See What's New In Autodesk Inventor 2016

By Damien Jovica, Redstack
Phone: 1300 667 263 

This is one of the biggest and best releases in CAD let alone Inventor.

When Autodesk released Inventor 2015, I thought it was one the best CAD system on the planet, and then Inventor 2016 came along. Inventor 2016 blows away anything else on the market, especially when you get it in a suite of other best of breed products. Nothing else comes close.

So what’s new in AutodeskInventor 2016? It’s #TheFutureofMakingThings

These are some of the new features and enhancements in Inventor 2016:

  • AnyCAD – What’s that you ask?
  • New Electromechanical Workflows
  • New Freeform Tools
  • New Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) Module
  • New Rendering Engine
  • Multi-Body Sheet Metal
  • Presentation Module Enhancements
  • Drawing Enhancements
  • New Home Screen
  • Part Modeling Enhancements

There have also been other enhancements but these are the main one’s that stand out.


This is probably the most exciting feature for me. AnyCAD allows you to open other CAD files natively with associativity, so if the source file is modified, it will automatically update inside Autodesk Inventor, allowing you to work with virtually any CAD file or format.

AnyCAD Lightning Bolt icon

AnyCAD Lightning Bolt icon

Previously, when you opened another CAD file, it would translate and make a copy of the file in Inventor's native format *.ipt or *.iam.

You could still open and convert CAD data that way however, Autodesk have modified the interface, where you can either translate the file and lose associativity or import the file as a reference and maintain associativity.

This feature has been around for a few years now, giving users associativity between Inventor and Alias. In 2016, this functionality extends to AutoCAD DWG and other non-Autodesk CAD platforms.

This video shows the new AnyCAD functionality in Autodesk Inventor 2016 at the Assembly level:

Here’s another video of AnyCAD where modifications are made to the source file inside Inventors Assembly environment:

At the assembly level in Autodesk Inventor, you have the option to choose which parts and/or sub-assemblies you would like to bring in and can go back at anytime, edit the import and choose to add or remove parts from the assembly you are importing.

Import UI - Dynamic parts filter

Import UI – Dynamic parts filter

When a change is made to the source file, a lightning bolt will emerge on the imported file. To update the change, the user will need to manually update the file so the changes come through. This is a deliberate option to give the user control over whether they wanted the update to modify the design.

If the user selects reference model during the import, the model comes in as a reference and you cannot do any direct editing, except for move face, or feature recognition to the model. You can however use the sketch and 3D Model commands and add features to the model such as extrusion, holes, fillets, etc.

AnyCAD - Modifying Reference Model - Hole

Creating Hole features from a sketch of points created on a face

AnyCAD - Modifying Reference Model - Move Face

Moving the Face of an imported reference part file

Part numbers and other metadata come in so you can produce your Bill of Materials, you can suppress the link to the source file or break the link and convert the file to an Inventor file.

Autodesk Inventor - AnyCAD - DWG Options

AutoCAD DWG files import much faster in 2016 as you will see in the video below as they don’t require any translation.

The new underlay feature and Project DWG geometry command allows you to easily turn 2D blocks into 3D models and maintain associativity. Users have the option of suppressing or breaking the associative link and turning layers on and off from a simple right click.

Here’s what AnyCAD looks like with DWG files:


At the part level, the user needs to import the model as you would at the assembly level. The benefit of importing at the part level is that you can utilise the hybrid parametric direct editing tools to modify the reference model being imported. The down-side is that the metadata like part numbers don’t come through and you cannot do any assembly level commands (i.e. set constraints, etc.) in the part environment.

You can, however, open your part in an assembly and have an assembly version of the imported model in the assembly environment too as a workaround. Obviously, if you make a edit to a part that is also being modified by the source CAD program, when the model refreshes, you will have errors that will need correcting.

