Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hatching in ADT/ACA

Are you still using the regular hatching command in ACA/ADT?  Struggling with it's decisions what to hatch and what to leave out?   James shares a great tip that I've been using as well.
"On the whole hatching thing, I have taken to using AECpolygons. These are preset with the correct hatch scale, layer etc and you can easily add or remove verticies after placement. Attached is a 2007/2009 file with the AECpolygon styles I mostly use. One thing they have fixed is the background mask option in the style."  This bug is discussed by Archidigm here.
Use your Control key to add vertices (click on the centre dash of a side), further Control clicks will cycle thru options of extend, break for new vertices, curve and offset.  Once you get the hang of it you will never go back to using hatches again.
You can also convert a regular hatch into an aecPolygon.  Right click on the selected hatch and choose 'Generate Boundary'.  You now have an aecPolygon to play with.  AecPoly's are style based so it's easy to swap from one style to another.  Use the aecModify tools available on your right click to make quick alterations.  Unlike slabs which require a PLine to cut along, poly's are easy to edit on the fly. (As are Spaces).  It seems to me different teams with different programming ideas!  I like poly's better.
You can also right click on a poly tool on a pallete and select convert pline.
The great thing about using intelligent aec objects rather than simple hatches, apart from the ease of placing & amending them is that you can then gather the data to use for quantities.  If you create a style for paving, tiling, lawns & garden beds, you can get instant feedback on the area and attach a price per m2.  Property sets and schedules are a whole subject in themselves and the best I could do is send you to the schedule mastro's (Architect David Koch) website and his detailed pages.  Like most things valuable, scheduling and property data sets take a little mind bending but once you 'get it' it's a powerful resource of instant updating feedback.

Robin Capper comments "Like you I tend to use AEC poly's rather than hatch, would entirely but they can't do gradient fills :-(  .   The also make great mask elements as Steve shows in this post;"
Using the poly as a masking object will cause it to ignore your hatch settings just in case you were wondering!

Thursday, August 28, 2008


CAD (or BIM :-) can't be all hard work.
My kids were making their mess all over my Home Office drawing up their castles so I had to go one better.  I love the Edit-In-Place of walls tool to easily add profiles, the ability to use a profile for windows (just turned off the frames) and my beloved roof object (love-hate).  There are circular staircases inside too!  It's great when you don't have to worry about the accuracy of the end product.
This was rendered in ADT6 and munched in PaintShop Pro5 all very quickly of course.
I am trying to render another project in ACA9 but it just disappeared so I tried (again) to apply sp1 but it won't accept my DVD as a valid installation package - go figure!  So I copied the DVD to a folder on the hard drive but it's still "not valid".
Sigh!   I think I'll go back to my castle.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I mentioned in the last post about using EntRef to make a copy of all your frames in the drawing and lining them up elsewhere for use in a schedule.  Of course this won't work across drawings but would have to be in a one file approach, which of course ACA is designed against.  I am working on a nice project of a two storey office using tilt-up concrete walls and I intend to explore the possibility of using the same technique for creating a schedule of the concrete wall panels.  Maybe I can even make an EntRef of the schedule tag on the floor plan or see if the tag will work on the EntRef.

Or  maybe I am too busy to go to that level of detail and will have to outsource to someone with more time.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

More ACAD tips (updated)

Here's some tips that James has shared with me to pass on to you.

EntRef - Ever heard of this one? Nor had I and it's not documented. It's kind of a cheap block. It can only contain 1 item, Acad OR ACA. It doesn't have a name but you can create an object and copy it around. If you move the original, all others will move. If you alter the original, all the copies will be updated. Archidigm shows a possible use for the EntRef command here. (It's copying a downpipe around the building).  You could use it for a text item that is repeated.
James, I had a quick play with an ENTREF of a window for the purpose of creating a window schedule and it seemed to work. The copy is not added to a schedule as it is recognised as a copy of the original, not a seperate frame. My schedule is set to automatically add frames and I also tried to add it manually. The EntRef updated in size when I changed the original but the dim's don't auto-update. Possibly you could construct a schedule and bring the EntRef in for the graphic but I could not block *1 the EntRef for auto insertion but at least there is a connection. The copy did not need the wall to anchor either. mmm... perhaps some possibility there for further exploration.

