February 28, 2014

Posted on February 28, 2014 by Mark Lancaster, Synergis Product Support Specialist:
This is part 1 of a 3 part series regarding Inventor Content Center.  In this article, I explore the relationships created between Inventor Content Center, an assembly, and Autodesk Vault.  For those who are using the desktop version of Content Center, I will cover that as well.  In part 2 and 3 of this series, I will delve deeper into the content center structure, go over the inner workings of this interface, and demonstrate how to create your own structure to meet your requirements.
For those who may not use Inventor Content Center, just starting out, or thinking of creating your own structure, let’s first start out with a definition of content center:
Content Center is a controlled environment where standard components (Inventor part – .IPT only) such as fasteners, steel shapes, piping components, your standard items, and etc. are stored, accessed and placed into an Inventor assembly.  Standard components or other types of Inventor part files that are often being modified in your organization should not be considered a Content Center part and it is recommended to keep them outside of this structure.
In Inventor there are two types of Content Center, one is called “Desktop Content” and the other is “Autodesk Vault Server”.
When working with a “Desktop” version, the libraries are normally stored locally on the user’s PC and typically are not shared.  For Vault, the content center libraries are shared and managed by the Vault database.
For this article, I am also going to assume all the settings and mappings are in place inside of Inventor and Vault (or some other document management system).  In addition, when I refer to a local copy of a Content Center part, I am referring to the local storage location of the individual Content Center components that are part of your assembly.  For Vault users, when a Content Center part is placed into an assembly, the actual Content Center file is stored in a separate folder that is located somewhere under your local Vault workspace definition.
In the desktop version, the default folder location for content center parts is “C:\Users\<user profile name>\Documents\Inventor\Content Center Files\R<Inventor version>”.  However the location is actually controlled by the setting “Default Content Center files” located under application options and/or by the active project setting of “Folder Options/Content Center Files”.
So what really happens when a Content Center part is placed into an assembly?

Now let’s take the next step and start breaking down the process of what happens when a user selects a Content Center item and places it into their assembly.

For Vault users:

Workflow #1 [Vault version]:  A Content Center part is placed into an assembly and the option “Refresh out-of-date standard parts during placement” is not checked under Inventor Application Options.  What happens under this condition?

When a Content Center part is placed into an assembly without this option, Inventor first looks to see if the Content Center part exists in the user’s local vault workspace and then the following occurs:
Workflow #2 [Vault version]:  A content center part is placed into an assembly and that same option is checked.  What happens under this condition?

For this workflow, the following occurs:

If the local copy cannot be replaced under this workflow, Inventor issues a file permission message something like this:

If you have your own custom Content Center library, I recommend enabling the option “Refresh out-of-date standard parts during placement” to ensure the local copy and the Content Center information is always in-sync with each other.  This option is also beneficial to the end users because they might not be aware of any changes in the Content Center and their model could continue to be out of date without this option.  However, if you are releasing and/or locking down Content Center components within Vault, having this option checked will issue those “failed write permission is missing” messages unless the status of the vaulted file was changed ahead of time.

For Desktop Content Center users:

Workflow #3 [Desktop version]:  A Content Center part is placed into an assembly and the option “Refresh out-of-date standard parts during placement” is not checked.  What happens under this condition?
When working with the desktop version of Content Center, the workflow is very simple.  First, Inventor checks to see if there is a local copy of the Content Center part.  If so, it places the local copy of the component in your assembly.  If not, the component is retrieved from the Content Center, placed into your assembly, and stored in the designated local storage location.
Workflow #4 [Desktop version]:   A Content Center part is placed into an assembly and the option “Refresh out-of-date standard parts during placement” is checked.  What happens under this condition?
When this option is checked and you are not retrieving a standard component from a custom desktop library, the steps are exactly the same as described in Workflow #3.  However, when working with a custom library the following does occur:

You should now have a pretty good understanding of the process when a Content Center part is placed into an assembly.  Now let’s take a look at the workflow when a Content Center part is updated in a custom library.  Understanding this workflow is crucial to keeping your models up to date and the information between the local Content Center parts and the associated libraries in-sync.  When you place a Content Center component in your assembly, it will always be looking at the local copy of the component going forward.  It doesn’t matter if you are using Vault or the desktop version of Content Center.  To update, there are a couple of ways of doing this but I recommend using the “refresh standard component” on your assembly.
However, prior to running this command, the Master Level of Detail (LOD) must be active and the assembly is saved.  When the “refresh standard component” is started, Inventor will search the entire assembly structure and look at all of the Content Center parts being used and compare its information to the related Content Center library.  If there is no difference at all, Inventor will indicate all of the standard components are up-to-date.  If there are one or more differences, the “out-of-date” parts will appear in the “Standard Component Refresh” dialog.

To refresh your standard component, simply select the “Refresh” button and Inventor will start updating the components that are selected.  If a given component can be refreshed, it will be updated in the assembly and its status will change from “Out of Date” to “Successful”.  If it cannot be updated, it will switch to “fail” and Inventor will then continue onto the next component in the list.
Here is an example of a Content Center component failing to update:

Once the refresh operation is completed, a log file is generated to indicate which items were updated and/or the reason why an update failed.
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In my example, I did not have the correct read/write permission for that given component and that is why it failed.  However, here are the main reasons why a content center component fails to “refresh”:

  • The Content Center component resides in Vault and is locked down.  Meaning it is unable to be checked out.
  • When prompted to check out the Content Center File from Vault, the user selected “No” or “No to all”.
  • The user does not have the proper read/write access where the Content Center File is stored in Vault and/or on the local Vault workspace.
  • The refresh operation is performed on an iAssembly child and not on the factory.
  • The Windows “read-only” file attribute is checked for that given file.

Hopefully the information provided in this article helps you understanding what happens when a Content Center part is placed into an assembly and is updated.  If you have any questions about this information please contact us.
Stay tuned for part 2 and 3 of this article by subscribing to this blog.
Mark Lancaster is the newest member to our Synergis technical team, having just joined us back in August.  His most previous experience is as the CAD Design Manager of Pall Corporation, one of our long time customers.  In that position, he was responsible for workstation optimization and design management, established uniform standards for the local and global offices, and developed global systems to control and manage their design data.
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