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Converting 3D drawings into 2D drawings

Readers of my books often ask me how to convert a 3D drawing into a 2D drawing — either to simplify dimensioning or for presentation purposes. Here are three techniques:

If your drawing is made up of solids, you should use SOLVIEW and SOLDRAW or SOLPROF, because they provide the most accurate results.

  • SOLVIEW automates the creation of floating viewports and orthogonal views of your model. SOLVIEW also creates a special layer for dimensioning. For a view that you have named “front,” look for a layer called front-dim. You can use these layers to create dimensions in paper space.
  • SOLDRAW works with the views created by SOLVIEW and creates 2D profiles, including hatching for sections.
  • SOLPROF requires that you create your own floating viewports and that you start on a layout in model space. This command then creates profiles. You can create hidden views by choosing Yes at the “Display hidden profile lines on separate layer?” prompt and then freezing or turning off the layers that represent hidden lines.

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If you drawing contains non-solids, your best bet is to create a DXB file (a binary file containing all the specifications of your drawing) and then import that file into a new drawing. These results are not as accurate, but acceptable for most presentation purposes. Here are the steps:

  1. Choose Tools > Wizards > Add Plotter. The Add Plotter wizard opens.
  2. Click Next. On the Begin screen, choose the location for your plotter, My Computer, Network Plotter Server, or System Printer. Click Next.
  3. On the Plotter Model screen, choose AutoCAD DXB File from the Manufacturers list. Click Next.
  4. On the Import Pcp or Pc2 screen, click Next unless you want to import an existing plotter configuration file.
  5. On the Ports screen, Plot to File should be checked. Click Next.
  6. On the Plotter Name screen, you can keep the default name (DXB File) or type a new name. Click Next and then click Finish. You have now finished the setting up of the DXB plotter. You don’t need to to this step again.
  7. In your drawing, set up the view you want to plot.
  8. Click a layout tab and create a floating viewport. (By default the Page Setup dialog box appears. Click OK to create one floating viewport.)
  9. If you want a hidden view, select the viewport itself (the border). Right click and choose Hide Plot > Yes. If you don’t want the viewport border itself to appear, put it on a different layer and freeze the layer.
  10. Choose Plot from the Standard toolbar. On the Plot Device tab, chose DXB File.pc3 (or whatever you named your DXB plotter).
  11. In the Plot to File section, name your file and choose a location. (You can click the ellipsis button to browse to a location.) Note that the Plot to File checkbox appears grayed out.
  12. Click OK to create the DXB file.
  13. Open a new drawing and choose Insert > Drawing Exchange Binary. Locate and choose the file you created and click Open. (If you model is rotated, just use the ROTATE command.) You now have a 2D representation of your 3D drawings, everything broken down into lines.

A new Express Tools command is Flatten, which converts a 3D drawing to 2D. The results depend on the viewpoint you are using when you execute the command. For example, a cylinder viewed using the SE Isometric viewpoint becomes a set of polylines. If viewed from the top, the cylinder becomes a circle, because that’s what you see. Since AutoCAD 2007, there’s a similar FLATSHOT command.

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For specific steps using SOLPROF, see Convert a 3D solid to a 2D drawing with a hidden view

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