by Nigel Ambayec, April 20, 2017

AnyCAD in Inventor: Working with Other CAD Files

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Autodesk Inventor AnyCAD

Inventor 2016 introduced AnyCAD, a feature that translates non-native CAD data into Inventor with associative connections. Users no longer need to maintain a multi-software environment, and the process of repeated file translation is a thing of the past.

With Inventor 2018, users can import SolidWorks, Catia, STEP, ProE, and more into their Inventor models and maintain associativity to the original file. Any changes to the original non-native file will be recognized and reflected in the Inventor environment. Read on to learn why this is so important. 

The Importance of AnyCAD in Inventor

There are many situations in which companies work in multi-CAD environments. This can be due to multiple divisions, company acquisitions, or maintenance of legacy data. The problem lies in getting proper communication and collaboration within the differing CAD systems.

In the past, you would need to export as a generic file type – something like IGES or STEP- to be opened in the secondary tool. Then comes the issue with design changes. If the source file changes, the entire export and translate process needs to start from scratch. Any direct edits are lost and need to be rebuilt.

Surely this helps large organizations, but what does it do for the single user?

The answer is collaboration. Small engineering firms are at the mercy of outside designers, suppliers, vendors, and customers using different CAD systems. Instead of having to spend a small fortune maintaining a number of different pieces of software, you can stay in a single tool and insert non-native assemblies with full associativity without any issues.

How does it work in Inventor AnyCAD?

Importing the file is one thing, but maintaining file links to foreign data is a completely different endeavor. Take a look at the process below which shows the AnyCAD workflow.

Step 1: Import files in Inventor AnyCAD

Use the Open dialog and browse to the desired file for import.

(Note: Make sure you change the “Files of Type” selection at the bottom of the dialog box)

Autodesk Inventor AnyCAD - Dialog Box

Step 2: Select Type 

You will be greeted with the dialog box below. Make sure you have “Reference Model” selected as the Import Type. This will maintain associativity between your new files and the original non-native data.

Autodesk Inventor AnyCAD - Import

Step 3: How does your file look like?

Once you click “OK”, your file will come into Inventor as a Part or Assembly, based on what you decided to import.

Autodesk Inventor AnyCAD - Example 1

Step 4: Edit the model

If needed, make your direct edits to the model. Notice that I changed the appearance and added a few cut extrudes in the picture below. What’s more, the material properties information from the original SolidWorks file came through to Inventor as well.

Autodesk Inventor AnyCAD - Updated File

Step 5: Update the model

If the source file – SolidWorks in this case – changes, you’re going to want to have that update reflect in your Inventor model. In order to update your Inventor model, save the updated non-native file to the same location as the original reference files. Make sure you replace or overwrite the original file. (Final Gearbox.SLDPRT)

Autodesk Inventor AnyCAD

Step 6: More updates!

Once you replace the reference file, Inventor will prompt you to update the file. Note the red Lighting Bolt symbol in the model tree (1) and the update button at the top of your Quick Access Toolbar (2).

Autodesk Inventor AnyCAD - Updated Design

Step 7: 

Once you hit the update button in the Quick Access Toolbar, the part will update based on the reference model. Note that some features disappeared (1), an extra feature was added (2), and the front face geometry changed (3).

Autodesk Inventor AnyCAD - Updated Design

Using AnyCAD in Inventor 2018, you’ll notice a drastic increase to efficiency and productivity when working with non-native CAD files. If you have any questions, reach out to us at and we’ll make sure you know how to use this powerful new feature.

Join the Autodesk Virtual Academy community and never stop learning.

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