Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Catalog of Posts

I haven’t been that happy with the search feature on this blog lately. Several times in the past few weeks I have been asked for something that I knew I had already wrote about. After several searches, I finally had to resort to looking through ALL the posts until I found it.
Click the read more link to see the entire list.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

AutoCAD Electrical’s Fan In/Out Command

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I started writing about cables. However I stopped and decided this command really needs to come first. Since they are typically used together, and because I wanted to point out some good things to know when using the two together. Not knowing how these two commands work can lead to issues come reporting time.

This command gets a bit of a bad rap because it involves a lot of picks and clicks. However once mastered it’s a pretty nifty tool.

The Fan In/Out tools are essentially an easier way to insert multiple source and destination arrows all at once. Simply name the first instance of the fan and each wire receives its own unique identifier from that point on. Of course you still need to add a description or you would never know how to attach the wires on the other side. Then its off to the other side and make the connections.

I’ll walk through those steps and hopefully it will help you better understand how it works.

First of all we need to create the actual wiring. The command only adds the source and destination markers. It does not add the graphical lines showing all the lines coming into one “multi-wire”.

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Now we can start the command. I’ll start my Fan In Source on the left side.
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From the first dialog select the image that shows which side of the marker is a wire and which side is the multi-wire. In my case it will be the one of the left.
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You are then prompted to select an insertion point for the first marker. That would be the top red wire in my example.
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I’ll stop here and note that sometimes only this red X appears and the command ends. I have not been able to pinpoint what causes this and haven’t noticed it very often in the later releases. However if the command ends here, simply delete the symbol using Delete Component and try again. I have never seen it happen twice in a row.

After selecting the insertion point a dialog appears asking for a more info.

 

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The code is the unique identifier for this Fan Source. This will help us find it amongst all the other fan sources in the project when placing the destinations. Typically I like to end this code with a number. AutoCAD Electrical will auto number this field as more sources are selected keeping them all unique. Next fill in the Description with something about this wire. That will help make sure we select the correct wire on the other side. I will use a Code of FAN-TEST-1 and a Description of RED.

Pressing OK brings up the next step in this process.
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Pressing No will repeat the last step and allow you to place another Fan Source on the next wire. No, don’t ask will not display this dialog again and continue asking for Fan Sources until you press Escape.

Typically the reason one would use this command is because they have many wires they are feeding into a single multi-wire. So if you have anymore than one or two more sources to select, I recomned the Source Fence Insert button. This will allow the user to draw a line that crosses ALL wires and insert a source on all at once.

That is what button I will show here.image

 

Ok now I see I may have drawn my wires a bit too close together in my little example.

When drawing the source fence make sure the line starts ABOVE the first line to receive the next source. Many times I see new users click ON the line and then its hit or miss as to whether that line will receive a symbol. Right click or press Enter to continue after drawing the fence.

The following dialog appears…
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The first path should be switched to Keep all, don’t ask. That will keep this dialog from displaying again during this command. If you have a few wires you wish to skip that are included in the fence, you would need to use the other two options, Keep this on and No, skip to next.
Do not uncheck the Show edit dialog after each because the description needs to be changed for each wire. Otherwise selecting the proper wire when placing the destination will be difficult.

After pressing OK you will need to enter the description for each source. 
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And after entering all the descriptions here we are… Then add some wire numbers and the sources should update as well…
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If you think this is redundant information, wait until you add cable markers. However the unneeded wire numbers on the cable markers could be hid with the Hide Attribute command. And that leaves me with the following.
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Finally the Fan In Source is complete and we can move on to the Fan Out Destination.
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Again this brings up the starting dialog for the Fan command. Which side of the symbol will the multi-wire be on? In my example it will be the right image.

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Clicking the image causes AutoCAD Electrical continue and again ask for an insertion point. Simply click on a wire.
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There is little to do in this dialog since we already placed the Fan Source symbols. Simply press Drawing or Project to see all Fan Source connections available.

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Typically when switching between sheets, the Freshen button will need to be pressed before all source codes will appear. Note that you can also choose Show unpaired. Since typically these are only going to be used once, selecting this will cause the used codes to drop from the list as they are selected.

