This is a guest post by Eric M. Hoover, whois a Social Media and Content Strategist, building global marketing campaigns for a wide variety of brands. Eric has a fondness for automotive and architectural design, and previously developed website strategy for major automakers and renewable energy companies. He was introduced to me by Anne-Charlotte Lambert of SEER Interactive, an SEO agency that works with Autodesk.
Computer aided design has been around since the early 80s, but it’s never had as much of an impact on architecture, science and art as in in recent years. AutoCAD has been used to engineer some of the world’s most elaborate buildings or and scale some of science’s most intricate molecular models. Or, for some artists, it’s the only way to efficiently design a giant dinosaur out of LEGOs. Whatever the industry – whatever the project – AutoCAD has made what once seemed impossible, probable. The potential to bring even more imaginative ideas to life is growing daily with avenues into stop motion, 3D printing and more.
Check out how AutoCAD is making waves in industries around the world.
Virtual cinematography worlds
Think back to the ‘80s when special effects first took hold of the film-going public’s eye. Fast forward to the 1990s when video game systems such as SEGA Genesis and Super Nintendo — and later the Playstation and N64 –transformed graphics from flat 2-dimensional sprites into beautiful, 3D renderings. What seemed like such a big breakthrough then pales in comparison to today’s CGI and virtual cinematography. Whole new worlds have been created using 3D animation that looks impossibly real to the human eye. For the first time ever, filmmakers and video game designers truly have no boundaries when it comes to replicating their imagination. All they have to do is dream a special effect and, with computer-aided design, they can finally create it. As an example, see this article on how Autodesk is developing virtual production with James Cameron and Weta Digital.
Wheelchairs, in some form, have been around for centuries. While nothing quite as technologically advanced as the X-Men’s Professor Xavier’s hover chair has been created just yet, AutoCAD is making huge breakthroughs in the industry for paraplegics. One such innovation is Magic Wheels. Going up and down steep inclines is taxing and often problematic for even the strongest wheel chair users. However, Magic Wheels integrates a user-centered design and mechanical engineering features such as dual gears, brakes and hill-holding technology into a lightweight wheel drive and hand rim. With Magic Wheels, the painstaking process of wheelchair users manually wheeling themselves around could be a thing of the past.
This video is a basic operation guide for MagicWheels.
From the original handcrafted waffle-like design to 3D printed kicks, Nike has always been a pioneer at the forefront of sportswear. With AutoCAD, the manufacturing giant continues to innovate by creating sports shoes influenced by the player’s unique game, biomechanics and movement of the player. Sneakers simply aren’t simply shoes anymore — they’re an extension of the player that maximizes performance in a way never imagined before. You can read an article about Nike product design here.
Molecular renderings and human organs
Forget about the Tinker Toy models you created in high school chemistry class. AutoCAD may actually have its biggest influence and beneficial impact in advancing the field of science. For example, a 3D-printed 10,000,000:1 rendering of DNA-RNA transcription was created using specific data that was fed into AutoCAD at Harvard University. This type of breakthrough has already led to functioning 3D printed organs, such as hearts, lungs, and more. Who needs the Fountain of Youth when you can simply map, print and implant new, functional organs? Read how Autodesk and Organovo teamed up to bring printable human organs closer.
Well, you probably did know that AutoCAD could be used to design bridges, but this is an interesting story. During its infancy, skeptics were worried that the San Francisco Bay Bridge, the world’s largest suspension bridge, wouldn’t be able to support the strain of rush hour commutes. Read how the California Department of Transportation silenced the critics by sharing detailed 3D visualizations using computer aided design to validate that the project was viable and ultimately safe.
These are just a few of the achievements that AutoCAD has helped bring to fruition. As time goes by, there will undoubtedly be many more imaginative uses for this software, helping to bring out the best in tomorrow’s most innovative minds.
What innovative ways are you using AutoCAD? Or perhaps you can share a link to an interesting story of how AutoCAD has been used. Leave a comment!
Another year, another AutoCAD release. Autodesk has been pretty reliable that way for years. Here’s my list of new features — along with my opinion, when I have one.
New way to start — and switch among — drawings
Several times, Autodesk has tried to add a “front” to AutoCAD. Remember the Today page? Then they take it out. Here’s what you now see when you start AutoCAD.
