Mass file renaming and relinking in Inventor Part I: The results

*Edit: New, translated, version posted on GitHub with install instructions. Check it out at https://github.com/3dfernando/Ferramentas-de-Montagem

 

1. Introduction

If you’re a mechanical designer for a living, chances are that you already had to copy an existing design. Even higher are the chances that you already had to rename all the files in a given assembly to match an ERP needs or a coding system needs.

Well, there are many ways of doing this, but I found that all the built-in ways in Autodesk Inventor have some sort of caveat:

  • Manual renaming in explorer: This is a pain in the ***. Apart from renaming the files one by one, you have to keep track of the old-new name correlations so when you open the assemblies in Inventor, you can redo the links manually.
  • Excel VBA to rename files: This is a little bit less cumbersome. You relieve the pain of renaming the files one by one, but the relinking still needs to be done manually in Inventor. At least you can print the correlation table from Excel.
  • Using the Design Assistant: This tool is nice, but there is a missing functionality that keeps it from being something usable for large assemblies: One cannot paste a table in the treeview. Imagine you as a designer already having the old-new naming correlations in an Excel table, but unable to paste them in Design Assistant. You still have to do the renaming manually. Sometimes it hurts productivity even more as the files are organized according to the tree, so finding them is another issue.
  • Using the CopyDesign add-in sample from Inventor SDK: This is an example piece of software that comes with the Inventor API SDK. It does what it’s supposed to do: Copies a design and renames the files. The problem is, you need to have the new names beforehand. And new files (which are probably going to happen in a copied design) will have to be named correctly during design, which is not always possible under an ERP system.

2. My solution

So, now that I showed the available options and how they did not meet my needs, let me state what I want to do and what I came up with using the Inventor API.

I want to make a file list using Excel VBA (which will list the file names for the current assembly) and, using some made-up rule, assign new names to the existing files. Here I think Excel will always be way more flexible than any piece of software I would ever write, so I decided to leave the rule creation to the freedom of the user. A table like the one shown below will be the output from Excel as a CSV file and read by this program:

existing-new
Input CSV file format for the renaming system

I open the main assembly file and import the correlation table on my API-brew software. It figures out what files need to be renamed if they match the name in the “from” column of the correlation table. It finds out whether there are any equally-named *.idw files in the path. It renames all the files and then redoes the links in all levels of the assembly. Finally, it saves the assembly.

That’s the procedure in a nutshell. The heavy work is done by the software. So how does it look in Inventor? Follow the step-by-step screenshots shown below.

2.1. Main assembly loaded in my API interface

***Edit: I changed the button name to “Batch Renaming“.

FirstScreen.png
Screen of the “Batch Renaming” add-in showing the list of components referenced by the assembly

2.2. Loading the CSV file

SecondScreen.png
CSV file being selected in the file browser

2.3. Correspondences loaded in the file being displayed on-screen

In this case, not all files were selected to be renamed as some parts belong to the library.

FourthScreen.png
Files to be renamed are shown in the table in bold

2.4. Renamed files in Explorer

fifthscreen
Files after the renaming in the explorer view…
sixthscreen
… and in the Inventor treeview!

3. Conclusion

So the use of this tool saved us quite a lot of time on the renaming of files. For larger assemblies, of >700 parts, a reliable manual renaming took up to 3-4 hours and could be reduced to something like 10 minutes. If you think this tool might be useful for you too, please let me know in the comments!

I published it on GitHub in this address: https://github.com/3dfernando/Ferramentas-de-Montagem. Please check it out and let me know if it was useful for your job!

If you guys understand Portuguese, you might find this video I made in my language for my comrades useful. I’ll soon produce an English version with the updated code so more audience can understand it. **EDIT: there it is =)

Author: Fernando Zigunov

I'm a brazilian Mechanical Engineer, aspiring to become a PhD candidate soon! I'm currently an R&D specialist at a refrigeration contracting company, researching for new products to push the industrial refrigeration market technologies forward.

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