By John Evans, July 16, 2012
Training is important, and while Autodesk Inventor is one of the easiest MCAD programs to learn, training nevertheless remains critical. I remember a friend who would tell me that he never put his team members through Inventor training, because it was so simple to pick up. And then he’d rant to me, “If I want it done right, I have to do it myself!” I think I found a solution to his problem.
TEDCF is a publishing company providing training services for several CAD platforms, including Autodesk Inventor. For Inventor 2013, David Melvin, P.E., compiled seven courses comprising 2,200 topics providing 44 hours of instruction.
Each course is available for purchase as an individual download, or else all of them bundled together. The courses are as follows:
I reviewed about a fifth of the course, looking for key topics, and then letting my curiosity take me from there. Overall, I would rate the courses as follows:
|2/5||Navigation/Ease of Use|
|4/5||Lesson Content and Thoroughness|
Navigation/Ease of Use. The TEDCF course comprises of videos viewable only through the installed viewer, plus the sets of tutorial content files. The viewer contains standard video playback controls, as well as a playback speed controller that allows me to slow things down, should I need this following the steps carefully. Conversely, speeding up playback lets me review lessons.
Menus provide access to History, Search, Support, and Lessons. As an alternative to starting the viewer directly, you can access it from Inventor’s ribbon. See figure 1.
|Figure 1: The TEDCF user interface in Inventor|
The firm’s online site lets anyone access the player and some overview course materials at no cost. Once the player is installed on your computer, you enter a registration number to access the complete lessons. This action generates a download of all class materials and videos, thereby bypassing future connectivity problems.
The Lesson Player’s control activates a pull down with all lessons listed in order of the lesson plan. Each is linked to its respective course. There are, however, no separator bars, and so the lesson names appear as one long list. See figure 2. This should not be a problem, however, if you go sequentially through lessons by clicking Next at the end of each one. Use the list only to skip ahead, or for reviewing lessons.
|Figure 2: Selecting lessons non-sequentially|
As I found with most other video training systems, key words are difficult to predict. For example, my search of ‘BOM’ returned no results, but entering ‘Bill of Materials’ returned 23 linked results. The developer tells me that the full search results are still being compiled, and should be available by the end of July.
The History list applies only to lessons viewed using certain controls. Picking a lesson directly from the list does not, unfortunately, add its name to History. (Lessons are added to History only when Next is clicked at the end.) I think this is a small bug, but it does keep the history list from getting cluttered. This said, the course is designed as an ongoing tutorial, building from beginning to end, and so I would recommend completing it in this manner.
Lesson Content. The content is great. In almost all the cases where I looked for help, I found good information, and then was pleasantly surprised by useful touches. For instance, whenever a dimension is given, metric and English conversions are highlighted beside the view area. Handy page overlays are common when things like Application Settings are mentioned.
There is no mention whatsoever of wires in routed systems, or any result when I searched for them, because TEDCF has no courses for Inventor’s Cable and Harness Routed Systems module. I will admit that the section is titled descriptively “Tube and Pipe Routed Systems.”
Lesson Speed. Lessons are mildly fast-paced, which I would rate as just about right for me. I prefer faster paced programs, and then I replay them to pick out fine details. New users of Inventor will most likely have to replay lessons.
Advanced Concepts. There are a good number of advanced concepts spread throughout the course. I give it a 4/5, because I would have liked even more, but for the price and level of instruction I found it well-balanced.
Overall Quality. The overall quality of the course is nice. The narrator’s voice and the audio tracks are clear and distinct. The video size and resolution is good. Nothing is perfect, and while there are areas that could be improved, the content is the most critical feature and is quite good.
For lessons that are unavoidably complex in nature, these are sometimes summarized by the narrator, along with simple, written steps at the end of the respective lessons. I particularly appreciated this. See figure 3.
|Figure 3: Summarized steps for lesson plan|
|Figure 4: Plastic design is described in detail|
Solid modeling is well covered, because it looks into numerous strategies for effectively using Inventor’s tools. The modeling tutorials I looked covered plastics modeling, and so it introduced plastic modeling-specific workflows along the way, such as for ribs and lips. There are some good work-around strategies presented for difficult-to-model shapes. See figure 4. Additional tutorials cover general shapes, such as screws, housings, springs, pipe fittings, and sheet metal designs with hole patterns.
