5 Great AutoCAD hacks for Architects

While AutoCAD is a dramatic improvement over drafting by hand, architects can improve their productivity even more by using these five great AutoCAD hacks. Most of these hacks are universal to any version of AutoCAD, though some are restricted to later versions of AutoCAD.

Naming Conventions

Consider naming the equivalent to keeping your digital workspace organized. Name your files per a naming convention that makes it clear what they are. Whether you name AutoCAD files based on the customer’s company or building moniker is your decision, but naming them 12345.dwg is almost certain to cause confusion. You should also name your layers so you can keep track of them in the project, such as a utility layer, foundation layer and floor plan layer. This makes it easy to see what layer you are on when you work, and it quickly tells which ones you want to freeze to avoid making changes to them or turn them off so you don’t see them.

Splines

Splines let you create curves that aren’t a standard arc. The benefit of splines is that you can save them and reuse them, such as when you create a tapered spiral when designing mechanical screws in equipment or the sweeping curve of a staircase. If someone doesn’t like the angle or flow characteristics, you alter the factors in the spline and regenerate it automatically within AutoCAD. You can alter it quickly and let the customer see the result while still retaining the ability to recreate the old one just as quickly.

Photo Rendering

If you are working with AutoCAD 2016 or later, you don’t have to hire an artist to create a photo-like rendering of what the final design will look like. You can convert 3D AutoCAD models into photorealistic renderings using the Autodesk 360 cloud rendering service. This tool is invaluable for creating the finished photographic quality images without relying on your desktop processing power or creating an image on demand when your laptop doesn’t have the processing capability. You can make your own models more realistic by using blocks to insert people and cars around the model before doing the photo rendering.

Verifying It Will Fit

The interfere command in AutoCAD lets you check for interference within a set of 3D models. The interference checking creates temporary solids or surface objects and shows you where models intersect. You want to do this when importing layers and contractor models of what they’ll be putting in so you don’t accidentally plan on electrical wiring going through a hole where plumbers expect to put their pipes or install fixtures that interfere with the opening of doors. It costs ten times as much to fix these problems during construction as it does during the design phase, so check the interference fits long before you finalise the design.

Tolerance checks can also be done with much smaller parts before you buy them. If someone is trying to design fancy fixtures or use alternate parts, you can verify the fit within Autodesk Inventor. Make sure real world parts will fit together the way you think they will.

Offset

The offset command lets you copy arcs, lines and polylines and paste them at a measured distance. It is more accurate than simply copying and pasting and saves you time if you need to repeat a pattern like benches or parking spaces at set intervals. This is different from the paste to original coordinates command that lets you copy lines from one drawing and paste them in another drawing in a specific location.

Summary

Whether you run an interference fit for items in your current architectural model’s layers or verify that physical assemblies will work together, AutoCAD contains options for checking for interference within the tool itself and companion software. Use the offset command to save yourself copying and pasting. Photo Rendering can create high quality rendering of your designs without the cost or resources of an artist’s representation. Splines let you alter and re-create elaborate curves with very little effort. And setting formal naming conventions avoids confusion as to what files you need to open and which layers you are working on.