You’re actually on a tab that’s called New Tab. More about that in a minute.
At the bottom are two links. By default, you’re on the Create page. If you click the Learn link, the page slides to show you some training videos, tips, and online resources.
On the Create tab, there are 3 columns:
Get Started: Here you can click Start Drawing or choose a template, open files, open a sheet set, get more templates online, and explore sample drawings.
Recent Documents: Here you see thumbnails of recent drawings that you opened. You can click one to open the drawing.
Connect: here you can sign in to Autodesk 360 or send feedback.
If you click Get Started, Drawing1 opens and there’s still a tab at the top. You can click the New Tab button (it looks like the New Tab button on your browser) to get the same 3-column screen you see when you open AutoCAD — there you can start a new drawing or open and existing one. By the way, layout tabs similarly have a New Layout button.
The big deal is that each drawing that you open, whether from a tab or by using the OPEN command, has its own tab. Now it’s really easy to switch among drawings.
What I think: I’m not a big fan of “covers.” But I love the new tabs.
In the Help system, if you click the tool you want to use or its Find link, an animated arrow shows you where the tool is on the ribbon. If the tool isn’t on the ribbon, a message tells you which ribbon tab and panel it’s on.
This is helpful for newbies. In fact, anyone might use this feature for tools that aren’t on the ribbon, because it seems like they keep taking stuff off it! For example, the View tab, although it has plenty of room on it, doesn’t show the following panels:
So the tool will tell you where to find the ZOOM command on the ribbon, for example, as you see here.
To display any of the missing panels, right-click in a gray area of the tab and choose Show Panels. Then choose a panel.
By the way, they’ve taken several buttons off the status bar, too. To get them back, click the Customization button at the right end of the status bar and choose the button that you want to see.
What I think: As I said, this is helpful, although I don’t like that so much has been taken off the ribbon.
Check out this free dynamic block tutorial
Plus get free tips in our AutoCAD Tips Newsletter!
Get a free tutorial on creating a complete dynamic block, including a drawing to practice on. You'll make a movable chair, resizable desk, and more. PLUS, the highly-acclaimed AutoCAD Tips Newsletter will keep your skills up to date!
There’s a new dark color scheme. It’s supposed to minimize eye strain. To change it, start the OPTIONS command and on the Display tab, choose the Light option from the Color Scheme drop-down list.
OK, I’m getting old and my eyes aren’t as good as they used to be, but I find the dark scheme doesn’t have enough contrast and I can’t distinguish anything. So I changed it to light. I still have trouble reading the black ribbon tab names against the dark gray background. Talk about lack of contrast!
What I think: Let me rant here. Autodesk changes its interface almost every year. I should know, because it means I have to redo zillions of screenshots for my book each year. Mostly the changes are unnecessary — the don’t help anything. Really. I hate the dark color scheme and even the light one doesn’t work well for me.
Insert blocks from the ribbon
If you have blocks stored in the drawing, you can insert them from the ribbon. What could be easier? You can do the same for dimensions, mleaders, text, tables, and table cells.
What I think: Nice!
New selection look and lasso selection
Selected objects look different. Instead of being dashed, they are thickened and highlighted.
Lasso selection is a new way to select objects. You click in a blank area and drag around objects. Release the mouse button when you’re done. Anything that crosses the lasso boundary is selected.
Watch the video:
You can see the result of TRIM, EXTEND, LENGTHEN, BREAK and MATCHPROP commands before you select the objects to see if the result will be what you want. This should reduce the number of undo operations that you have to use. For example, when you are trimming an object, after specifying the cutting edge, you can hover the cursor over the object you want to trim and see the result before selecting the object.
What I think: Very helpful!
When you are doing certain operations, there’s an icon, called a badge, at the cursor to let you know what operation you’re doing. For example, you’ll see a quesrtion mark badge for LIST, ID, and other inquiry tools. You’ll see an X when you use the ERASE command. Likewise, there are badges for COPY, MOVE, SCALE, and ZOOM.
The crosshairs no longer appear inside the pick box so you can more easily see what you’re picking.
What I think: I really don’t see the use for the badges. I always know which command I’m using. In fact, it’s easier for me to remember which command I’m using than to remember what the badges mean. But I like the empty pickbox.
