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CAD Standards Manual

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70 pages? 400 pages? You expect most engineers to bother with that?


I've worked with plenty of engineers who wouldn't/couldn't follow a 5 page CAD manual...

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Colin Wright




Some time ago as a CAD manager I spent a great deal of effort trying to write some CAD Standards for an office with fifteen CAD operators only to discover a good deal of resistance as it would mean significant retraining for quite a few of them and absolute refusal by some who already considered themselves experts and were not prepared to follow someone else’s ideas. So the first thing is to talk to your audience and your principals to agree upon what you are trying to achieve.

The principal designer probably wants slick graphically attractive drawings that sell the project. The documentation manager wants well organised, efficient looking drawings that comply with industry standards and take the minimum amount of time to produce and edit and will undoubtedly talk optimistically about the task (which we know to be impossible) of creating a set of standard details. The builder/manufacturer wants accurate, easy to identify and read drawings complete with all of the required information. Notice that we haven’t mentioned CAD yet. The CAD Manager (who may be some or all of the above) is additionally interested in the way the drawings are produced using CAD. The smart CAD manager will also be interested in standardising the CAD user interface and adding keyboard shortcuts and custom commands to speed up drawing and avoid errors.

The first step is not to try to tackle it alone. The task is too big and complicated by differing opinions. Try to make it a group task involving CAD managers from related disciplines who are willing to put in some effort either as contributors or commentators and also willing to form discussion groups among their own staff. Second step is to create an outline of subject headings of things to be standardised and then begin filling it out.

Your greatest resistance will come from other CAD managers and skilled operators unwilling to change their methods. So start with the basics and work up from there.

Here is a somewhat dated and incomplete list of topics as a starting point. I wish you well.



Let me know if I can be of any help.






Drawing management - filing

Drawing management – graphics and layout

Use of XREFs

Layer naming

Layer management – creation and control

Text Fonts and styles, uppercase lowercase rules, sizes and scales

Dimension styles

Block design and naming, layer control

Line weights



Reference symbols

Object naming:



Screen views


Drawing views

Sheet IDs

Drawing Views and naming

Screen Views and naming

Design of drawings suitable for plotting at various scales

Sheet layout

Use of Paperspace and Modelspace

Use of Layouts:

Single Layout – multi sheet

Multi Layout- single sheet

Drawing types and scales:






File naming and management

User Interface:

Background colour

Screen colours


Keyboard shortcuts


Custom commands

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Colin Wright

HI Guys.

I seem to have egg on my face. I'm a bit new with Forums and still working out how to use it. I intended to reply to Resullins but seem to have started my own general comment; somewhat naively in the light of all the experienced comments from others that I have only just found. I apologize for being too simplistic.


As I pointed out my own efforts in CAD standardization were difficult to get implemented and I note that others have had the same problem. This must at least be due in part to the fact that Autodesk offer no suggestions about how to use the program in practice. Although there are various government promoted Standards on drafting and CAD practice they say little about the use of available programs and most of us are self taught going down differing routes when deciding how to create and organize our drawings. Autocad is perhaps too flexible.


Cultural differences between disciplines seem unavoidable so I think it's important when making comments to identify one's discipline and background. A simple example is comments about "USE UPPERCASE ONLY". As an architect of the old school (I started drawing with split-knib ink pens on velum then progressed to Rapidographs and lettering templates) I am familiar with the preference for all upper case lettering that was quicker, more uniform in appearance and easier to read when hand drawn but later learned that conventional writing format using mainly lowercase made more sense in a CAD environment as it does everywhere else. If you doubt this have a look at road signs - those guys know what they are doing. UPPER CASE IS AN ANACHRONISM.


Point is; that's my personal opinion based on my previous work environment. I could be very wrong when it comes to another discipline. I even had disagreements with older, experienced drafters in my own office. I should observe however that those persons were of an old-school and could not accept new ideas.


On a different subject LAYER naming and use is of critical importance and should be an early candidate for discussion. After twenty-five years of CAD I am convinced that Layers are the single most important tool for managing a drawing.


Perhaps a discussion of Layer naming and use would be a good place to start.

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The easiest way to get any kind of standards implemented is to include the entire team on the process. This way everyone will feel as though they had a hand in it and will be much more accepting when they have to change a few things they are doing. When I went through this we divided it up in to sections and voted on each item. 99% of the time I got my way (being a CAD manager had little to do with that) because I was able to show the pros and cons of doing it one way over the other.


The other thing to remember is to not make the standards so restrictive that you're basically micro-managing the CAD team. There are many ways to do the same function in AutoCAN'T, so make sure you aren't telling them exactly how to something unless it's critical that everyone does it the same way (layer naming and XREF managing are good examples).

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