Since I gave each wire a description its is easy to find the correct source for this wires destination. Simply verify the Signal Code matches the fan in question and then select the appropriate description and press OK. That fills in the Destination From Arrow dialog with the selected information.

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Press OK on this dialog and select the next wire. Press Project or Drawing again and the last source code should have disappeared. (if Show unpaired is selected) If you notice the source is still showing for some reason, press Freshen again and it should go away.
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That’s it. Just repeat those few steps until all destinations are filled. Finally we need to deal with this last connecting wire.
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The command changes the wire on the multi-wire side to a layer called _MULTI_WIRE. (Note the beginning underscore on this layer name) However the command isn’t smart enough to follow the wires and switch everything it touches to this layer as well. So these three lines are still “wires” and will receive their own wire numbers if they are not changed to a non-wire type layer.

Select the wires, and then from the layers dropdown, change them to the layer _MULTI_WIRE. And you're done. The wires on the one side of the fan now feed across and connect on the other side. In my example all of the wires ended up in the same order. But they can be placed in any order when selecting them from the Project/Drawing list.

Now lets talk about placing actual source and destination arrows on the _MULTI_WIRE line. Typically the Fan In is one one page and the Fan Out on another. Users would like to see an arrow showing this link. Since _MULTI_WIRE isn’t a true wire type the command will fail when attempting to add these arrows.

This is not a problem. Simply switch the bottom horizontal line back to a wire type layer and then place the source arrow. Once the arrow is in place, switch the line back to the _MULTI_LINE layer.
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Place the destination by doing the same thing. Since there are no wire numbers (because this isn’t a wire) we need to follow up with another Hide Attribute command and hide the wire number attribute (???) on both the source and destination arrows. That should give us the page and the rung between the two arrows.

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I hope you found this useful. I plan on following up on this topic with a post about cables as my next post.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Things to Consider When Installing AutoCAD Electrical In a Multi-User Environment

In this post I want to review some of the files, and folder structure, that AutoCAD Electrical needs to function properly in a multi user environment.

Shared Folders

A network share is required as the most efficient means of sharing the databases and libraries. Folder structure should resemble something of the following…

AutoCAD Electrical Standards
      Symbol Library
          Custom Symbols
          Standard Symbols (could also remain on the users C:\ drive from the standard install)
               Subfolders by standard name
     Custom Footprints
          Subfolders by Manufacture
               Subfolders by component type
          Standard Footprints (these could also remain on the users C:\ drive from the standard install)
               Subfolders by Manufacture
                    Subfolders by component type
     Circuits
Databases
    
Catalogs
     PLC’s
Templates
Icon Menus
     Menu Icons
Support
Service Packs & Hotfixes

Shared Files

The Environment File (wd.env)

This is the mapping file that AutoCAD Electrical uses for most of its search paths. This file should live in the shared Support folder listed above. All users should add this location as the first path in AutoCAD’s Support File Search Path.

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The wd.env file on the local disk should then be renamed or deleted. AutoCAD Electrical will then default to the one on the network. This makes changes to the environment file affect all users the next time the software is loaded. The default location is C:\Users\<<username>>\Documents\Acade 2015\AeData.

To verify the environment files location, right click on the active project and select Settings. The third path listed, is the path that is currently being used to find the environment file. Needed changes to the wd.env file can be found here. <<Understanding the wd.env file>>

Databases

The databases consist of the Catalog Lookup (default_cat.mdb), Footprint Lookup (footprint_lookup.mdb), Parametric PLC Lookup (ace_plc.mdb), and the Electrical Standards (ace_electrical_standards.mdb).

A secondary catalog lookup can be created as well and named whatever you desire. The secondary catalog lookup is defined in the environment file. Users can then switch to it anytime they are selecting catalog information. This gives you the option of having the default being the company standard components and a secondary containing everything else.
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default_cat.mdb

The catalog data should be reviewed. Some companies like to start with a completely blank database and add only their information. Others want all of the catalog information supplied by Autodesk from the start. On a slower network, loading these tables can take some time.

