Daily Challenge Day 5

Day 5, so far so good!

Went to Atlas SA the other day and was unable to print off my usual wind speed map, I’m guessing it was because of the easter holidays. Anycase I progressed without the map. Anyone can go check the location, so no real need to print out, it just saves time if I do.

Had another look at beam spreadsheet, as mentioned the other day, to see if I could come up with an alternative for working out the positions along the beam for which bending moments are calculated, got interrupted and abandoned the idea.

Using xyplorer, I was sorting through spreadsheets and tagging those that I could publish to the website and those already published, but with some 27,000 plus workbook files to wade through, not so interesting. After a short while I decided to look at the drawings instead: that is the autocad drawings which I used to print over the top of the calculations. In addition I have several drawings which are forms for easy notation of wind loading requirements. Decided to create a new folder and collect together various files for modification and future release.

Printing and Sketching

Also took a look at fineprint. As mentioned in previous posts the autocad drawings were previously printed over the top of spreadsheet calculations: as two pass process for the paper. I cannot remember at present the exact sequence, it shouldn’t really matter as the two pages, the acad drawing and the QPro or Excel calculation pages should be aligned with each other. Anycase the process was partly abandoned when the printer became networked, and the cad drawings were exported to wmf format files and inserted in the Excel worksheets. Had attempted previous trials with QPro and acad drawing insertion, and image insertion, but computer lacked adequate memory and it really slowed down the use of the workbooks to a point of being impractical. With Windows XP and Excel, and computers with faster processors and more memory the inserted images became more practical. Though in other situations just opted for separate drawing plates to be added to the calculations.

On the other hand we still had a two pass process for report covers and invoices. At one stage we did get covers formally printed, but when those ran out, we opted for printing our own covers. We printed batches of report covers along with letterheads for invoices on a regular basis. When needed we’d load the printer with letterheads and print invoices from quickbooks, making sure nobody else was printing anything at the same time. Though there was a good chance of running out of letterheads when printing invoices, resulting in some invoices printed on blank white paper. Since we used coloured paper for invoices the ones printed on white paper without letterhead were typically scrapped.

When printing report covers likely to put the preprinted sheet in the printer the wrong way round. Alternatively skip printing to a report cover and instead, photocopy the report title sheet onto the formal cover sheet.

Then things changed when we got pdfFactory pro and fineprint. Fineprint we haven’t really used. However, pdfFactory allows saving a print job as a letterhead, which can then be used as an overlay on another print job. The files for the overlays are fineprint files.  So now instead of a two pass process through a physical printer, we now print a batch of invoices to pdfFactory, and then switch on the letterhead for invoices and have it overlaid to all pages. For reports we print the whole report to pdfFactory, and overlay the report cover to the first page only.

Today I had the thought that I could print the cad drawings using fineprint, and then copy the files to pdfFactory, and then use them as overlays for spreadsheets. I did one test run and it worked. So I figured I would organise to release the drawing files along with pdf printouts and fineprint files.

After printing we then use Bluebeam pdf revu standard to make any additional changes, such as adding stamps, signatures and password protecting the document. Though the main use of Bluebeam is annotating and certifying other peoples drawings. In the past would get freehand sketches of canopies and other projects from builders or D.I.Y enthusiasts, I would photocopy the sketches and then review and missing detail and extra requirements in pencil, then photocopy again to include as an appendix to my calculations. Now we mostly receive information in digital format, but if we don’t we scan the paper documents and then annotate with Bluebeam. On rare occasion instead of producing structural drawings in autocad, we produced the drawings in Bluebeam, where it was easier to trace over the pdf drawings.

Not sure why architects and drafters are so protective of their drawings: the data needs to be shared, so get it shared. My general experience is that their cad files are full of junk, there isn’t anything worth stealing or borrowing. They have one job to do, we have another, and if there are any details to be drawn chances are we will draw them. Put simply we want the minimum possible connection between their drawing and ours: that typically means using the architect’s drawings as a cross-reference (xref) only. If insert the architects drawing or details as blocks or via copy/paste then likely to contaminate own drawings with unwanted rubbish which hinders the efficient use of the drawing. The same works in both directions, architects don’t want their drawings contaminated with the rubbish relevant to engineers. Whilst workshop detailers don’t want anybody elses rubbish either, they have a reluctance to rely on architects drawings as being dimensionally correct, and therefore prefer to draw from scratch based on the noted dimensions. That 1000mm wide corridor which was changed to being 1200mm wide actually as a significant effect on the over all configuration of the building and it is not showing up, because no one modified the drawing accordingly, they just changed the noted value of the dimension. Now if they used a parametric cad model then it would automatically adjust the shape of building accordingly.

Not sure why have different kinds of drafters as all the drafting could be done by one person and one organisation. I’m guessing that with increased use of building information models (BIM) rather than the drawings being done in the cloud by multiple organizations sharing resources, the models will be created by one organisation. Most of the calculations currently done by engineers will be done by the BIM software, structure and building services will be automatically installed and checked as part of smart objects.

As I mentioned before, calculations are a means to end, and so are drawings. I was taught that as a designer, my freehand design sketches may be the only drawings produced and could be sent straight to the workshop floor for fabrication. In other situations more formal instrument quality drawings may be required complying with company styles manuals, to be archived as a permanent record of the work. The world is a mess if it is imposed on all, to produce formal instrument quality drawings. Similarly a mess, if handwriting is displaced and everything is required to be typed.

Documentation concerned with production of a physical artefact is a means to an end, it is not an end in itself, and is thus of secondary importance to the artefact it describes. On the other hand at some future date, the documentation may become of greater importance because it describes that which is hidden and inaccessible. However the important issue is having the documentation with the appropriate information not the presentation of the documents and compliance with some style manuals.

There may be a consideration that we have gone too far with computers. Computers cost more than type writers, yet there is this imposition to produce type written work. Why wasn’t there such an imposition when type writers arrived on the scene? Similarly there is this pressure that shouldn’t be producing drawings with cad but using BIM. Which already presupposes, that shouldn’t be producing drawings with traditional drawing instruments, nor producing freehand sketches.

Yet most design starts with freehand sketches. So if the issue is using computers, then we need software that assists with freehand sketching, and such software is available because it’s the type of software that graphic artists expect to use. Thus far I have experimented with inkscape, gimp, and autodesk sketchbook express. Thus far sketchbook express is the only application I could get to recognise pressure to  darken the marks made by pencil tools, when using a wacom tablet. On the other hand Bluebeam is also reasonably good for sketching.

Though sketching using a tablet is not all that easy. Though I believe that is because the tablet is to the right of the computer like the mouse, rather than in front. Its not quite natural to use  a pencil over to the side whilst looking at the screen. Though using a mouse to draw in various cad and graphics packages doesn’t seem to be a problem. So not sure what goes on there. So maybe just need more practice with the graphics tablet.


  1. [20/04/2017] : Original