Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Using the ByMaterial settings.

Maybe because my materials are different to what's available OOTB (I didn't even know what CMU was), I set about creating my own materials including bitmaps of bricks and timber finishes etc. but I ended up with lots of overrides in my wall styles to show the floor plan hatching as I wanted it, the backlining, the section view.  It's a very labour intensive process and not very efficient.  Ok maybe I didn't understand what I was doing but a year or so back I  'got' the idea of using the ByMaterial setting and it has vastly simplified my process and therefore the maintenance and editing of my projects.  Now this isn't my own wacky creation - it's how the OOTB content is setup to perform so it's as per the creators intended.  Duh!  At first it seemed too laborious to set up but it's not and pays dividends down the track.  If you can use the American materials even better - it's set up for you.  There are other packs available.  I have the UK set, a pack has even been released for Chinese content!

Now I want to be able to quickly design up a building, shoot 3D's in the design process, then document all in as efficient process as possible. 3D's are an extra that most avoid but it's an enjoyable one and if you can make the process efficient then it's not really much extra effort to create.  All your modelling becomes part of the CD's so that time is not wasted.   My main work is common residential and it's all the more important to have an efficient process because the drawing fee is not generous!

I have found that aecMaterials is a big part of the key to get this process happening efficiently.

So now here's what a typical wall style use to look like for me and how it look's now.
You'll notice that there are now NO style overrides now which as said before reduces the effort = productivity boost.  All wall styles are controlled by the 'Standard' wall style settings. (ok not all - more on that later).

I have come to the conclusion that it's best is to stay as close to OOTB as possible but probably most international users will need to customise for local conditions. So here is my practise I have adopted with the Display Representations (DR).

Presentation DR is used for designing & sketching and renderings.
Medium Detail is used for construction drawings usually at 1:100
High Detail is used for Detailing at 1:20-1:1
Low Detail is used for Site plans
Reflected is used for service layouts (generally just electrical) (With a lowered cutplane to show doors & windows) 

Above is a sample wall taken from the UK Wall Styles shown with the different display rep's.  If you examine them they won't have overrides except where required to remove endcaps but these can and should be removed or displayed for the standard style.  I undid the overrides and got the same outcome.  i.e. For Low Detail you would generally not want endcaps for any style and conversely you would for High Detail - so the settings can be made in the standard wall style and set for all styles.

Remember too that if you add extra DR's you will multiply your maintenance so be cautious and only add what you really need.  See if you can make use of an existing unused DR (screened?) instead of creating a new one. 

I know that some don't like to manipulate layers but it does give you another dimension of control and it's easy if you follow good practise and make use of the (express) layer tools.

How the OOTB content works... (wish I'd understood this before - DOH!). Open the wall style drawing from the Content/Styles folder. Then cycle thru the different DR's and see how the wall display changes.  Turn on your LineWeight display so you can see the Bold lines. Now click on any wall and see if they have any overrides set - (No!)

For Presentation (DR) drawings the walls are shown as a solid fill. Any wall with any material will simply show as a solid fill. All the componant displays are turned off so no individual componants (Brick, frame. cavity) will show giving you a nice simple solid for any wall (regardless the style). This is all controlled from the Standard wall style as there are no style overrides.  Have a look at a wall style at the Layer/C/L tab and note which componants are on. (remember that no matter which wall you pick, you are looking at the settings in the Standard wall style as there are no style overrides).  So all wall styles will show the same shrinkwrap and sw hatch.  Bring in a new wall style and it displays the same.  OOTB uses the standard material for the shrinkwrap but I added my own material 'Shrinkwrap Wall' so I know it only applies to walls. Sometimes I may use diagonal lines instead of solid fill and I may not want that everywhere standard is used.

For Medium Detail the shrinkwrap hatch is turned off and the shrinkwrap is used as the overall backline.  The componant displays are now turned on and control of the componants is controlled by your material settings. This is so because the ByMaterial boxes are ticked. No overrides are set in individual styles because your custom control happens in the material definitions (MD). This is the trap for international users because we may not have sets of appropriate material definitions set up. But hopefully I can show you why it's worth the effort if it's required. (remember you may use the OOTB materials).

The beauty here is that if you change the display of your certain brick material every wall style containing that componant will be instantly changed, in plan, elevation, section and even a render view. Done in one simple edit.  If you have overrides in your wall styles you would need to chase every instance of that (brick) and remember each setting you changed (i.e. hatch, scale and rotation, pen thickness and plot style etc).  The material once defined can be stored and retrieved and applied to any wall (or other) style just by assigning the material.
 For High Detail, it's much the same as Medium except the hatching is shown for a larger scale for details but remember the hatching comes from the material definition not the wall style.  Shrinkwrap could be a thicker line for the larger scale.
In the Reflected DR, the componants are again not displayed, the shrinkwrap hatch is turned off and the Shrinkwrap is a light line instead of bold. A nice background for your electrical & ceiling drawings.  You could even turn your componants display on here and shrinkwrap off if you wish to show cavity or some level of detail.  Your material settings could ensure the lines are all still light. You would not usually have your componant hatching turned on.

Remember there are no wall style overrides (except for special walls) so this is all determined in only my (1) Standard wall style and the aecmaterials definitions. This IS pretty much how the OOTB styles are set up and it's easy to adjust the whole drawing and all wall styles in one shot.

Next: But what about?? - some overrides you DO need to make.
Customisations I've made.
Why this is important for efficient renders
Why I thnk some of the OOTB is over the top - simplify!

Here's a couple of customisations that I needed to make to get this working for me.
I created a new material called 'ShrinkwrapWall'. Every wall gets this assigned for it's shrinkwrap material. (I created this rather than use 'standard' as that is applied to many styles and componants and I wanted to be able to control my walls independantly.  If you don't do this, just remember that 'Standard' is used for your wall styles so don't change it without thinking about the consequences)
Because my wall cavities are empty I need to create a material that wouldn't show but because there are no overrides to control this one componant I needed another trick to make it disappear.  Realise that in your standard wall style you have no idea which componant is which, they are just numbers and you don't know which one is your cavity.  So using the ByMaterial setting I created an 'Air' componant (which is also useful elsewhere).  In most DR's this material display is turned off and doesn't display.

Tip: Alias aecMaterialDefinitions to MD for quick access.


Pedro Aroso said...

Excellent tutorial. I think you should write a book about AutoCAD Architecture, because you use this program in your everyday work. This makes a big difference when we compare your tips with those from other authors. Thank you very much.

Pedro Aroso
Porto - Portugal

Nathan Ellery said...

Thanks Pedro. I will leave teh book writing to those with more patience and a longer attention span. However I will continue to share my stange ideas in the hope that they can be helpful to others.
cheers. N