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Dimensioning inadequate for detailing 3D model?

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3D modelling is an excellent tool for mechanical design and Vectorworks has become quite effective for that purpose. However, support for creating detail drawings is lacking.

Consider a multi part assembly. Place each part in a different class so you can design and model them as part of the asssembly.

To detail individual parts for fabrication drawings you can activate one class at a time, link each part to separate detail layer, copy and rotate it several times to create top front and side views. Convert or copy to lines with hidden line view or dash hidden line view as required.

Now add dimensions. This is where it fails.

The extruded circles in 3D models have few useful snap points so you can not dimension to these features accurately. You can't dimension to holes (extrude circles subtracted from a block) if they have been rotated. You can't make diametrical dimensions on cylinders or holes or locate the centers.

Convert to lines turns curves to a series of small line segments. It may look like the original 2D, but there are no centers, center left, center top, etc. snaps to dimension to. The many line segments make finding the diameter and location of a hole very difficult.

Here's my work around: anyone have a better idea?

Place a 3D locus on any cylidical feature you want to find later. Make sure the locus stays with the cylinder if you rotate it or move it. If you carry the locus to the final linked layer you will have a center location for your feature. You can draw a 2D circle of the proper diameter on top of the extruded projection in a normal view (perpendicular to the cylinder axis.) This provides a reference for diametric dimensions. whew!

Now lets detail the second part. Make a new layer, link the part, etc. Dimensions automatically fall into the same class as the dimensions for part 1.

How do you dimension parts 2 through n separately, so you can print dimensioned detailed multi viewed layers of parts 1 to part n?

Ok, it's someone elses turn to pick up this lesson.

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Your description of you problems, has mirrored my own. As I use VW more and work on more complex projects. The issues that you have listed becomes a greater problem each time. VW 3-D is a nice add-on and you can really make some nice "pictures" but I have found it almost useless for production drawings.

Why would I want to spend hours on a 3-D model when I can't easily us it to make 2-d drawings for production. Nor can I take a 2-D section from a 3-D drawing and send it to a CAM program. Because you are right, that hole is now a bunch of little lines and that CAM program will generate it onto cutting path for a WireEDM or a Laser. Worst still send it to a 2-d Mill for hole drilling and see what happens - its not pretty.

But I still like the 2-D quality that VW generates expecially to PS plotters, it far execedes anything I have seen generated by AutoCAD.

But 3-D is more and more a reqirement for the jobs I am quoting on. If Pro/E ever finishes its port to MacOSX, VW may loose a customer.

What I really see needs to be added is:

1. MUCH better dimension refs in 3-D

2. A hole is a hole no matter what dimension.

3. Associative views & Dimensioning.

What VW has and they really need to expand on is that Hybrid Drawing. I have played around with it for the ach end and it is really nice, they need to expand that into the mechanical end.

Well I hope this rant helps,


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I agree 100%. In my opinion VW simply needs to make Hybrid objects a part of the Mechanical. I'm a relative newbie to VW, but like it otherwise. I really want to be able to create 3-D models and have Mechanical create the corresponding 2-D production drawings with dimensions. Does anyone have a contact person inside VW to make this suggestion?


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Hi Spencer, Tyler, and Ron.

My name is Tom Urie and I am responsible for most of what goes into VectorWorks Mechanical so I guess that would make me the contact person to whom to make these suggestions. The ability to create 2D production drawings from a 3D model is not, per se, strictly a Mechanical feature but comes under the auspices of the main engineering group responsible for the VectorWorks foundation product.

I am in complete agreement with you that this ability is a feature that is needed in VectorWorks. It sounds to me as if you agree that VectorWorks has excellent 3D modeling capabilities and excellent 2D drafting capabilities, but we need make the two features work together instead of independently.

As time goes on, I think you will see VectorWorks coming closer to achieving that goal and in the meantime I will make certain that any and all comments you post on the matter will get to the proper persons.

Best regards,

Tom Urie

Nemetschek, N.A.

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A follow up on the first post under this topic regarding the last paragraph.

"Now lets detail the second part. Make a new layer, link the part, etc. Dimensions automatically fall into the same class as the dimensions for part 1."

It's not a problem!

If you create a layer for each detail/dimensioned part in an assembly and the dimension it, only that part's dimensions are visible in that detail layer. You have to remember to make the other layers invisible.

One problem solved.

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  • 2 weeks later...


I am doing instrument design, which is generally an assembly of machined parts and purchased components. Similar requirements to designing and detailing an automobile engine. Lots of parts, many non orthoganal views.

I was once told by a vectorworks marketing person that Minicad (vectorworks' predecessor) was originally created by the company's founder primarily for mechanical engineering. They claimed that architectual interest has pulled it in that direction.