The manufactures included in the database are selected during the installation of AutoCAD Electrical. If you find some manufactures missing, go to Add/Remove Programs, select AutoCAD Electrical and then press Uninstall/Change. You will have an option to Add/Remove Features. From there, select the manufactures desired.

Manufactures include, AB, ABB, ANIXTER, AROMAT, AUTOMATIONDIRECT, BECKOFF, BELDEN, BURKLIN, BUSSMANN, DELIXI, EATON, ENTRELEC, FESTO, FUJI, GE, HARTING, HOFFMAN, HONEYWELL, HUBBELL, LAPP, LEGRAND, LG, LITTLEFUSE, MERLIN GERIN, MITSUBISHI, MODICON, MOELLER, MURRELEKTRONIK, NEWARK, NORGREN, OMRON, PANDUIT, PARKER, PEPPERL FUCHS, PHOENIX CONTACT, PILZ, PROSOFT, RITTAL, SCE, SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC, SIEMENS, SQD, TELEMECANIQUE, TRICONEX, TURCK, WAGO, and WEIDMULLER.

For the most part, data is added/edited inside of AutoCAD Electrical. However these databases can be edited with Microsoft Access directly as well. This makes importing/merging existing part numbers and missing items quite easy at a mass level. There are three fields for additional information. USER1, USER2, and USER3. The headings can be changed to better fit the information entered. However do not change the order of the columns in the database or add any additional columns.

2D and 3D physical representation is now being added to this database as well under the SYMBOL2D and SYMBOL3D fields. These are being used by Inventor to create 3D representations based off of the schematic information.

footprint_lookup.mdb

This database is used to lookup the footprints needed for the 2D panel representation based off of catalog number. Since the same footprint can represent many catalog items, wildcards are used to limit the number of lines needed.

Note that the path starts at the “Footprints” folder. The manufacture and family subfolder names are still needed or AutoCAD Electrical will be unable to find the footprint drawing.

Icon Menus

The icon menus can, and should be, renamed. The default names are ace_jic_menu.dat and ace_panel_menu_jic.dat. Put the company name in place of the “ace” to easily verify that the correct menu is being used and edited.

These are simply text files, however editing them should be done using the Icon Menu Wizard inside of AutoCAD Electrical.

If editing/sharing of the extra menus (pneumatic, hydraulic, and piping and instrumentation) is needed, these files cannot be renamed and must live in the shared Support folder not the Icon Menus folder. New icons for these menus are saved in the Menu Icons folder with the other icon images.

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The Project Properties determine which icon menu is used. Once the environment file is set to determine the menus location and name, update any existing projects Project Properties to match. Select the path headers that have changed, and then press Default.

Menu Icons

These images are created during the symbol creation process. They must be stored in a shared folder on the network.

A number of AutoCAD Slide Libraries (.slb) and their matching .dll files are needed in this folder as well. Without them the default icons will all be blank.

Templates

clip_image004The term templates and title blocks are used interchangeably. However they are two different things. Templates contain a title block but also are the source of quite a bit of other information as well. The following is a quick list of things that should be included in company templates.

AutoCAD Electrical uses the same template format as AutoCAD (.dwt). The default template location is set in the AutoCAD Options Files tab. (see image on right)

Title Block
Each template should contain a border and title block. Both can be contained in the same block as well. The actual ‘title block’ block name must be named consistently between different sizes and types of templates. Also, consistent attributes must be used between the different title blocks. The block names and their attributes are referenced by the .wdl and .wdt files that drive the title block update process.

Wire Types
Wire types are simply layers designated as “wires.” However additional information can also be included with each wire type.

Layers
Layer naming, color, and style should be setup to match the company’s standards. The names need to match the Layers called out in the Drawing and Project Properties.

Properties
The template’s Drawing Properties should be reviewed and updated as needed.

Project File (.wdp)
A template project file should be created with all properties set as desired. The project file’s properties will be referenced when creating new projects.

Miscellaneous Files

Title Block Mapping Files (default_wdtitle.wdl/default.wdt)
Both of these files are needed for the Title Block Updates utility to function properly. Both files should reside in the networked support path.

Installation and Location Reference Files (default.inst/default.loc)
These files store commonly used installation and location codes. Both files should reside in the networked support path.

