About a month or so ago, I started working with a user trying to find an easy solution for adding 3D objects, such as buildings and storage tanks, to his Voxler models. The customer was using Voxler to create graphics for a soil contamination report and wanted to give the stakeholders for this project a good frame of reference for where the contamination plume extended under the existing structures. Adding the buildings and storage tanks to the Voxler model paints a clear picture of the subsurface contamination extent. Voxler does not currently offer 3D drawing functionality, so I took a look at some 3rd party applications to find the best solution for the user.
Searching for the Right 3D Drawing Application
Voxler started supporting 3D DXF in version 4, so finding an application that exports 3D DXF in the correct coordinate space was the main requirement. The user also wanted the solution to be cost effective, so I kept this in mind during my search.
I started with SketchUp, which was free, and quickly found that it was easy to create the desired 3D objects. The only drawback with SketchUp is that it’s difficult to export the 3D objects in the desired coordinate space. Since this is a requirement, SketchUp didn’t make the cut. I then took a look at AutoCAD, which definitely is an attractive application as it will do what I need it to do; however, the price is a lot higher than the user wanted to pay. My next option was to try TurboCAD. I downloaded the demo version to see if creating 3D objects was easy and to verify that they exported in the correct coordinate space. TurboCAD was easy enough to learn, I was able to create objects in the desired 3D coordinate space, and the price was inexpensive. My decision was made; I recommended using TurboCAD for the user’s 3D drawing needs. The rest of today’s blog post discusses creating 3D structures in urboCAD, exporting them in 3D DXF, and adding them to an existing Voxler project.
Creating 3D Objects in TurboCAD:
In order to create objects in TurboCAD that were in the correct coordinates space, I exported a ground surface elevation grid from Voxler in 3D DXF format. I opened the DXF in TurboCAD by using the File | Open command, which gave me a nice palette to start drawing objects on. I also positioned the DXF so that I had a top-down view of it by clicking View | 3D Views | Top. Now I am ready to create some 3D objects such as some tanks and a building.
To create the building, I am going to use these steps:
Adding a box primitive to represent a building in TurboCAD.
Now that the basic primitive has been created for the building, I turned off the 3D surface so I could see the box better which allowed me to add a roof. There are a few ways to do this in TurboCAD, but since I’m new to TurboCAD I decided to add 2 wedges to create the roof:
Representing a roof in TurboCAD with Wedge primitives.
Now that the building looks good, it’s time to add a few subsurface storage tanks. This can be done by using the following steps:
Now that the first storage tank has been created, I am going to copy it and paste another tank into the project. To do so I used the following steps:
The building and subsurface storage tanks have been added to the project; now they need to be rendered as solids in draft mode before they are exported for use in Voxler. To do so, right-click on the model in TurboCAD and choose the Draft Rendering option. The buildings also look nice if some additional color is added to them. Please note this is important to do in TurboCAD prior to export as Voxler will not allow you to change the colors of the DXF after it has been imported. Select one of the objects like the cylinder, then right-click and choose Properties. In the Properties dialog, select Pen and then change the drop-down menu under Color to change the color of the selected object. I changed the tanks to grey and the building to red and brown. The building and storage tanks rendered as solids with colors in TurboCAD.
Exporting the 3D Objects
Finally, I can export the building and tanks so I can use them in Voxler. Before I do so, I am going to delete the 3D surface so it is not included in the export. To do so, click Edit | Select and select the 3D surface and press the DELETE key. To export, click File | Save As. In the Save As dialog, name the file and make sure that the Save as type is set to DXF – Drawing eXchange Format and click Save. The DXF can be imported into Voxler and will locate in the correct coordinate space as shown in the image below. The final project in Voxler that contains the 3D buildings and storage tanks created in TurboCAD.
TurboCAD ended up being a very easy-to-use tool and satisfied the user’s need for adding 3D objects, such as storage tanks and buildings, to Voxler projects. This low-cost solution gives Voxler users the ability to add any 3D object that can be drawn inside of TurboCAD to Voxler, increasing the effectiveness of any Voxler model to all involved stakeholders. New copies of Voxler and upgrades from previous versions are available for purchase from our shopping page. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any suggestions or questions you may have!
Hello, I'm having a lot of trouble in this task. I made all the steps exactly the same and when I import into Voxler the object does not appear in color. Please, what do I do? I'm presenting the software to the company I work for and I do not know what else to do.
I tried doing a similar import of 3DSOLID cylinders in DXF format. The exports were from AutoCAD 2016 (2007 and 2010 formats) and from DraftSight 2016 (2007 and 2010 formats). All four attempted imports generated error messages in Voxler 4. For Acad in 2007 format, the message was "Unable to match input file format." For the other three, the partial message was "... contains embedded data in unsupported '3DSOLID' format. ...". Major bummer.
Glad I could help out with this! Thanks so much for using our product and recommending it to our users!
-Travis at TurboCAD
You are very welcome! I will be recommending TurboCAD to our user base for a solution for their 3D drawing needs.