*1 Did you know that schedules in 09 can include a block!

"How about EATTEXT for an attribute extraction tool , which has evolved over the yearly releases. It's a really useful tool to count blocks within a file, have that count placed in a table and have the table linked so it updates. e.g. you can use this tool to count the number of toilets and handbasins in a drawing and tabulate it. It has gotten better in 2009 as you can also add to the table other automatic information (location, rotation, scale, length etc)"

Another great tip is SuperHatch, part of the 'express tools' set. (You are using the express tools aren't you?)
"If you have an area to hatch with a non-standard pattern, you can use a Superhatch. SH can use a selection set, a block or xref created previously, a wipeout? or even an image!
Try it out for an unusual floor or roof tile pattern.
Be careful of the size though as a complex hatch could make things slow down.

Have you used the aecModify tools available on your right click.  FAR more powerful than the standard commands of trim array etc. You can trim out areas of a hatch, block or whatever without having to explode them. With the AEC array you can choose an option to place x number of objects between 2 points and the software works out the spacing.  You can use the AEC merge command to join 2 hatched areas (acad hatching.and aecHatches and aecPolygons but not aecSlabs).
Do you use your 'Select Similar' option available on your right click?  Excellant tool along with the quick properties.
Thanks to James for sharing those. I have some more of his goodies to share soon.  A lot of the blog web sites are discussing the latest additions to v09 but these are all available in v06.  So try them out.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Using Landscaping Objects Acad 14-2009.

There were some of us who were actually using the rendering tools in ACAD2006 (ADT6) or previous who felt neglected when it was all gone in the '07 release. Suddenly my whole efficient method of working on 3D's was gone. Not that it was all a bad thing as it's great to have an updated rendering engine (based on Mental Ray in Max) but my process no longer works in the new versions and I need to re-setup. The old engine, whilst it could do the job, is not at the level of the high end renderers, but it did a reasonable job quickly and efficiently for a fast turn around, rapid alteration and re-render which is what I need.

Of course the Biggie was not the rendering, which was replaced by something better, but the lack of any landscaping tool. I brought in my old LO's into 07 and they displayed and though they did render it wasn't properly and they did not 'face the camera'. So I was very excited to see that later releases have enabled the OLD landscaping objects (LO) to be used in the new engine, but as you have no landscaping creation tool, you have to create them in version 06 or previous. It doesn't have to be ADT as this is all AutoCAD stuff. So I thought I would share my tips on their creation and use, if you are still using v6 or prev. OR if you would like to bring them into ACA8 or 9. I am suspicious that v8 needs the service pack for the object to face camera but I'm not going to uninstall sp1 to find out.

Note of thanks: There is no mention of this improvement from Adesk but I assume that they did some work to allow this to happen so my thanks to whomever did the tweaks necessary.

There is also a good option to download the free RPCcreator from Archivsion which will allow you to create your own RPC objects from your own maps as well as have access to their large library. It's based on it's big brother, to be had for a price. I became obsessed with making my own maps so I have many that I wanted to use. I tried the RPCcreatorFree but I was impatient with the long process to create and was concerned about the hard coding of file paths but I could be wrong on that.

Anyway onto revealing some tips.

I have all my maps in folders (duh) organised how I like. In AutoCAD each folder path MUST be entered under OPTIONS- FILES-Texture Maps Search Path. It's important NOT to allow Acad to save the search path in the LO. as it hardcodes it, preventing you from altering your folder structure. Going to another office will 'break' your LO if the paths are different. I have set up several times over the years and if I decide to re-organise where and how I sort my maps, I don't want to break my LO. (See image below)
You might choose to group them in folders, ie. Tree, Plant, People, Stone, Roof, etc. (I have my general textures with my LO textures) so you will add each folder to the search path.

Here are some great resources on rendering and the landscape tool in the OLD engine from Archidigm. 1,2, & 3 . Always great tips from Odin!

