I was recently asked by one or two of our customers if its possible to automatically export either a TIFF file or a PDF file from Inventor every time you save your IDW. Now as you guys might know, the short answer to that is no. I then thought, having done a bit of VB programming (and by this I mean I am no expert at all) surely this is something that can be automated with an Inventor add-in right.

Anyway I then started scratching around on the net and the Autodesk Inventor Developers help system and not having done any Inventor add-ins before, I found it to be quite a challenging task. I have written a few standalone Inventor applications before using VB.Net but never an add-in. So I realized that there is a lot to learn and that this is a nice challenge to tackle.

So after a couple of evenings I managed to get it going and I must say if it wasn’t for the forums and other blogs out there this would have been rather difficult to achieve. The add-in went through quite a few changes and has now reached a point of where I can say its done. …If that ever exists with custom software programing… I had to decide to stop adding stuff just to get it out so people can start using it

So currently the PDF Export add-in for Inventor supports exporting PDF and TIFF files. It works with both Inventor 2012 and 2013 (I suppose it can be coded to work with earlier releases as well) on 32 and 64 bit Windows installations.

It can be configured with an .ini file. Settings include:

  • Export folder – If left blank the PDF or TIFF files will be saved in the same location as where the IDW is saved
  • Export with or without line-weights
  • Export in color or monochrome
  • PDF Export resolution – This setting will obviously effect the quality and file-size of the PDF.
  • File Type selector – This is used to set which filetype to export (PDF, TIFF or both)

Other things to note is that with the PDF file type option, all your Inventor IDW Sheets will be exported into one PDF file which is quite nice. In other words it will reflect your IDW exactly as is – one IDW many Sheets, one PDF many Sheets.

The TIFF export option has given me lots of grey hair… This option has presented quite a few challenges and has some limitations. The first limitation is, as many of you will know, the resolution and file size. TIFF files are compressed bitmaps and even though its much smaller that BMP bitmaps, its still a bitmap. PDF files are vector files so your file sizes are normally much smaller and the quality quite good compared to bitmaps. The other limitation is that TIFF files dont support multiple sheets in one file when exported from Inventor. So if you create lots of Sheets per IDW then the TIFF option will not work for you.

Then lastly I would like to mention the great practical use of this add-in in conjunction with Dropbox. Configuring the PDF exporter add-in to export the files to a Dropbox folder will make all your drawings available to you or a customer or supplier as you save your Inventor drawings with no effort. You can literally have access to your latest drawings on-site using your iPad, iPhone or any mobile device supporting Dropbox. You can view, present, print or mail drawings while you are out the office. This makes for a great productivity tool and if used in a design team, can save loads of time and effort.

The other use is for making the designs visible to other people in the company. You don’t always want to share your Inventor files so having a separate PDF publish folder takes care of this.

Here is a short video demonstrating the add-in. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to post them right here or contact me directly. Any ideas or comments are welcome.

Download the Inventor add-in.

On Windows 7 copy the contents of this file to “C:\ProgramData\Autodesk\Inventor 2013\Addins”

Restart Inventor. The add-in will now be available and you can confirm using the Add-in dialogue.

You should now see “ExpOptFile.ini” file inside this folder: “C:\ProgramData\Auto Export”. Modify it as required.