Paul Munford

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Autodesk Inventor 2017 What's New? Mesh Support!

New in Autodesk Inventor 2017, Awesome Mesh support!

Autodesk Inventor 2017 enables end to end round tripping of scanned to 3D printed data by enabling Mesh based models.

Autodesk Inventor 2017 brings new features for those of us interested in working with scanned data or 3D printed files in the form of its new Mesh file modelling tools.

We can now import 3D .OBJ mesh files directly into inventor and use them in our workflow.

Mesh based files can be used in a BOM directly with no further editing, and we can even use mesh based files in assemblies with constraints!

While we can’t create a drawing from a Mesh file (yet!) Inventor 2017 does have an entirely new toolset for building Surface or Solid models from Meshed bodies.

Import and Export OBJ (Mesh files)

You can now open OBJ files directly using the ‘Open’ command and switching to ‘OBJ’ file type.

Note: This functionality supersedes the Autodesk Mesh enabler tool (Click the link to read more).

You can also Import OBJ files by clicking on:

3D Model tab > Create Panel > Import Tool.

Tip: Don’t forget to click on the ‘Options Button’ during import!

You can save OBJ files directly out of Inventor using the save command, and setting the file type to OBJ.

You can also navigate to the Application menu (The ‘File’ tab under the big Orange ‘I’) and select:

Export > CAD Format

Tip: Don’t forget to click on the ‘Options Button’ during export to set the quality of your mesh!

Assemble Join and Constrain mesh parts

Autodesk Inventor 2017 uses some really clever programming to analyse the edges and faces of your mesh based.

In an Assembly file, Inventor can use these edges to create Joint and Constraint relationships between regular and mesh based parts.

Autodesk Inventor 2017 Split Mesh on ImportPro tip: Splitting OBJ Groups into individual meshes

To split a Mesh file which contains multiple shells into multiple Mesh bodies in Inventor, tick the ‘Split Group’ option in mesh import.

Imported Mesh support in Inventor 2017:4

The following features work with Mesh based parts in Inventor 2017.

• Measuring
• Work features
• Express mode
• Interference analysis
• Visual styles
• Section views
• Projecting geometry into 2D sketches
• ‘Select other’ tool

Imported Mesh, not supported in Inventor 2017:

The following features are not supported when working with mesh based parts in Inventor 2017.

• Project cut edges
• Mirror mesh body
• Copy meshed component with constraints
• iMate/Infer iMate
• Define envelopes
• Stress analysis Simulation
• Drawing views

To make use of these tools, you’ll need to convert the mesh to a Surface/Solid first.

Tip: If you get the error:
You are having a problem defining the envelope of a Mesh body. You will need to convert it to a surface/Solid first...

Building surfaces models from meshes using the ‘Fit Mesh’ tools

Converting a Mesh into a Brep (Solid Model) isn’t as straightforward as clicking ‘import’ and watching a spherical collection of points get transformed into a Spherical surface.

Mesh based bodes are compiled from multiple vertices (points), edges and faces.

Converting a mesh into a Brep requires your computer to make a best guess on the required geometry, based on an average of the points that it is using as inputs.

With Inventor 2017, we have some new tools to help make this task easier.

Note: You don’t have to convert a mesh to a solid for inclusion in an assembly or a BOM, but you will need to convert a mesh into a solid to include your model in a drawing.

01. Import your mesh file
02. Click ‘Fit mesh face’
03. Choose your shape (or use the Automatic option)
04. Left click and drag on your mesh face to pick faces for analysis.
05. Your surface is created!
Tip: Change the brush size and tolerance to refine the analysis.
06. You will need to trim and stich your surface together to turn it into a solid.

In testing, I found that it was difficult to get perfectly accurate results from the Fit tool. However, I found the 2D sketch tools worked beautifully with Mesh models.

Creating a 2D sketch on the face of a meshed part, or projecting in edges from meshed bodies works really well.
The new fit surface tools are ideal if you need your part converted fast, and accuracy isn’t an issue.

If you need accurate part models, I recommend ‘tracing over’ the Mesh with 2D sketches and 3D features where you need super accurate results and make judicious use of ‘Fit surface’ for speed.

If future editing if your part is more important than speed of conversion, I recommend that you build features such as Chamfers and Fillets using Inventor’s native tools, rather than a fit surface.

Autodesk Inventor 2017 Mesh tools Conclusion

• Do you need to import scanned data to reverse engineer parts?
• Do you need to include models in your designs that were created for 3D printing?

You just got a big shot in the arm from Autodesk Inventor 2017’s new mesh enabling tools!

Further reading.

Want to know more about Autodesk’s tools for manipulating Scan data and converting it into mesh objects?

Find out about Project Memento.

Do you need to clean up a 3D scan? Are you looking for a CAD tool that will manipulate the mesh data from the OBJ file itself?

Find out about Autodesk Meshmixer.

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