A CAD Manager’s Story

Two important things happened in 1948; the first stored-program electronic digital computer successfully executed its first program, and I was born.

I was interested in drawing from a very early age. I would flatten paper sacks and draw comic strips on them on the kitchen floor. In school; art, science and math were my favorite subjects. I saved my allowance to buy a book on perspective drawing when I was in the fifth grade. When given the opportunity to take an art class in junior high school, I already knew most of what they were teaching. In high school I enrolled in a drafting class. This was before CAD. It was the age of triangles and t-squares. I loved it. I took 3 years of drafting in high school. The third year was architectural drafting. I graduated from Permian High School, in Odessa, Texas, in 1967.

I then attended the University of Texas, majoring in Architecture. After two years of study, I left school to support my new family and began a career as an architectural draftsman. I enjoyed doing construction drawings but found that I had a real talent for creating perspective renderings, both watercolor and pen & ink. I worked evenings and weekends one semester so I could take classes in Art at the University of Texas.

CAD (kd) acronym for computer-aided design

In 1973 I went to work in the property development department of Zale Corporation, where I worked for the next 9 years. In 1979 Zales got a CAD system. This was the first computer I had ever seen. It was a refrigerator sized “minicomputer”. It included 4 storage tube work stations which used thumb-wheels to move the crosshair across the screen, and a pool-table sized flat-bed plotter. This was one of only around 100 architectural instillations in the US. I could see the amazing potential for CAD and I decided at that time to dedicate my life’s work to the productive use of CAD in architecture. I worked the night shift so I could take a semester of computer science at the local junior collage. I learned everything I could about computers and programming. I soon became the CAD Manager. I supervised the CAD users and implemented standards and procedures. I also created custom programming for the system. One of the programs I wrote reduced the time required to draw a store from 40 hours to 9 hours.

In 1982 Intergraph introduced a new CAD system for architects. I went to work for them to demonstrate their software and provide training and technical support to end users.

In 1984 I left Intergraph to go to work for a smaller CAD company called Sigma Design. I felt that what architects needed was a less expensive CAD system that was dedicated specifically to architecture. Intergraph was having me demonstrate more of their other applications and less to architects. I am glad that I was exposed to these other fields (P&ID diagrams, printed circuit board design, numerical control machine operation, oil exploration, and others) but I wanted to stay with the architectural profession. Sigma Design only sold to architects and their software was written specifically for their needs.

At this time all CAD was sold as turn-key systems. You would buy the hardware, software, training and support all from a single vendor. And they were very expensive. A typical four station system sold for around $250,000.  In 1984 a program came along that changed all of that. It was Auto-CAD. This was the first CAD program that could run on the “Personal Computer” that IBM was selling. You could buy a CAD program that “provided 90% of the capabilities for 10% of the price”. All of the other CAD companies then scrambled to come up with a PC version of their software. A version of Intergraph’s software that ran on PCs became Bentley’s MicroStation. Sigma came out with a version of their software that ran on PCs, and they started selling it through dealers around the country instead of directly to architects. It ran on a PC version of the Unix operating system called Xenix. My role changed to one of providing dealers with software training and support.

In 1988 Sigma had a company wide layoff due to slow sales and I started providing independent CAD Consulting under the name CAD Directions. I was retained by NTS (a major real estate development and management company in Louisville Kentucky) for 9 months to plan and implement their CAD operation. I trained the operators to use the new CAD system, created 3D Model and fly-around presentations of new homes, procured hardware and software, provided NTS with the ability to do 2-D design, 3-D modeling and Video imaging, directed personnel in developing an as-built CAD database of their commercial properties, enabled their personnel to provide automated tenant fit-out cost estimates and create 3-D walk-throughs of their office designs, wrote custom software to provide HVAC, electrical, and inventory tracking information, established a set of standards and procedures with information on what to do, and how to do it, complete with documentation on all custom software, managed the CAD personnel on a day-to day basis and implemented work-flow procedures and revision-control. In short, I was their CAD Manager.

CADD (kd)  acronym for  computer-aided design and drafting

Sometime during the 1980’s to differentiate their software from the others, some CAD companies started spelling CAD with two D’s.  This was just a marketing strategy and didn’t indicate any real difference in the software. I always thought it to be a little pretentious.