In Acad2006 or previous use the Render toolbar or type _LSLIB and you are ready to create your object. DON'T use the the 'find file' button. Instead open windows explorer to your texture maps. Select your map and either right click and select rename or slowly double click and whilst the name is selected, CNTRL-C to copy the name. Now paste that into your 'Image File' space in Acad. If you do use the find file (why would you?) once you have selected the file, remove (cut) the file path information just leaving the file name itself.

IMPORTANT: If your name won't stick it means your file search paths are not set properly. Having this in place will give you flexibility to change in the future and SAVE YOU TIME. Cancel out and add your map folder to the search path.

I name the LO the same as the jpg as it's easier to find. This name appears on the object when you are working in Acad so you know what it is. Tree1 is not as helpful as JacarandaTall so name your jpgs carefully and logically. Too long a name is also not helpful. You can see the code on my name which was before I found out about not coding the file path LS= landscape, Tre = Tree. If you use Windows folders to group like items then you don't need to do this, you just have to add each folder to your file path. (Did I emphasise this?:-)

You can use a variety of bitmap formats for LO's (& textures). Jpg's are efficient size. PNG's will display transparent when making a movie but the quality is so bad that you probably wouldn't worry about it. .png's are good for maps you place with Photosomething after rendering as they can carry transparency so you don't have to remove the white/black as an extra step.

Tip – DON'T use the library tool to insert your trees (except once). It's clunky and awkward. Instead insert your created LO's into a .dwg file and have them ready to cut & paste. It's much quicker, you can see what you are choosing and you can see them all at once. I have a file for Trees.dwg, Plants.dwg People.dwg etc. When you open it, select shademode and all your maps are visable (love to see RPC do that). Here you can size them to scale so that once you insert them they don't have to be resized (could be a metric issue as they are always too small using the inbuilt tool even at 100 scale). You can see in the adj. image there are blanks for some LO's. It's where the file path has been hardcoded and the map has changed location OR I have renamed the image along the way.

You could also arrange them on a predetermined layer if you wish. ie. Trees, Plants etc.

Tip: When positioning your LO, have it in shaded mode and you can 'place' a tree correctly in the ground (not floating). Very handy where people need their feet to be on the path etc.

In my working process of rendering inside ADT6, I have to work around the issue of not being able to render materials in X-ref's. So I had to 'map to a colour' anything that required a material or avoid X-Ref's. However, LO's do perfectly well across an X-Ref so I set up a landscaping file to hold all my trees and 3D cars. This means I can load it at anytime and run a render quickly after changes and not have a different file for CD's or Renders. So I only make changes once. Once the render process is finished, unload the landscape file and continue on. A client makes a change. Make the change, reload landscape x-ref and re-render and very quickly you can have a response. Have model layers seperate from any annotations or detail drawings also helps. I grew very impatient with the slow unresponsive Viz-Render link process so I am excited about the new engine and the potential to do everything in the one program. Maybe you have time to play around more than I do but If I took more time, I wouldn't be doing much rendering!

Now the interesting news is that once you have created your LO, you can bring it into v8 or 9 and use it in your renderings. There are some caveats and I haven't done enough testing to fully vouch for it but I do know that it works. I have found MR more fussier with your maps so it doesn't give great results on some of my homegrown maps but IT DOES WORK. I just have some tidy up to do.

Let me know if there is any part of this process I haven't made clear or you would like explained.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Gutter & Eave

As I like using the roof object (not slabs - article coming!) I needed to find a way of quickly replicating gutter & fascia and after my first effort gave reasonable results, I found that it was even more capable for the task than I first thought. I know that some have used structural elements for gutters but I like the wall object because;
  1. Walls cleanup automatically ( I put my eave 'wall' on it's own cleanup group),
  2. Every element can have different material applied. (you can only have two with slab edge styles – fascia & soffeit).
  3. Can be on their own layer and turned off in plan views, you can even assign different componants for different views for the same part if required. (we'll explore that one here).
  4. I can use the wall width to set my eave width (0 = no eave) which adds the eave ceiling in for 3D renders and sections.
  5. You can also use it with slabs and get multiple material assignments for rendering.
So to explain what I have done with no.3 I found that adding a nicely profiled gutter shape that gives me a nice shadow and shine line for a rendering adds far too many lines in an aecElevation. So by doubling up on the componant for the gutter (& fascia), I can turn on whichever componant will give me the desired result.  This is done automatically in your display representations.   For the elevations, my profile is simpler giving a cleaner elevation (actually should be simpler and cleaner than what I have shown here).

