles.

The general profiles with dimensions. What you don’t see is all the bending calculations and trigonometry to get the 16.5 degree angle between the length and width poles right while keeping the structure balanced.

In the screenshot, you may notice a list of global variables. Some of these are controlling the layout sketch, others are controlling aspects of the individual parts. Yes, that meant I had started a file referencing web. Welcome to the danger zone.


I opted with a sweep instead of weldments to model the poles in the bent state as it was easier to drive changes with assembly level global variables.

Simple, but critical to the overall design.

Thin material screams surfacing, and boy do I love some surfacing.  Problem was, I had already dove into a top-down approach.

Was the SolidWorks universe about to blow up?

I started out with the floor profile.

Those light grey reference dimensions are driven by the assembly level sketches.

From there, I went to the tent sides. I wanted to limit seams, so I made each side as one continuous surface consisting of three lofts.

The progression of the lofts. Not the cleanest of the surfaces, but it was simple and ended up being easy to create.

Now that I had the body designed, how the heck was I going to translate that surface to a flat piece of fabric? Enter Surface Flatten.

This is what I needed to cut out of the fabric later on. Shown here with the deformation plot.

I didn’t know what the deformation plot would correspond to or what the limits of it were. All I knew was that I had my pattern. Now for actually transferring it to the fabric…

Small Parts-

There were three small parts; the yoke at the intersection of the poles, ground connection points, and clips to hold the body to the poles.

A simple yoke to connect all the poles.

Calculated weight was 577 grams, giving me 323 grams to play with for the finishing touches.


Putting it all together

Now that I had the CAD model, how the heck was I going to put this together in a week and a half before our Art Loeb adventure? Did I mention I’m pretty bad with a sewing machine, and zippers might just be my arch-nemesis?


For the body of the tent, most manufacturers use some variation of nylon fabric. I ran across some 30 Denier (measurement of thread thickness; 30 is on the thin, light side) ripstop nylon with a waterproof coating on eBay. Perfect. The poles were easy to find on McMaster-Carr.

Building the Tent-

The first and most challenging step in building the tent was how to transfer the flattened surface in SolidWorks to the actual nylon fabric. In a stroke of genius, I fired up the projector and spent a half hour adjusting the zoom just right to get the proper scale.

“Hey Luke, whatcha doing?” Me: “Don’t worry about it.”

Taping the nylon fabric to the wall and tracing was actually pretty easy. The sharpie didn’t even bleed through to the wall.

With my sewing machine broken, seams were done with EZ-Steam II, a heat and pressure sensitive double stick tape that activates when running an iron over it.

My new seam method.

Poles were chopped, nylon webbing sandwiched between carpet tape and gorilla tape for clip points, and stakes bent.

On the Trail

While the trip got shortened from a full weekend of backpacking to an overnighter, it was still a great opportunity to test the tent out.

On the trail again.

Set-up and tear down wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought without the poles being attached.

Both the tent and I made it through the night. Fortunately, there was no rain, but there was the most dew I have ever seen coating everything in the morning.

So much dew. Everywhere.

This was certainly not a waterproof test. In fact, there were a few spots where the seams separated, deeming the current iteration NOT waterproof. Interestingly enough, the separation spot was where the highest stretch value (~3%) in the deformation plot inside of SolidWorks was. Takeaway-3% is too much, and the deformation plot is very useful.

There will be future tests and improved iterations, but all in all, the ultralight tent project worked out. I woke up fortunate to be warm and dry, enjoying coffee and a pastel-painted morning sky.

Mountain sunrises never get old.


I had three goals in terms of the finished tent:

1-Waterproof. Nope. But playing with seam technique could remedy this in prototype 2.

2-Pack down under 35cm in length. YES! Poles, the limiting factor here, came in under 35 cm. Holding everything in one fist for the first time was really cool.

3-Be under 900 grams (2lbs). YES! 670 grams. That’s getting into bivy territory, but with a structure and ability to sit up.

Just tipping the scale with over 200 grams to spare. Maybe I’ll use that allowance for waterproofness for prototype 2.

Questions posed in regards to SolidWorks:

1) Can SolidWorks be used for bent structural member design? YES!

2) Can SolidWorks be used for soft good design? YES!

Surface modeling is great for this, and ‘Surface Flatten’ is an incredibly valuable tool to bring the design to life.

3) Is top-down Surfacing a viable technique? YES!

I wouldn’t recommend it in most applications, but in this case where the surfaces were fairly simple, it worked out great. It allowed me to test different dimensions quickly, and I did not get a single rebuild error.

4) Can SolidWorks be used to design and build a lightweight, low cost sleeping set-up? YES!

670 grams and a final cost of about $80 (not counting unused materials), I’d give this a yes. This may have been stretching what most would call a typical application. But not only can it be done, there were specific tools (Top-down, Surfacing, Surface Flatten) inside SolidWorks that significantly helped the design and build process.

Until the next adventure.




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Autodesk University: Are You Going?

[fa icon="calendar'] August 19, 2019 / by TPM Admin posted in AEC, Four Minute Friday

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If you’ve been working with Autodesk software for any extended time and have started to reach out to other users or find resources to help with your knowledge or skillset, you are aware of the annual event that is Autodesk University (AU).

AU is an event that brings thousands of production users, experts, and business executives together to attend classes and seminars on topics that are relevant to production users or people and businesses that are looking for an advantage on how products are developing and often being used in creative ways. Topics range from real world uses and solutions, to custom programming. There is always a path of topics for anyone who attends AU.

