Managing BIM ARCHICAD Libraries I: Importing 3DS and SketchUp Objects

 In BIM, Features, LIBRARIES

Hello everyone,

Today we are going to make and article based on a daily workflow that we commonly use in our practise: importing objects into our ARCHICAD libraries. It is very common that for projects that are only at concept stage you want to have cool objects based on real furniture, designed lamps, etc.. it gives a realistic image of a project and real life products can be purchased later on.

The purpose is that even for in-house renders it really makes your project look more real when objects are well designed, or at least well modelled. Since you as an architect you don’t always want to spend time modelling 3D objects, why you just don’t download them from manufacturers catalogues?
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Later on when the projects develops you can start adding information very useful for your BIM file. You will be able to use them to create schedules, costs estimations, construction details, etc..

In this first article of the Managing BIM Libraries in ARCHICAD series I am just going to talk about this workflow when importing objects in Sketchup and 3DS format. These formats are very common among brands manufacturers catalogues, furniture retailers, Luminaries houses, etc..

All this objects will become GDL objects to be use in your ARCHICAD Libraries. In further articles of this topic we will explain how to improve 2D and 3D representation, interface, adding information into the object, etc.. There is no need to learn GDL scripting to do all this. Of course some scripting helps a lot. We play around a bit with GDL scripting sometimes but surely we are not experts. Experts in GDL scripting can do awesome stuff that is for sure..

Let’s get to it!

Workflow 1: Importing Sketchup Objects in a Clean way.

1 Download an Skp Object.
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First of all you can download any object from the 3D Warehouse website which is full of Sketchup objects.
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2 Drag and Drop into “The Washing Machine File”

Once you have your object downloaded you just need to drag and drop to the AC window. I suggest that here you use a new AC file with the template that you usually use. Do not work directly in the file of a project because it will get contaminated with random attributes.. In our case we do not want that because at the end of the day your files are dirty and is really important to keep libraries and attributes organise for the future. This file is what you can call the “Washing Machine File”.

I know from my previous experiences working for other offices that  use a Washing Machine file in Autocad when importing Cad objects is a common practice. In this way you import whatever file you want and change there its attributes to the Office standards.. Well that was some time ago but I think is good workflow.
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When doing drag and drop of your Sketchup file into your Washing Machine File window, Depending on the size and level of detail of the object it would take more or less time. Once is done it would be already converted in a GDL Object. But from my point of view is not ready yet..
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First of all the attributes that that object added to your file are coming from the Sketchup object. Automatically it creates new Shaders with weird names that will contaminate your file. The pens and fills usually do not give much problems but it would also be good to keep them clean. Also you can see that the parameters of the object are not very useful since they don tallow you clearly to change the attributes of the object.
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3 Convert that object into Morph.
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This may sound a bit heavy since morphs are very heavy to manage on your file. In this example the Skp file was 23.5 MB and has a lot of detail so it may take a while. But why are we doing this? You can manage the attributes of a Morph. Again this process will take more or less time depending on how heavy is that object.
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4 About attributes.
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We will modify the attributes of our Morph during the transformation period to a GDL object. The aim here is to convert these attributes into your standard attributes.
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5 Convert into GDL Object again.


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Here the key question is how you save the GDL Object. Saving it into the embedded looks like a good idea at first. Is actually fast and easy. The problem is that your file will get heavier and will give it problems later. When working in a network server for example is better to have your office libraries located for everyone to find them and use them. When you work with Modules and Hotlinks it will get messy. If you use Hotlink files that have embedded objects some of those embedded objects get lost when the paths of the files change.. Then if you need to find an object that was embedded in a file that somebody did weeks ago.. Well it gets complicated, believe me.
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You can link folders of libraries in any AC file at any time. In this way you will slowly build your own library of objects. In our office we have at least a Library per project. And little by little as those projects end we combine libraries to generate a general one. Later you can categorise, organise, etc.. The same should be done with Surfaces for example.My advice: if you are not doing it already, start creating your Libraries in organised folders so you can access them from any project. It is a good time investment.
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When it comes to attributes here is when you should take a minute to fill this in. The surfaces are the most important. Input from your own library surfaces with very different colours or materials into the surfaces fields. Like this will be easy for you to understand later which surface correspond to each part of the object. Fills, lines and pens usually read from those you have already in your file, but worth to check.. As I said I do not know how the software insight works.. But when importing 2D symbols for example some types of lines and fills will be added quite often.Then save the Object file in your Library folder.
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6 Import the Library Object again.
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Once you have done step 5 you are ready to use your object. If the Library folder in which you saved it was already linked into your AC file then your object should be there ready. If the library was not linked yet then you just need to linked from the Library Manager menu.
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And this is how it should look like:

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In further articles we will show another tricks and tips of how to keep improving these objects.
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Workflow 2: Importing 3DS Objects in a Clean way.

1 Download an 3DS Object from a Catalogue.
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Is very common to find this format when looking for 3D files in Brand’s catalogues as we mentioned. Once you download your file you just need to be sure you have the Goodies Add On from the Graphisoft website installed in your computer.

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2 Import 3DS using the Goodies Add On
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This process is really simple. Just download the Goodies Add On from the Graphisoft Website. It also converts the 3DS object in a GDL straight away. Maybe input some logic dimensions when importing just to be sure you find the object in the 2D window. I really suggest again to do this in our Washing Machine new file.
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You can see that the properties of the Object are even more random than those when importing a sketchup file. This probably depends on how the Object was created. Some times is even hard to understand how to manage the surface of the object. That is why from here the path to follow is as the Workflow 1 step 3: Convert it to Morph and clean attributes.
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3 Repeat step 3,4,5 and 6 from Workflow 1.

Following those steps means that we will convert the object to Morph, save it as GDL and in the Object Basic Settings window we will modify the surface and use those from our libraries. We will save the Archicad Object in a separate folder not in Embedded Library as I mentioned before.
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These workflows I mentioned in this article are the first steps I follow quite often at different stages of a project. The process of converting geometries into morphs can create heavy objects. When doing Interior projects usually you use very detailed furniture and elements. A small apartment file can get heavy. But believe me it worth the effort. Later on there is ways of optimising a more your objects, their attributes, their geometries, etc..

I know that there are other workflows and ways for sure. This works for me quiet efficiently and quite fast. I do it myself while doing a design without investing too much time. I do it with my laptop so everyone should be able to do it.

Some Customers don’t need a super render done by a Render company because they cannot afford it. With the basic settings of Cinerender Engine in ARCHICAD you can do very impressive images in 5 to 10 minutes. Here I show some examples of a ongoing project..
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As a tip I leave here a link to an interesting tutorial of Shoegnome showing very expert tricks regarding these workflow

Hope you find it interesting!

Thanks for reading us!

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