TUTORIAL: How to print .dxf linesplan with multiple A4 sheets!

Discussion in 'Software' started by merry maid, Jul 19, 2010.

  1. merry maid
    Joined: Oct 2009
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    Location: Rotterdam

    merry maid Junior Member

    Okay, so you designed your hull in Freeship and are satisfied with it. It’s hydrostatistics are o.k. and the panels are developable.


    Now you want to print it all out on lifesize plans. However, you don’t have access to a large plotter (or/and you don’t want to pay anyone for doing it). So you’ll have to do it yourself.

    This is a tutorial on how to do exactly this, using AutoCAD. When I ventured into this task, I had never seen AUTOCAD before. Noone answered the way I hoped, so I figured it out myself. I hope you will benefit from it, too.

    Let’s begin!

    First, you should export the model you designed in Freeship as a linesplan in the .dxf format. You will be able to use this .dxf file in AutoCAD. To do this, take the following steps in Freeship:

    1. Click the ‘Project’ tab > ‘Linesplan’. You will be shown the Linesplan dialog. Get rid of the colors by hitting the bucket picture that says ‘Show plates with fillcolor’. Then ‘export the formatted linesplan to a .dxf file’, by hitting the appropriate button (that sewing hook looking button left of the printer picture). Give the file a name and location on your computer.


    Congratulations! You have exported your hull design as a .dxf file. From here on, it’s AutoCADding.


    Here we go.

    Although in this case the hull was over 4.6 meters, it is still possible to print it out on multiple A4 pages. The only thing you’ll need (outside AutoCAD) is something to tape the A4 pages together. Standard transparent masking tape will do, it’s available at the office accessory shop. To print the linesplan to its lifesize dimensions spread over multiple A4 pages, we’ll have to do operate AutoCAD, so:

    1. Open AutoCAD. Hit the big red A on your top left corner, then hit ‘open’ and open the .dxf file you just exported from Freeship.

    2. Hit the ‘Layout 1’ tab, on the more lower left section of your screen. Now, the idea of this tutorial is not to explain what everything is called in AutoCAD, as I myself don’t know how everything is… For now, it suffices to know that what you’re seeing right now is understood as virtual paper,… it is endless in its size (hence it’s name, ‘paper space’ – paper because it is paper, and space because it is endless, and only virtual). We are going to want to create some dimensions on our virtual paper. These dimensions will be our reference later on, when we will give AutoCAD the command to print out a piece of the total linesplan.
    Better said, we will divide the linesplan in multiple pieces,.. think of them as puzzle pieces with certain dimensions. In our case, the pieces will all have the same shape and size of an A4 sized page. We will exactly know what piece to select because by the time we are going to print to life size, we will have given the piece dimensions. Now, to divide our model [read: puzzle] in multiple A4 pages [read: puzzle pieces], we will have to do a couple of things.

    However, before we do anything, check that your ‘Insertion Scales’ are right. To do this, first make your menu bar visible. Click on the eject-button-like-looking button, next to the little printer picture on the middle top of your screen. Under ‘Tools’, hit ‘Options’.


    In the Options dialog box, hit the tab ‘user preferences’. Choose Meters at the spaces shown in the picture.


    After having chosen the right insertion scales, we also have to do something else. We will have to change the scale of our viewport to 1:1. This is a very, very important step towards lifesize printing. Do this as follows:

    1. Hit the 'Layout 1' button in your left lower corner. You will see a virtual piece of paper, as explained earlier. within that piece of paper, you will see a dotted rectangle. Within that dotted rectangle, you will see a solid rectangle. In this rectangle your imported .dxf model is shown. What you'll want to do, is doubleclick within the area of the solid rectangle, highlighted in the picture below. After that, the line will turn thick and you'll know you have selected the vieport of this layout. Now, you will have to click on the scale button on your lower right part of the window, and then click on the right scale, for our intention this scale is 1:1. Click on it. You'll see your model shrink a little bit. That's it, now you've selected the right scale.


    Deselect the Viewport by double clicking somewhere outside the normally solid line. This is important because now we will give the layout a grid. If you don't deselect the viewport, your grid will pertain to the viewport. We don't want this.