Component Description Reference File (wd_desc.wdd)
Commonly used descriptions and labels are stored in this file for easy repeated use. This file should reside in the networked support path.

Considerations for Remote Users

Since so much of what AutoCAD Electrical needs to fully function now lives on the network, users working remotely need special consideration. Disconnecting from the network will leave users with no environment file, icon menus, symbols, and more. There are several options for this type of user.

Full Time VPN Connection
This is the easiest option if a VPN connection is already available for users.

  • Pros/Cons
    Users have a consistent work environment.
    Always requires a network connection to work.
    Can affect performance with a slow internet connection.

Network Folder Made Available Offline
Right click on the network share and choose Make Available Offline. This will bring a copy of everything in the folder local. Whenever a network connection is present these files will sync.

  • Pros/Cons
    Easy to setup. Easy for users because no paths change. When the network is down users still see the offline network paths.
    Modifying the sync partnerships inside of Microsoft Sync Center allows a one way data transfer. This sync should only pull from the network. Users should not be modifying any shared files while offline.
    Setup Microsoft Sync Center will sometimes lose its associations due to changes on the network.
    It can be hard for users to tell when they are truly connected and when they are working on local files.

Manage the Shared Files with Vault
All shared files are checked into Vault and users pull a copy locally.

  • Pros/Cons
    This method works best if a ‘librarian’ is the only one making changes. Changes are made and then users are notified to re-pull the AutoCAD Electrical library files.
    The databases can be quite large and pulling a new copy can take some time on a slow connection.
    Users lose the ability to quickly add/modify the databases. Instead the file must be checked out from the Vault Client and then later checked back in.
    Users can control when updates are pulled down from the network

Batch Files to Update Local Copy
This method involves two batch files. One to swap environment files between a work online and a work offline environment. A second file, to refresh the local files to match the network files.

  • Pros/Cons
    Takes a bit of setup followed by training on the end users part.
    Gives end users the control of when they are offline/online
    Users can control when updates are pulled down from the network
    This method works best if a ‘librarian’ is the only one making changes. Changes are made and then users are notified to re-pull the AutoCAD Electrical library files.
    More complex environment to manage and control. Also makes upgrades a bit more challenging.


I hope that gives some good food for thought. Feel free to continue this discussion below in the comments.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Running Scripts on Multiple Files – AutoCAD Electrical

Several times now I have been asked how to “do something” to every drawing in the project. The last one to come across my desk was to freeze all layers on all drawings project wide. AutoCAD Electrical actually has some really good tools for running scripts. I find myself turning to it even for non Electrical needs quite often.

Here are some examples I have encountered recently:
Updating the company address, or copyright year, on all title blocks
Swapping title blocks on all drawings (Swap/Update Block)
Zoom Extents, set limits, and export PDF
Add company standards (layers, dim styles, ect) to all drawings
Freeze all layers

Pushing a Script Project Wide

This method involves a script file (.scr). A script file consists of only what you would type in the command line. Start Notepad and type everything command there as you would in the Command Line. For example to freeze all layers and then do zoom extents your script file would look like this.
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To test a script file simply drag and drop the file into the drawing window. The script will run and you will quickly see if it runs properly. If you script is complex, consider adding notes. Any line started with a semi-colon is ignored by the script file. Add comments starting with a semi-colon to make future edits easier to understand.

And now to run this script on an entire project. Make the desired project active and then choose Utilities from the Project tab.
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In this dialog, select ‘Run command script file’ and select the script file to run. After pressing OK the option for project wide is the default.
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Pushing a Script On All Drawings in a Folder

This option is hidden under the Symbol Builder drop down menu. The command is Modify Symbol Library. This utility can be used to simply run an AutoCAD command or to run a script on all files in a folder.
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The first thing the command asks for is a folder. After selecting the folder, the following dialog displays. I recommend creating a test folder with only a few drawings to prove out the script before running on a large number of files.
Check the Run AutoLISP box and enter a LISP command.
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This dialog checks your LISP command for proper formatting. If something is wrong the following will display.
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Any AutoCAD command can be run in LISP by simply starting with “command”. Remember all LISP lines are enclosed in parentheses ().

