Import/Export Question

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I work for a log home manufacturer. I use a Swiss made software named Cadwork (www.cadwork.com) to build and export our timbers for manufacture. We use several different wood cutting CNC 5-Axis machines (Essetre/Hundeggar) to cut and produce our timbers. The issue we have is that the software is not a very good tool for building plans/models for customers. It has the capability but the developers put their focus on making parts modeled export to Machine's for production and their 2d design tools and their 3d modeling for representation is very clunky. So as an Avid Cheif user I have been using Chief Architect to build some of our projects. I litterally will build our frames or log homes in Cadwork and export them into Cheif and then build the house around the frame to generate the true look and the feel of the timber in the home. The results have been spectacular, but not perfect.



View in Chief Architect’s 360° Panorama Viewer.


The limitation I'm having is exporting my model's out of Cadwork and into Chief, all I get are solid object blocks. I don't get individual pieces. I"m sure I could export one piece at a time, but to do that is unrealistc as it's usually 200-300 pieces of timber in a home. Other softwares like Archicad have been able to import and export to and from Cadwork, but we usually end up with bad parts when importing anything created within Archicad.


If I could import these parts as a whole, but have each part be an individual piece I can then assign attributes for materials counting, and so on and so fourth. I'm then going to have the freedom to do more when it comes to design inside of Chief, and can migrate our company more toward using Chief full time.


I can export the following formats from Cadwork, but have only really had success with (.dxf). 

.3d (Cadwork)
















Yet everything I import comes in as a single solid block. Anybody give any advice as which direction to try? Or can someone from Chief help me achieve this goal?


Thanks for any help in advance.



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I have no experience with the software you are using, so this would be a shot in the dark: have you tried using an intermediary program, such as sketch-up? Try importing into sketch-up first, and see if the different formats it accepts are coming through as one solid piece, or in separate pieces. If you have access to 3dsMax, I would try that as well. You could also contact the company that makes your software and ask them if the software has the capability of exporting separate entities, or if all exports are made to be one object.

Good luck!

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Hi Will,


I export regularly into 3rd party softwares.  You are definitely correct, often the 3d component is tied together by their material definitions....sometimes no apparent reason or method....very frustrating.


I've had excellent success at exporting out of Chief using the 3ds format.  Some softwares prefer the 8.3 format option that you have when exporting out of Chief.


I do have a name of a 3D guru in Canada who breathes this stuff and might be able to help you.  I won't publish it here but if you PM me, I'll share you my personal email and we can have some discourse on the topic if you would like.


Ivan Cyr

Inteck3d Inc.

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Will,  I would be quite interested in learning more about import file formats as I have been working with .stp, .stl, and .igs files this week with mixed results. Maybe you and I and Ivan could get together and discuss the options.  I also think that there may be more options for you working within Chief that would allow you to be less reliant on import files if you are unable to find a good solution there.  Do you also build log structures or primarily timber frame?

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We do both log and tImberframe, equally.


I'm mainly concerned with going from Cadwork into Chief. Cadwork is basically 2 different softwares, interconnected mind you, but it's still a seperate 2d and 3d softwares. It's virtually 1 to 1 with our timber cutting machines. So I can't fault the 3d aspect of the models we create in it. It does exactly what it ws meant to do, the 2D side of it though is very limited in its ability. It's a basic cad software. There is only limited connectivity to the 3D aspect of the software. If somone for instance moves a door, I have to update both my model and my 2d plans.Then I have to re-export my model changes and update my plans. I'm using hatching patters and stretching dimesnion lines. Even though I'm modeling the projcet I'm only modeling the timbers not the entire house, because I can't do certain things in Cadwork 3D, without it being cumbersome.


With Chief I get a nice 3d model I can show to clients. I can create presentation drawings and update plans quickly. Clients eat it up. Yet, with Chief I can't create Log Walls that are true log walls. Nor can I create acurate Timberframe pieces, that will import into Cadwork. I'm trying to bridge a gap.


However, I think the limitation is within Chief. I haven't found an import yet that brings in our exported model as individual pieces. Cadwork exports all at once but each piece is separate. I've done with IFC files going out and into Archicad. One of our clients builds projects in Archicad and we import it, manipulate the pieces and manufacture the timbers using their models (although they don't always work).


I would like to find a viable solution. Cadwork is our company's cornerstone when communicating to our machines. We won't be getting away from it when it comes to modeling our homes for manufacture. However, I don't think it will ever be the presentation, plan type software we can get with Chief Architect. 



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From my experience you will need another CAD program in order to organize your parts from CADwork into Chief as separate symbols.  You may be able to do it from CADwork, but I don't know enough about CADwork to say.


I use TurboCAD Pro Platinum for the conversions that I work with.  I would think that one of their entry level programs might work just as well for your purposes since your design and machining processes are satisfactory as is in CADwork.


The real challenge that I have found when importing separate objects that comprise one complex object is being able to properly align the symbols once imported into Chief.  From my experience it is the bounding box that is the key to this task.  Trying to work with numerous insertion points could work in theory, but in reality it is more trouble than it is worth.


The basic idea is to place reference objects in Chief that will set the outer bounds of the bounding box.  Lower Left, Upper Right, and make them very small so they do not show in presentations.  I use 1"x1"x1" cubes for my conversions.  Export these out of Chief and set a reference marker and record your elevation settings for future use on import.  Don't know why, but I get much more accurate results when using the bounding reference exported from Chief.  BTW make your bounding box reference large enough so that it will enclose any potential changes you may want to make in the future.


Insert your component objects into a copy of this file and then import this file into Chief as a symbol.  Use the symbols bounding box to move it into alignment with your reference point and then move it to the proper elevation.  Do the same for all other object components with your choice of layer assignment for each object.


Still experimenting with instancing and the Symbol's Replace Geometry option, but things look very promising.


Hope that is helpful.  Nice work BTW

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Wwoody. The problem I believe is, chief does not yet support IFC model format. I am also very interested in something that would work because here in Kenya archicad has the biggest crowd and even most employers prefer the raw file in .pln  format. If something could be done so that individual 3D layers and pieces are imported and exported in CA, that would be very helpful as I tend to lean more towards CA but the workflow between myself, my colleagues and other consultants is impossible. I have introduced many people to CA, I can attest to you that everybody liked it very much, especially on how easy it is to use, but all had one question they asked, "how compatible is it with Archicad and Revit?"

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All said and done, otherwise, CA beats all other cad based platforms for any residential and light to medium commercial building design.. Would like to see them introduce that IFC compatibility to enhance on their BIM

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Would like to see them introduce that IFC compatibility to enhance on their BIM




I have been suggesting/requesting this for over 12 years now


good luck on getting CA to listen :(




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