Tips on Managing AutoCAD Using S-MAN Tools
In my article “Preparing
You for the Next Boom Time” I outlined the merits of
implementing a high- level CAD management system for your
company. I discussed keeping up with new technology, maintaining
a clear understanding of why you have applied a particular
process, integrating your processes into the whole, and
monitoring performance. The bottom line is to be able to
mutually adapt the processes employed by your staff with the new
capabilities of CAD software in a way that meets your company's
business objectives. Achieving top level efficiency to bring
wealth to your company and its staff is an obvious objective,
and working conditions that are the pride of the entire team is
another. Consistency and predictability are key. Here are some
tips to help you achieve that.
Rules on Scaling
Scaling in CAD is one of those slippery things with which
almost everyone has difficulty maintaining a firm grasp. Yet it
is fundamental to the programmability of your system. You have
to adopt governance for scaling, because it will dictate the
outcome of the entire system.
Nail down the fundamentals, and then set up your software and
your blocks accordingly. For example, just because your plot
dialog works inches and millimeters (for measuring paper) does
not mean that you should. If your design work is predominately
in feet, then all of your settings, and all of your blocks
should be in feet.
a) When you transfer your design to paper, you use 1 = 12 in
your plotting setups (design unit = paper unit).
b) When you scale your viewport for 1:100 its 1/100 X Paper,
not 1/100/12 (I hope that's right!)
c) When you insert a symbol or a detail block, you insert at
1:1, or whatever scale it is relative to the scale of your view
(e.g. Block Scale/View Scale) not 500/1000/25.4 and without
needing to change your Insert units setting or calculate
d) When draw text and dimensions in a view scaled at 1:100,
you use 100 and not 100 X 12 or 100 X 25.4
e) Your drawing border and title block is scaled in feet and
it is always inserted in the layout at 1:1.
Abiding by these rules give you the predictability that your
processes can always accommodate drawing units and scales in the
same manner. To help you implement this, the S-MAN standards
management utilities offered by Softco Engineering Systems will
define all of your system settings and dimstyles in whatever
drawing unit that you use. For example if you normally design in
feet or meters, you can switch the system settings and dimstyles
of an old drawing set in inches, to feet or meters. For whatever
drawing unit you are working in, any settings required for scale
are always the actual scale and no conversion factors are
Automating with Standard Setups
Determining the best configurations to use for your standard
setups is a matter of classifying the things that you do, while
still accommodating exceptional cases. That is, most all of the
proper settings are applied with only one action, but one or two
minor adjustments can still be made. This is a big job and must
be considered carefully, but worth it because your output, your
drawings, will always be consistent among operators.
System variable setup, dimstyles, textstyles, linetypes,
layers, plotstyles, standard blocks, and standard plotting
setups, are some of the things just to name a few. Being able to
select standard setups for these things in one single step, are
all important to achieving consistency.
The prototype setup procedures offered by S-MAN explain
conventions to help you to classify your setups by the way you
will use them. For example, a choice from 8 standard plotting
setups will allow you to print in alternate sets of standard
color schemes and sets of standard lineweights for standard
objects. These setups are coupled with 8 standard sheet sizes
and configurations for more than 60 standard page setups. This
ensures that all operators will plot consistent output every
time, just by making one correct selection at plot time. To give
you an idea of the savings you can realize with S-MAN, it would
take you 2 months of study to fully understand how plotstyles
should best be used, and then another 2 months work just to
develop and create the plotting setups. Does it make sense to
get this advice, and then modify these setups to suit your needs
instead of starting from square one? I think that’s a
Reusing the elements of a building, a ship, a piece of
machinery, or electronic circuitry in a drawing as the base for
another presentation is where the power and usefulness of CAD is
fully realized. Much of the descriptive information could be
reused as well yet so many users still classify all of their
descriptive information like dimensioning and text by its data
type rather than by its use.
