Archive for the ‘3D Modeling’ category

The 10 CAD Commandments Version 2012



Unlike the Biblical Ten Commandments, some of these are likely to need updating as time goes by, though most, hopefully, will remain timeless pearls of productivity wisdom. 😉

I. Without getting into a theological / religious discussion, there is one G_d but there are clearly many CAD offerings, each one with its own strengths and weaknesses, from features, industry support to cost of ownership or use. Therefore, don’t be #CAD or #BIM software dogmatic. Instead, pick the right or best tool for the job. To know a program is to love it. However, beware there may be a much better way that you simply don’t know about, yet. Keep an open mind. Or at least, make sure you’ve reasonably exhausted and mined all the CAD power accessible to you. Try something NEW today.

II. Draw / Model full actual size. Don’t invent dimensions that don’t exist. A 2 x 4 stud is much closer to 1.5" x 3.5". If you have more exact or statistically meaningful dimensions from your lumber supplier, such as 3-5/8" (or whatever material or source), then use that!

III. Whenever possible, work in 3D. It’s better, faster and easier. Learn how to do it, if necessary. What else would you expect for the 3rd dimension commandment?


IV. Don’t use programs like it was 1999. Find a way to add material, labor, time and cost data. This has actually been possible for a long time, arguably since 1989. Increase the value and wisdom of your CAD data and design wisdom by juggling more than mere geometry when making decisions. BIM and PLM are about entire product and building life cycle, so is smart and wise Computer-Aided Design/Drafting (CAD). To remember this commandment think of space-time continuum or 4th dimension.

V. Use Smart, Rules- Family- or Style-based, Parametric Objects whenever possible and practical. Think of this as creating your own custom designer DNA, cookie cutter or money making machine. Graduate beyond generic 2D geometric primitives at the first chance, no matter what industry you work in.

VI. Before creating custom content or details research any applicable industry content already in existence. Don’t unnecessarily re-invent the wheel. Don’t use borrowed content without essential improvements or without permission. Run you business legally.

VII. Before inventing company or individual company standards research any applicable industry standards. Don’t unnecessarily re-invent the wheel. Don’t use borrowed content without essential improvements or permission.

VIII. Make the best of what you have, both in the hardware and software side of your practice. Remember, the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence. It’s greener wherever you water it. You may feel it was greener in the past. Actually, it never gets any greener than green. It will look great whenever and wherever you take good care of it. Therefore, assume you CAD tool is omnipotent. Make it do whatever you want, the way you want.

79645_hastewaste_smIX. Draw / Model things once and use / clone many times. Being a lazy draftsman or modeler in this fashion is actually being wisely lazy. Make it so! Recycle data, specs and details whenever possible.

X. Want immediate improvement? Don’t rush. Haste makes waste. CAD productivity doesn’t come from rushing. It comes from good planning and organization. Finally, please care and give a damn. Whatever you do, do it with all your heart, because in that case “All You Need Is Love.” Otherwise, please change professions to something where you can invest all your hear and soul, and therefore be happy, because you only get to live once.

Please comment about your own favorite words of CAD and productivity wisdom.

Whatever you do, do it with all your heart, because in that case “All You Need is Love.”

Best wishes for the best be yet to come for you in 2013 and beyond!

Successful BIM Diet: No Spaghetti Please!


20121116 0452 MEP Clashes Capture

Time is ticking and you don’t want the construction schedule to slip. You must decide wisely who must move. Who are you going to call?

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”
― E.F. Schumacher

In construction projects there’s been a customary and historical pecking order among team players fighting for space to place their equipment, connectors, fittings, pipes, conduits and the like, that goes like this:

1. Architectural – They say, “Make room, move out of the way you mere mortals… Here comes the Architect!” Winking smile

2. Structural – They warn, “Do you want the building to collapse?”

3. Plumbing – They threaten, “Do you want the toilets to back up?”

4. HVAC – They whine, “We will run out of space unless you move!”

5. Fire Protection – They’re told, “Hey, you have plenty of pressure left in those pipes, move!”

6. Electrical – They’re commanded, “Sparky, move! For heaven’s sake, you don’t even have to worry about voltage drops!”

7. Everyone else – “Place your equipment in whatever space is left over.”

20121116 0536 Messy Spaghetti images

Please, don’t build a mess!

This might fly in a retrofit project. For new construction, aim for something better and simpler.

Unfortunately, running BIM coordination using that overly simplistic approach leads to building designs that are unnecessarily difficult to construct and later maintain during the life of a building.

To create a building we can all be proud of, designers and builders must think holistically and simultaneously. Give up the “us versus them” attitude. When coordinated properly, building systems are easier to follow and understand, and therefore, easier to fix and maintain. But they are also a lot cheaper to install, erect and construct.