In 1989 I accepted an offer to become the CAD Manager for AAFES (Army and Air Force Exchange Service) in Dallas, Texas. AAFES is a joint military activity that builds and runs the Post and Base Exchanges for the military. Working in their store planning department I was in control of training and supporting their CAD system operators. My official title was “CADD Analyst“. While working there, AAFES switched from ARRIS CAD to AutoCAD and an architectural add-on application that later became ADT (Architectural Desktop). AutoCAD grew to become the de-facto standard for use by architectural design firms nationwide.

I worked at AAFES until, in 1993, I was approached again by Sigma Design. They had recently sold their CAD system to Wal-Mart and needed me to oversee the instillation, train their personnel and provide whatever other services they might require to insure a successful implementation. Basically they needed me to be Wal-Mart’s CAD Manager while they got on their feet.

I worked with Wal-Mart and Sigma Design until, in 1994, the company had another company-wide layoff, this time due to bankruptcy. Again, I was working for myself as a CAD Consultant, and have been ever since.

Architectural CAD has changed a lot in the last 15 years, and so has my company. At first much of my work was supporting users with Sigma’s software. One architect, who bought Sigma software based on the strength of my demonstration, later purchased Sigma Design, Inc. out of bankruptcy and renamed the software ARRIS CAD. He contracted with me to help develop their training materials and give the first demonstration of their newly released software to their dealers. I also created the training videos that they included with that product.

My business slowly evolved to working less with ARRIS CAD and more with AutoCAD. After a while, I found that less of my time was spent doing training and support and more was spent creating production drawings. Then for a time I was mostly doing photorealistic renderings.

BIM (bm) acronym for building information modeling

A few years ago AutoCAD’s company, Autodesk, purchased the architectural software program Revit. Autodesk adopted the acronym BIM as a marketing term and it has caught on. It was intended to separate Revit from its competitors, but now practically all architectural CAD companies claim some BIM capability. Revit is so different from AutoCAD or ADT that many people that use Revit refer to it as BIM and to everything else as CAD. Although Revit isn’t the only, or even the first, BIM program, it has been the most successful. Like Sigma Design many years ago, Revit was designed for use by architects, and it shows. I am a real fan of this software and have been using it for about 5 years now. I have converted both commercial and residential projects from AutoCAD to Revit. I have also created Revit families for architectural building material manufacturers.

Architectural CAD has come a long way and no one knows what the future holds. It is a dynamic and exciting field and I intend to stay abreast of the technology as it evolves. I see it as a blend of art, math and science made possible by two things; an electronic digital computer, and a CAD Manager like me.

Ronny Hart, CAD Manager

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eZ Review

This is a review of the free universal file viewer and mark up program eZ version 4.0.85

DISCRIPTION (from the web site http://www.ezmeeting.com/ezfree.shtml )

eZ FREE

Simple and easy-to-use, eZ allows you to view SketchUp, PDF, CAD, 3D Models, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, digital photos, graphic files etc. all within the eZ application.

Amazing 3D viewing tools include measure distance, calculate area, dynamic rotation about any axis, section cuts, lighting, color & material controls, and hidden line removal. Cutaway sections can be invisible, ghosted, hidden line removal or a combination of ghosting and hidden line removal. The section plane can be rotated about any axis and moved through the model along any axis.

Sophisticated CAD viewing tools allow you to view and turn DWG and DXF layers on and off, and set foreground and background color for easy viewing of important details. Dynamic zoom, pan and rotate lets you focus on the area you want. Measure distance and calculate the area of any part of a drawing. Tell your clients about eZ so you can distribute your drawings, and they can view them through eZ’s simple interface, without needing to purchase or learn programs such as SketchUp and AutoCAD.

Insert and view digital photos quickly and easily directly from your scanner or camera. Zoom in to any level, rotate and pan. Also, convenient markup tools including add text, pencil, line, ellipse, rectangle, arrow, etc. allow for you to markup on the files without affecting the original, as if you were marking on a transparent overlay.

Organizing information into a compound file (containing more than one file) is a great way to keep track of different kinds of related information. These multi-part documents are easy to distribute for viewing and collaboration. You no longer have to worry about clients and colleagues having the same applications or software versions you do in order to share information.

REVIEW:

The program eZ is the file viewing and markup portion of eZmeeting, an internet conferencing and screen sharing program. While eZ is free, eZmeeting charges a monthly, or per meeting charge. This program is from Sigma Design, the company who produces the architectural program Arris CAD.

I was really hoping that I could recommend eZ. I like the concept. It’s just the implementation that I have a problem with.

