Revision Control

This is the second post in follow up to the single sentence summary post.

Revision control in the context of Flatter Files is focused on providing a review process and revision history that actually improves the workflow instead of merely causing paperwork hurdles that result in decreased productivity.  When editing begins, the drawing is checked out.  The CAD professional can either do this manually with one click or it can be done automatically when the drawing is first saved.  When a drawing is checked out, anyone viewing the drawing will be notified that it is checked out.  Once editing is finished and the drawing is automatically uploaded the CAD Professional simply checks the drawing in and selects a reviewer.  The reviewer is them sent a review notification.  Once the reviewer accepts the drawing a new revision is created.  The revisions are permanently saved and anytime a drawing is being reviewed all previous versions can be viewed by a simple click.

See this post for further details regarding the overall workflow for the CAD Professional.

Automatic Drawing Uploads

In the one sentence summary post, I mention four features that are key to the Flatter Files product.  The next few posts will briefly describe each of these features in a single paragraph.

Automatic drawing uploads will keep your drawings up to date without having to manually upload them.  A desktop application is installed onto at least one computer that has access to your drawings and access to your CAD software.  The application runs entirely in the background and it's main purpose is to convert your drawings to a PDF file using your CAD software and upload the resulting PDF along with appropriate drawing properties to the web application.  This process can be configured to occur every time a file changes, on a schedule, or only when you the user manually tells it to.  The new version of the PDF file that is uploaded is not displayed to viewers until the drawing revision is approved.

One Sentence Summary

Flatter Files is a web application to help CAD users communicate their drawings to viewers more efficiently by utilizing automatic drawing uploads, revision control, assembly grouping, and link based external sharing.

Drawing Communication


Flatter Files is an application that is focused on improving drawing communication within your organization and with third parties outside your organization.  Historically, the design team handles the drawings and is also responsible for making sure everyone has the correct drawings.  This can be very difficult when drawings are changed or when many drawings are needed to complete a project.  You may have a large bill of materials that contain the part numbers and you must make sure you have the correct drawing for each of the part numbers. Once multiple revisions are introduced, this can become quite a headache to keep organized.

Flatter Files does two specific things to greatly improve drawing communication between the design team and others involved in the project.  First, all drawings and subsequent revisions are automatically uploaded to a central hub that can be accessed.  This requires no additional work by the design team and yet results in full viewing access by simply logging into Flatter Files.  The drawings found are ensured to always be the latest approved revision and if someone views a drawing that is currently being modified they will be notified.  The second thing Flatter Files does to improve drawing communication is it groups your individual drawings into assemblies.  An assembly provides a single view that contains a collection of drawings that are needed to complete a task.  The assembly remains up to date as the drawings are revised.  This eliminates the need to search for all of the related drawings and make sure that you have the latest version.  Instead, just locate the assembly.

These two specific features will greatly reduce the amount of time required by the design team to keep the drawings current and will give everyone in your organization access to the most current information without having to ask for it.

Assemblies

Assemblies are vital to the simplification of managing the distribution of your drawings.  Rarely does a single drawing provide all of the information necessary to convey the intended design.  Therefore, to communicate your design and corresponding changes you must ensure everyone has all of the drawings needed and then also ensure the latest version of each drawing is being used.  Assemblies greatly simplify this process by creating a hierarchy collection of the individual drawings needed that are always using the latest drawing revision.

There are two types of assemblies.   The first type is a Manual Assembly.  This is where you drag and drop individual drawings as necessary to create the hierarchy desired.  The second type is an Uploaded Assembly.  This is an automatically generated assembly that uses the assembly structure contained within the solid model.  Uploaded Assemblies are extremely powerful because they don't require manual creation and the hierarchy stays up to date with the hierarchy of the model.  Uploaded Assemblies will only work with solid modeling CAD packages such as Inventor, Solid Works, and other similar packages that contain the necessary model information.

The image below shows the application once logged in.  The bottom left hand side is the assembly navigation.  This allows you to view each assembly individually.  Manual Assemblies are noted by the icon on the far right side of the assembly navigation view.


As you can see in the image, the assemblies are sorted into two folders.  Folders allow you to organize your assemblies.  Folders can be added, removed, and renamed as necessary.

By clicking on one of the assemblies, all of the items in that assembly will be displayed along with the current assembly view.   You can also navigate to a specific drawing within the assembly by simply selecting the drawing in the hierarchy.  This along with a zoomed out view of the assembly is shown in the image below.


Assemblies can be shared externally in the same manner as a drawing.  This allows you to send a vendor or external partner a single link with all of the drawings that they will need for the particular item.  This link will always contain the latest version of each drawing.  This is a much easier way to share groups of drawings.

Assemblies can also be copied.  For Manual Assemblies this can simplify the creation process.  Many times you will want two assemblies for the same item but exclude a few items as necessary.  Simply copy the assembly and paste it into a folder (copy and paste can be found in the right click menu).  Then delete or add additional items as necessary.  Uploaded Assemblies can also be duplicated but the hierarchy will remain in sync and can't be changed.  Even though the hierarchy will remain the same you can hide items within an Uploaded assembly such that the resulting view will not show that particular item.  Thus, two Uploaded Assemblies can exist that are identical and remain up to date with changes to the model hierarchy.  You can then hide certain items within the assembly hierarchy such that viewers only see the items you want them to see.  The image below shows two Uploaded Assemblies that are identical.  The assembly hierarchy on the left displays all of the items.  The one on the right has multiple hidden items, which are displayed with gray text.


Assemblies are a very powerful tool within Flatter Files.  Once they are setup, changes can occur to the underlying drawings and the assembly will automatically be updated.  No more worrying about everyone having all of the drawings they need or making sure the have the latest version.  Just set up your assemblies and your done.


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