For example, all of the dimensions are grouped on one layer
called DIMS and all of the text is grouped on a layer called
TEXT. Many even continue to group their text by its height just
so they can assign lineweight by its color and assign the color
by its layer. Much of this information can be re-used in a
different presentation and for a different purpose, but never
all of it.
To do this you need to group the descriptive information by
the classes of drawing elements so that some of the background
information can be retained and re-used. This means you maintain
ancillary layers as a child of the layer on which the element is
placed. It also means that lineweights, color, or named
plotstyles need to be applied by the annotation object.
The S-MAN annotation and lineweight tools have been
specifically designed to automate all of this for you and deal
with any problems. You can just choose the text or dimensioning
command, pick the element, and the correct layer and lineweight
properties are applied. You don't even have to set the text
height or scale because each standard height has its own
command, and the commands know when they need a different scale.
Forget about grouping dimensions and text by its data type or
its height. You'll never want to re-use all of the 2mm or 5mm
high text drawn for some other trade or presentation, but the
generic parts of it, you can indeed.
Applying S-MAN Annotation Tools
The S-MAN StanAnno and StanUtil utility packages contain lisp
commands in open source for each dimensioning object and for
each standard text height. A Cad Manager may configure these
commands for desired lineweights, colors, plotstyles, and many
other settings that you can define as the company defaults. You
can add other capabilities, employ the functionality to make
derivative programs and you can even call up to 16 useful
built-in functions that are exported to the native environment
for use in your own custom programs. Here's one example.
Suppose you wanted to define a text command called HEADINGS
that ensures that the correct font, text height, and other
properties settings are used every time, including the grouping
of headings with classes of drawing elements as I mentioned
1. Copy the T4.lsp source file to Headings.lsp and change the
C:T1 command statement to C:HEADINGS
2. In the Textstyl.dat setup file, define a standard
textstyle called Stan1_Bold that uses the Ariblk.ttf font.
3. In the "User Defined Systems Settings Section" of
Headings.lsp, change the STM_STYLE1 variable to "Stan1_Bold".
4. In the "User Defined Text Height Section" of Headings.lsp,
set the STM_HEIGHT1 variable to the desired height for headings.
5. Add the statement (print (load "Headings.lsp" "Headings.lsp
file not found in search path")) to the aCADdoc.lsp startup
6. Restart AutoCAD, and type Headings from the command line.
In the BaseAnno.dat setup file, ensure that the group code
"N" is applied to the layer name of objects that require
headings. For example, your general layers and your view layers
may all display the drawing element where you will also need
headings. You can then add a button to a "Company Standards"
toolbar that calls your "Headings" command. Open any drawing.
When you press Headings, the built-in functions supplied with
the S-MAN Annotation Tools will make sure your textstyle is
created, handle the scale, and place your heading on a child
layer of the desired drawing element you choose.
The Future for Named Plotstyles
Named Plotstyles will be the ultimate replacement for many of
the layers you now use. Since names are unlimited, you are not
restricted by the number of distinct colors that can define the
plotting properties of an object. Conceivably, there can be a
distinct set of plotting properties for every single design
object on the planet. Some of those plotstyles might need only
be applied to a single object in the drawing. It is estimated
that about 95% of all AutoCAD users are still using color
dependent drawings, but I recommend that you start making the
The classification of plotstyles is similar to the tradition
for layers, but is useful for a far greater degree of specialty.
One could begin by using your layer names for the plotstyles, or
you can start fresh by developing a system of classification
that deals specifically with plotting properties. Another method
is to start classifying your colors (and color dependent
plotstyles) by the objects.
Softco Engineering Systems supplies tools to apply named
plotstyles to your old drawings by color as you develop your own
system, or apply them to layers. If you want to jump in with
both feet, the S-MAN Standards Management system explains all of
the angles for implementing named plotstyles, and has been fully
developed for named drawings. Implementing the S-MAN standards
for named drawings gets you going at square 5 with an expert
system that is already operational.
About the Author
is president and manager of product design and engineering at
Softco Engineering Systems
Inc., developers of the S-MAN AutoCAD