Now if you love palettes, unfortunately they don't carry the sweep profile, so I would usually apply this style by the old cut & paste method. If you do use palettes, you can select multiple eave objects (try using 'select similar') and apply the profile to all of them at once. Don't forget to tick the 'Mitre selected Walls' box so you don't have to do it as a 2nd step.

See the Eave wall style in action here (item no.2 in two of the images).

So again with the drawing of one line, I can have my gutter, fascia, boxed eave ready for rendering, elevations and sections.

Tip: Select your eave wall and right click for the add selected option. Unlike palettes, this does retain the sweep. So you can cut from a template drawing, paste into and then 'Add selected' around. My eave wall is set to be setout from the top edge of the roof and it's done in Iso mode though if you lock your Z, you could do it in plan.

Tip: I used to turn off the display of the eave style in plan view but then it couldn't be selected. Now by assigning it the invisibility plot style (Aec Standard.stb) I can see it but it doesn;t print.

Monday, August 11, 2008

First Impressions

I was asked to create some quick elevations of a large project for council discussions and I thought this was a chance to try out Impression2 from Adesk. So I downloaded and tried it out. It is quite easy and links (updates) really well (especially after using the VizRender link). If you are still on subscription it's a free download so defintely well worth a try. It may only be available with a sub so if you are not on sub you may be out of luck.

It ignored my linework (didn't show) and I had to use rectangles or closed PLines so I had something to 'fill'. But the height lines showed so I don't understand what happened there. Still some learning to do but what you see took me about 20mins for a first try.
Now I'm sure you have a project more exciting than mine to work on so go for it. Give it a try.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Interesting news on Subscriptions

Well news is surfacing about a new move by Autodesk on distribution models for Revit and ACA. Apparently Revit Suite subscriptions will now include ACA as well as Autocad! What does that mean to the future of ACA? (Here's a NG thread that has lots of info and some links)

Well from Autodesks view I think this is a smart move. How can an ACA user move to Revit when they have existing projects running in ACA. To move to the Revit suite previously meant only having AutoCAD which made transitions difficult. Now they will be able to transition their office at their own pace. They can train on Revit whilst keeping existing projects going in ACA. Very smart (doh!). ACA is only around $1700 upgrade on top of ACAD anyway and sub is cheaper.

But again what does this mean to ACA. Well I think the mass weight of Revit in big offices means most will move across unless they are still on autocad and don't care to go 3D. But they will not be able to resist the customer demand (whether that's logical or simply good advertising).
The "writing has been on the wall" and it is "only a matter of time". But unlike mechanical, I would argue that the architectural base of ACA is much larger and slower to react and will hold on for some years to come. Development on ACA is already a sore point and there will be those who jump ship and slowly the numbers will turn.

My thoughts are that ACA is good value for those offices already using ACAD and for a small(er) upgrade fee can be into BIM approach and get some good return. But perhaps that is getting more difficult to justify as the weight of numbers changes. Why would you train an office on a product that is being superceded albeit gradually?

I could happily end my sub now and continue using ACA09 (actually I''m still using ADT6). But I charge extra to maintain my sub so it's covered anyway. I know others are not so well looked after and some have dropped their sub. Basically, if the product does what you need then be happy. Maximise your existing setup. Might be nice not to worry about all those re-installs and reset ups and relearning a whole new interface just for the heck of it.

But if you are going to be in the industry for some years to come and want to stay current then you may need to stay tuned. If you are self-sufficient and do things as you want to (like me) then you are free to choose. If you are reliant on working in other environments then you may need to keep up to date with the latest software.

What will I do? Well I ain't going to ArchiCAD! Chief Architect seems to have a solid sales base in Australia. My kids enjoyed that one! For the time being I will continue on ACA but I would think that Revit is going to be somewhere in the future. The economy of the cross-grade!