Straight runs should generally rule over multiple turns and twists. Indeed, Model Building Codes limit the number of bends you can have before you’re required to provide cleanouts, access panels, junction boxes and the like.

To avoid trouble it is ideal to start project trades coordination as early in the design process as possible. Unfortunately, I have seen large Architecture / Engineering companies, who employ architects and engineers under the same roof, work as independently as if they worked for totally different owner firms.

Perhaps the main problem in general is the need to design buildings by committee. Things are just too complex for a regular human being to master all the nuances of building design.

I think the design by committee approach is too time consuming and wimpy. Somebody, either an architect or experienced BIM coordinator, needs to take their best shot at placing building system components in the ideal location and then get the approvals and blessings or improvements for each of the individual building trades.

Simplicity, safety, efficiency, constructability and economy should be the guiding principles. As an architect or building designer, learn to provide enough space for the equipment and required installation and maintenance clearances. Straight runs are nice. Short runs are even nicer. Less pressure loss or voltage drops due to friction or resistance. Please avoid placing equipment in ways that will require extra mile long runs.

20121116 0541 Pecking Order images

Starring from left to right: sparky the Electrician, FP or their buddies, HVAC, Plumber, Structural and the Architect, Project Manager or Lead BIM Coordinator at the far right. 🙂

After all, there are only so many miracles we can perform at the job site. There are times when it’s simply better to go back to the proverbial drawing / design boards. To avoid that at all costs requires one or possibly two ambitious individuals to give a design layout their best shot, without regards to playing favorites among trades.

20121116 0548 360_wfavoritism_1003

While it’s generally true that you can’t make everyone happy, don’t minimize your chances by playing favorites!

Indeed, for construction projects to work well, somebody must perform the role of the wise parent that doesn’t play favorites. That also means not letting a whiny, “squeaky wheel” child run the show by throwing tantrums. Impartiality and taking care of each individual trade’s need should be the guiding light. It is balancing seemingly opposing tensions that makes building design such a beautiful challenge. Don’t give up. Find a way to make it work!

The Omnipotent 3D EXTRUDE Command


I love omnipotent, Swiss-Army knife, jack-of-all-trades type commands. ALIGN & EXTRUDE fit this category beautifully, and they’re both very useful in a 3D world. 20121010 1411 Extrude CaptureHere I will focus on the EXTRUDE command.

To whet your appetite for learning this command, let me just say that for many of you this will be about the one and only command that you will need to model over 99% of the objects you will ever want. If not, you will probably need to explore LOFT.

First, EXTRUDE allows you to turn a flat 2D shape such as a rectangle or circle into a 3D BOX or CYLINDER. The workflow is very straightforward: 1. Create a rectangle, circle or similar closed, but not self-intersecting 2D shape using PLINE or 3DPOLY. 2. Execute EXTRUDE command. 3. In response to “Select objects to extrude or [MOde]: ” prompt, select the 2D shape by clicking it, using the L(ast) object created option or your favorite entity selection method, then press space bar or enter to let AutoCAD know you’re done selecting objects. 4. In response to “Specify height of extrusion or [Direction/Path/Taper angle/Expression]: ” prompt, specify the distance for the height of the extrusion. You’re done. You’ve become a beginner 3D modeler. Here’s a video showing you how to do it:

Extrude Command’s Height Option

Theoretically, this is all you may need to model everything you’ll ever need. If you’re skeptical, think in terms of Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and FEAR not!

Secondly, you can use EXTRUDE to create not just a cylinder but also a CONE and even a simple hip and valley roof. What makes this possible is the Taper Angle option. Experimenting with this command earlier today in preparation for writing this message, I noticed some new interactive features that make AutoCAD feel like turbo charged Sketchup. More on this later as time permits.

Extrude Command’s Taper Angle Option

Thirdly, you can use EXTRUDE to create more complex shapes such as a sugar cane candy or stair handrail. You do this by taking advantage of the Path option. For the sugar can candy a 2D polyline will work fine. For a more complex shape that isn’t limited to a 2D plane, you must either use a 3D poly or break the operation into multiple parts that you can later join using the gluey, sticky UNION command.

Finally, as if this wasn’t enough, you can get more creative and use the EXTRUDE command to replace the DONUT, DOUGHNUT, TORUS, SPHERE and REVOLVE commands. Talk about Swiss-Army-knife-like ability!

This is certainly one of the commands I would want to have if I was to be limited to a certain number. I consider this command to be one of the Top 10 most important commands for 3D modeling.

You can certainly learn basic 3D modeling in about 90 minutes. Start learning 3D today. Ask if you get stuck. Remember: Ask and you shall receive an answer. If you have any questions about the EXTRUDE command, I’d like to hear and will love to answer them.