When you download and install eZ what you are getting is eZmeeting. Every time you start the program you are presented with a log in screen for you to use for online meetings using eZmeeting. You only need to click on the “Start eZ FREE” to start the free file viewing and mark up program. There are no other nag screens. If you ignore the Start and Join Conference buttons and the Share and Join Desktop buttons what you have left is a blank screen area that you can draw on. They call this a “whiteboard”. The real power of this program is that you can open a large variety of different file types and mark on them as well. When these are CAD files, you have a good way to mark-up and share drawing files. With 3D models, you can dynamically rotate the models as well as dynamically cut sections thru them. You can add sketches to any view along with comments and arrows. This can all be saved and sent to your consultants for review. They can add their comments and return them to you, etc.

You can also create a single eZ document that contains several different document types, along with your markups.

Here are some of the problems I have with it:

  1. It doesn’t install with a help file. That has to be downloaded and installed separately.
  2. It doesn’t work with the latest version of AutoCAD. The most recent version of AutoCAD drawing (.DWG) file it will load is version 2005.
  3. It hangs up when trying to open large .pdf or .doc files
  4. It makes its .pdf printer driver the default printer on your computer. Even if you change back to your preferred printer, the next time you run EZ it changes it back.
  5. When you try to print you get a “printer not activated” error message and are directed to the Amyuni Technologies web site where you are invited to purvchase their PDF converter. It says on that page “This special offer is only valid to those who have purchased a product with Amyuni PDF Converter built in.” and gives you the choice between the $59.00 PDF Converter or the $79.00 PDF Suite. You can select any other printer you want, but I would expect a free PDF printer to be included in a free product.
  6. Can’t load a .txt file.
  7. Can’t mark-up a .doc file. You can open it (with a couple of ““printer not activated” error messages) but can’t mark it up.
  8. Trying to open a power point presentation without the Amyuni PDF converter activated locks up the program.
  9. AutoCAD drawings are only viewable in 2D.
  10. Can’t view AutoCAD drawing layouts, model space only.
  11. You can’t open an Arris drawing without opening it first in ARRISview and saving it out as a .gts file. Note that you can mark up the drawing in ARRISview without having to use EZ. So, if you are an Arris CAD user, you only need EZ for non-Arris files and for internet collaboration.

I am sure there would be more issues if I tried to use it longer. I have never had a program that I have had to abort more often with Windows Task Manager. I didn’t try out the collaboration function. The $99.00 per month fee seems a little excessive to me. Especially when there are several free screen sharing programs available, such as the excellent Adobe ConnectNow program.

If eZ would work with the most recent versions of AutoCAD I think a lot of people would use it. eZ would need to preserve the different layouts, the way it does pdf file pages, as well as model space and layers.

Move to Indiana

The move from Colorado Springs, Colorado to Lafayette, Indiana is complete (more or less). Colorado Springs is a beautiful place to live and I wouldn’t have moved if I could have stayed. Here is why I moved:

As sole proprietor of a CAD consultant company I call CAD Directions, I have been providing services to the architectural community since 1994. With over 30 years Architectural CAD experience I provide an array of services.

Highlights from the last couple of years:
-    As production draftsman: Produced architectural construction documents for several buildings including an 84,000 sq. ft. school on the north side of Colorado Springs.
-    As 3D Modeler: Created several 3D computer models including the 21 building Health Sciences Center located in downtown Philadelphia for Temple University (I had previously done the same for their main campus.)
-    As delineator: Provided many photo-realistic computer renderings, including animations and shadow studies for several clients ranging from a home owner in California to a land developer in New Jersey.
-    As programmer: Provided custom AutoLisp programming for a cabinet designer in Colorado Springs.
-    As teacher: Furnished custom AutoCAD and Revit training.
-    As CAD Manager: Setup CAD standards and procedures for an interior design company and an architectural firm in Colorado Springs.
-    As BIM expert: Assisted a Revit professional in California who required help in refining prototype families for architectural product manufacturers.

You can find more information about me and the services that I can provide at my web site:

http://www.caddirections.com/index_old.htm

Last year (2008) was my best year ever. But this year my business got slower and slower until by October, it had slowed to to the point where it was practically nonexistent. Having lived off my credit cards for a couple of months in the vain hope that work would pick up, I finally had to swallow my pride and accept my daughter’s offer to move in with her in Indiana. So my wife and I, along with my father-in-law and his dog are all now happily living with my daughter and her husband in Lafayette.

