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The second release of Inventor, Autodesk's non AutoCAD features based modeller is now available.
Freed of legacy AutoCAD constraints, Inventor offers an optimised 3D modelling environment as exemplified by Solid Edge and SolidWorks.
Despite the undoubted benefits of the ground up development, as a first release it could not deliver a comprehensive range of modelling capabilities and more surprisingly only limited drafting and AutoCAD compatibility.
For traditional AutoCAD sites the natural progression to 3D in the form of Mechanical Desktop has been complicated by the appearance of Inventor as Autodesk risks sending a confused message to users by maintaining both products.
Their stated policy of 'continuing to improve Mechanical Desktop for several releases beyond Release 4' for users needing surface modelling and complete AutoCAD integration inevitably raises the question as to what will then happen.
Autodesk's rationale for shifting to Inventor for large assemblies, ease of use plus future surface and add-on modules avoids the issue of whether the other already more mature mid range packages will be equally as familiar and compatible to AutoCAD users.
While this debate rages, Release 2 incorporates new modelling functionality including sheet metal design, performance improvements and drafting enhancements.
The interface has a contemporary Windows modeller style of toolbars and feature browser.
The panel bar is a floating or dockable palette that displays a context sensitive selection of tools appropriate to the current mode such as sketching or creating a feature.
This can be displayed in 'Learner' mode with text alongside each tool or the more compact expert mode with icons and pop out sub menus only.