Free Tools: Sweet Home 3D

A tool to model house interiors quickly, free and "cloudy"
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Just got this forwarded from a friend. A free tool to model your home interiors for free, with an interactive 3D view to visualize what you are easily modelling in plan. See the following video.

I wouldn't use it for serious stuff, but I think it can be a nice tool to play with to introduce kids to 3D or for those who feel themselve 3D challenged but want to give it a first try. Very simple to use, with many options and you can use it without even installing a single piece of software. It can be run from your browser on the cloud.
Try it here. Thanks Chait for the link.

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Google Building Maker: Model for Google Earth without SketchUp

Model Buildings for google earth using your web browser.
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Google has a new tool to crowdsource the 3D modelling of the earth. It is called Google building Maker, and it allows users to model Buildings from pictures that Google itself provides. See this video to understand the process.

It seems a pretty brilliant idea on the path of making the modeling of buildings available to everyone. Of course Google will get cash out of your free labour, but still, it is worth a try just for fun. Try Building Maker Here.

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From CAD to BIM: Part I - History of CAD

A brief history of CAD to understand the path that led to BIM
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I mentioned on a previous post my intention to go into BIM and IPD. Unfortunately for now, I have not the luck to be working on a daily basis with either, so my initial approach here will be more theoretical. I am trying to build the basis of what my Master Thesis is going to be, so forgive me if sometimes things sound a bit basic or repetitive.

BIM, as I see it, is still Computer Aided Design, but it allows you to add an “n” number of dimensions (like costs, scheduling, etc), and strongly modifies the work process to design, build and maintain a building. But since it is in my point of view an evolution of CAD, I think it is important to start with brief history of CAD.

In 1957, Dr. Patrick J. Hanratty had developed the first commercial CAM (Computer Aided Machining) program. It was a numerical control (NC) machining software developed in Pronto , the first NC commercial programming language. Hanratty is regarded as the father of CAD / CAM since these two branches became slowly one.

The first CAD software with a graphical interface was Sketchpad, developed in 1963 by Ivan Sutherland. Sketchpad was a Program in which the user could graphically interact with the program through a screen, a light pen used to draft, and a set of buttons that allowed the user to enter parameters and constraints. Although it never became commercially available, the ideas on Sutherland´s PhD dissertation became highly influential for future generation CAD developments.

First-generation CAD software systems were 2D drafting applications developed by a manufacturer's internal IT group and primarily intended to automate repetitive drafting tasks. During the 1960s, Hanratty himself developed DAC, a CAD system, while working for General Motors Research. Other companies like Ford (PDGS - 1967), McDonnell-Douglas (CADD - 1966), and many others followed soon after that.

During the 1970s the transformation from 2D to 3D began. The French Aerospace Company, Avions Marcel Dassault, developed CATIA, after purchasing a source code license from Lockheed Martin. CATIA is still nowadays leading software in the Aerospace, Automotive and Shipbuilding Industries. One of the most important research dissertations of the decade was K. Vesprille's (at Syracuse University) 1975 PhD dissertation "Computer-Aided Design Applications of the B-Spline Approximation Form" on Complex 3D Modeling. It is from the end of this decade that one of the first books marketing CAD for architects appeared. “Computer Aided Architectural Design” by William J. Mitchell from 1977 is a hint that CAD was already being marketed to architects. The widespread adoption by architects would take still years.

During the 1980s the CATIA, Pro/Engineer, Unigraphics and I-DEA became the leading CAD software packages. All of them powerful 3D modeling software systems with their core business on the industrial production (for this reason sometimes referred as CAE systems rather than CAD) and their main hardware platform being UNIX. On the 2D and PC Platform Autodesk, with AutoCAD, was gaining market share.

It was on the 1990s, that the PC explosion happened and with it the raise of a new player. Autodesk had been focusing on the PC platform since its AutoCAD version 1 released in 1982. The licensing of the ACIS 3D Kernel, allowed Autodesk to release in 1993 AutoCAD Release 13. For the first time AutoCAD had 3D Solid Modeling Functions. AutoCAD became widely spread, but other packages like Bentley’s Microstation, soon became strong competitors on the mid-price market. The widespread adoption of CAD by architectural offices was happening slowly and soon would burst into being the dominant trend. We will see more on that on the next post on this series

Sources: CADAZZ, American Machinist

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Book of the Month: LEED Visual

Study for the LEED GA exam from this great book.
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If you are studying or thinking to study for the LEED GA Exam, you need to get this book in your hands. The amount of information to memorize is not few. This book turns all that information into useful and easy to remember and understand diagrams. LEED Visual is a new publication that aims to help everyone who wants to study for the LEED GA exam. The book is available via Amazon (click on the picture below)or directly on the LEED VISUAL website.

Some of the customer reviews say "it's the best book available currently for LEED GA. By converting the pages and pages of written information from the official USGBC study guide into easy to remember visual diagrams, this concise book is a fantastic guide for the exam. Visually Appealing, Easy to carry, Compact and Graphically rich, this is a MUST BUY for anyone planning to give the Leed GA Exam".

Find more information and a preview of the book at

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Photoshop: Shortcut to select all the contents of a layer

Select all layer contents wit a single click
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When working with Photoshop sometimes we might want to get a selection of the entire content of a layer. This is useful for man reasons. An easy way to do this is to go to the layers tab and click on the thumbnail of the layer with the left mouse button while holding CTRL (I guess command key in MAC??)
If you point at the layer thumbnail with your cursor and press CTRL, you will see how the cursor will change from a pointing hand to a pointing hand with a marquee on top. This means that when you click there instead of selecting the layer as active, it will use the contents of that layer to create a selection.
This is very useful to create selections based on the shapes of layers such as texts. See this example that I created using this method. From the following two images...

...i used the one on the right with the multiple texts to create the selection using the explained method. Then, I used the slection to erase parts of the layer on the left. The reslult is as follows

This is a very useful trick to speed up you workflow in pshop.

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AutoCAD: Load LISP and Applications Manually or Automatically

Hot to load LSIP routines and other applications
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I wrote recently some posts about using LISP routines to speed up certain tasks. I forgot to mention, how to load these Files. The manual way is to use the command APPLOAD. This will call the Load Application Dialog Box where you can browse for the saved LISP.

Alternatively, if it is a LISP that you use regularly, simply drag and drop it into the icon saying Startup Suite in the APPLOAD dialog box. This will make the LISP or application load automatically at start of the AutoCAD session.

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Excel: Turn numbers exported from ACAD into European Format

There is a quick way to turn numbers in Excel into European format and to remove apostrophes.
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European Number Format, uses a coma as a decimal separator instead the period of the English format. When exporting data from AutoCAD to Excel using the DATAEXTRACTION command, the numbers exported are in English format, so to transform them to the European Format we need to replace the points for comas. This can very done very easy by using the find and replace function in Excel. Type CTRL + F or click the Replace button on the Editing area of the Home Tab (Excel 2007). Find Points and replace them by comas, and select Replace All.

There is an extra step needed if we want to be able to use the data from AutoCAD in Excel as numbers. All the Cells exported from CAD start with an apostrophe ('). See below.

This makes the numbers not usable as such. Luckily there is a trick to batch remove this sign. If you have a column with numbers, insert a new column to its right. On the cell next to the first number in the row enter the follwing fórmula.

Where D2 is the Cell with the numbers with the apostrophe you need to eliminate. Then copy the cell next to all numbers you want to transform. You will see now the result of the formula as the number you want to use. Something like this:

The left cell is the one still containing the apostrophes, and that is why the numbers are aligned to the left. The one on the right is the result of the formula we have applied.

A final step I would recommend is to copy all these new cells and paste them in a new column using Paste Special. Paste Special can be accessed after copying some cells by right clicking on a cell. Then On the Paste Special Window Select "Values".

That's it, now you can delete the other columns (the one with the apostrophes and the one with the formulas, and you have just the new column with plain numbers. The explanations is long, but the process takes lest than a minute.

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AutoCAD: AutoLISP to Generate Multiple Hatch Boundaries

Do you need to re-generate the boundaries of multiple hatch patterns? An AutoLISP routine will do it.
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I had to work on some files converted from ArchiCAD to AutoCAD and needed to use the AEC Space entities to get the areas. Unfortunately, plain AutoCAD doesn't read the are of this objects, and by exploding them, it generated Hatch Patters that would not show their area on the properties palette.

The solution for a single AEC_SPACE, was simple, explode it, regenerate the boundary of the Hatch Pattern, and select the resulting Polyline to see the area (or to extract the area to an excel file as explained on a previous post). The problem came becuase there were a lot of this AEC_SPACE objects,and AutoCAD does not allow to regenerate boundaries of multiple Hatch Patterns at the same time.

The solution was found via DigitalCAD, in the form of a LISP routine called HATCHB.LSP. This routine when used, allows you to select as many Hatch Patterns as you want and obtain their boundaries in the form of polylines. The polylines will be generated on the current layer, and properties.

Some thoughts: This real life situation is a clear case that shows how format incompatibilities makes us waste a lot of time. In this case the lead architect works in ArchiCAD, but we as Contruction Managers have only AutoCAD, so everytime we get files from them there is a lot of information in those files that is wasted, because we can not read it properly, so we have to waste hours on retracing polylines to be able to double check the information we have received...

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