Property Set Definitions

This month we are going to expand on a topic that was covered in the AutoCAD MEP article that appeared in the September 2012 issue of AUGIWorld. In that article we created an MVPart using a block, we added connection points for conduit, and then added the part to our catalog. This month we’ll look at how AutoCAD® MEP can help create and modify content within our drawings. For example, say we need to add a large number of similar objects, and also need to keep track of the quantities and other information. Now we could simply create a block and begin inserting that block where needed. But this can be limiting when trying to individually number devices for tracking in a Computerized Maintenance Management System [CMMS]. MEP gives us the ability to add Property Set Definitions (PSDs) to MVParts that exist or that we’ve created to help us efficiently manage our drawings and data.

Another reason PSD can be so useful is the ability to add any type of property field that we might need. In a recent project I worked on, the general contractor was using Autodesk® Navisworks® Manage to export data from our drawings into an Excel document for entry into a CMMS program. They needed a way to quickly identify and filter all the subcontractors’ parts to export to Excel, so we added a property called “E-Tag” to all our devices.

Now, this can be done very easily when working with a custom MVPart and we’ll look at how to do that in this article. Another requirement by the owner was the individual numbering of every device or piece of equipment that could need maintenance. This required that every valve, damper, filter, fire alarm device, panel board (and the list goes on) be individually numbered and tracked! Fortunately, this was done quite easily utilizing custom MVParts within our drawings.

For the sake of simplicity, I’ll take you through how to modify an existing PSD file, but you can start from scratch to create your own. For the first step in the process we’ll need to open a drawing that contains the Bosch Speaker that we created in the MVPart example. This drawing will be how we set up our PSD, so save the drawing in a safe place. We’ll start by inserting one of our speakers by using the MVPart command. We have to force AutoCAD to generate the first PSD we want to modify. In order to do this, go to Annotate>Tags>Generic Equipment Tag. This tag will NOT contain the information we want, but that’s okay because we’re going to edit the PSD and make it what we want.

Our next step is to open the Style Manager from the Manage tab. Style Manager will default to managing the drawing that you’re currently in and are using. Within that drawing there are different types of “objects” that can be managed. Right now we’re concerned with the Documentation Objects. Once we’ve expanded Documentation Objects, we’ll see another subset call Property Set Definitions. We can expand that selection and right away we should see quite a few PSDs for objects that already exist in MEP. The specific set we’re concerned with is the GTagEquipmentObjects. We’ll start by right-clicking on that specific PSD and selecting “copy.” Then we can right-click on the main “Property Set Definitions” and paste. Now we’ll have a new PSD called “GTagEquipmentObjects (2),” which we can rename to whatever we want. In this case I’m going to call it Bosch Fire Alarm Speaker. This default PSD has a lot of information contained within it, so we really don’t have to add much.

For our example we’ll be concerned with a few definitions: MarkAbbreviation, MarkAutoIncrementNumber, and we’ll add an additional MarkDeviceID. In this case I’ve changed the Default column in MarkAbbreviation definition from “AHU” to “SPR.” This will stand for “Speaker” in our case, but there is a multitude of options you can choose from. The last Definition that we’ll need to add is a “Name” formula. This will be used when we add equipment tags to the MVParts. 

We’ll click the “Add a Formula Property Definition” button and a new dialog box will pop up. I’m going to call this definition “Name” and add a formula as follows: RESULT="[MarkAbbreviation]-[MarkAutoIncrementNumber]". What I’m specifying here is that the name of the object is a combination of the abbreviation “SPR” and the Auto Increment number. You can see the sample result on the right-hand side of the dialog box. These different definitions that we’ve added allow us to do a few things.

  • As we insert multiple MVParts, AutoCAD will automatically number them with an increment of 1.
  • We’ve added the ability to add individual device IDs, which can be important in a system with addressable components such as a fire alarm system, access control system, or low voltage system.
  • This property is not automatic; we’ll have to enter this information manually. But now we have the option for the MVPart to contain the information.
  • Create equipment tags that automatically pull information from the PSD associated with the MVPart.

I’ve shown you some very basic options building off of what AutoCAD automatically has built in for PSD. But the options are pretty much endless here for different property definitions. If we look at all the different definitions available you’ll begin to understand just how powerful PSD can be. There are 10 buttons on the right-hand side of the style manager, nine different definition types we can add, and a delete button. The buttons are as follows:

  • Add Manual Property Definition
  • Add Automatic Property Definition
  • Add Formula Property Definition
  • Add Location Property Definition
  • Add Classification Property Definition
  • Add Material Property Definition
  • Add Project Property Definition
  • Add Anchor Property Definition
  • Add Graphic Property Definition

As you can see there are plenty of options for adding different definitions. Beyond those nine basic add commands, there are options within each that allow us to further define how we want to add/show information pertaining to our MVPart. I encourage you to explore some of the different options to learn how they can be useful in your environment.

The next step is to create an equipment tag that will help us associate the PSD data to the MVPart as we insert it into drawings. We start this process by using the MTEXT command to create a label for our tag. This can be placed anywhere in the drawing, but realize that whatever is typed in will show up on the tool palette.

The next command we’ll use is DEFINETAG. It will ask us to select an object from which to create a tag, and we’ll select the text box we just created. In the new dialog box we have the option of giving the TAG a name, which I’ve called SPEAKER TAG. We need to tell the TAG where to pull the data from; in this case we’ll select Property under the TYPE column, then we’ll select our PSD under the Property Set column. Finally we’ll select the NAME Definition under the Property Definition column. We click OK and it will ask us to insert the new tag, which we can put anywhere—it doesn’t matter at this point. The last step will be to add this TAG to our tool palette for easy use. We simply select the SPEAKER TAG txt and drag it into our tool palette—drop it wherever you want. 

All right, hang in there—we’re almost done! We’ll need to make sure we save this drawing so all the changes and modifications we’ve made don’t disappear. The last step is to verify that our PSD data still exist and that our MVPart and Equipment Tag are associated to each other.

To do this, open a new drawing, run command MVPART, and add the Bosch Speaker. If you check the extended data for this part you’ll notice that nothing is associated with it yet. We’re about to fix that. Go to your tool palette and select the new TAG tool we just created. It will ask us to select an object to TAG. Select the speaker, and then another dialog box will pop up. Here is where we define what PSD to associate with that MVPart. Confirm that the only PSD is our Bosch Fire Alarm Speaker PSD, then select OK.

And there you have it! We have successfully added the PSD association to our MVPart and added a custom TAG. Now we can simply select both the MVPart and TAG and copy-paste it anywhere it’s needed. Both the MVPart and the TAG will automatically update the numbering scheme that we have specified as we paste.

And we’re done! As I said earlier, Property Set Definitions are an extremely powerful tool that can be used for a multitude of different objects/devices and set up to display whatever information we so choose. If I were inserting Access Control Card Readers into a drawing and wanted to easily number and tag them, I would use this process.  I can even make my own definition slot for information such as MAC addresses of the device, door numbers—just about anything I want. I hope you can utilize this process to help optimize and increase efficiency in your day-to-day work.

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