New viewport controls
You can more easily resize model space viewports by dragging on their boundaries. The active viewport is more clearly delineated with a light blue boundary. You can press Ctrl and drag to split a viewport or remove a viewport by dragging its boundary to the edge of the screen.
New Mtext features
Bullets and numbering are automatic. AutoCAD automatically switches your case if you press the Shift key while Caps Lock is turned on. Subscript and superscript text is easier to create with new buttons on the Text Editor ribbon.
There’s a Match Properties button in the Mtext Editor to make it easier to copy Mtext properties.
Fractions are easier, too. You just type a forward slash and AutoCAD stacks it. While editing the text, you see a stacking icon and you can click it to control the fraction.
The new TEXTALIGN command lets you align multiple single-line text or Mtext objects. This isn’t left or right aligning; it’s aligning the text objects with each other to that they don’t look sloppy.
Geographic location enhancements
The geographic location feature lets you set the geographic location from a map. (If you want to access online map data, you need to be signed into your Autodesk 360 account.) Using online data lets you specify a location and place a marker by entering an address or zooming in on the map. You can also embed and plot map data. It’s kind of like downloading Google maps into your drawing — at least for the area you specified.
And a few more…
Easier access to isometric drawing tools
Point cloud enhancements
A new translation framework (ATF) imports data from CATIA, Pro Engineeer, SolidWorks and other formats, supporting meshes, curves, object colors, and layers.
There’s a new add-in, called Autodesk BIM 360.
You can create button images for the ribbon in PNG image format.
What do you like — and not like?
And what new features would you like to see? Leave a comment!
Recently, a reader asked how to plot to a specific scale from model space.
Ordinarily, I recommend plotting from paper space. You have better tools there for laying out your drawing and inserting a title block. But you can also plot from model space. In fact, this is the original method for plotting in AutoCAD, many years ago.
Here are the steps:
From the Model tab, click the Plot button on the Quick Access toolbar or choose Output tab, Plot. This starts the PLOT command and opens the Plot dialog box.
If necessary, choose your printer/plotter from the Name drop-down list.
Look in the Plot Scale section at the lower-right corner of the dialog box. By default, Fit to Paper is checked, as you can see on the right.
Uncheck the Fit to Paper checkbox.
Click the Scale drop-down list and choose the scale that you want. In the figure below, I chose 1/4″ = 1′-0″. This is a common architectural scale in the United States.
To check what the result will look like, click Preview. Click the X (Close) button on the Preview toolbar to exit the preview (although you can plot directly from this screen).
Click OK to plot.
Do you plot from model space? If yes, why don’t you use paper space? I’m just curious. Leave a comment!
Many AutoCAD users have a favorite mouse, sometimes with lots of buttons on them. You may have a keyboard that makes entering data easier. Perhaps you think you have the best (and biggest) monitor around.
You probably also use 3rd-party software. Let’s share our hardware and software secrets! Leave a comment!
If the item is available on Amazon.com, please give the Amazon.com URL. Otherwise, give as much information as you can and where to purchase it.
Which mouse do you use? Do you use a puck or stylus? Do you have a special keyboard? Can you recommend a monitor?
Why did you make those choices? Why are they great for AutoCAD users?
Have you purchased 3rd-party software that works with AutoCAD? What does it do? Where can others buy it?
Leave a comment and share you good — and maybe bad — experiences!
Multifunctional grips are small, contextual menus that let you edit the properties of an object or component. Use them to quickly edit objects.
For example, when you draw a rectangle, each vertex has multifunctional grips that let you add, remove, or stretch that vertex.
Similarly, an array has multifunctional grips that let you edit the number of rows in a rectangular array or the angle between items in the polar array.
How to use a multifunctional grip
To use a multifunctional grip, follow these steps:
Select the object.
Hover over a grip.
Choose one of the options that appears.
You can also make a grip “hot” by clicking it and then right-clicking it. Along with the other shortcut menu items, you’ll find the multifunctional grip options.
Multifunctional grips have been expanded since they were introduced. For example, the rectangle’s center grip menu also lets you convert the side of the rectangle to an arc. Watch the video to see how it works.
Which objects have multifunctional grips?
