March 11, 2022
By: Randall S. Newton
New features in Graebert’s mechanical CAD solution allow users to fully access and edit legacy drawings created in Autodesk’s AutoCAD Mechanical.
Mechanical design and drafting professionals have made DWG-based software an industry standard for a generation. However, in the decades since the introduction of the DWG data storage format, the software market has evolved; it is now possible for non-AutoCAD products to read and write DWG files with full fidelity. But this seamless interoperability has not extended to AutoCAD Mechanical elements, until now.
Today, Mechanical ARES of Graebert provides interoperability and discipline-specific tools as well as full DWG compatibility. In addition to offering a comprehensive collection of tools for creating technical drawings, ARES Mechanical can now read and modify designs originally created with Autodesk’s AutoCAD Mechanical. This groundbreaking achievement makes the millions of legacy drawings created with AutoCAD Mechanical fully accessible for continued use.
In the rest of this article, I will explore ARES Mechanical features that help users create or modify 2D mechanical drawings with support for legacy entities from AutoCAD Mechanical. To dive deeper into this topic, I invite you to join me, Randall Newton, Technical Analyst and Founder of ConsiliaVektor.com, at the free online event hosted by Graebert. I’ll be the guest speaker for the 30-minute technical talk on DWG for Mechanical, which will also include demonstrations of the new features in action.
Join Graebert with Randall Newton, Technical Analyst and Keynote Speaker, April 7 at 11:00 a.m. (EST) for a 30-minute technical talk on ARES Mechanical and its support for legacy DWG mechanical entities.
The limits of smart objects
Autodesk first released AutoCAD Mechanical in 2005. This superset of AutoCAD simplified tedious tasks like creating markups and BOMs. The software used new “smart object” technology to add interactive intelligence to common mechanical symbols and entities. It used object-specific functions instead of working only with geometric primitives or simple blocks. AutoCAD Mechanical also made life easier by including an extensive library of mechanical parts and pre-drawn symbols, which could be extended by users and third-party vendors.
But there was a downside to this increased and specialized functionality: these new features only worked in AutoCAD Mechanical. If a drafting technician sent a drawing to someone who only used standard AutoCAD (or any other CAD program), the special mechanical objects would appear in the drawing, but they would lose their smart capabilities. If someone with regular AutoCAD needed to modify a smart object, it would have to be “exploded” first – broken down into geometric primitives. (These new “dumb objects” have been dubbed “zombies” in the AutoCAD user community.)
The cost of maintaining compatibility
Today, many companies design with 3D solid modeling, but document those designs with 2D CAD. Others continue to use drafting software for all of their engineering. Either way, design and drafting teams need all of their information, including data inherited from AutoCAD Mechanical files, to be easily accessible and fully usable. Any lack of full interoperability between old data and new designs is a waste of time and money.
In recent years, Autodesk has chosen to change its business model. Instead of selling software as a standalone product that continues to work for years, Autodesk now licenses it as a subscription. Additionally, the company has changed the way it manages these subscriptions: instead of renting a specific number of network-based “seats” that can be shared within an organization, each copy of AutoCAD or a other Autodesk software used is assigned to a named “position”. user”, who is the only person authorized to use this specific instance of the software.
Before Autodesk implemented this change, many companies saved money by using a network licensing model to share usage among multiple users within the company. For some, the shift to 3D design meant there was less demand for drafting software, but it couldn’t be completely eliminated from their workflow. When Autodesk ended network licensing, these companies found themselves paying more for the drawing software they still needed, but with no added utility. During the forced billing realignment, Autodesk offered two named user seats for each network copy, but that was not enough for many companies that used network licenses to support four or more users per shared copy.
For companies trying to manage their technology budgets, this lack of interoperability without continuing to subscribe to AutoCAD Mechanical presents a dilemma: do they invest in new design technologies or continue to pay for a subscription to a program that is only used to update and modify proprietary elements in a drawing?
Regain access to legacy data
The current release of Graebert ARES Mechanical allows users to work with AutoCAD Mechanical entities and update files previously created in AutoCAD Mechanical. This includes part numbers, parts lists, and BOMs. (This functionality is specific to ARES Mechanical. In ARES Commander, or in AutoCAD without Mechanical toolsets, you can view these entities, but you cannot access mechanical data associated with AutoCAD Mechanical entities.)
The ability to open, edit, and save AutoCAD Mechanical entities solves a key problem for many companies: they have accumulated thousands of mechanical drawings that can only be fully edited with AutoCAD Mechanical. These legacy drawing collections are more than archives; these are important resources that need to be updated over time. Some companies want to move the data to 3D solid modeling applications where new design work is underway. Others want to access information in smart objects, import it into new drawings, or modify it for continued use in the existing drawing.
The impact on net income
ARES Mechanical can read, modify, and write data saved as AutoCAD Mechanical smart objects at a lower price than AutoCAD.
Graebert offers users several licensing options. Businesses can purchase perpetual licenses or subscribe to the software on an annual basis:
Subscription prices start at $450 for 1 year or $900 for 3 years.
A perpetual license costs $1,290, or $1,490 with one year of access to Graebert’s Trinity of CAD software, which allows users to work across browsers (with ARES Kudo) and mobile devices (with ARES Touch) as well than desktop computers, enabling new collaborative workflows.
These licensing options can be compared to the $1,775 annual price for an AutoCAD subscription, which includes the Mechanical toolset but offers no access to browser- or tablet-specific software.
Inside ARES Mechanical
Anyone who has experience with AutoCAD or other drafting software will be immediately at ease with the ARES Mechanical interface. ARES Mechanical-specific commands and tools are accessible in their own workspace. The Home, Mechanical Content, and Mechanical Annotation menus change to match similar commands in AutoCAD Mechanical.
The Properties palette provides immediate access to all relevant settings for smart objects and other elements, including bubbles and layers.
Part references can be edited or customized to add (for example) a new field or to change the description. Part references can be copied and placed elsewhere as needed. Any entity can be added to a part reference.
The BOM is fully editable and fully linked to part references. A revision table is available to review changes and prepare for the creation of the final title block. Frames and title blocks are fully editable.
Dynamic Objects originally created in AutoCAD Mechanical, then opened and edited in ARES Mechanical, remain compatible with AutoCAD Mechanical.
On a day-to-day basis, ARES Mechanical can do whatever is necessary to create new designs or modify existing ones; 3D technology is supported the same as in AutoCAD. STEP and IGES files can be opened, edited and saved in DWG format or as new IGES/STEP files. (This is a common workflow when objects created in DWG need to be added to a 3D solid model.)
ARES Mechanical also includes a comprehensive feature set for printing and PDF export, whether you are working in model space or using frames.
Graebert ARES Mechanical is available for 64-bit Windows. It is published in English, German, Japanese, Korean and Polish. Besides being a complete DWG drawing engine, it supports five mechanical standards: ISO, ANSI, DIN, JIS and BSI. It can export files in PDF, DWG and DXF format.