How do we bulk convert PDF to CAD?
One of the big points of emphasis in this whole MeyerFire University platform is that it is a tell all community-based platform or we're really not holding anything back. We're sharing our best tips and tricks along with a whole lot of foundational concepts so that you're on the cutting edge of where our Fire Protection industry is today.
Now this may feel like more of a CAD instruction video, but at the heart of this is a custom written tool that allows us to batch the same task over and over by the computer instead of by us. I had this script custom written by a freelance software editor and I'm sharing it here as a link below the video as part of this tutorial.
But first let's talk about PDF imports in general. We might be working in CAD or Revit, but there are times where we need information or details that are only in PDF form. So, what we need to do is convert those PDF files into CAD where we can then use it for easier editing. Now I personally don’t even use AutoCAD anymore as a drafting tool. I use Revit but I go through this step all the time when I only have PDF files to work from and I want to use that PDF content as backgrounds in my Revit file.
Now, when we convert to CAD, it’s taking those lines from the PDF file, it’s converting them over to vectors that’s nice and clean and editable instead of having some kind of rasterized file, kind of like using an image or a JPEG or something like that. What I want in the background is something that’s clean, crisp, that’s recognized as lines and texts instead of fuzzy or pixelated images, and that’s why I’m converting the CAD.
So, to show this off, this is a custom lisp routine, which I had developed by a software developer that wrote this as a custom script for me. And what it's gonna do is gonna use that PDF import function that will allow us to translate a PDF to a CAD file, but it's gonna batch that process. So, we're able to take a single PDF file and have multiple CAD files, one for each page. So, in order to set this up, we first have to install it. So I'm gonna download the file that we've got in the link that's right below this video. First download that file. That's gonna get you this all PDF. This is an AutoCAD lisp routine.
Then from there, we're gonna go into AutoCAD, just open a new drawing, and we're gonna type in APPLOAD. A-P-P-L-O-A-D. That should bring up this dialogue box. From here, navigate to where we downloaded. I just have it in the download file, select the file and then click load. It's gonna ask you if you trust this, this is just a basic lisp routine. So, I'm gonna have it always load. I always want this to load whenever I start up. And then once we're done with that, it looks at the bottom, it says it's been successfully loaded. We click close. Now it's a part of our AutoCAD routines
So, from here now that we've loaded that lisp routine, the actual command is ALLPDF. So, we're gonna type that in. A-L-L-P-D-F. You should see it pop up. Hit enter. And what it's gonna ask us for here in the first dialogue box is what PDF file we want to import. So, let's navigate to that. What I like to do is open in a separate File Explorer, just go ahead and navigate to that file and select the file path up here by clicking up there, highlight it all, control C and then I can just paste that whole path, press enter down here and we navigate. So even though this dialogue box doesn't give us any selection, normally you gotta navigate through here which is a pain, I'll just pull in File Explorer, select that entire path, and then paste that entire path down here. These are the building plans I want to import, so I select them and click open. Now from here, AutoCAD has a lot of work to do.
It's gonna be running in the background and I can just set this aside. If the set of building plans is small and there's only a few pages, this could go pretty quick, a matter of seconds, or even up to a minute. But if we have a very large file that contains many sheets, or there's a lot of vector lines and symbols and everything on that set of plans, it's gonna take a while to import and that's okay. Let's just let that run. Now, if we open up that same folder that we selected the building plans from in that same folder, we're gonna start to get a list of CAD files, one for each sheet that's in that PDF.
When this process is done and we're left with a series of CAD files, there’s gonna be a CAD file for each sheet of the PDF. This can be a major timesaver over using just a single import function like PDF import over and over again for each sheet that we would need.
Now a few caveats before we’re done, some if not most sets of building plans have copyrights either by the building owner or by the architect or engineer who drew them up originally. So, if we're needing to use plans that somebody else created, then legally we need their consent in order to use them for reproduction even if we’re only using it as background. Something similar could be true if we’re using this process for product data or cut sheets where you need a starting point to create a new detail.
In my personal workflow when I don’t have a 3-D model, I first get permission to use a set of drawing plans, I'll then review the PDF and delete out any pages that I don't need converted, then I will use this all PDF function to grab the CAD files, I’ll rename them, and then use those as linked CAD files for my Revit projects. The same could be true if you’re using this as ex-ref for your CAD projects. I'll link in both floor plans and the building sections in the correct location for my building model, this is in Revit, and essentially build my 3D model even though I only have two dimensional plans as backgrounds.
I hope this quick lisp routine, getting it installed, downloaded, and incorporated into your workflow will save you some time and your conversions ahead.
I'm Joe Meyer, this is MeyerFire University.
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