The key to using the multifunctional grips is to know which objects have them. Here’s a rundown:
2D objects: Lines, polylines, arcs, elliptical arcs, splines, arrays, and hatches. Also dimensions and multileaders
3D objects: 3D faces, edges, and vertices
Control multifunctional grips with a system variable
The GRIPMULTIFUNCTIONAL system variable lets you control how multifunctional grips work. The default setting is 3 which gives you the behavior I described above; it’s a combination of the 1 and 2 settings. Here are the other settings:
0: Multifunctional grip options are not available
1: Access the options by pressing Ctrl to change grip behavior (Ctrl-cycling)
2: Access the options using the grip menu that you see when you hover over a grip
Are you using multifunctional grips?
Are you using this feature or is it new to you? Leave a comment and share your experience!
Several people have asked about inexplicably large files.
Kerry Overall wrote me,
I’ve seen unusually large CAD .dwg files. I had the same problem when a colleague stumbled onto a solution that greatly helped me. Open the drawing….wblock, click on “Entire Drawing” and save it. I had a simple file that was 73mb and by doing this it reduced it down to 3mb. And quickly , too.
The WBLOCK command writes (saves) the objects in a drawing as a new drawing. You can specify specific objects or the entire drawing.
A bonus is that you lose many settings in the current drawing. You can therefore use this technique to troubleshoot problem drawings that don’t behave the way you want them to. It’s often hard to ferret out the settings that might be causing the problem — such as system variables — so moving the objects to a new drawing can be an easy fix.
To be more precise, here are the steps:
If you want, you can select objects in advance.
Type wblock on the command line or choose Insert> Block Definition panel> click the Create Block drop-down arrow and choose Write Block. (It’s easiest to just type it on the command line.) The Write Block dialog box opens. If you pre-selected objects, the number of objects appears in the Objects section of the dialog box.
To write the entire drawing, choose Entire Drawing at the top.
You can choose a base point. If you want to be able to insert the drawing (or the selected objects) using a base point on one of the objects, for example, click the Pick Point button and specify the base point.
In the Objects section, you can choose to retain the objects in the current drawing, convert them to a block, or delete them from the drawing.
In the Dstination section, click the Ellipsis button and browse to the location where you want to save the new drawing. Give the drawing a name and click the Save button.
If desired, choose units from the Insert Units drop-down list. You can choose Unitless. You can even choose light years or parsecs if you’re thinking really big!
If you did these steps to make your drawing smaller, go into Windows Explorer and check the size of the original and new drawings.
What techniques have you used to reduce the size of AutoCAD drawings? Leave a comment!
Most mice have a wheel and you can use it in a number of ways — scroll it in 2 directions, click it, and double-click it. Plus, you can combine keys such as the Shift key with the mouse wheel to get even more capabilities. AutoCAD makes good use of your mouse wheel. Here are some of the options.
System variables that affect the mouse wheel
3 system variables affect how your mouse wheel works.
ZOOMFACTOR: This system variable sets the amount of magnification change that occurs when you scroll the whell forward or backward. You can choose from 3 to 100 and the default value is 60. A higher value changes the magnification more.
ZOOMWHEEL: This sets the direction of the scrolling. By default, this is set to 0, which means that when you scroll the wheel forward you zoom in and when you scroll it backward, you zoom out. If you set the value to 1, you reverse the action. Most people change this setting when they have other software that works the opposite of the AutoCAD default and they want the zooming to be the same in all their software.
MBUTTONPAN: By default (set to 1), when you press the mouse wheel and drag, you pan across your drawing. However, when you set this system variable to 0, the wheel acts like a middle button and supports the action that you define in the CUI or CUIX menu file, which could be just about anything.
Mouse wheel actions that you can use
Here are the actions you can perform when MBUTTONPAN is set to the default of 1.
Zoom in or out: Rotate the wheel forward to zoom in, backward to zoom out. (As mentioned above, you can change the direction with the ZOOMWHEEL system variable.)
Zoom to extents: Double-click the wheel button.
Pan: Press and drag with the wheel button.
Pan (joystick): Press Ctrl and the wheel button and drag the mouse. This is used in 3D, although I’m not sure I understand exactly what’s happening. Try it out and see if it’s useful for you.
3D Orbit: Press Shift and the wheel button and drag the mouse.
Free Orbit: Press Ctrl, Shift and the wheel button all at once and drag the mouse. You’ll see the 3D orbit arcball as you do this.
Do you have any mouse wheel tips? Leave a comment!