    Having done this, we’ll have to turn the model in A4 shaped pieces. The first step hereto, is to generate a grid. After having created it, we will give the cursor the ability to snap onto this grid.
    The main thing to pay attention in this step, is to make sure that the grid spacing carries the dimensions of the printable area of your printer. This way, every space in the grid, will resemble another A4. No worries – it’s not complicated. Imagine having to find out yourself! To do all of this sweet stuff, follow these instructions:

    The grid space dimensions should be those of the printable area of a A4 page. These dimensions are dependent on your printer. In this case, I have selected the PDFCreator printer to know what dimensions we should give our grid spacing. I did this by hitting the ‘output’ tab, and then hit the utmost left button, called ‘plot’ and from there changing the printer. Also, I have changed some other settings,… After changing to my printer, I also changed the paper format to show A4. After that, I selected ‘mm’ instead of ‘inch’ because mm is easier in my mind. Then, I hovered with my mouse over the image of my A4. If you do so, it’ll show you the dimensions of the A4 page but, more importantly, it shows you the ‘printable area’ dimensions. Write these down. Then hit ‘apply to layout’, then hit ‘cancel’.


    Now we know the dimensions of the printable area of the A4 when printed with the selected printer! Yesssss,… I’m so happy. In my case, the dimensions were 203.54 mm * 290.75 mm. In meters, that is 0.20354 m * 0.29075 m. You guessed it! We will use these dimensions as our grid spacing, so that every cell will resemble the printable area of an A4 sheet of paper. To create a grid with the right dimensions,…

    1. On your very lower left corner, you will see the coordinates of your cursor. The third button to the right, is about the grid (when hovering your mouse on it, it says ‘grid display’. Right click it, and hit ‘settings’. This will take you to the grid setup dialog box. In the ‘Snap and Grid’ tab, uncheck the ‘equal X and Y spacing’. Then, in the ‘Grid spacing’ section, fill out the dimensions of the printable area in meters,… so, in my case: 0.20354 m * 0.29075 m. This will obviously differ per printer. In the ‘snap spacing’ section, fill out the same dimensions. Then hit ‘ok’.


    If you hit that little button with your LEFT mouse button, the grid will become visible!!!! Wow!!!!! Those little rectangular cells could be imagined to be a lot of sheets of A4. Now, all of the magic sudden, we can see the magnitude of the linesplan because we see the can refer to a known measure – that of A4 sheets of paper. Wow, the plan is big. Cool huh!

    2. So what’s the use of this grid? Nothing much really,…right now. Right now it only serves some visual frame of reference for us to understand the magnitude of the plans. However, we can give our cursor the ability to snap right on the grid intersections,… or, in metaphorical terms, our A4 sheets of paper. We already gave our layout a grid,… now we will also make our cursor snap to this grid by clicking on the button left of grid display button on your lower left part of the screen. …


    Did you notice? Now, if you move your cursor over the drawing, … it snaps to the closest gridpoint!!! Essentially, we are now able to constantly snap to edges of printable areas of different A4’s.

    Hopefully you get the point – With this functionality, we will tell AutoCAD what cell to print out for us!!!! No more Eyeballing!!! Bring out the magic of Nerdism!

    We are ready to print our sheets of A4 paper,… for now, I will show how to print out two sheets, so you get the idea. From there on, you’re on your own again!

    Printing out the first sheet of A4, using our grid:
    1. Under the ‘output’ tab, hit ‘plot’. Right now, the scale is a bit awkward. We want to make sure that 1 meter is one drawing unit…. This will make it possible to print out to the correct size. So, change the scale so that it reads: ‘1000 mm = 1 unit.’ Hit ‘Apply to Layout’ and then ‘Cancel’. We told AutoCAD to change everything so that 1 meter equals 1 unit. Therefore, everything got bloated up and it seems like we lost control. This isn’t the case,…


    2. NOW it comes! Prolly the most important part of the tutorial: Selecting the first sheet of many A4 to be printed! Here it comes:
    3. Navigate back to the dialog box on the plot setup. Oops,… I forgot to select ‘portrait’ in the ‘drawing orientation section‘. Do so, and click on ‘apply to layout’ so that your virtual paper lines up neatly with the grid. I accidentally forgot this in a earlier stage,… sorry. O.k, so now, navigate back in the ‘Plot Area’ section, select ‘Window’ from the drop down box. The dialog box will disappear promptly, and you will have to select the two corners of the first sheet of A4 you want to print out. Luckily, we don’t have to this by eye, since we can use the snappy cursor, snapping mathematically perfectly to the edge of the printable area of the A4. Zoom a bit out with your mousewheel,… Pan a bit around with your middle mouse button so that the drawing comes in sight. Then zoom in to the model and select the first corner of your first sheet of A4. Then select the second corner.

