Monday, September 22, 2008

Ten Ways to be More Efficient at AutoCAD - Part 3

Do any of you want or need to do your work in AutoCAD more quickly? Do yo need your work to be preformed in a more accurate fashion? CAD-a-Blog has been discussing a theory of AutoCAD use based upon the cliche "Less is More." The less work you have to do, the less time it will take. The less you touch the files, the fewer the opportunities there will be for error. This post is Part Three of the series, "Ten Ways to be More Efficient at AutoCAD."

In Part One we discussed using Keyboard Commands as a form of input to decrease the time needed to work. Using both hands to input your commands and data is naturally more efficient than making movements back and forth from button to button. For more in depth discussion see the post.

Part Two took a look at using templates. This concept involves starting a new file with a customized template (a DWT file.) Doing so will allow your users to all start at the same point. Everyone in the firm will be using the same fonts, dimension styles, and layers. It also eliminates the need to devote time to setting up files the way you want them to be.

How to be More Efficient at AutoCAD-Part Three

In Part Three of this series I want to discuss using file references. Many of us already use X-refs in our design file process. But are you using them efficiently? Why do you use them? How should you use them? What goes in them? When shouldn't I use them?

If you have used any of Autodesk's verticals (like Civil3D) then the concept of DATA REFERENCING is not knew to you. If you ave never used an Autodesk Vertical, and only "vanilla" CAD, and have used x-ref's then you ARE familiar with data referencing.

There are essentially two main uses of DWG files (there are of course exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking there are only two.) The most common use of a DWG file is as a Sheet File. This is the file used as a drawing, and is printed out for the client. We ave all used DWG files in this function many times. The other function of a DWG file is as a MODEL file. This file contains the project's line work or geometry and is referenced by the sheet files. This is where users create the design objects.

Let's look at a few examples. An architect (should be using Arcitectural Desktop or Revit, but in this case is using AutoCAD) will design a building in a file. When drawings are needed, a new file is created (the sheet file) with a title block, border and the model file x-ref'd into it. Now, in the sheet file, create all notes, dimensions, callouts, bill of materials, etc.

Now go on and create all sheet files required to produce the construction documents.

Now the client calls and wants the Architect to remove a room on the east side and extend the room on the south. Since you used x-ref's all you have to do is change the model file's line work one time. Open the sheet files affected and update the annotation. The alternative is to be forced to change the linework in every file, along with the affected annotation. One change, one time.

Besides saved time, accuracy is ensured. Well, at least it is ensured that all sheets will have the same data. Either they are all wrong, or all correct! It happens.

What goes in a model file? Linework. Annotation belongs in the sheet file. Data defining the objects, that will be frozen in the sheet file, can be placed in the model as a sort of meta-data.

Another form of referencing envolves OLE objects. These are outside files like a spreadsheet or word processing document. Using this type of data link can also speed up drafting time and ensure acuracy, especially if you use the spreadsheet in a report. This way the drawings and the report are ensured to contain the same data.

Changes in design and design data occur througout the design process of any project. Using references will speed up revision time and increase accuracy throught the construction and design documents.
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