I have gotten several e-mails asking me for tips on how to import files from AutoCAD to 3Dstudio Max. So I decided to write a tutorial that will, hopefully, be of some help. I use AutoCAD 2006 and 3Dstudio Max 6. I'm sure that this information will be useful even for later versions of the software. Specially 3Dsmax which is on version 9.
With that said, let's begin. There are many methods to working in both AutoCAD and 3Dmax. The explanation I will write here describes the method I use personally and is also the process that has worked best for me. We start off with a plan view of our building. In this case it's an upper level of a Mexican mid-class home. The units used are meters.
As you can see, we have walls, windows, doors, notes, dimensions and so on. It is very important that we have layers for every object type. If you know from the beginning that you will be using your Cad drawing for future 3Dmax import, you should always think ahead. What I mean by "think ahead" is that you should always be preparing your drawing for easy 3D manipulation and editing. Although this might take more time, it will be worth it once you use the file for 3D. For example: If your project has 3ft, 6ft and 8ft walls, instead of just making one layer named "Walls", make one layer for each type of wall. That way, when your file is imported to 3DsMax you can extrude different walls at different heights. You can add layers by writing "la" in the command prompt and then adding new layers in the "layer properties manager" window that appears on screen. Make sure that each wall is drawn in the corresponding layer.
Remember that not all layers will be needed for 3D. In architectural drawings we usually have a lot of information like piping, electrical installations, structural elements, notes, callouts, specifications, etc.
For better understanding of the blueprint, we will turn off some layers. You can do this by typing "layoff" in the command prompt, then hit "enter" or right click on your mouse. Then simply click on the layer that you want turned off. Another way of turning off layers is by typing "la" in the command prompt, then hit "enter" or right click. After that you will get the "Layer Properties Manager" window. There you will search for the name of the layer that you want turned off, and when you find it, click on the light bulb that corresponds to your layer. That's it.
Now we can see only the lines we will need for 3D.
Another thing to keep in mind is to work with polylines. If your drawing has separate lines for each shape, 3DSMax will import your file as separate lines wich will require a tedious welding process. Let's take a brief moment to explain how to work with polylines. Here is a simple house shape that has no polylines.
[Click to download Dwg2Max_01.dwg]