BIM-to-CAD Workflow Evolves with Automated DWG Drawings
Article by Cyrena Respini-Irwin.
Cyrena covered CAD and related technologies for more than a decade at Cadalyst, where she became Editor in Chief. In 2021 she found a new home at Graebert as the Brand Ambassador for the ARES Trinity of CAD software.
Watch the replay of Niknaz Aftahi’s keynote on YouTube.
ARES Commander 2024 can generate smart 2D DWG drawings from Revit or IFC BIM projects automatically, transforming a time-consuming task into a one-click process.
Niknaz Aftahi is the CEO and Cofounder of aec+tech, and a member of the AIA San Francisco Design Technology Committee. Niknaz has worked as both an architecture design professional and design technology director in the San Francisco Bay Area.
This article was written after the keynote she delivered at the Graebert neXt online conference, held in April.
The rise of Building Information Modelling (BIM) was predicted by some to mark the end of AEC professionals’ reliance on CAD — as if the age of dinosaurs had come to an end, and it was mammals’ time to shine.
Today, the AEC world is well into the BIM Era, and yet there are four to ten times more CAD users than BIM users in a typical construction company. Far from going extinct, CAD is the tool of choice for creating DWG-format project documentation, such as floorplans, sections, and elevations.
The reason is that BIM software, which excels at representing projects in 3D, falls short when it comes to creating the 2D drawings needed for project execution.
“Even though BIM is becoming more central and more common in the architect’s and engineer’s workflow, DWG CAD drawings are still used to document projects at a higher level of detail than what BIM produces,” noted Niknaz Aftahi, the co-founder and CEO of aec+tech.
So, it is not only BIM or only CAD, but a concatenation of the two that yields the best results for building projects. But in many firms, the two types of work are conducted in redundant parallel processes, rather than a synergistic sequence. To make their DWG drawings, the CAD users must first recreate geometry that already exists in the BIM file. They are further burdened with manually updating those drawings every time the BIM model changes — and more manual intervention inevitably leads to more mistakes.
It’s a workflow that requires far too much work and is definitely lacking in flow.
“In my experience as an architect, it was always very tedious to keep CAD drawings updated,” Aftahi recalled. “For many projects I worked on, we were putting together some of the sheets in CAD, mostly for the details, and all the other drawings were in Revit, and it was just an absolute waste of time and resources to continuously keep everything updated.”
Why Modern CAD Is a Better Partner for BIM
This effort duplication isn’t just frustrating; it’s also time-consuming and expensive. Fortunately, “ARES Commander is helping us to solve this problem,” Aftahi said. ARES Commander is part of the ARES Trinity of CAD software, which encompasses integrated DWG solutions for desktop, mobile, and cloud platforms.
In recent years, CAD developer Graebert has integrated features specifically designed to make DWG production faster, easier, and smarter.
These advances have made the broken BIM-to-CAD workflow a relic of the past — and made competing solutions look like fossils.
“I think ARES Commander is the only tool out there in the market that creates a seamless connection between a BIM model and a CAD file,” Aftahi observed.
Example of a 2D floor plan in DWG generated by ARES Commander from a BIM project.
ARES Commander draws on the intelligence embedded in BIM objects, enabling CAD users to visualize BIM data without using BIM software, access object properties that aren’t visible in the model, and create project drawings without reinventing the wheel. “[ARES Commander] takes advantage of the rich information that is abundant in our BIM files, and uses it to automate repetitive, manual, and error-prone tasks,” Aftahi explained.
To create 2D project drawings, users simply import one or multiple Revit or IFC file(s), adjust the BIM filters to select the content desired (choosing all BIM entities, just the doors, or only the doors on the sixth floor, for example), then generate all the 2D drawings they need.
This process is substantially more efficient than creating DWG files from scratch, yet it is still flexible. After the drawings are created, users can modify them with the CAD tools of ARES Commander, adding any 2D details or other content desired.
And crucially, users never need to waste time generating new versions of their drawings, no matter how many times the BIM model changes. The drawings always retain their associativity to their progenitor project, so they stay up to date with its data. Users can simply load the new version of the BIM model, then refresh the geometry of all the DWG files — or just specific drawings — with the click of a button.
It’s important to note that only the geometry acquired from the BIM model will be updated; everything else stays the same. For example, if an ARES Commander user adds an electrical network on top of a floorplan, those CAD details are preserved when the drawing is refreshed.
“The value that ARES Commander brings to the BIM table lies largely in its ability to keep the drawings updated, even when the source BIM project is modified — it’s just like magic,” Aftahi said.
“Indeed, AEC organizations continuously encounter information-related problems when switching back and forth between CAD and BIM, because they lack a robust bridge between the two paradigms. ARES Commander answered this need by creating drawings that are resilient enough to be updated when the BIM model is modified.”
ARES Commander 2024: Introducing Drawings Automation
ARES Commander 2024 represents a further evolution of the BIM-to-CAD workflow. The new release features automation capabilities that make the production of 2D drawings from a BIM project literally effortless.
Users can still section the BIM model and create floorplans, sections, and elevations manually, as they did before, or they can generate them automatically, letting ARES Commander do the work instead.
Four new commands — BIMAutoDrawings, BIMAutoLabels, BIMAutoDimensions, and BIMAutoSheets — are now available to create drawing views, insert labels by extracting data from BIM objects, add BIM dimension chains, or make sheets with drawings at a user-selected scale.
The resulting dimensions and labels are “smart,” meaning that they maintain their connection to the BIM file and will update themselves whenever the drawings are refreshed with updated data.
Watch this video to discover the new automation features in ARES Commander 2024.
And users can of course make their own changes as well, such as adjusting the style of the BIM dimension chains, editing them with grips, or customizing sheets by inserting viewports or details.
For maximum automation, users can execute all four tasks by running the BIMAutoAll command. First, users must ensure that annotations will display at the correct scale, either by choosing the annotative scale from the list, or entering the CANNOSCALE command. The next step is to visit the BIM settings and select a template with the same scale. Finally, clicking the Run icon in the BIM tab of the ribbon initiates BIMAutoAll, which follows a script to launch all the automation features, one after the other.
If users wish to customize this automated process, they can configure the LISP script that powers BIMAutoAll. For example, it’s easy to remove a step of the process, if desired. “As a result, companies can make their own versions, per their own standards, and apply it to every single project they work on; they just do it once, then they can apply it to all the projects,” Aftahi noted.
Saving Valuable Company Resources with Drawings Automation
Ultimately, there is a wide range of firms that employ both CAD and BIM, and also many firms that only use CAD but still need to collaborate with BIM users. These automation advances hold promise for all of them. “At every type and size of architecture firm that I ever worked in, there was always a time that I needed to connect a BIM model to some CAD files,” Aftahi recalled.
ARES Commander, she concluded, “takes advantage of the rich information that is abundant in BIM files, and uses it to automate repetitive, manual, and error-prone tasks. For organizations both small and large that rely on BIM, this software is a powerful addition to their workflows, reducing the amount of time, money, and effort spent on producing and updating DWG documentation.”
To learn more about ARES Commander’s BIM-to-CAD features, download a sample project, or start your free trial of the software, please visit www.graebert.com/bim.