Even though I do work for Architects and designers all across the USA most of my work for the last few years has been for local Colorado architects. I have started cold-calling all of the local architects. First I called all the architects in and around Lafayette. Lafayette is about half way between Indianapolis and Chicago so I have started calling the architects in Indianapolis. I’ll call the Chicago architects next.

The good news is that I have met a local architect who has offered me a contract to produce a set of drawings for him. I start tomorrow. I have also talked to an architect in Indianapolis who is giving me a contract pending his client’s signing off on the project. And I have a meeting on Wednesday with another local architect to discuss possible opportunities.

Minimum Recommended Hardware Configuration

I got a call yesterday from an AutoCAD professional who was in the market to purchase a new computer. She wanted my recommendation as to what she should get for running AutoCAD. This got me thinking. If I was going to buy a new computer today to run the latest versions of the programs I use the most what would I get?

First the software: AutoCAD, Revit Architectue, 3dx Max and Photoshop. Assuming that I wanted to be able to run the latest versions should I decide to upgrade them all,  that would be: AutoCAD 2010, Autodesk Revit Architecture 2010, Autodesk 3dx Max 2010, and Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended.

Operating System: Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional (Latest Service Pack)

All of these programs will run on XP or Visa and they can all run 32bit or 64bit. For now I would stick with 32 bit. I worry that all of my older programs won’t work on 64bit, and besides, I’m nor really ready to up date all of my software at the same time. I am also not comfortable with switching to Vista for some of the same reasons. I wouldn’t even consider a MAC because none of the architects that know are using it and I have to work with them. 3ds Max doesn’t list XP Home Edition as an option, so I will stick with the Professional Edition.

Processor: Intel® Core™2 Duo 2.4 GHz or equivalent AMD processor

Autodesk recommends this for Revit. It isn’t the minimum required, but it doesn’t cost much more and should be really fast. Adobe doesn’t recommend anything slower than 1.8GHz.

RAM: 4GB

I think that the more RAM the better. This is the most that a 32 bit operating system can access. If you go for 64bit, then I recommend 8GB ram.

Graphics Card: Depends on Monitor Configuration

It will need at least 120 MB and support for all of 3ds Max features (DirectX, OpenGL, Shader model 3.0, etc.) This is not a gaming machine, so there is no need for a lot of on-card 3D processing. I have been using 2 monitors for a few years now and would highly recommend it. So, you will need a card to support the monitors you want to use. The primary monitor should be a large as you can get, probably a 1,680 by 1,050 resolution. The other monitor should be the same or smaller (a minimum of 1,024 by 768 for your secondary monitor). And these both should be set for 32 bit color. Make you’re your graphics card supports all of this. A good place to start would be this list of Photoshop supported graphics cards.

Hard Drive: Plenty

No new computer you get will have too small a hard drive. These are getting larger and cheaper all of the time. You will need a lot of disk space so I recommend you get three. One for all of your program files, one for all of your data, and one for backup. Get them as big and fast as you can afford. Sacrifice a little size for speed if you need to. The one for program files can be smaller than the other two as long as it is about twice as big as you think all of your program files will require.

Other Stuff: Dealers Choice

Most everything else just depends on what you like. Some programs require a DVD-ROM drive, but your system will probably come with one of these. You will need a 2 button wheel mouse. I personally prefer a large one (I have big hands) that has a lot of programmable buttons. You may want a Wacom pen tablet to use with Photoshop, but that is optional. I also couldn’t work without a high-speed internet connection, but again that may not be required by everyone.

Here is the information I got off the various software publisher’s web sites:

