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CAD Tips

by Mark Lamendola
Former AutoCAD instructor

Here are a some tips to make your CAD work easier to perform and better in result.

Basics

  • Pick up a textbook on drafting. The sad thing about CAD as typically done today is it's so awfully sloppy. The reason is the people using CAD are usually clueless about drawing standards.
  • Always draw on grid. Close is not good enough. Be exact.
  • Use blocks, objects, and shapes. You can build your own library, or buy one. Doing so will reduce the time and effort it takes to do the job right. It will also standardize your drawings.
  • Keep learning. Those books at right, for example, will help you be a faster, more accurate, and generally more competent CAD worker.

Perspective

See this excellent article, What Makes a Good Working Drawing.

Standards

Define standards at the start of a project. Make it part of the project initiation. Distribute these standards to anyone who might be contributing to the drawings. Where the customer is engaged in design or construction, this is vital. Don't wait until the job has progressed past initiation to do this. That's how you end up eating the high costs of rework.

What should the standards include? Here's a partial list:

  • Hatches, fills, and related items.
  • Line types, layer names and colors.
  • Symbology.
  • Taxonomy for filenames.
  • Taxonomy for names of objects, blocks, and other drawing entities.
  • Text styles, fonts, and heights.
  • Title blocks and borders.

Linking

The practice of linking drawings can save massive amounts of time, while also improving standardization. It replaces the practice of reproducing the same drawing or generating nonstandard versions of what should be the same drawing. A related practice is templating.

If you don't understand linking and templating, you owe it to your employer (and to your own career) to "CAD up" on that and understand these practices. With our CAD Books, you can do just that. See to it that you do, and you won't regret it.

Just to give you some insight as to what these do, consider what happens when you need to move a door or add a window. But you have dozens of drawings with that very wall. Yegads, there goes the budget! Ah, but with linked drawings you can save the budget from a premature death. You just change the base drawing (or, depending on the CAD software you have, in one of the linked drawings such as the floor plan drawing) and that change propagate through the other linked drawings.

In a previous era, not everybody liked linked drawings because for this to work you had to send the other parties (using those drawings) the entire set of linked drawings. You've probably received an Excel workbook that links to an outside data source and thus could not see the data, right? Similar thing.

Today, this is much less of a problem because typically the drawings are stored on a central server. They are in the cloud. Somebody in the field can access the drawing on a mobile device, without needing to download all the linked files. And anyone working on the drawings will typically not create information silos by creating local copies; the actual drawing remains on the server. With this kind of arrangement, linked drawings are even better and there is no danger of encountering the dreaded "must send all affected files" problem. The files are already there.

Now, the above may seem like an eclectic collection of CAD tips. Well, that's because you can get "normal" information anywhere. We wanted to give you some of the less common stuff. It's up to you to really sharpen your virtual drafting pencil and take your CAD to a whole new level. Most people grossly undervalue what this can do for your career. Don't make that mistake. Sloppy CAD may be enough to "get by," but it's never enough to make you shine. Get the details right.

 

 
 

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