What’s New in Autodesk Inventor 2015

By Damien Jovica, Redstack
Phone: 1300 667 263

Hybrid Parametric Direct Editing, N.U.R.B.S with T-Splines and more…

Inventor 2015 is one of Autodesk's best releases ever, unlike any other CAD tool currently on the market, it not only delivers enhancements to existing tools and User Interface but adds new technology that makes this product very unique.

There are two big additions and many enhancements.  This article concentrates on Parametric Direct Editing, Freeform and Large Assembly Express Mode.

Parametric Direct Editing

The ongoing debate with CAD modellers has been what’s better; Parametric or Direct Editing? What if you could have both?

Changing features in parts with complex histories in Parametric modellers can be a difficult and slow process because changes can affect other features causing errors, analysing those errors and rework. It can be difficult to edit complex parts with Parametric Modellers, particularly when it is someone else’s creation or it has been a while since the file was used, which is why many users prefer Direct Editing where you are not constrained by a history of features. However, Direct Editing methodology also has it’s disadvantages.


What if you could edit parts without affecting the history? What if you wanted to explore your changes without committing to them or make a quick change and not have to go through re-editing features or reading error lists and correcting them?

With the new Direct Edit tool you can parametrically move, size and rotate imported solids or native Autodesk Inventor files.

The Direct Edit tool allows you to select solid bodies or faces and make direct edits to them. Options include changing the triad, orientating the selection and snapping parallel to other geometry.

You can push and pull geometry to the desired size or enter in a value. While editing using the size tool (say the thickness of a body) is limited to an offset, changing the size of holes can be done by offset, diameter and radius.

When making a direct edit, Autodesk Inventor will preview the change so you can see what the desired effect is.

If a direct edit is made, an icon will show next to the edit in the modelling environment and also in the history tree. Double clicking on either will allow you to re-edit. Another great feature when entering values is that you can use run equations, select pre-defined parameters such as diameter or re-use commonly used values too.

Deleting the Direct Edit in the History Tree will restore the geometry back to the original state.

This Project Chronicle Video provides a basic introduction:

INV 2015 Direct Editing


Freeform Tools (N.U.R.B.S with T-Splines)

If you use CAD for surfacing, need to design complex geometry or create designs where aesthetics are important, then T-Splines will make you question your current CAD tool and how much time you have wasted in the past.

What are T-Splines?

Purchased by Autodesk in 2012, incorporated in Fusion 360 and popular amongst Rhino users, T-Splines is a solid-body surfacing tool which makes surfacing significantly easier while maintaining G2 Continuity.

It makes NURBS modeling easier by picking single or multiple faces, control points/vertices or edges and by push/pull or specifying a numeric value, modifying the surface.


  • The combination of NURBS & T-Splines maintains G2 continuity (aka C2 curvature)
  • Simplifies Surface Modeling with High Quality Results
  • T-Splines allows designers to
    • Add detail only where necessary
    • Create non-rectangular topology
    • Easily edit complex freeform models
    • Maintain NURBS compatibility


If only the best Class-A Surfaces will do, use Alias or ICEM Surf, however, like most users, who need a 3D Mechanical CAD tool with high quality, easy to use Surfacing capabilities, Autodesk Inventor 2015 is the best option.

See this basic video of the new Freeform (N.U.R.B.S with T-Splines) tool:



Large Assembly Express Mode

Express Mode came in 2014 with Large Assemblies opening  6 times faster, but once it was opened, you couldn’t do much with it other than view, save, Pack & Go or Export.

If you wanted to do any editing, you had to open it in Full Mode. Feedback was that users liked Express Mode and wanted more, so Autodesk built on the technology and provided these additional tools while in Express Mode:

  • Assemble > Edit Parts & Sub-Assemblies in place without opening them in a separate window
  • Assemble > Place Components or Create Components
  • Assemble > Create / Edit Work Features, Create / Edit Sketches
  • Assemble > Assemble, Constrain, Joint Commands
  • Assemble > Pattern & Mirror
  • Assemble > Position (Free Move & Rotate)
  • Simplify > Include Components, Define Envelopes & Create Simplified Part
  • 3D Model > Create Planes, Axis, Points, UCS
  • 3D Model > Create Parameters, Import/Export Parameters
  • Tools > Material & Appearances, Macros, VBA
  • Manage > Update, BoM, Styles & Standards, Point Cloud Tools, Insert Objects
  • Inspect > Measure, Analyse Interferences
  • View > Use the Section View command, Change Visual Styles
  • Environments > Eco Materials Adviser
  • Drawing > Drawing Views are much faster

We all know how painful working with Large Assemblies can be, especially when creating and editing parts or drawings. Systems will just hang, so let’s see how a 3,800 part Assembly opens and edits with Inventor 2015 on my HP Elitebook 8540w (i7-Q 720 1.6Ghz, 16GB RAM, 1GB Quadro FX 1800M and SSD):

Large Assembly Performance


Other Noteworthy Enhancements

There’s been a lot of nice enhancements but these are the ones that stand out to me:

  • AutoCAD Electrical Catalogue Add-In - The Catalogue Browser is a model-less palette which means it can remain on the screen while other commands are used. As you download parts from vendors or create your own parts, you can associate those parts to a catalogue value to be used within the Catalogue Browser.
  • Sketching: Relax Mode – When Relax Mode is on, this new enhancement will override constraints and make the appropriate constraint to fit.

Relax Mode

  • Wrap to Surface/Face – This creates a custom helix curve as a lightweight more precise curve.

Wrap to Surface

  • Frame Generator: Member Reuse – This has been a long time coming, you can cut down on members in your Assembly by selecting a source member.
  • Joint Command supports creating a joint Between Two Faces and offsetting the origin. These commands were already available in the constraint tool, but have now added them to Joints.
  • Get a default thread depth and hole depth value in the thread.xls spreadsheet
  • Use a twist angle to control rotations in sweep features
  • iPart & Parameter Table enhancements
  • Sketching Plane enhancements
  • Ray Tracing Enhancements
  • Sheet Metal
    • Use a window to select points to place punch
    • Delete /Convert Flat Pattern Enhancements
    • Apply sheet metal punch features across bends
    • View entire property names in the Bend Edit dialog box
    • Use Cut Normal in the Cut dialog box
    • Unfold/Refold imported Sheet Metal part with zero radius bend
  • Drawing
    • Double-click anywhere on a balloon to edit
    • Move a split table to another sheet
    • Keep your Parts List sorted automatically
    • Identify drawing view associative sheet reference in View Label
  • Point Cloud and Reality Capture Enhancements
    • With the new Navigator command, you can navigate to and define the visibility status of scan regions, or scan locations in a point cloud.
    • Use the new Cloud Plane command to create a construction plane inferred from a set of points in a point cloud.
    • You can now set the density(level of detail) and maximum loaded points for point cloud in the Attach Point Cloud dialog box
    • You can now measure the distance from a Point Cloud to a Point Cloud plane and other geometry.


Autodesk Inventor 2015 is a very impressive 3D CAD System for the mid-range market. There may be better Direct Editors out there and some high end solutions may have better large assemblies performance, but I don’t think there is anything on the market that can do 3D MCAD, Hybrid Parametric Direct Editing, N.U.R.B.S, T-Splines and native DWG drawing, in addition to all the other great tools.

On top of all of that, Autodesk Inventor comes in Autodesk Product Design Suite which also contains  AutoCAD Mechanical, Raster Design, ReCap, 3ds Max Design, Navisworks and AutoCAD Electrical depending on which suite is purchased.

When you consider the whole suite of technology you get from Autodesk is the same price as any other midrange 3D CAD System, what Autodesk provide in Autodesk Inventor and Autodesk Product Design Suite is very impressive.

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