Frankly, I think this is fantasy, as there is no hint of satisfying mechanical detailing needs in the 3D to 2D projection or conversion area. Features and snap points (hole and curve centers and edges) are lost, parametric constraints are lost, so there is not ability to demension a part.

I will regretfully abandon Vectorworks pretty soon if this problem isn't addressed.


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Hi Spencer,

To set the record straight, MiniCad was developed strictly as an architectural product. In MiniCad 6, AEC (Architecture/Engineering/Contracting) and Mechanical Engineering Toolkits were added which provided advanced features, symbols, and plug-in objects specific to those fields. These Toolkits evolved into the separate products of VectorWorks ARCHITECT and VectorWorks MECHANICAL, as well as the addition of VectorWorks SPOTLIGHT and VectorWorks LANDMARK starting with VectorWorks 9.

Much of the content and features in Mechanical is the result of input from users such as you. Problems such as lost snap points (hole and curve centers and edges) are solved when users voice the fact that these features are important to their work flow. Believe me when I tell you that our engineers are already looking into this problem since I discussed it with them as a result your earlier posts.

VectorWorks MECHANICAL is continuously evolving, and any and all input from our users plays a large part as to what is included from version to version.


Tom Urie

Nemetschek North America

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Thank you. Your response is very welcome. I will wait eagerly and patiently. Vectorworks has the opportunity to be the only moderate cost good solution in the Mac mechanical design market. That should include a health number of industrial designers.

Regarding the mechanical origins of MiniCad, I suspect it was a just bit of marketing puffery. Hey, it got me to buy.

In the meantime, let's all figure out how to best use what we have. It's no small thing.


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  • 4 months later...

Hello all: I'm doing consulting for a company that is considering implementation of a Vectorworks 11 solution for the for the scripted creation of mechanical drawings. So far, I know extremely little about Vectorworks and this discussion has given me some concern. Another consultant has proposed that we would create 3D models in Vectorworks which then would be used in a combination with a Filemaker database and additional programming (and/or scripting) to create 2d production drawings and parts lists. In this discussion it appears to my unitiated eye that there are problems getting the 3D modelling capabilities to work with its 2D drafting capabilities. It appears that the discussion relates to a version of Vectorworks previous to v.11. My question is this: Have the problems mentioned in this thread been addressed in Vectorworks 11 to anybody's satisfaction?

Any further discussion of these issues would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

Ken Means

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I saw nothing in the Vectorworks 11 release notes which suggests they were able to address these issues yet. At the moment, I do not think vectorworks is a viable platform for creating dimensioned 2D drawings from 3D models with non-rectilinear curves (round holes and curved surfaces).

It is however a fine 3D modeling package.

[ 08-22-2004, 10:40 PM: Message edited by: Spencer ]

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Sorry for the tardy reply, I have been out of the office for a few days.

New in VectorWorks 11 is Viewports, which makes creating a 2D drawing from a 3D model much simpler than in prior versions. With viewports you can quickly create a top, bottom, side, or any other view of a model and can put as many viewports on one sheet as will fit. You can render the individual viewports using Dashed Hidden Line, OpenGL, or any available rendering so there is no need to use Convert Copy to Polygons or Lines to create a 2D drawing. Using the Viewport Annotation feature you can completely dimension the part in the viewport. There are still some limitations, especially with non-rectilinear curves, but these problems will be solved as time goes on. (In a future release you will be able to snap to the center of arcs and circles in 3D solids.) Dimensions in a viewport are not associative, but when you modify a 3D model, all viewports in the drawing are automatically updated. You can crop viewports so creating a blown up partial view is as simple as duplicating an existing viewport, adding a crop object, which can be an oval, a polyline, or any other VectorWorks object, and changing the scale of the viewport, which can be done easily from the Object Info palette. In fact, any of the viewport settings ? view, rendering, scale, and layer and class visibility, among others, can be changed from the Object Info palette. Sectioning is not automatic ? to display a hatch pattern you must draw a 2D object representing the section ? but snapping to the 3D edges of the model in a viewport will enable you to do this much more quickly than creating a 2D section from scratch.

All in all, the addition of Viewports in VectorWorks Mechanical 11 provides a much better solution than in prior versions for creating a 2D drawing directly from a 3D model, and I can promise that it will keep on getting better.

I hope this answers some of your questions.

Tom Urie

Integrated Products Group

Nemetschek North America

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  • 6 months later...

VectorWorks 11.5 does fix one problem and that is the ability to snap to the center of extruded circles and arcs. To dimension holes and fillets, you can now draw a 2D circle using the center and edge of the 3D hole, place the dimension, and then delete the hole.

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