Operating System Processor RAM Graphics Card
AutoCAD 2010 32-bit XP or Vista P4 or AMD 2 GB 1,024 x 768
AutoCAD 2010 64-bit XP-64 or Vista-64 AMD-64 or Xeon or P4-64 2 GB 1,024 x 768
any AutoCAD for Rendering same 3 GHz single or 2 GHz dual 2 GB 1,280 x 1,024 (32 bit)
Autodesk Revit Architecture 32-bit XP or Vista P4 or AMD 3 GB 1,280 x 1,024 (24 bit)
same – recommended XP or Vista Core2Duo 4 GB 1,280 x 1,024 (24 bit)
Autodesk Revit Architecture 64-bit XP-64 or Vista-64 P4 or AMD 3 GB 1,280 x 1,024 (24 bit)
same – recommended same Core2Duo 8 GB DirectX 9
Autodesk 3dx Max 32-bit XP(pro) or Vista(pro) P4 or AMD-64 2 GB 120 MB, D3D or OGL
Autodesk 3dx Max 64-bit XP-64(pro) or Vista-64(pro) P4-64 or AMD-64 4 GB same
Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended XP or Vista 1.8GHz or faster 1 GB 1,280 x 800 (16 bit)
XP = Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional or Home edition (SP2 or later)
XP(pro)=Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional (Service Pack 2 or higher)
XP-64=Windows XP Professional x64 edition (SP2 or later)
XP-64(pro)= Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional x64
Vista=Microsoft® Windows Vista® (SP1 or later) including Enterprise, Business, Ultimate, or Home Premium edition
Vista(pro) = Microsoft® Windows® Vista (Business, Premium, or Ultimate)
Vista-64=Windows Vista 64-bit  (SP1), including Ultimate, Business, or Home Premium edition
Vista-64(pro)= Microsoft® Windows® Vista 64 bit (Business, Premium, or Ultimate)
P4 =I ntel® Pentium® 4  1.4 GHz
P4-64= Intel Pentium 4 with Intel EM64T support and SSE2 technology
Core2Duo=Intel® Core™2 Duo 2.4 GHz or equivalent AMD processor
AMD=AMD Athlon® dual-core processor, 1.6 GHz or higher with SSE2 technology
AMD-64=AMD Athlon 64 with SSE2 technology, or AMD Opteron® processor with SSE2 technology
Xeon=Intel® Xeon® processor with Intel EM64T support and SSE2 technology
1,024 x 768=VGA display with true color
1,280 x 1,024 (24bit)= 1280 x 1024 monitor and display adapter capable of 24-bit color
1,280 x 1,024 (32bit)=32-bit color video display adapter (true color) 128 MB or greater, Microsoft® Direct3D® capable workstation class graphics card
DirectX 9=Dedicated video card with hardware support for DirectX 9 (or later)
D3D=Direct3D 10 or Direct3D 9
OGL=OpenGL

3ds Max notes:

DirectX® 9.0c* (required), OpenGL® (optional)

Some features of 3ds Max 2010 are only enabled when used with graphics hardware that supports Shader Model 3.0 (Pixel Shader and Vertex Shader 3.0). Check with your manufacturer to determine if your hardware supports Shader Model 3.0.

Photoshop Notes:

Some GPU-accelerated features require graphics support for Shader Model 3.0 and OpenGL 2.0

QuickTime 7.2 software required for multimedia features

Broadband Internet connection required for online services

Certified for 32-bit Windows XP and 32-bit and 64-bit Windows Vista

3D Rendering Tips #2 – Building the 3D model

alpine_2aHere I am going to be talking about building a 3D CAD model of the exterior of a building. Typically I will receive AutoCAD drawings of the building. I use these plans and elevations as reference drawings to build the 3D computer model.

Tip: Don’t put in more detail than needed.

If you won’t be able to see it, there is no need to model it. For the exterior of a building this means that you should not need to model anything smaller than one inch. If it is smaller than 2 inches you probably don’t need to show it. Think of it as if you were building a 1/8″=1′-0″ cardboard model.

The FLOOR PLAN:

I find it best to create a new empty drawing to build my 3D model in. I can copy what I need from a drawing that I receive and past into the new drawing. I keep the original drawings for reference. I take the floor plan that I receive and remove everything that I don’t need, like dimensions, notes and hatch patterns. Everything that is left I move to a single layer and color. The cardboard model is a good analogy. You are going to be building your model on top of this plan. Do the same thing for each of the other floors and the roof plan if you have one (these are very useful). With each floor plan on a separate layer and a different color, place them on top of each other. Move them vertically to their relative distance apart. If many of the floors are the same, at least on the outside, you only need a single copy.

Tip: Move the floor plan so that the approximate center of the plan is at 0,0.

This will make your life easier when you import the 3D model into MAX, trust me.

The ELEVATIONS:

Put each of the elevations on its own layer. Rotate them around until they are vertical and aligned with the plan. It’s like building a house with playing cards. Here is where you are likely to discover that they are not all drawn perfectly and everything may not line up precisely. The better they are drawn, the easier your job will be from here. You will be using these as reference while building the model.

The 3D MODEL:

Tip: Save often.

This is always good advice but it is even more important when working on a complicated 3D model. I recommend saving each time you finish a portion. Or whenever you have done something that you are proud of, save. That way you can return to that point if you later screw things up.

