Importing Inventor models in 3ds Max

By Nicolas Holst - 18 Mar, 2011 - 3ds Max

Tips and tricks on importing Inventor files in 3ds Max.


No need for a licensed copy of Inventor on the same machine

Since 3ds Max 2011 you don't need to have a licensed copy of Inventor on the machine where you want to import Inventor models: During the 3ds Max 2011 install the Inventor Server also gets installed


Preparing the files in Inventor

If there are any problems with the Inventor model, like missing files, it will be hard (or impossible) to resolve them when you're importing the model in 3ds Max. If you encounter problems with the import you need to open the file in Inventor and fix the issues there. That's fine if you have access to a copy of Inventor, but if you don't have access to a copy of Inventor (like when someone sends you the Inventor files and you're doing the visualisation) it helps to get a clean dataset to begin with.


Creating a clean dataset in Inventor

Inventor comes with a very handy command to create a complete dataset: 'Pack and Go', open the assembly file in Inventor, do a file->Save as->Pack and Go. In the dialog select the following options and click on Search Now:

Inventor Pack and Go dialog 

  • Copy to Single Path: all files will end up in a single folder, no matter where they are in the original assembly, WARNING: this assumes you're using the 'use unique file names' option in the Inventor project file. If you don't and there are files with the same name these wil get overwritten! (thanks to magnus.damgren for pointing this out).
  • Skip Libraries: standard parts like nuts and bolts are library parts in Inventor, these are stored in a single location (as they don't change there is no point to create multiple copies of the file), by not skipping the libraries these files get copied in that single folder,
  • Skip Styles and Skip Templates: there is no point in including all the Inventor Style definitions or the template files.


Set the destination path and when you click Start all the files get copied to that folder, click Done to close the Pack and Go dialog. Zip the folder up and pass it on to the person doing the import.


Two object types in 3ds Max: Meshes or Body Objects

When you import the model in 3ds Max you have two options, the Meshes option means that the tesselation of the model is done during the import, you can control how many triangles will be in the imported model by adjusting the Mesh Resolution slider from -10 (fewer triangles) to 10 (more triangles) with 0 being the default.

The new option from 3ds Max 2011 is Body Objects, which means the model comes in as a solid and you can adjust the tesselation for viewport and render independantly. So you can set the viewport tesselation to low and render at a higher tesselation. It may come in handy if specific objects that are near to the camera need more triangles to make them appear smooth, you can adjust the values until it looks good without having to import the Inventor assembly multiple times.

Viewport with the imported Arbor Press mode - as a Meshe and as a Body Object

The imported Arbor Press model (from the Inventor tutorial files) imported as a mesh on the left and a Body Object on the right.


Using Shrinkwrap in Inventor

If all you need to do in 3ds Max is render the model and you'd rather not share the inner details you may want to look into shrinkwrapping the model in Inventor. It has options to create a single solid object or keep all the individual solids. You can remove parts by size (to get rid of nuts and bolts) and use hole patching (to fill in the holes where the bolts were). By simplifiying the model you can reduce the filesize and increase the render speed or you can shrinkwrap the model and leave all the details in, the benefit being that you have one file which contains the entire assembly.


For more information see the help files:

  • Autodesk 3ds Max Help > Managing Scenes and Projects > Geometry File Formats > Importing Autodesk Inventor Files
  • Autodesk Inventor > Assemblies > Representations > Shrinkwrap assemblies


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magnus.damgren | 5 years ago
Use mesh when you import inventor files or you will loose all your materials. This is "as designed" in 2013. In 2012 body objects work ok, but I do not recommend it as it is hard to do some nice works with them. Found out this the hard way :-)
Edited by magnus.damgren 5 years ago
ilovedoom | 5 years ago
strangely i would use the body object instead of mesh but i've seen that project conversion from Unigraphics to Inventor and next to 3ds max makes objects not compatible with standard material but functional with ink n paint.
Edited by ilovedoom 5 years ago
jedie | 5 years ago
I am also not very impressed with the import process: * the result is only very rarely directly usable * BodyObjects are very buggy :( * The import is very slow (it use only one core) * Importing as mesh or converting is mesh doesn't give me clean meshes: I convert it to a poly, select all vertices and weld it with 0,001 -> Many, many vertices would be weld, but then the smoothing it corrupt. * Use BodyObjects does only work well it i use "Use Viewport Mesh". * The nirous viewport engine has problems with BodyObjects :( btw. the information of this blog entry should be inserted in the help files in 3dsmax and inventor!
magnus.damgren | 6 years ago
Do NOT use the copy to single path option. If there are files with the same name that contains diffrent models they will be overwritten and the inventor model would be destroyed. Use the keep folder heirarchy instead.
SuperCoon | 6 years ago
Yea I've already visited the "Whishlist", and I'm out of votes for all categories. :)
SuperCoon | 6 years ago
I import Inventor models into Max on a daily basis, and I've used both techniques you describe above; however, I must say that I am not very impressed with the imports - there is always a tremendous amount of cleanup to do. A good example is how when I import a model and it comes in with 1,000,000 plus polys, and when I'm done I have it down to a very smooth looking 140k with Max's original geometry; basically, I'm rebuilding everything. I know that's not practical, but I really don't like the way the inventor models come in; however, I do understand that both softwares are speaking a different language. Either way I guess the above is not the main topic of your post, so I will not attempt to hijack it; basically, I just wanted to voice my opinion about the importing - I think it could be far better. Thanks for you tips.
Lenton | 6 years ago
Interessting topic! Importing data is usualy a matter of luck for the user. I'll keep this tips in my bookmarks! Thanks!