Here’s a video of AnyCAD at the part level:

The AnyCAD import functionality supports the following formats:

  • Autodesk Alias
  • Autodesk AutoCAD 2D DWG
  • Dassault Systemes Catia V4 and V5
  • Dassault Systemes Solidworks
  • PTC Creo 
  • Pro Engineer Wildfire
  • Siemens NX

This is where I see the benefits of AnyCAD for an Inventor user:

1: Associativity – I’m working on the part of the project, a stakeholder is working on another part (partner, client, supplier, fellow employee (for those running multiple CAD systems)) in a different CAD system, changes get made and they automatically update making collaboration easier.

2. Speed – Importing as a reference file is a lot faster than translating the data and converting it to an Inventor file.

3. Geometry Integrity – As it is imported as reference geometry, there are no translation errors and issues with repairing geometry.

4. Flexibility – At anytime you can filter which part of the imported assembly you want to bring in.

5. Data Management – When you import 3rd party CAD data as reference model, you are working with the one file, the true source. You are not doubling up creating a copy of the file as an Inventor file and having to manage duplicates.

6. Migration – A new Inventor user can migrate easily over to Inventor, work with their old CAD system when they need to, work on new projects in Inventor, import their old CAD data, work in one environment and bypass all the issues that come with translating, migrating and feature recognition.

7. Multi-CAD Environments – Use the right tool for the right job. For example, If AutoCAD is the best tool, use that, if Inventor has the best tool for another part of the project, then use Inventor, etc., and tie it all together work in one ‘master’ environment (Autodesk Inventor).

For anyone who needs to work with other CAD formats or is looking for a reason to be able to upgrade and transition to a better solution, there are a range of Autodesk suites that contain Inventor:

AnyCAD functionality is available in Inventor and Inventor Professional.

Electromechanical Live Link

The next big thing with Autodesk inventor 2016 is the live link with AutoCAD Electrical. Previous releases had a Bi-directional import function via XML. The Electrical catalogue was added in 2015 making it easier to import and export.

The 2016 release is a true Electromechanical solution that synchronises Autodesk Inventor and AutoCAD Electrical. Whether you are in Inventor or AutoCAD Electrical, there is an Electromechanical Link Setup button, where you can create a project and link the Inventor assembly to the AutoCAD Electrical project via an EMX file.

Once this has been setup, Inventor and AutoCAD will synchronise, so if a change is made in either program, the other will update. Synchronsiation can be setup automatically in intervals or manually.

More information can be found on how this functionality works in the What’s New in AutoCAD Electrical 2016 page here. Inventor Professional and AutoCAD Electrical are available in Product Design Suite Ultimate

Freeform Modelling Features 

Autodesk Inventor 2015 came out with a Freeform modelling module based on N.U.R.B.S. with T-Splines, a Sub-D surfacing technology which is amazing. Compared to the freeform features in Fusion 360, it was limited to starting with primitives and a few other features like Bridge, Match Edge, Crease Edge, etc. In December, 2014, Fusion 360 was included as a subscription service in Product Design Suite.

Autodesk Inventor 2016 has incorporated many of the Fusion 360 features into the Freeform module such as:

  • Convert to Freeform – You can convert a Solid Face, Body or a Surface to a Freeform Surface
  • Create Freeform Face – Sketches out a Freeform face
  • Create Freeform Plane – Like a Freeform face with perpendicular edges
  • Make Uniform
  • Add Distance – Gives you the distance between a plane and a point
  • Flatten – Flattens the surface
  • Weld Vertices – Welds points to change the surface
  • Align Form – Aligns a form to a plane
  • Merge Edges – Merges separate edges together
  • Unweld Edges – Separates edges
  • Thicken – Thickens the freeform surface
  • Toggle Translucent – Turn on/off transparency
  • Soft Modification – Modify surfaces for a finer finish when making tweaks

With these new tools, users can work with Solid’s, B-Rep Surfaces, T-Splines Primitives and/or Faces, input Freeform and Parametric parameters all in one environment. Here’s some videos of the new features.

Convert to Freeform & Soft Modification:

Here’s a video of the other new tools:

Freeform Convert:

Freeform Face:

The Freeform modelling capabilities should be available in Inventor LT and are definitely in Autodesk Inventor and Inventor Professional.

Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) Module 

Additive Manufacturing has exploded as one of the fastest growing industries. Autodesk has some nice tools like Meshmixer and Momento that you should check out if you are 3D Printing and working with meshes. In the 2016 release of Inventor now comes an Additive Manufacturing Module.