Depending on the complexity of the building there are a lot of ways to proceed from this point. If it is a complex building shape, I sometimes find it useful to first draw a 3D outline of the building just using lines. I’ll put this on a layer called outline. As a mater of fact, anytime you are having trouble deciding how to model any part of the building, you can always draw a 3D outline with lines and then just place surfaces on this wire frame by sapping to the ends of the lines.

That’s all for now.

3D Rendering Tips #1 – Colors and Layers

I do a lot of 3D computer generated architectural renderings. I’ll attempt to describe, in a series of posts, the process I use.

I will typically receive AutoCAD drawings from my client. I import these into Arris, or sometimes into Sketchup, and create my 3D model there. I then export this 3D model back into AutoCAD. I import this into 3D Studio Max where I apply materials and generate photo-realistic renderings. I sometimes then use Paranesi to insert people and tress, or modify the lighting. I will then typically open these into Photoshop where I add finishing touches before sending the finished rendering to my client. I will be posting a series of 3D Rendering Tips to try and explain this process. This is my first post on this subject.

I work in Arris to build my 3D models. However, most of what I do can be done in AutoCAD, or Sketchup, or almost any 3D CAD program. I will use AutoCAD terminology for all of these tips.

When I build a 3D architectural model the goal is to end up with an AutoCAD drawing that contains each different material or color on a separate layer. So one of the first things to do is start a list of what materials or colors will be used in the model and assign a color number to each of them. I try to keep the number of different colors used to a minimum. I don’t like to have more than about 16 different colors.

Tip: Keep this list handy, you will be referring to it often.

I work with two different drawings for the model. The first one I make is used for building and modifying the model. We will call this the master drawing. I work in this drawing 98% of the time. When finished, I save the master drawing with a different name and edit it to become the drawing I send to the client, or to import into Autodesk 3D Studio MAX. We will call this the final drawing. The reason for two different drawings has to do with colors and layers.

The MASTER DRAWING:

Tip: When working on a 3D model, use lots of layers.

This lets you work on small sections at a time and facilitates edits. Don’t try to use any layer standards, just add a layer whenever you start to work on another part of the building. For example, you should add a new layer to work on before you model the first window. Perhaps name it window1. The name of the layer doesn’t really matter.

Leave the default color for all layers set to white. Don’t use “layer color” for the colors you use to build your model. Explicitly select the color number for each thing you build from your list of color numbers you have assigned to the materials. For your window, you may have assigned color number 1 to window frames and color number 2 to glass. At this stage the actual color you use doesn’t really mater. I tend to use colors where I can easily distinguish one from the other. Red for brick, blue for glass, yellow for trim, etc.  Don’t hesitate to use as many different colors on one layer as you need. We will cover some tips for building the model later. Then the model is finished, save it with another name. This new drawing you make will be your final drawing.

The FINAL DRAWING:

I keep the master drawing around so it will be easer to make revisions later. What I do with this copy of the master drawing is turn it into the drawing with each color on its own layer.

First add one layer for each different color you have used in the model and name them according to what the color represents. For example you will normally have a roof layer, a glass layer, a brick layer, etc. Then select everything that is color number 1 and change the layer these entities are on to the layer you created for color 1 entities. You can use the FILTER command to select all entities that are of a particular color. Then you can use the CHPROP command and select “previous” to change them to the desired layer. Repeat this for each different color that you used. Then delete all of the original layers. You will then have a drawing that contains one layer, properly named, for each material. You will also have layer 0 because AutoCAD requires you to have a layer 0, with nothing on it. Now you can change all entities to color by layer, and change the default color for each layer to a color that looks a little more like the building colors.

This is a lot of work and very repetitive. You may want to write an AutoLISP program or two to make this last part go a little faster. Especially when you consider that this final drawing will be difficult to edit. You will want to return to the master drawing to make changes and then repeat these steps to make a new final drawing after each revision. But AutoLISP programming tips are beyond the scope of these 3D tips.

Having each material on its own layer makes applying materials in 3D Studio MAX go very smoothly. But more on that later.

Graphic software programs

I thought that I would start by listing some of the software that I use. Later I will be commenting on each of these, offering my opinions and tips I have discovered along the way. Here are most of the graphic programs I use:

  • AutoCAD
  • Revit Architecture
  • Autodesk 3D Studio Max
  • Sketchup
  • Adobe Acrobat
  • Adobe Photoshop CE
  • Arris
  • Corel Painter
  • Irfanview
  • Piransei
  • Bricscad

There are others, but these are the main ones.