What Do CAD Users Want to Do With GIS?

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Industry News
What Do CAD Users Want to Do With GIS?
by Susan Smith

The following is an interview with Don Kuehne, ESRI CAD product manager, regarding ESRI’s new free ArcGIS for AutoCAD download product. ArcGIS for AutoCAD is an extension of internet mapping based on ArcGIS Server and consuming map services, that allows CAD users to visualize and query geographic information system (GIS) data within the CAD environment without conversion. The product can consume dynamically georeferenced ArcGIS Server map services and display them in the AutoCAD environment.

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AECWeekly: There have been announcements of CAD/GIS interfaces between ESRI and Autodesk in the past. This one is definitely something new.

Don Kuehne: We have worked with Autodesk products for some time, with our previous ArcCAD product, ArcSDE CAD client, and our direct read of the data formats. Regardless, ArcGIS for AutoCAD is a new technology built for ArcGIS Server.

The new technology is all based on ArcGIS Server and consuming map services, and in a lot of ways, it’s kind of an extension of internet mapping, basically using AutoCAD as a client to that technology.

AECWeekly: You’re gearing ArcGIS for AutoCAD more toward your ArcGIS users who already have ArcGIS Server but have an occasional need perhaps to work with CAD? Is the product geared more towards them and not so much toward the CAD user who does not have ArcGIS?

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I think it’s twofold: one is for our existing enterprise users, and so these are typically larger customers: governments, state and local governments, large engineering firms, electric utilities that have established GIS departments and also have departments that are more akin to working in CAD. This is a very typical scenario for us, to be able to do GIS in a lot of different areas, and CAD is certainly one of those areas we’re extending to. These would typically already be the ArcGIS Server type of customers, but then there’s also the other type of customer who is really more of a consumer, so ArcGIS Server can be used to serve out information for a lot of different reasons, even for public access. In that situation, just a lone CAD user could basically consume map services either for free or as part of simply publishing the data out for general access. So if you’re thinking about somebody publishing data, then any AutoCAD user with this free add on tool could connect to it and see the data inside their maps. Within an organization these would be ArcGIS Server customers already typically, but consultants for a city could also consume a city’s map service and see it in AutoCAD, just over the internet.

Instead of going to an HTML web page that has the city’s data on it, they could be within AutoCAD and pulling that information up in the drawing.

AECWeekly: How many CAD users do you anticipate will have ArcGIS Server 9.2 in their shops?

Don Kuehne: I think it might be more useful to rephrase the question; “How many ArcGIS Server customers will have CAD in their shops?” The answer to that question is many of our ArcGIS Server customers need to work with CAD.

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ArcGIS for AutoCAD is not just for people with ArcGIS Server, it is also for people who have access to ArcGIS Server map services at large. ArcGIS for AutoCAD doesn’t require an ArcGIS Server license; it just requires that you can connect to the map service being served by ArcGIS server somewhere. This means an enterprise can serve select map services for consultants or CAD customers. The CAD user needs only the no-cost ArcGIS for AutoCAD application, their existing AutoCAD, and connectivity to the map service.

AECWeekly: What kind of interaction with live GIS maps will CAD users be able to enjoy with the new application?

Don Kuehne: The CAD user can query the features attribute records of GIS databases contained in ArcGIS Map Services. ArcGIS Server is serving out maps based on live GIS data, so the CAD user gets the most current version of the map every time she pans or zooms, or on request. Map Services can contain scale-dependent display information; this is a standard feature of a Map Service that is passed along to the CAD user so that he sees the appropriate level of detail based on any view scale. When you’re moving around in AutoCAD, it’s basically tracking with you, but if you zoom in, for example, to a map that has scale dependent display, you’ll be seeing the appropriate level of detail. If something happens to change while you’re moving around inside you’ll see the most up to date version of that map every time you’re looking at it. Also you’ll have the ability to query the underlying databases from within AutoCAD and it will pull up the feature attributes of the data that are being displayed on the screen.
It really is just a form of internet mapping where you’re just using AutoCAD as your viewer, so you don’t need to know that much about what you’re looking at to access it.

AECWeekly: What is the learning curve for CAD users using this product?

Don Kuehne: There is very little training required. Go to AutoCADapp and follow the links to the download page. Download the self-extracting install. Click OK a couple of times to install the product on top of AutoCAD 2007. Launch AutoCAD 2007 where you will see the ArcGIS for AutoCAD application has loaded a menu and toolbar. Click the Add Map Service button and fill in the URL to the desired ArcGIS Server Map Service and it adds the georeferenced Map service to your AutoCAD drawing. As you pan and zoom the image updates to display in the correct coordinate space at the proper scale. You can open the properties of the custom Map Service entity that gets added like any other AutoCAD entity to control custom properties such as the dynamic visibility and display of the Map Service. You can force the refresh of a map with the Map Refresh tool and you can use the included Identify tool to get the feature attributes from the underlying GIS databases.

I guess that’s your learning curve. You don’t need to know where or how the data is stored. You need not concern yourself with how to mimic the GIS cartographic representations with CAD entities, you just get the map and access to the data seeing it the same way it was crafted by the GIS professional. Also included are a tutorial, user guide and help.

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Review Article
  • October 09, 2008
    Reviewed by 'mxgale'
    I would say that CAD users are looking for GIS to enable the export of spatially adjusted cross sections and profiles of Geo-Data. As we all know, CAD works in the XY coordinate system... GIS uses Lat/Long... and moving from the Lat/Long to a XY coordinate system is not easy!
    Usually diagramming cross sections or profiles of the earth's surface required the export of Geo-Data to CAD... and then starts the laborious task of ensuring that all geo-referenced data is appropriately represented in CAD (a time consuming and laborious task!). In addition to running two different programs, it typically requires multiple passes at the data to adjust things to get it to look right... to get the scale right and even get the diagram to a size that is appropriate for labeling and symbolizing. Handing off or working with projects in this manner can be a real drain on your time . . . not to mention sanity!
    But I'm currently using a great solution to this problem! It's called Crossview for ArcGIS. www.aprimesoftware.com
    It allows you to natively create a cross section directly in ArcGIS yet gives users (CAD or GIS) the flexibility to finish (label, symbolize, etc.) in either GIS or CAD. If you are working with high-end and high-cost geology or hydrology consultants you can create 10s if not hundreds of draft slices of cross sections of your geo-data. Doing this on the fly with a consultant can save time and make the workflow [censored] with scientists. It's pretty slick... check it out. www.aprimesoftware.com

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