Advanced topics include parameters and linked spreadsheets, advanced thread settings, repairing imported surfaces, and an introduction to Inventor Fusion.
|Figure 5: Learning about reducing part counts through shrinkwrapping|
Assembly modeling is well covered, including all types of constraints, as well as driving gears, adaptive springs, and more. Contact detection and collisions are explained and used in different scenarios during later portions of the course – just as with many other aspects of Inventor.
iParts, iAssemblies, and iFeatures are included, as well as numerous design accelerators such as shafts and keyways. Levels of detail, bills of material, top-down design, and a spiffy adaptive spring design are discussed at length. See figure 5.
|Figure 6: Generating 2D plans from 3D models in Inventor|
As you would expect, all view and annotation types are covered, including custom dimension styles and editing. The customization section includes most everything, from materials and appearance styles to ribbons and the user interface. See figure 6.
|Figure 7: Creating a sheet metal assembly|
The Sheet Metal instruction is well done, with practical development and enforcement of styles and templates. Good amount of time is devoted to bends, corners, seams, and so on, and then goes further into punches, publishing, and just about every aspect of this type of modeling. See figure 7.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the instruction includes multi-body sheet metal modeling strategies, where an entire assembly is developed in the part modeling environment, finishing off the assembly before converting components to sheet metal parts, and successfully creating flat patterns for each.
|Figure 8: Routing tubes through 3D models|
Routed Systems is a complex area of Inventor, with so many new styles and workflows to learn. Accordingly, the instruction is detailed, describing everything from making routes to generating BOMs and authoring components. See figure 8. The instructions include a new workflow and Inventor component (included in the download) that TEDCF says it developed on its own to help users build easier-to-manage systems.
|Figure 9: Placing cameras in 3D|
A good description is given of the many aspects of the geometry of lighting, and how Inventor Studio functions. The lesson includes typical tips of what to expect in each situation. Great explanations of each light’s makeup are offered, along with basic practical methods of lighting objects. Similar time is devoted to paths, analysis of motion, surface properties, video production, cameras, and much more. See figure 9.
Currently, the company is advertising a July sale on the Ultimate Bundle for US$299.95, instead of the standard price of US$919.70. (Prices include download and DVD.) For a few hundred bucks, this is the most thorough course I have ever seen.
While there is no shortage of advanced topics, the real gems in this series are how well Inventor tools are covered, along with continuous reinforcement of best courses of action. The author doesn’t just state that a particular workflow is best. Each tool is covered in a fluid context, building on previous steps, and then merging them into the next topic. Where the standard steps begin to create a problem (or a future problem), the lesson points this out as the work is completed. Then, students are instructed to edit certain steps, and so guided through optional workflows that produce better results, along with explanations to reinforce the issues and how to avoid them.
The section on iLogic section was, unfortunately, not completed in time for my review, but I suspect that it will be as evenly covered as the other sections. (The company states all the lessons should be completed in July.) Perhaps, they’ll add in a few wire lessons, too.
TEDCF Publishing’s Ultimate Training Bundle for Inventor is definitely a recommended course and, for the sale price, it’s nearly a steal.
|John Evans has 30 years experience in the aerospace industry, including mechanical engineering, design, fabrication, and CNC manufacturing processes. He expanded into MEP and civil engineering 18 years ago. He is certified AutoCAD Civil 3D and Autodesk Inventor. Along with providing data management for a civil engineering firm in northwest Florida, John works as a design consultant for Autodesk digital prototyping, and has joined forces with an emerging clean tech developer. John continues to explore the Autodesk design industry on the Design & Motion blog. John has been a regular contributor for Civil 3D and Inventor articles in AUGIWorld Magazine, and now serves as its manufacturing content editor. He has presented at Autodesk University. He speaks English and Japanese. You can contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org .|