Under the Environments tab, there is a 3D print icon. This module allows you to setup a test bed and work out the best way of printing your part. when you enter the environment the part snaps to the test bed, where it has the tools to re-orientate and partition parts on the test bed to make parts fit if they are too large.

There’s a range of 3D Printers pre-loaded into the module where you can view the print mesh and export to STL. For all the Makerbot and Ultimaker fans, you can buy your 3D printers and consumables here

Rendering Engine

The rendering engine has received an overhaul and has some great new features. With Ray Tracing on, you can save at anytime, there are additional IBL’s, there's a new command called ‘refine appearance’, a new drawing view called ‘Technical Illustration’, there is a transparency button under the view ribbon and there are specular and refraction options in drawings.

New Rendering Engine

Multi-Body Sheet Metal

Multi-body Sheet Metal

As the name suggests, Autodesk Inventor 2016 supports multi-body sheet metal parts. I've been waiting a long time for this one. You can now convert a multi-body part to a multi-body sheet metal part and create new bodies like you would in the part environment. Support for zero bend radius is in many commands, the material thickness is detected when you convert a part to sheet metal part and the punch tool shows a count of the number of selections you have made.

Presentation Module Enhancements

The Presentation part of Inventor hadn’t been updated in a while, so it is good to see enhancements in this area. The biggest thing is the user interface has been revamped with a triad like you see in the Direct Editing command. It gives more control over continuous move, trails and placement.


Drawing Enhancements

Enhancements have been made to having the view cube when dropping in a view and being able to dynamically change orientation. You can start a drawing from any open model, and automatically apply the current model camera and representations in the base view. There have also been enhancements to the symbol library, making it easier to create new symbols and also making it more centralised.

Create Drawing View

New Inventor Home Screen

The Inventor home screen has changed with a more graphical interface, searching capabilities, pinning files, filters, view properties of selected files and adding directory paths and shortcuts to links

.Home Screen

Part Modeling Enhancements

  • Face draft contains powerful new options that let you Fix or Move the parting line:

  • Ruled Surface is added to the surfacing commands:

  • The Mirror and Pattern commands support multiple solid body selection.
  • Previously, nonlinear patterns of a solid body in a multi body part file have not been possible. You can now create nonlinear patterns for solid bodies.
  • Drag a sketch above the parent feature in the browser to share it.
  • The Measure command now allows you to measure an angle to the midpoint of any segment. This option is achieved by hovering your mouse over the midpoint of a segment until a yellow dot appears.
Sketch Enhancements
  • Identify which workplane or face a sketch was created on.
  • The selected Show All or Hide All Constraints display setting remains active as you sketch and throughout your editing session.
  • You can now create tangent dimensions between circular or arc geometry within a 2D sketch.
  • The Initial View Scale property of the first drawing review placed on the sheet is added in the Sheet Properties group within the Format Text dialog box.
  • The Sketch Dimensions option is added to the Object Visibility list. Select this option to display 2D or 3D sketches and hide all related sketch dimensions.
  • Sharing a sketch is made visible by dragging above the feature in browser.
  • New snap points added to the context menu: Endpoint, Apparent Intersection, Quadrant, and Mid of 2 points.
  • You can now modify Start Sketch and select a view or sheet before sketching.
Assembly Enhancements
  • New safety factor calculation warning displays in Stress Analysis.
  • The Midplane option has been added to the assembly Pattern command. Select the Midplane option to create a pattern distributed on both sides of the original component.
  • Replace All feature available for highlighted components within an assembly.
  • Select multiple sick constraints within Design Doctor to delete.

Workflow Enhancements

  • Attach undocked browsers to screen edges
  • Copy/Paste and Copy to User Parameters
  • the Esc key will terminate, interrupt or cancel operations

Autodesk has produced an excellent release and what’s more exciting is that the next release slated has some great new features too, so it just shows how serious Autodesk are about putting in innovative technology into Inventor and keeping clients satisfied that they are getting their money’s worth for their subscription dollar.

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