    4. Bummer! The image of your A4 paper indicates some red line along the edges, indicating that somehow (maybe others know why???) I am selecting something more then the printable area would allow for. That is odd, cause I surely did not put any other numbers in the grid or snap spacing than the numbers i got when hovering over the image of the A4 earlier.... Anyway, the solution for me, is to get rid of the tenths and hundredths of a mm in the grid and snap setup dialog box…. Instead of .20354 m * .29075 m, I now just enter .203 m * .290 as numbers. (You know where to put in those numbers, if not, reread the part on seting up the grid spacing and snap spacing earlier in this Tutorial). Now, try and select a A4 now … to redefine the window, just hit the ‘window <’ button in the plot setup dialog box. You’ll see that now, There is no red line, while the image of your A4 indicates that your using all printable area space!!! FANTASTIC! Facemelter!


    It’s not such a big problem that we got rid of those 1/10ths and 1/100ths of a millimeter, it doesn’t really make such a big difference. Anyway… Now, that we selected a part of the model (I selected the A4 that maintains the top left part of the body plan as an example, here) we can hit the preview button in the left lower corner of the plot setup dialog box. Doesn’t that look nice??!?!?!


    I’m happy with it so I press the ‘plot’ button while in the preview mode, at my top left corner! Since I’m printing to a virtual printer, I am able to show you the result as linesplan01.pdf file.

    View attachment Linesplan01.pdf

    Here you, look how beautiful the lines are!!!!! To make the printer plot the annexing part,.. just select the next cell in the grid!!! Boom! Another A4 is plotted out! This part goes to the right of the first A4. See for yourself - boatplans02.pdf

    View attachment Linesplan02.pdf

    And there you go,… now you all know how to plot a .dxf into fullsize plans using AutoCAD!!!!!


    I am sure this tutorial will help out people to go on with their flow of getting to actually create the boat. After Hull design, plotting it all lifesize is a tricky business. After searching the internet for a valuable tutorial and finding none that was clear, I went crazy and was determined to go at it myself.

    Veterans,… what do you think? Did I miss something? I am completely new to everything, so… yeah. 2 Questions I'd like answered are:
    1. How do I give the edges of the printable area a mark (some very short line or something) so that when taping them, I know how to line them all up.
    2. Can I somehow automate this proces? Can't I give the command to print out all cells after eachother? You, know make AutoCAD tile it or something.

    Cheers. Happy 2015 In case you’re seeing this then!
  2. magwas
    Joined: Oct 2009
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    Location: Hungary

    magwas Senior Member

    If you have a developable boat, and build from sheet material, you probably want to export the developed plates instead.

    Also you might want to do some rearrangement on the plates. For example for origami, you want some plates to share a common edge. I found that it is a good idea to redraw the plates with lines first, as freeship exports them with some kind of curves.
  3. merry maid
    Joined: Oct 2009
    Posts: 13
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    Location: Rotterdam

    merry maid Junior Member

    * This tutorial creates a print per every sheet of A4. The staple of papers will become untidy. I found a way to make one large pdf file with all the A4 pages that you need to lay out the plans fullsize in it, using AutoCAD. I will post that tutorial later on*

    .. in the meanwhile...

    Thanks for the tip, Magwas. You said that I probably want to print the developed plates instead of the linesplan in lifesize dimensions. However, I am not sure why. I mean, obviously, I will need the bodyplan for the 'skeleton' of the boat,... for the measurements of the bulkheads for example. I will need Freeship's developed plates to cut out my plywood on. So, after having printed the linesplan, I will do the same process I described in this tutorial for the developed plates.

    Also, in another tutorial, people say to have no problems using the developed plates generated by Freeship,... see for yourself on this thread, http://www.boatdesign.net/forums/design-software/accruate-developable-panels-32222.html .

    Post #6 reads: 'I dont know what size boats you are designing but I use Carene (from www.epoxy-resins.co.uk ) and then move the data to Freeship ( not the free Delftship which will not print ) and then I print out the developed panels which have all the mesurements marked on them . Everything has fitted well so far but I only go up to about 16 ft boats'.

    Post #8 reads: 'Freeship/Delftship will do it easily...provided the design is viable for such a method. It is specifically designed to provide panels from steel so the program is rather strict in its interpretation of developable...but it is actually less strict than Carene 2008 in which there is no leeway given. Most CAD programs will provide flat sheet panels from a developable surfaces.'.

    So, I don't see why Freeship would add an awkward 'twist' to my panels as you seem to imply? Lastly, what exactly do you mean with '... a good idea to redraw the plates with lines first...'?

