After Doing Everything Possible, My MicroStation–AutoCAD Translations Are Still a Mess!

Translation Tips and Tricks, Part 3

By Rick DeWitt, Axiom Senior Product Manager
In the two previous articles on translations (My Translations Are a Mess! and My MicroStation–AutoCAD Translations Are a Mess, Part 2), I talked about various types of problems that can occur when translating between MicroStation and AutoCAD.

Microstation Autocad Translation

There may not be a “one-click” translator that turns DGN files into perfect DWG files and vice versa, but there are steps you can follow which can make this chore less burdensome.

I also described how you could solve many of these problems by adjusting various MicroStation translation settings. However, there are still problems that can’t always be solved simply by adjusting settings.

Most of the remaining problems are the result of differences in standards and design methods between a typical AutoCAD shop and a typical MicroStation shop that are not known or considered when the project is translated.

For instance, the use of line weights (MicroStation) or line widths (AutoCAD) can create problems with the translation. For years, AutoCAD shops have created CAD drawings using colors to denote how bold or thick the plotted line widths of elements will be. In MicroStation shops, they usually assign a line weight to the elements they create. At plot time, the various line weights are mapped to the appropriate line thicknesses. Although the final, plotted result is the same whether MicroStation or AutoCAD is used, how the lines are set up in the drawing is different. When the AutoCAD shop translates their drawings to MicroStation for delivery, they often don’t even consider line weights. However, the MicroStation client will usually demand correct line weights as part of their standard — and something will need to be done to fix it. Axiom’s SpecChecker can easily change the line weight of any element in the MicroStation design file according to its color so that the delivered MicroStation files meet your client’s CAD standard. SpecChecker can make many other changes you may need and it can be run on any number of MicroStation files (or AutoCAD files opened in MicroStation) in a batch or on individual files as needed.

Another routine problem is “special character” mapping. Special characters are things like degree symbols, diameter symbols and some types fractions. Typically, AutoCAD fonts and MicroStation fonts use different character codes for these special characters. After translating the files (either from MicroStation to AutoCAD or from AutoCAD to MicroStation), these special characters don’t always display correctly resulting in problems that must be fixed before the drawings will be accepted.

Figure 1. Having to manually find and fix every text element that uses a special character to meet design standards is a thankless task. In the image above, the fraction “33/64” is actually a “special character” that should be a degree symbol, making the number “78.69º”. Finding and making these kinds of changes can result in losing whole weekends.

Font remapping can also create spacing problems due to the differences in character widths and the spacing between characters in different fonts. After the translation, text may exceed the space allocated for it and make the drawings look messy and unprofessional.

Figure 2. Text sometimes remaps with a wider font causing it to no longer fit in its allocated space. At best, this is annoying. It certainly doesn’t give you that polished, professional look you demand.

Both of these text-related problems (special characters and font width) can easily be solved in a batch process using Global File Changer’s custom tool, “Modify Text”. Global File Changer can search for and replace special characters (such as “33/64”) with a different, special character (such as a degree symbol). At the same time, you can tell Global File Changer to rescale text width by any desired factor, including whatever factor is needed to ensure remapped text does not overlap other graphics.

Figure 3. Changing fractions such as “33/64” to a degree symbol (“º”) in ten, hundreds or even thousands of MicroStation files (or AutoCAD files opened in MicroStation) is a snap with Global File Changer. It’s solutions like this that get you home on time.

Global File Changer is the “Swiss Army Knife” of the MicroStation world. The above are only two of the many ways you can use Global File Changer on your MicroStation files (or AutoCAD files opened with MicroStation) to quickly fix problems throughout a whole set of translated files.

Figure 4. Now this is how life ought to be! Global File Changer can restore your MicroStation files (or AutoCAD files opened in MicroStation) to the neat and clean layout you had originally.

Another routine problem that occurs when translating from AutoCAD to MicroStation is a problem with phantom elements that create “Fit” problems in the MicroStation file. By “Fit”, I mean clicking the view control tool that fits all the graphic elements in the designated view. The problem is seen when you “Fit” the view and all the graphic elements seem to disappear or become a small dot on the screen. This is also known as the “blank-screen-of-death”.

Figure 5. You can get the dreaded “blank-screen-of-death” when phantom elements create “fit” problems. Yes, that one dot in the lower, left-hand corner is all you’ll see of your design file after fitting the view, when phantom elements exist in the wild.

There are several different reasons for this particular problem. FileFixer finds and fixes problems such as the one above automatically, and can be run on all your MicroStation files in a fast and effective batch process. This is only one example of the many possible types of corruption that FileFixer will repair when you use it before or after translation on your MicroStation files.

FileFixer handles unwanted problems

Figure 6. Oh, there’s my drawing! FileFixer found and handled unwanted phantom element problems. Say “goodbye” to “Fit” issues and the blank-screen-of-death!

Another frustrating problem that I routinely hear about is the existence of unwanted levels that contain elements (after translating from AutoCAD to MicroStation). However, you can’t seem to find the elements that are on the levels so you can’t move or delete them and then delete the level. In many cases, these elements are in the non-graphic section of the design file making them difficult to locate. SpecChecker can help you in this case. SpecChecker evaluates every element in a MicroStation design file including the hard-to-access elements in the non-graphic section of a design file. You can use SpecChecker to move these hard-to-reach elements to a level that is acceptable in your standard. You can also use SpecChecker to simply delete them if they are unwanted elements. SpecChecker can be run in a batch mode on all your MicroStation (or AutoCAD) files or it can be run interactively so you can evaluate each element individually before deciding to move or delete it.

Take Back Your Weekends! Call Now!
For more information on solving translation problems or to schedule a free, online demonstration, contact an Axiom MicroStation Consultant today! Call 727-442-7774 extension 2196, e-mail or visit Axiom on the Web at now!

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