AU will be held in Las Vegas, November 19th – 21st

One of the biggest issues facing anyone who wants to attend is how to convince your manager or executives within your company that it is worth the investment to have you attend AU. Among the reasons for attending are:

  • Learn real world applications and production solutions
  • Stay competitive with new solutions and products
  • How your company can adopt the latest solutions
  • Brings lessons and knowledge back to others within your company

The list of benefits and reasons to attend are numerous, but how to attend?

Autodesk has created a sample email that can be used, as well as an estimator for the cost to attend. The webpage can be found here:

When you do decide to attend please be aware that TPM can save you money on the registration fee:

Autodesk University registration normally - $1,750.

TPM offered University registration - $1,650.

The website to purchase Autodesk University Registration passes from TPM with $100 discount can be found here:

 Autodesk University offers a tremendous opportunity to increase productivity, gain a competitive advantage and see how others are using the solutions that you use every day. See you in Las Vegas in November.

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Electrical Panel Feed Through Lugs in Revit 2020

[fa icon="calendar'] August 16, 2019 / by Bruce Harris posted in AEC, Four Minute Friday

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Bruce Harris, AEC Application Engineer

This weeks’ video is going to show the new feature in Revit 2020 that allows us to connect a panel through a panel through feed through lugs. Let's go to Revit 2020 and take a look.

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Utilizing Network Quality for SOLIDWORKS PDM

[fa icon="calendar'] August 15, 2019 / by Rob Stoklosa posted in Manufacturing, SOLIDWORKS, Three Minute Thursday

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Rob Stoklosa, TPM Application Engineer

In today's Three Minute Thursday, you will learn some of the tools you can use to make sure your network performs sufficiently for SOLIDWORKS PDM.


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Digitizing Forms with Bluebeam's Automatic Form Creation

[fa icon="calendar'] August 09, 2019 / by Broderick Whitlock posted in AEC, Four Minute Friday

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Broderick Whitlock, AEC Application Engineer

In this weeks’ video you will learn the basics of using Automatic Form Creation in Bluebeam.


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Revit Time Travel Phases Tip

[fa icon="calendar'] August 01, 2019 / by Pat Hill posted in AEC, Four Minute Friday

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Patrick Hill, AEC Application Engineer

This weeks’ video is a short tip on how to quickly change geometry that was drawn in one phase and change its phase properties to be a previous phase. This tip will allow you to change all your geometry without having to select each element.



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Autodesk Security Updates May Be Required for Cloud Access

[fa icon="calendar'] August 01, 2019 / by Autodesk posted in AEC, Four Minute Friday

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Autodesk will be updating their older cloud-based services to utilize some newer security features now offered. Those services will be updated on August 3rd, 2019. For reference, we have included the letter that Autodesk has sent out to users that still have access to the older cloud-based services. If you are using versions of 2018 Autodesk software or earlier you will likely not have access to the cloud data after August 3rd if you do not upgrade your software. The link included with the email will direct you to the web page the describes the issue and has links to updates for Autodesk software and the relevant versions.

IMPORTANT: this update applies to SINGLE USER SUBSCRIBERS. Users with perpetual or multi-user network license are not affected

If you have received this letter, it is a legitimate letter from Autodesk and is required if you intend to continue access your projects with older software.



Last month, we tried to contact you because our records show you have a version of Autodesk software that may be vulnerable to data exchange compromise. Certain older versions of Autodesk software on Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems are using Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.0/1.1 protocols; most versions 2018-2020 are not affected. For customers using Revit cloud-connected features, Revit Cloud Worksharing, and Cloud Models for Revit, additional updates may be necessary.*

We have heard concerns about how long it would take to make the necessary system updates.

After careful consideration, we have revised the date for the TLS 1.0/1.1 deprecation to August 3, 2019, to ensure our customers have the time required to successfully adopt the patches without disrupting their work.

To ensure your security and connectivity, you’ll find patches for most affected products on the Autodesk Knowledge Network. If you’re using a software version listed, we urge you to address the issue by August 3, 2019 so you don’t lose software access or connectivity; if applied after August 3, the available patches should still resolve the issue.

Although the updates are not required until August 3, we highly recommend installing them as soon as possible.

At Autodesk, we are fully committed to your security and success.



Autodesk Customer Service


* Additional updates: Revit Cloud Worksharing is the in-Revit part of BIM 360 Design and includes operations like initiate collaboration, model open, sync with central. It is accessible Revit 2015 and later versions.

  • All Revit versions on maintenance or subscription must be updated to the latest point release to continue to use Revit Cloud Worksharing.
  • You must also apply a Personal Accelerator (PAC) security fix once for any version of Revit. The PAC is used by Revit Cloud Worksharing to accelerate open and sync operations. It is installed once per machine and works with all versions of Revit.
  • For Revit Cloud Worksharing with Revit 2015 or 2016, you must also apply the latest Autodesk Licensing Manager Hotfixes included with the patches for Revit products.

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SolidWorks Design Library Features

[fa icon="calendar'] August 01, 2019 / by Luke Woodard posted in Manufacturing, SOLIDWORKS, Three Minute Thursday

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Luke Woodard, TPM Application Engineer

If you’ve ever modeled the same feature multiple times and wondered if there was an easier way, there is. Here it is. Model a feature once, and then use it over and over again in multiple models without remodeling it every time.


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