  4. magwas
    Joined: Oct 2009
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    Location: Hungary

    magwas Senior Member

    I am just finishing my first boat (meaning limited experience), a stitch&glue kayak. I did not need the linesplan for construction. Well, it is a small boat with no bulkheads.
    My models had bulkheads (one even had a keel), and I think that
    for flat elements in one of the planes of linesplan (keel and bulkheads) it is best to use the linesplan for printing. However I did not ever need the whole linesplan. I have just copied those elements to the development drawing. When it comes to spacing bulkheds, I have just measured the distance with a ruler (talking about a model here).

    I am not talking about twists. I just told that the elements of drawing exported by freeship are some kind of (probably bezier) curves. Because of that, I cannot use some tools in qcad on them. For example when drawing an origami development I used to move one plate to the other such that they have a common point on the end then I measure the angle of the edges of the two panels. This step cannot be done with Bezier curves at least in Qcad. After I know the angle, I rotate one of the panels so I get the two edges aligned. Now I mark with a line where I plan to end the cut. After doing it some times, and making some mirroring, I have an origami design. Maybe I should post a tutorial.
    The other reason is when you draw a bulkhead from the linespan. The linesplan does not have different layers for the different parts. It is easiest to redraw the bulkhead to a new layer using the points of the linesplan. For example if you have 4 bulkeads, they are in the same place in the linesplan. It does not seem to be a good idea to print it four times, then to hope not to miss one of the lines for its neighbour incidentally.

    Despite of all that I have said above, I am not doing the redraw in all cases. My current boat is an example. You can download the freeship plan and the developments plan from here (I did draw the bulkheads, but did not build them).

    However I have attached an earlier design for example. You can see how the keel and bulkhead had been converted from the linesplan. The linesplan is even there, but hidden.

    Attached Files:

  5. merry maid
    Joined: Oct 2009
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    Location: Rotterdam

    merry maid Junior Member

    Thanks for your comment, Magwas.

    Let's continue with this tutorial.

    This second part on the tutorial on how to print .dxf plans in AutoCAD on multiple sheets of A4 paper will streamline the process a bit more. Basically, I will tell you how to create one single pdf file that contains all the individual A4 sheets that you want to print.
    Here we go:
    Go ahead and check the ‘window’ box in the drop down menu in the ‘what to plot’ section in the plot setup dialog box. Select a one of the virtual sheets of A4, differentiable from each other because of the grid we created. After you have selected the two corners and you’ve checked how it looked (that means clicking on ‘preview’), this time don’t plot it! Instead, click on ‘Apply to layout’. After that, click on ‘Cancel’.
    Now you will see that your virtual A4 is super positioned on the area we just denominated by selecting its two corners. It speaks for itself that this is the area that would’ve been plotted had we hit the ‘plot’ button in the plot setup dialog box. Instead of doing so, we will create another layout, that has the same setup as the one we are working one. The only thing we will change, is the space to be printed. In other words,.. we will do this:
    1. Right click on the little tab in your lower left corner of the screen that says ‘Layout 1’ and hit ‘Move or Copy…’. A dialog box will pop up, and you will select ‘Layout 1’. Then you will check the bottom checkbox that reads ‘create a copy’, and ‘ok’. Then You will see that a new layer has been made, with all the parameters of layout 1. Its name is ‘layout 1 (2)’. This means it is a second instance of layout 1. Select it,…


    nothing appears differently! That is because all is the same, and that ‘s fine. The only thing we want to change is the area denominated to be printed. Change this, by running through the ‘window <’ procedure again in the plot dialog box and again instead of printing, hit ‘apply to layout’ and then again ‘cancel’. Look, now we have two layouts, each will print a different piece of the puzzle! This way we can assign different layouts to carry different pieces of the larger puzzle. Cool, huh! By the way, your layout was copied to the left of the original one. If you want, you can keep your mouse button pressed on it, and drag it to the right side of it. That is what I did. Cause I like it that way.

    To turn multiple of such layouts into 1 pdf file:
    Under the output tab in AutoCAD, hit the ‘export to’ button. From the options available, hit ‘Pdf’. A ‘Save as PDF’ dialog box will open. Essentially, here, we will give AutoCAD the command to save not this current layout, but ‘All layouts’. Select it, under the ‘export section’ at the right hand side of the dialog box. You’re done!

    Perhaps you are not interested in getting a PDF file at all. In that case, you can just make AutoCAD print all of the layouts you wish, using Batch Plot command, which is accessible right next to the ‘plot’ tab. This way you can print multiple layout with just one print command. Easy!

    Attached Files:

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