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How to Add Extra Data from Plant to Navisworks

So you have created a Plant 3D design of a system, and you have added many custom properties and gone to great trouble to populate them via an Excel spread sheet, time to communicate all this great data to the project manager via a Navisworks file, and all your custom data is not carried over.

Sound familiar, luckily we have a couple of great tools to get around this problem. In a nut shell, detail to follow, we create a spreadsheet in Plant with the datamanager and then bring that info into Navisworks with a datalink. It’s a live connection between the Navisworks file and the Excel file, so if either changes the properties window inside Navisworks will update.

So to the detail, the first and most important thing is what version of Microsoft Office are you using. If you are using 64bit Navisworks, then you must use the 64bit version of Office.

So assuming you have a 64bit version of Office we can now check the ODBC Data Sources are correct, go to the Administrative Tools window, and select the ODBC Data Sources (64-Bit) icon.

ODBC Data Sources Image

It should report that drivers are available for the Excel file type, as well as MS Access Database. I have found in a lot of install despite a 64bit version of Office these drivers are missing. If so they can be downloaded and installed from Microsoft here.

I know it says 2010, but it will work just make sure you have permission to install it, and do remember to download the x64 version.

We now have a windows install ready to perform our task. First we need a spreadsheet from Plant that has all of the required properties in it, so create a view in the Datamanager with the columns, the order is not important at this point, and export it as an Excel file.

The next step is to open the Navisworks file that contains the Plant model with its basic property set.

We need to connect the plant file to the required XL spreadsheet. So let us imagine a spread sheet that ties custom properties to a valves Tag. The spread sheet has a number of rows, each a valve, with a number of columns, but one is the Valve Tag.

Out first task is to create a connection to the spreadsheet, so within Navisworks, select the DataTools icon and select New button. For the purposes of this article we will call the New Link Valve Data. We must now select the ODBC Driver we want to use, in this case select Microsoft Excel Driver. To link the spreadsheet select the setup button and navigate to the desired XL file. This should fill in the box with the code to connect to the spreadsheet.

Now comes the good bit, we need to add a line of code to find and select the required line from the spreadsheet. We will be selecting the data by looking for the Tag. If a valve is selected, in the AutoCad tab of the Properties window a property called Tag is displayed. This is the Tag from Plant 3D.

If we now look in the XL file we will see the same data, in the column called Tag. While we are in the XL file, the titles of the columns are in fact the names of properties we need inside Navisworks.

OK time to add the SQL query line in the link created. The word SELECT is already entered for us, we must now tell it what. The finished line is;

          SELECT *FROM [Valve$] WHERE “Tag”=%prop(“AutoCad”,”Tag”);

It breaks down as;

          [Valve$] – this is the name of the Sheet in the XL file to reference.

          “Tag” – This is the Column name in the sheet to look for

          %prop(“AutoCad”,”Tag”) – This identifies the property called Tag in the tab called AutoCad in the properties window.

So in essence the line looks for rows in the sheet call Valve that have value in the column called Tag, the same as the property called Tag in the tab called AutoCad. If this row is found the rest of the data can be read in based on the Fields window.

To indicate the columns to be read, we add fields, double click in the Fields window and enter the name of the column you wish to import. The Display Name column allows you to enter a different string to appear in the tab within the Properties window.

Add Extra Data from Plant to Navisworks Edit Link Image

Select the OK button, and then simply activate the Data Link by placing a tick in the box. When OK is selected, any Navisworks model that has had the property added to it will now have a new tab in the properties window called Valve Data.

As a sub note, if the file is to be sent to others users the properties will not be visible as the XL file has to be in the same location for the data link to work. If you want to send a NWD file, use the Publish command, remembering to tick the Embed Database Properties box so that the data is included with the NWD file.

If you are interested in learning more about Autodesk Navisworks, then attend one of Graitec's training courses. To find out more and to book your place, contact us on (023) 8086 8947 or click the button below to request more information.

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