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jw24

Custom block importing best practice

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jw24

As the office computer geek at work, I was tasked with making some improvements to how we work with AutoCAD. We are a design team of 20 with varying levels of AutoCAD and general IT skills, spread across the UK. We do specialist designs in the highway sector and have a few custom blocks which we have made over the years. Our custom block library grows slightly year on year, and at present we have around 40 custom blocks. Most of us are running AutoCAD 2018, with a few still lingering on 2016 and some even up to 2019. However, we all on at least DWG 2013 drawing versions.

 

When I joined the department, there was literally a folder on a network share and the guys were inserting the blocks as and when needed. Although this worked, it time consuming, and network speeds leave a lot to be desired, amongst other negative factors. As mentioned, I was then tasked with coming up with a new way for us to manage our blocks. I did a bit of research and came up with the following, which is currently being used by the department:

  • I created a custom user interface with a button for each block
  • all our blocks are saved into 1 single block file which is loaded into the drawing when AutoCAD loads (using LISP)
  • LISP commands are used to insert the blocks as and when necessary

 

This works OK in general, but being relatively inexperienced with AutoCAD myself, I don't know if I am following best practices or if there are any other more efficient ways. I did try a few other things when testing, but on the face of it this seemed the best way. A few quick justifications of my choices:

  • keeping all the blocks as their own files and loading them in as and when required felt laggy, as there was a stall whilst the block was loaded in. At least if done when the drawing loads, it is kind of "hidden" within the overall loading of AutoCAD
  • once the CUI is loaded onto everyone's machine (which is saved on the network), any changes are effectively pushed to all users without everyone need to change file mappings, LISP files etc. If using a pallet then when a new block is created or an old one removed, each machine needs updating individually (I think?)

 

Does the above sound like a sensible solution to our issue, or are there other more suitable alternatives? The CUI is also used to execute some custom LISP files and ins't solely used for inserting blocks.

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BIGAL

I am old fashioned and use the menu and slide method very much like your buttons. I would not load all blocks into a dwg rather have them in a block library directory, if you wblock what you want (can be just dwg objects) you will find the dwg size shrinks immensely so making pull from server very fast, were I worked we had access to like say 200+ blocks. These were separated by menu prompts. It is very simple to make a custom menu's and the slide creation  can be scripted so making say 100 at a time is not a problem.

 

Others will provide info about using tool palettes. 

 

 

 

 

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Jack_O'neill

You will get as many different ways to do this as there are people who answer the question.  The key to efficiency is to find or create a file system that everyone understands, and that makes it easy to get the detail you need. To me, nothing is more annoying than having to tunnel down through a dozen subdirectories to find what I want.  By the time I click 12 times and scroll through a hundred cryptic file names,  i could draw the thing from scratch. It should never take more that a couple of clicks to get at what you're looking for.  Establish naming conventions and enforce them.  "Sliding door" and "Door, Sliding" may be the same to you and me, but its two completely separate entities for a computer. I mentioned cryptic file names earlier.  If your people have to keep a notebook to remember what the files are, you've got them named wrong.  SD48LH is easy to decode. Sliding Door 48" Left Hand.  785x200ygoylka;sldkfne is the same door but nobody would ever know what that meant. Network speeds play a factor, but are minimized by making sure its easy to get at what you want.  My current employer suffers from this.  I've got at least 3 dozen shortcuts on my desktop to various directories on the same drive because this stuff is buried 14 levels deep. 

 

You might also consider using dynamic blocks. Going back to the door example, if you have a dozen sliding doors you commonly use, put them all in a dynamic block called sliding doors. You get every option in one block, and can easily pick the one you want. And...if you leave the dynamic block unexploded, its a simple matter to change in case the customer decides he wants a different door.  Once everything is finalized you can go explode and purge to reduce file size.  If there are too many options for one block, if it get confusing or cumbersome, narrow the field by size or some other unique characteristic, but keep them near the top level.  Something like DOORS>SLIDERS>36>48>60.

 

Another way to increase efficiency is setting up your drawing templates and details so that they help your people succeed. There should be nothing in a template or detail that has to be changed every time it's used.  I'm not talking about page numbers and titles and all that. Customer or job specific information is not what I mean.  A detail should be complete with the right hardware and components. The template should have the right fonts and font sizes, linetypes and layers. If there's something that someone has to remember to change every time that template or detail is used, then its set up to cause the person to fail. I know that you may occasionally need more layers or linetypes or hatches....but the stuff you use all the time should already be there. At the end of the drafting process, the purge command will rid the drawing of anything you didn't need.

 

I've heard complaints in the past that this type of thing limits creativity and keeps a person from expressing himself. Joe likes all the doors on his project to be drawn with blue lines, but Bob does it in green.   Hogwash I says. For a company to look professional,  consistent appearance is paramount.  For standard details to work and be efficient, layering and linetype schemes have to be the same.  Create the most amazing door anyone ever saw, but do it on the same layers as every other door in the house. 

 

These types of things will mean more in terms of speed and efficiency than the speed of your network.  What ever system you come up with, just remember: Ease of access, small learning curve, and consistency. That way you create a path to success and you don't wind up with the same detail on your system 5 or 6 times with different names. 

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BIGAL

Jack I think this had extensive responses over at Autodesk forums. Problem when people multi post.

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Jack_O'neill

Yeah, I should have looked at how old that thread was.  I was drawn in because as you can probably tell, that's a pet peeve of mine.  Some of my past employers would deliberately make things unnecessarily  difficult for us.  Chaps my katookus.

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