I entered the following to run my script file… (command "_.script" "C:\LayerLock.scr")
Press Start and sit back while AutoCAD Electrical does all the work.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Customizing The Marking Menu in AutoCAD Electrical

imageFirst we should discuss what the marking menu is and how it works. If you recently upgraded from 2012 or previous, you noticed the right click menu has changed into a circle of commands instead of the usual menu.

This menu can be used exactly like the previous one. By first right clicking and then left clicking the desired command. However once you know the location, or direction, of the commands, simply hold right click and drag in the general direction and the command in that direction loads.

imageDepending on your workflow, you may find that several of the options on the marking menu are not used that often. In my case I use Copy Wire Number far more than Bend Wire. In this example I will replace the Bend Wire command with Copy Wire Number.

For the most part, everything about the user interface is driven by the .cuix file. Modify this file by selecting CUI at the command line. There are may things that can be done here but we will focus on modifying the right click menu on this post. image

The marking menus are found under the heading “Shortcut Menus.” Expanding one of them shows the commands that would be shown on the marking menu when that menu was called for.
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Not the number of menus… this isn’t as simple as changing one menu and your done. These menus are context sensitive. So there are several of each type.

For wires there are the following menus: Wires, Hot Wire menu only – Wires, and Hot Wire menu only - Wires with no gaps. So all three may need to change depending on the command.

Next we need to make sense of the order of the commands. The CUI editor shows them in list form. But the right click menu is a circle. I know we can simply swap out the one being replacing but its good to know the order. From the Electrical help I found the following.
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So that translates into the following.
menu   image
On to making the command swap. I have found the command I wish to swap out…
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And now to find the command I wish to replace it with. Simply type the name of the command into the command search bar of the CUI window.
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Next drag the command from the search results up into the menu above.
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After Removing the Bend Wire command I’m done with this menu. On to the other wire menu with Bend Wire.
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             And finally test the menu.
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Monday, January 12, 2015

Working with Multiple Level Terminals – AutoCAD Electrical

As multi-level terminals grow in popularity, we continue receiving questions about how to make them work in Electrical. Multi-level terminal blocks are unique in that they are represented by multiple schematic symbols but have a single BOM entry and panel footprint.

There is nothing special about the blocks or footprints. The real magic happens in the database. There are a number of extra fields in the default.cat.mdb that store the extra information needed for associating the different levels together.

The Properties

Lets first look at the properties. In this document I am using AutoCAD Electrical 2015. If you have 2014 or older, you will have a slightly different method for getting to these properties. I’ll post some screen grabs at the bottom of this post that show the older tools.

Simply edit a terminal and press Catalog Lookup. Then press the “Edit” button image and scroll all the way to the right.
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Here you can see the additional properties dedicated to multi level terminals. Modifying them is quite easy. Simply enter the number of levels in the LEVELS cell and then click the image button to open the edit terminal property form. Enter all known information and press OK.
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To add/modify internal jumpers between the levels, click on the INTERNALJUMPER cell then click the image button. Select the levels to jumper and then press the Assign Jumper button.
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The Workflow for Associating Terminal Levels Between Symbols

imageThere are a number of ways to create the association between the terminals. In this short tutorial I will only show one. After the symbols have been placed, edit one of them. If multiple levels are present they will be listed in the Edit Terminal dialog.

If no additional levels are present, press Details >> button, and then Catalog Lookup and select a multi-level terminal block.

To create level associations press the Add/Modify button.
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From the resulting dialog, select the terminal you wish to associate, then click the level to add it to, and finally press the Associate button.

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After the level associations are created, the order of the levels can be modified by using the Move Up and Move Down buttons.
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That’s pretty much it. If this was too confusing, or involved too much clicking, terminals can be associated using the right click menu as well. Simply right click, Associate Terminals, and then click the “other” terminal.

Placing/Updating the Terminal Strip will show the new associations.
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Terminal Properties For AutoCAD Electrical 2014 and Previous Users

Edit the terminal properties by using the Terminal Properties Database Editor. Look at existing multi-level terminals and note the format needed for each field. (for example 2,2,2)
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