I’ve been meaning to have a play around with this since AU late last year and finally got the chance today. At the Vegas event, Autodesk launched the latest addition to the Labs website (labs.autodesk.com) in the form of Inventor Publisher and its first Tech Preview. Like many things, this was first shown in the previous year’s event (2009) but this is the first time it’s been seen generally and made available.
What is it?
According to the web-site (labs.autodesk.com/utilities/inventor_publisher/) it is : “easy-to-use software for creating interactive 3D product documentation – from assembly instructions to operating procedures, repair instructions, and more. Inventor Publisher allows you to deliver clearer and more comprehensive technical instructions to your customers. Inventor Publisher allows technical publication and illustration teams to leverage the same digital prototype created in Inventor that is used in the design to manufacturing process. You can work directly with 3D design models to clearly communicate technical information without the need to learn CAD software.”
What is it really? That’s a pretty accurate statement, the system provides you with an environment in which you can load both Inventor and DWG data, create keyframe-based animations that show the various steps in how you can assembly, disassembly or service a product. It gives you tools for either automatically creating exploded views or diving in and knife and forking them yourself to create each step. The system has a wide range of presentation styles, from shaded views, through to more tech. illustration style display methods, colour control, perspective and orthogonal options and such as well as a number of annotation tools. The whole process is drive by snapshots within a storyboard.
Each Snapshot gives you each stage and at first it seems a little counter intuitive, but once you get a handle on the workflow, it’s easy to move components, create each explode sequence, then move onto the next. The system automatically adds in the animation sequences (tweened across a user controllable time span) to move both components and camera views.
The system has an interesting array of output options. As you might expect, there’s video output, which is handy (to both flash movies and AVIs – there’s an example of the latter below), but alongside that, there’s output to PowerPoint (shown, imported into Keynote as I avoid powerpoint like black death), Word as well as standard graphics file outputs, with full control over resolution, format, transparency and size.
The odd thing is that while the animation sequences are interesting, I would imagine that the last category of output might be the most used, particularly for those publishing technical documentation. That said, the video output is particularly compelling and when used in combination with animation and colour/transparency controls, pretty effective at communicating intent and instructions.
This is Tech Preview territory as with many things on Autodesk’s labs resource, so what you see here isn’t what’s going to ship. My guess would be integration of these tools into Inventor and it being bundled in with one of the Suite offerings. Other things that are to come are an iPhone publishing option. It’s unclear whether it’ll be cloud or download/sync based, but Josh at SolidSmack has a nice video from AU that I’m going to steal to show you how it works: