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Intro. Comp. Arch. Majors: Advanced AutoCAD Features

Intro. to Computers for Architecture Majors: 5:

Advanced AutoCAD Features
Instructor: M.S. Schmalz

AutoCAD has many advanced features that enable detailed drawing at higher resolution, with many
different colors, and in three dimensions. These features can help you as an architect, interior
designer, or landscape architect, as you develop not only drawing skills, but also develop your
proficiency at presenting ideas to clients. That is, AutoCAD has many options that can help you
make attractive presentations of your ideas and concepts for buildings, interiors, and site plans.
In this section, we discuss the capabilities of layered drawings, graphics with surface and volume
rendering, and more advanced topics of three-dimensional drawing. The section is structured as
5.1. Layered Structure of AutoCAD Drawings
5.2. Concepts of 3-D Modelling and Rendering
5.3. Surface and Solids Modelling
When one has many objects in a drawing and wants to group them logically, rendering each group
of objects in different colors, textures, or linewidths, the layering commands discussed in Section
5.1 are useful. Section 5.2 discusses general concepts and implementation of three-dimensional (3D) drawing and image production, called rendering. Often in architectural drawing, one needs to
produce 3-D visual effects such as walls, towers, etc. The 3-D drawing commands required to
produce these effects are discussed in Section 4.3.

5.1. Layered Structure of AutoCAD Drawings.

AutoCAD's LAYER command and associated options provide the user with a convenient method
of logically grouping graphics objects such that each group is displayed in a visually unique way.
For example, in drawing a house plan, the studs and sheathing could be drawn in black as Layer
#1, the electrical services in red as Layer #2, and the plumbing in blue as Layer #3. With the
LAYER command and its associated dialogue box, one can turn various layers on or off (displayed
or not displayed), change layer colors, linetype, and display modes, as well as lock layers to
prevent inadvertent or mistaken changes.

5.1.1. Layers -- Structure and Function.

A layer in AutoCAD is like a clear piece of plastic that you can lay directly over a drawing and
then draw upon. Since the layer is transparent, you can see through it to the original drawing
(sometimes called the base layer). Layers can be made visible or invisible, and can be named.
The attributes of layers can be set and viewed in the Layer Control dialogue box, which groups



Intro. Comp. Arch. Majors: Advanced AutoCAD Features

layer information into categories that are easy to read and understand.

5.1.2. LAYER Commmand and Options.

In the MS-Windows version of AutoCAD, the LAYER icon is located at the upper left, just below
the Toolbar that is itself located beneath the Top Bar of menu names. The LAYER icon looks like a
stack of pages or sheets of paper.
To the right of the LAYER icon is a graphics window that contains associated icons, which are
status indicators for the LAYER command options. For example, an open padlock indicates that a
given layer is not locked. To activate the Layer Control dialogue box, click on the LAYER icon.

Figure 5.1. Schematic diagram of AutoCAD Layer Control dialogue box.

Creating New Layers -- On the Layer Control dialog box, illustrated in Figure 5.1,
type the name of the new layer in the text entry box below the New button. Then,
click on the New button, which is located beneath the large display area. The layer
name will appear in the display box.
Changing Layer Color -- Move your pointing device cursor to the display area and
click on the name of the layer you have just created. Select the Set Color box, and
select the color by clicking on it. Click on the OK button to set the new color for the
selected layer. The name of the color will appear in the Layer Control dialogue box
display area, on the same line as the layer name you selected.
Changing Layer Linetype -- Move your pointing device cursor to the display area
and click on the name of the layer you have just created. Select the Set Linetype box,



Intro. Comp. Arch. Majors: Advanced AutoCAD Features

and select the linetype from the displayed list by clicking on it. Click on the OK button
to set the new linetype. The name of the linetype will appear in the Layer Control
dialogue box display area, on the same line as the layer name you selected. Note:
Some AutoCAD implementations have only two linetypes -- continuous and
dashed. Check with your systems administrator to determine if additional
linetypes are available.
Locking a Layer -- In the Layer Control dialogue box, first select a layer by
clicking on its name in the display area. Then, click on the button labelled Lock or
Unlock (to the right of the dialogue box) to inhibit/allow drawing in a given layer.
Renaming a Layer -- To change the name of a layer that you have already created
and/or specified attributes for, first select a layer by clicking on its name in the display
area of the Layer Control dialogue box. Then, enter the new name of that layer in the
text box below the New button. When you have entered the layer's new name, click
on the Rename button, and the new name will appear in the appropriate place in the
display area.
Hiding/Displaying a Layer -- In the Layer Control dialogue box, first select a layer
by clicking on its name in the display area. Then, click on the button labelled On to
display the layer, or Off to inhibit display and thus hide the layer. These buttons are
located at the top right hand corner of the dialogue box.
Drawing within a Layer -- In the Layer Control dialogue box, first select a layer by
clicking on its name in the display area. Then, click on the button labelled Current to
select the layer for drawing. If the layer is locked (see above), it will not be possible to
draw in the layer. After you have selected the layer, click on the OK button and go to
the AutoCAD Drawing Window, and commence drawing within the specified layer.

5.1.3. Additional Features of the Layer Command.

Thaw and Freeze are features that are used with AutoCAD's database interface, and will be
discussed in class. We recommend that you keep the status of all layers used in this class as Thaw.
This concludes our overview of basic layer command options. We next overview three-dimensional

5.2. Concepts of 3-D Modelling and Rendering.

It is often useful to visualize a drawing of a three-dimensional object in terms of a picture of the
object itself. For example, if you are designing an interior for a home, it would be useful to be able
to simulate a "walk-through" of the home on your computer. It would likewise be useful for you to
display such a tour to the client(s) for which the home was designed. This would be a handy sales
tool, but would also enable your clients to spot things they didn't like about your design. With
sufficient proficiency in 3-D design and rendering, it would be relatively easy for you to make
changes in the house plan or interior design, then display the results to your client(s).



Intro. Comp. Arch. Majors: Advanced AutoCAD Features

In this section, we discuss the basic concepts of computer graphics, solids modelling, and rendering
(image production from a specification of a 3-D drawing). In Section 5.3, we overview the basic
AutoCAD commands that make solids and surface modelling possible.

5.2.1. Components of a 3-D Model.

Descriptions of three-dimensional objects arranged in a scene, which are processed by computer to
produce an image, have the following salient components:
Object Model -- A scene is comprised of many different objects, each of which must
be specified in detail. For example, an interior scene such as a living room would have
tables, chairs, lamps, a carpet, perhaps some wall hangings or pictures, etc. The wall
would have windows that might be tinted to protect furniture from solar radiation, and
there might be one or more skylights or spotlights mounted in or on the ceiling. Each
of these objects is described in terms of its attributes, such as size and shape, color,
composition from other objects (e.g., spheres, cylinders, rectangular boxes), texture
(e.g., fabric, woodgrain), and surface reflectivity (e.g., matte or shiny covering).
Lighting Model -- The vast majority of rooms and buildings have lighting effects that
cannot be modelled with a simple diffuse sky model, or a point source such as an
idealized solar illuminant. Architectural light sources vary from point sources (e.g.,
spotlights or miniature track lighting) to extended sources (e.g., fluorescent tubes), to
diffuse lighting (e.g., skylights in a ceiling or stained-glass windows in a church). The
color, field-of-view, angular emission pattern, and intensity of each light source can be
specified in detail, given appropriate software support.
Scene Model -- Objects in a scene have various positions relative to each other and
relative to the scene coordinate system origin. The scene model encodes these object
positions, as well as positions and aiming direction of each light source. Thus, it is the
scene model that groups the individual object descriptions into a composite object
which can be projected onto the camera through the viewport.
Viewport Model -- The scene that is comprised of graphics objects and lighting
models is imaged through a viewport, which restricts the portion of the scene that can
be rendered. There are various methods and formats for describing viewports. For
example, a viewport may be thought of as a rectangular aperture in space through
which one views a scene. Alternatively, the viewport may specify a region of the
scene's coordinate space where a scene is displayed (with display suppressed
Camera Model (Optional) -- In order to form an image of the scene model as seen
through a viewport, one must have an imaging device. The camera model portrays
such a device in terms of focal length, aperture, depth-of-field, field-of-view, and
(occasionally) spectral responsivity. The optical parameters of the camera model are
important because they establish the type and amount of perspective transformation
that must be applied to produce a realistic-looking image of the scene.



Intro. Comp. Arch. Majors: Advanced AutoCAD Features

5.2.2. Overview of Rendering Processes.

There are many different types of modelling, projection, and rendering processes that form the
"camera image" from the object, lighting, scene, and viewport models. We will discuss two of these,
namely, the surface- and ray-based techniques. A surface-based rendering approach has the
following steps:
Step 1 - Surface and Solids Modelling -- The scene model is used to locate
objects within the scene. The objects are individually described in the object model,
which may include a catalog of objects. The result of this process is a geometric
model of the scene.
Step 2 - Lighting and Shading -- The lighting model is applied to the geometric
model, whose surfaces have various colors, textures, and reflectivities preassigned.
The geometric and trigonometric equations used in this projection are quite complex,
and have been published extensively in the literature. The result of this step is a model
of light intensity on various surfaces of the object.
Step 3 - Geometric Projection -- Using the viewport as a limiting aperture, the
camera model determines which regions of the light intensity model are projected onto
a given camera pixel. (A pixel is an image element, similar in concept to the individual
dots that comprise a photograph in a newspaper.) This process is called ray casting,
as opposed to ray tracing, which we discuss below. The result is a two-dimensional
image, which is then projected onto the computer monitor.
Disadvantages of the surface rendering approach are due in part to its computational complexity, as
well as the large storage (memory or disk) requirement for retaining the lightfield projection image.
Also, lightfield directionality may not be completely specified, leading to errors in simulating
specular reflection (e.g., light reflected in mirrored surfaces) as well as diffusion from textured
surfaces, such as upholstery or wall hangings.
limited ray tracing or partial rendering process tends to produce an image that is somewhat
"grainier" than the surface-rendered image. This effect is due to the subsampling of ray bundles
needed to produce computational efficiency.

5.3. Surface and Solids Modelling.

AutoCAD provides several capabilities for basic surface and solids modelling, including coordinate
system selection (Section 5.3.1), surface modelling (Section 5.3.2), and solids modelling (Section

5.3.1. Coordinate System Selection.

Three-dimensional modelling begins with the selection of a coordinate system. AutoCAD's absolute
coordinate system is called the World Coordinate System (WCS). The default settings for the
WCS are such that you are looking perpendicular to the XY plane. This is the mode in which one



Intro. Comp. Arch. Majors: Advanced AutoCAD Features

draws 2-D line drawings in AutoCAD.

The displayed orientation of the WCS may be changed by selecting a different drawing viewpoint.
There are two ways to do this -- (a) use the View menu, or (b) click on one of the icons on the
View toolbar. The View pulldown menu is selected by clicking on the word View on the Top Bar
menu of AutoCAD's main interface. From the View menu, one selects the item 3D Viewpoint
Presets, which pops up a menu of different viewpoints. Select SE Isometric from this menu to get
a standard isometric perspective view. We will examine the purpose and utility of other viewpoints
in class and in the laboratory sessions. To return to the original (XY-plane) view, select the View
menu and the 3D Viewpoint Presets menu, then click on Plan View and World.
Another type of coordinate system is called the User Coordinate System (UCS). User coordinate
systems are defined relative to the WCS. Drawings often contain several UCSs, which can be
saved and recalled. For example, one could draw a track light (in the WCS called SE Isometric
Perspective), then rotate or scale the light housing to conform to its proper placement in a
simulated room. This light housing could then be saved as a UCS, for further elaboration.
Creation of a UCS involves the following procedure:
Step 1.Select the View pulldown menu, as discussed above.
Step 2. Select the Set UCS option on the View menu. The UCS toolbar will appear
on-screen. For ease of direction, we continue narration of how to set the UCS from
the pulldown menu stack.
Step 3. Select the option labelled 3-Point, and select the default answers to the
Command Line prompts by depressing the Enterkey twice.
Step 4. Select the lower right corner of the object you want to use to define the UCS.
This establishes the origin (lower right corner) of the UCS XY-plane.
Step 5. Using the OBJECT SNAP command with the Endpoint option, select the
upper left corner of the object, which establishes the positive y-axis portion of the
UCS XY-plane.
Step 6. Save the UCS so that it will not need to be redefined, by entering the SAVE
UCS command, then answering the prompt with the name of the UCS (e.g.,
spotlight, as in the preceding example).
Step 7. Return to the WCS by selecting the World option on the Set UCS menu that
was discussed above.
Important Note: One must use the OBJECT SNAP command with the Endpoint option to locate
the point in Step 5. Merely clicking with the pointing device is not sufficient.
Drawing with AutoCAD in 3D is limited to the UCS orientation. You can only draw in the current
UCS. To select a different UCS (e.g., one that allows you to draw on a cylinder or slanted
surface), execute the following steps:



Intro. Comp. Arch. Majors: Advanced AutoCAD Features

Step 1. Select the Named UCS menu entry, and the UCS Control dialog box will
Step 2. In the dialog box, select the name of the UCS you wish to draw in, then click
the button labelled Current. This establishes the current UCS for drawing.
Step 3. Draw the desired figure using standard graphics primitives.
Step 4. Return to the WCS by selecting the World option on the Set UCS menu that
was discussed above.
UCSs are very useful for drawing circles, boxes, cones, etc. that is based on (or intersect with) the
surface of a curved object. AutoCAD can compute the surface intersections automatically. In a
complex drawing, this slows the speed of drawing refresh if the REGEN option is used. Hence, we
prefer to use REDRAW for 3D drawing refresh, since REDRAW does not completely render the
graphics objects and is therefore much faster than REGEN, which draws objects point-by-point.

5.3.2. Surface Modelling.

Surface modelling creates 3D objects by joining surfaces together. The surface commands are
found in the MS-Windows Surface Toolbar, which can be accessed from the Toolbar entry on
the Tools menu (located on the Top Bar of AutoCAD's main interface).
AutoCAD's surface commands generate faceted surfaces using a mesh or wireframe (looks like a
Tinkertoy model or an object amde of coat hangers), where each cell of the mesh encloses a
polygonal region of space. This means that AutoCAD generates only approximations to curved
surfaces, not the surfaces themselves. On most computer displays, however, the approximations
are visually attractive and present minimal distortion.
Surface modelling differs from solid modelling in that individual surfaces only are constructed,
whereas solid modelling renders solid shapes in perspective, and with a present lighting model. For
example, a box can be defined as (a) an object comprised of six surfaces that are mutually
perpendicular, or (b) a solid object that has six mutually perpendicular sides. The key difference is
that surface models cannot be unioned, joined, or subtracted as solid models can.
Surface modelling is well suited for drawing complex wireframe meshes, or for depicting sharp
transitions, such as the abrupt change in elevation and orientation as one proceeds from a sidewalk
to a vertical retaining wall.
Example. Consider the procedures for drawing a box. Other surface commands will be reviewed
in class.
Step 1. Select the Box icon from the Surface toolbar.
Step 2. Select (with your pointing device) a corner location for the box.
Step 3. Move the cursor until the cursor display reads (for example) "3,4", which
locates the opposite corner point 3 units in the x direction and 4 units in the y direction



Intro. Comp. Arch. Majors: Advanced AutoCAD Features

from the WCS origin.

Step 4. When prompted for the length of the box, enter a positive number (e.g., 10 in
this example).
Step 5. You will then be prompted for the width and height, which could be 6 and 8,
respectively. You can also set these values by moving your pointing device (e.g., the
AutoCAD crosshair cursor).
Step 6. When AutoCAD prompts you for the rotation angle about the Z-axis, it is in
dynamic mode, which means that you can rotate the box whichever way you desire
using only the pointing device. After you select the final position, the box will be drawn
Other surface structures, such as WEDGE, TETRAHEDRON, CONE, DOME, DISH or BOWL,
are similarly constructed.
Extruded Surfaces are a special class of AutoCAD surfaces that are in concept like a picket
fence. That is, one draws (in the XY plane of the WCS) a curved or straight line using the freehand
drawing option, or a polyline generation command. This line then forms the base of the surface,
which you "extrude" upward using the EXTRUDE command to form a fence-like structure. This
will be demonstrated in class.
Ruled Surfaces can be similar in appearance to extruded surfaces, and join two existing
curves, or a point and a curve. In the former case, corresponding lines are drawn between
points that divide the length of each curve into m-tiles (e.g., tenths, fifths, or quarters). In
the case of a point and a curve, a fan-like effect is produced, with lines radiating outward
from the point to equally spaced lines on the surface.
Edge Surfaces are constructed by specifying the boundaries of a region in space.
AutoCAD then interpolates an approximation to a surface that is so bounded, based on
the curvature of the boundary objects.
In any of the above cases, the surface is rendered as a transparent wireframe model, i.e.,
looks like it was made out of coat hangers. As one changes the viewpoint by changing the
UCS (per Section 5.3.1), one can see different aspects of the wireframe model, some of
which are hidden behind other features of the same model. We will encounter this concept
again when we construct solid models.