Revit has strength in that it doesn't have so many options. It doesn't give you choices you don't really need to bog you down. I'm sure in time Adesk marketing will add back in lots of unnecessary options because the user base keeps asking for them and Revit will become complicated and slower etc.

Anyways, that's progress for you!
Best to ya!

Monday, August 4, 2008


For cabinets I owe much to Archidigm and Odin's great tutorials. But we make cabinets differently and don't generally have a splashback but a number of rows of tiles above. Whilst you can have a variable height you only have one option and you can't have a different height to your cabinet and tile height. (well you could if you cab height was the wall base height and the tile height was the top of wall but you would have to manually grab each side and pull them up to get the tile height extension. Actually I just tried that and it might work okay for some).

Therefore I use a separate simple wall style with hatch pattern to indicate tiling (more on this later). So check out Odin's well laid out tutorial and then view the following wall component list for a full Aussie cabinet spec. Unlike Odin's cabinets which uses the wall style as a placeholder, I went further and created a whole cabinet that will plan, elevate and section complete without further attention. It really isn't much more effort.

Many model the bench top separately with slabs but using body modifiers you can add breakfast overhangs etc without much fuss (ok a little). Probably the trickiest part is creating the endcaps for cabinet ends. I tremble at trying to explain how to create the endcap but I did mine using the edit-in-place and trial and error. It was easy to get lost but I prevailed and won!

I have created different styles for a wall oven stack, pantry cabinets overheads. This way you can quickly lay down the whole kitchen when sketching and be ready for CD's. They are also ready for rendering. I should probably be using the Tool Palletes but I really just cut & paste a whole kitchen from another similar job and alter as required.

Here is one bathroom cabinet shown without doors. It's designed to take a reef (semi-recessed) basin. You can see it's much as they would build it. Encaps assigned to the style so this can be created by drawing JUST ONE LINE! Length is of course completely adjustable.

Thsi cabinet has adjustable height but the midshelf is set.

For the doors you could add a componant for that too but I have used door styles to model the cabinet doors, both single and double, glazed & profiled using the typical rules we use for a normal door object. If you add a door componant in the wall style itself, you could leave it on until you are ready to add more detail to your cabinets for either rendering or detail drawings.

Even handles can be added and are great if you are wanting to do renderings for clients. If you are able to use your model for CD's and for a little more work do some renderings then all the better.

It's probably better anyway to have your doors separate as it gives you more flexibility.

I have tried to anchor the doors to the cabinet using aecobjectanchorattach but that will cut the cabinet so I will have to investigate that further. I seem to remember Odin mentioning that on his article.

As I suggested, you could add a tiling componant and make it's Bottom Elevation 0 Base Height and it's Top Elevation 0 Wall Top. Once you 'draw' the cabinet, just go into iso view and stretch each side up and your tiles will appear. For now I am content to have the tiling as a separate wall style. It is also better to have them separate if you want to take quantities.

On the endcaps, I have done this one with a little overhang to the top. For finishing up against a wall on the side, it may be better to have no overhang as the standard endcap. To add overhang, you can create a ME to the size requried and add it as a BodMod. In the endcap illustrated above I have the side panels coming forward to the front face of the door. Some build them with the doors overlapping the side. It's just choice and could be covered with different endcap styles that you could have available to select from or edit on the fly.


If you have an interesting use for a wall then please post a pic and an explanation.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Another Computer hitch

I do have more great posts to put up but I have no start bar and no icons on my pc so it can be a little slow to get around (cntrl-alt-del and use file open to get programs started).  I'm not sure if it relates to my recent upgrade, fan speed, installing a new AV (AVG8.0) or my kids messing on those online gaming sites!  But I have used a boot cd (Ulitmate Boot4WIN) to boot off the CD and be able to check the disk without loading anything on it.  I have restored the network which disappeared and checked for virus's, disappointed that I didn't find any, and hope to be able to be back up and posting again.  I have some great tips from James and plenty more of my own articles to get up there, so hang in there and stay tuned.

If you have specific queries on the wall styles let me know but I hope to post details of how to do them soon.

(And if anyone has specific hints on restoring a desktop please let me know.  My latest take is that my profile is corrupted ut it appears windows normally tells you if that's the case).