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ArchiCAD Tip: 'Merging' DWGs into ArchiCAD Projects


It is very common to use DWG files when developing a BIM project in ArchiCAD.

There are various methods available to import these DWG files into an ArchiCAD project, such as External Drawings, XREFs or the 'Merge' method.

It is also very common to export DWGs from your ArchiCAD project, to allowing sharing of data to colleagues who do not use BIM software.
There are workflows available to save, or 'publish' DWGs from your ArchiCAD projects.

If you choose to use the XREF or Merge (import) methods, or use the Save or Publish (export) methods, it is required to choose a DWG/DXF Translator as part of those workflows.

A DWG/DXF Translator is a collection of 'rules' dictating how the DWG is handled when imported or exported.
Some of the 'rules' include:
- the unit setup of the DWG, typically Millimetres or Metres
- DWG formats (e.g. DWG 2000/2004/2007/2010)
- handling of modelspace and paperspace areas of the DWG layer conversion
- pen conversion
- block and/or object considerations

ArchiCAD comes installed with a number of DWG Translators.
DWG Translator files do not form part of an ArchiCAD template, they are separate (XML) files
If a new Translator is created for your office, it must be stored in a central server location in an office, or copied from PC to PC in an office.

In our experience in DCS, it is suggested to create a set of new office-specific Translators (with more appropraite settings than those supplied by default.
These new Translators would include (at least) two new appropriately-named translators,'DWG Metres' and 'DWG Millimetres'.

Step-by-step Workflow – To create a new Translator for your office::

  1. Goto File > File Special > DWG-DXF Translation Setup
  2. Click 'Create New' (click here for screenshot)
  3. Browse to an appropriate location - a folder on your office server, specific to ArchiCAD Information
  4. Give an appropriate name, for example 'DWG Millimetres'
  5. Once created, select the Translator in the list, and click on the 'Default for Import' icon (click here for screenshot)

  6. Goto the 'Settings in Selected Translator' panel
  7. Go to 'Drawing Unit', choose '1 millimetre' (click here for screenshot)


  8. Go to 'Open Options':
  9. - add a checkmark to 'Associative Dimensions where applicable', (click here for screenshot)

    - the option to add a checkmark 'Enable Partial Open' is explained further here

  10. Go to 'Save Options':
  11. - Under 'Save Layout Into' choose 'Paper Space with Cropped Views Contents'
    - Under 'Saving Floor Plan' choose 'Explode complex ArchiCAD Elements' (click here for screenshot)


  12. Goto Attributes > Layers > Methods:
  13. - Under 'Create Layers according to', choose 'ArchiCAD Layers'
    - Under 'Save Elements On', choose 'Visible Layers Only'
    - In the section 'Create Custom Layer for:', usng the 'Source Layer' button and also typing in appropriate description, develop the settings for all the supplied layers (click here for screenshot)

    Information on 'Source Layer' is explained further here

  14. Further Attributes:
  15. When proficient in understanding the Translator settings, an ArchiCAD users can further adapt the Translator rules with Layer and Pen conversion rules, but this is possibly too advanced for this particular tip.

  16. When the settings for this Translator are completed, click 'Save Settings and Close'

Having completed this workflow, a user will have created a very appropriate DWG/DXF Translator for their office, which is available for use for all colleagues in their office.
This Translator can now be used at any stage when dealing with DWG files.
To create a new Translator with a unit of metres, repeat all the above steps - changing Drawing Unit to '1 meter'

Enable partial open:
This filter allows the user to manually select whcih layers are imported for the DWG, rather than importing all the Layers from the DWG.
The DWG's layers and layers' statuses will be listed in a dialog box allowing individual layers to be selected.
This option is very useful is reduced the amount of unnecessary data imported from a large DWG.

Source Layer:
The 'Insert Source Layer' button allows a custom layer name to include the name of the elements' existing layer in the ArchiCAD model.
It places the phrase (Source Layer) into the layer field, which will then be replaced by the actaul existing layer name during export.
This options would be used to allow more precise export of elements which do not have an explicit layer in archiCAD (such as windows, doors, composite fills, skin separaotr lines, dorr/window markers etc)
For example:
- A wall containing windows is placed on a layer named WALLS EXTERIOR .
- A wall containing empty windows is placed on a layer named WALLS INTERIOR .
- If "(Source Layer) - Windows" is entered as the Windows custom layer then the resulting layer names in the exported DWG will be "WALLS EXTERIOR - Windows" and "WALLS INTERIOR - Windows".

More information on Translators can be found on this ArchiCADwiki page