5.3.3. Solids Modelling.

Solid modelling allows the creation of graphic objects as though they were actual solid
objects. Solids models differ from surface models in that solid models have density and
are not simply constructed from surfaces that are joined together. Solid models are
created similar to surfaces, i.e., by unioning or joining various primitive solid shapes. This
unioning process can be reversed to implement solids subtraction, where one may use a
given type of solid (e.g., a cylinder) to create a hole of a desired shape in another solid.



Intro. Comp. Arch. Majors: Advanced AutoCAD Features

AutoCAD's solids modelling capability can be accessed through the SOLIDS toolbar that
is invoked from the Tools menu on the Top Bar of AutoCAD's main interface, by selecting
the Toolbars option, then choosing Solids.
Primitive solid objects that are currently available in AutoCAD Release 13 are Box,
Sphere, Cylinder, Cone, Wedge, and Torus. (A torus is better known as a doughnut-like
shape, very similar to a large inner tube.) Other icons on the Solids toolbar generated
Extruded solids, objects of revolution (e.g., a curve revolved about a line), slices or
sections of solids, and intersections of solids.
We begin with a simple example of creating a torus by executing the following steps:
Step 1. Select the TORUS icon from the Solids Toolbar (looks like a donut).
Step 2. In answer to the prompt for the torus origin, depress the Enterkey, or
move the pointing device to establish the origin point with the crosshairs
(then, click to set the origin).
Step 3. When prompted for the diameter or tube diameter of the torus, make
sure that the number you enter for the torus diameter is larger than the tube
diameter. The torus diameter refers to the width of the entire torus (like the
diameter of a circle). The toroidal tube diameter refers to how thick the donut
is, i.e., the diameter of the torus' cross-section.
Step 4. The torus will appear on your screen, and you can relocate it with the
MOVE command.
Extruded Solids. The EXTRUDE command can be applied only to a polyline. To generate
a solid from a polyline, first draw the polyline in the XY-plane of the WCS, then select the
EXTRUDE command. You will be prompted to select the polyline by clicking on it. Then,
specify the height of the object and its taper angle (if you want to make the extruded solid
look like a cone). If you don't want a tapered solid, enter zero as the taper angle.
The REVOLVE, SLICE, and SECTION commands will be reviewed in class.
Intersecting Solids. The INTERFER command defines a volume common to two solids,
which is delimited by (a) the boundaries of the respective solids and (b) by the intersection
line between those boundaries. The procedure for intersecting solids follows:
Step 1. Select the INTERFER command from the Solids toolbar.
Step 2. Select the two solids to be intersected, in answer to the respective
prompts displayed on the Command Line.
Step 3. Enter No in response to the prompt about creating interference solids.
Step 4. Use the ERASE command to remove the two original solids. The
common volume is easily seen on the screen.



Intro. Comp. Arch. Majors: Advanced AutoCAD Features

Unioning Solids. One may want to combine various solids to make a composite object
(e.g., making an overstuffed chair from a box and cylinders). Unioning is a simple process,
as follows:
Step 1. One clicks on the lower-left-hand icon of the MODIFY toolbar, which
pops up a selection strip with three icons.
Step 2. Then, select the icon signified by the two joined white circles (leftmost
icon in the popout strip).
Step 3. At that point, one selects the two solids you want to join (by clicking on
each one). The solids must be in sufficiently close proximity to each other that
they have points in common.
Step 4. After a short time, AutoCAD computes the new solid and displays it
on the computer monitor.
Further applications of solids modelling will be reviewed in class, with demonstrations
given in the laboratory session.
This concludes our discussion of advanced AutoCAD features.
Copyright 1997 by Mark S. Schmalz
All rights reserved, except for viewing or printing by UF faculty
or students registered for this class.