AEC MEP Family Creation Tips: Keep It Simple, Real & Large


IMG_4657It’s interesting how Good Practices for real family and Revit family creation have a lot in common.


Keep things simple is another way of saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Instead, focus on the critical inches. In the case of a Revit Family, don’t bother to include such a high level of detail in your families, that they could be used for Manufacturing purposes. Let the manufacturer do their own shop drawings for manufacturing. Only include the level of detail essential for your Design and Construction Documentation purposes.

Model the rough shape of the object, as well as the connections points required to interact with other components. Going beyond is overkill.

A nice method to keep things simple is to use a photograph instead of modeling 3D geometry. That way your family will look great, at only the expense of a raster image or picture. Put the adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” to work for you.


CAD and BIM aren’t fiction. Indeed, what makes Computer-Aided Design great is how it can be a Dress Rehearsal or Virtual Representation or Simulation (but cheaper and faster) of reality. This is an area where fantasy isn’t helpful. To create good quality families get a copy of the manufacturer’s cut sheets and model the geometry based on exact measurements.

statue father mother sonIf parts come in discrete sizes, for example, 40 or 50 gallon tanks, then create specific types for each one. This is better than creating a smart part that will flex into an infinite number of configurations, but will require the user to provide specific dimensions.

Furthermore, having specific and realistic types is a teaching tool for new users to learn what the options are. It will make your Revit Families feel like order catalogs. Before you create a family from scratch, see if the manufacturer has created one AND make sure there isn’t something already available for free in the Internet.


If you must err, do it on the side of large. It’s usually better to find out that something was actually smaller than you thought, and have it fit in place, than to start small and run out of space in the field. If you decide to omit features such as small fillet radii, make sure the resulting volume isn’t any smaller than the original piece.

Fotolia_265209_XLRemember to model minimum required access, venting and similar clearances. Yes, it’s true that a knowledgeable and experienced contractor can make things work. But there is a limit to what they can do in the field, if they run out of space. Don’t count on the field crew to save you from incomplete research, planning and thinking. The maintenance people will thank you, or at least will not curse you, “Who was the clown that placed this piece of equipment in such tight quarters?!” What a great world it would be if every AEC Design Professional performed some installation and maintenance work at some early point in their careers.


Creating great families, real and Revit, is an art because it has both a theory and practice. The original act of creating a family is pretty simple and even enjoyable. But, as in life, you end up having to deal with a lot more issues than you originally signed up for. The secret to success is to focus on the critical inches. That’s something we learn with practice, either through the school of hard knocks or by learning from others. Now go be fruitful and multiply by creating Smart Revit families that can save you a lot of work and increase the quality of your #AEC designs. You will create them once and use them many times. Proceed with caution and wisdom.

CAD Revit Tip = SHIFT Key Orthogonal Constraint Toggle + Command Modifier


If you press the SHIFT key, while in a command, such as the wall command, the cursor movement becomes constrained the same way F8 Ortho On works in AutoCAD, as a toggle switch. Some elements and operations, may default to orthogonal or free displacement. SHIFT allows you to toggle, reverse or switch the setting.

Unfortunately, you can’t both continue pressing SHIFT and type a distance. As soon as you let go of the SHIFT key, the cursor is likely off a 90 degree angular snap increment. This method works as long as you specify a distance by clicking.

The SHIFT key, among other things, also lets you remove objects from a selection set. CTRL lets you add them.

If this wasn’t enough, While in a 3D view, SHIFT + Middle Mouse Button or Wheel Dragging puts you instantly in Orbit mode. The SHIFT key also does all sorts of things in tandem with the navigation wheels, acting as a command modifier.

Finally, but only in the sense that I don’t want to risk boring you to tears about the great power of SHIFT, you can use it to create even more custom keyboard shortcuts. Enjoy!

Warm regards from Los Angeles,


Using BIM You Don’t Draw as Much as with CAD


Using Building Information Modeling (BIM) means you don’t get to draw as much as you might when using Computer-Aided Design (CAD). Instead, you assemble or add building components. BIM requires a different mindset from CAD. Keep this distinction in mind as you transition from a traditional 2D AutoCAD workflow to a more BIM oriented 3D method using programs such as AutoCAD Architecture or Revit Architecture.

Reading & Evaluating “Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011: No Experience Required” by Eric Wing


I’m updating this old and cryptic blog entry created from twitter to give you an update as of 2012.05.19. This is becoming one of my favorite books to use for training Revit beginners. I wish I had a copy of the latest version as it’s likely that it may have improved. However, book appears destined to become a timeless classic, as the very basic and essential commands and procedures tend to remain the same for years on end.

You can read more information about the copy and order your own copy here: