Overtime, integration between GPS Map technology and CAD Software has become increasingly advanced. People use these integrations for a wide variety of reasons.
Sometimes they wish to have their location on their Title Block. In other instances, specifying a location can be helpful when it comes to automated lighting and elevation.
Whatever the case, the sky (literally) is the limit when it comes to bringing these maps onto AutoCAD. In this tutorial, we will learn to integrate maps in AutoCAD and work with it.
Things you’ll need for this tutorial:
AutoCAD 2017 or higher
An Autodesk 360 account
The current AutoCAD has two main forms of location setting. The first one is called “From Map”, and the second one is called “From File”.
“From File” used to be more practical (and still is if using Google Earth) but for our purposes, “From Map” is better suited to our needs. Google Maps and Bing Maps are frequently changing their UI, removing or adding features, and currently, there is no easy method to do the conversion to KML or KMZ from either of these web apps.
Note: It was once possible to do a Google Maps conversion to KML but it has become more complicated and involves the use of Google My Maps, a service which allows you to create custom location-based maps. This process in itself would require a whole tutorial.
For simplicity, throughout the tutorial we are going to be working with one area, the center building (Student Union) of the University of Central Florida, and its surrounding features.
Using Bing Maps
Because of the removal of the Bing Maps integration into Windows (details here), this feature won’t even work properly without the hotfix that is available for download here.
Before installing the hotfix, make sure that AutoCAD isn’t open, then download and install the hotfix. After the installation is complete, open AutoCAD.
Click on the Insert Tab in the Ribbon and then in the “Set Location” Panel, click the icon that looks like a globe. A drop-down will open.
Click From Map. (In the future, a quicker way to accomplish this same task is to type GEO into the command line and hit ENTER twice.)
Fig 2. From Map option on the insert tab
A Window will open. Unless you are already signed in to Autodesk 360, you will have to go ahead and do that. After, this is what the window should look like:
Fig 3. Geographical location window with Bing map
Type in the address bar “University ofCentrall Florida student union” and hit ENTER. Then, click the option circled in Figure 4.
Fig 4. Drop marker on the map
You can see the campus has a circular layout, with a building in the innermost circle. Zoom in on it, and then click “Drop Marker Here.” After that, you can hit the “Next” button, which is at the bottom of the Geographic Location window.
The window will now show a list of “Coordinate Systems” you can choose from. Select FL-E, and keep going. The window will close and a dialogue will follow your cursor. Click anywhere.
Fig 5. Marker location in drawing and north direction
Another dialogue will appear in reference to compass directions. Click again to specify north direction.
Your entire AutoCAD window should now be a map. You can zoom and pan on this map as if you were on any ordinary web map service.
Fig 6. Map inserted in AutoCAD drawing area
You will also notice the addition of a temporary tab in the Ribbon, the Geolocation Tab.
Feel free to play around with it. A feature that’s terrific is the ability to turn on the road map, satellite, hybrid, or to turn the entire map off.
Fig 7. Map type drop-down menu
The beauty of the Bing Maps integration is anything you add to the drawing will be scalable to the map, and unlike adding a still-image, the map zooms, pans, and in some cases even orbits with your drawing.
On our Map, behind the Student Union, circled in Figure 8, there is a plot of grass. Let’s say the University was considering adding a classroom building in that location. What would that look like? Well now, we can get a good idea of exactly how.
Fig 8. The empty plot in the map
Create a rectangle that is 125’ x 150’ and then rotate that rectangle so it is parallel to the sidewalks on either side of the grass. It doesn’t have to be perfect! This is just so we can have an idea.
Fig 9. Buiding area on the empty plot
From here you would be able to figure out how further logistics, like building heights, sidewalk access, etc look. You can even make a 3D building if you want. If you did make a 3D building, you’d even be able to import it into the Google Earth of the University and see what the building would look like next to the others.
For now, though, we’ll stay in the realms of 2D AutoCAD. I’m going to add a simple hatch to the rectangle and then create potential sidewalks that could be used in the future. These are pretty big sidewalks too, 18 feet in width.
These are the hatch settings I used for the building:
Fig 10. Hatch setting for the building
And these are the hatch settings I used for the sidewalk:
Fig 11. Hatch setting for the sidewalk
And this is how it turned out.
Fig 12. Final drawing after adding hatches
Of course, it is up to you to decide where you think the sidewalks should be placed, or what kinds of hatches to use.
Lighting and Shadows
You can change how light reflects off a 3D building in AutoCAD based on customizable time, date, and location properties. Continuing off the building we created previously, let’s make it 3D. Extrude it, giving it 48 feet of height (about 4 floors).
Fig 13. 3D building in the map
Change view mode to Realistic then give the walls a Brick material and the roof any Material you like.
Fig 14. Adding materials to the sidewalk and building
In the Render tab of the Ribbon, there is a Panel called “Sun & Location”. Click on the “Sun Status” Icon, and then in the following window, select the option circled in Figure 15.
Fig 15. Lighting settings
Click again the first option in the window that follows.
After that, you will have access to the window shown in Figure 16. Turn the Environment Switch on.
Fig 16. Render environment and exposure window
By altering the Date and Time in the Sun & Location Panel, you will see the lighting on the building change.
Fig 17. Location and date time settings
There’s a lot more that can be done with Google Maps and Bing Maps in AutoCAD but this tutorial should lay the foundation for it all. This tutorial is also available in video form here.
Apart from Bing maps, there are a few other alternatives too which can be used to import the maps in AutoCAD.
Google maps integration was removed from AutoCAD in favor of Bing Maps. In the future, this may change. However, for now, as a workaround, we can highlight coordinates from a Google Maps URL and bring it over to the From Maps in AutoCAD.
This is pretty simple. On Google Maps (maps.google.com), type in Student Union Ucf, hit ENTER, and then copy-paste the text from the address bar as selected in Figure 13. (Figure 13)
Back in AutoCAD, type GEO into the command line and then hit ENTER twice to bring up the Geographic Location window. Paste the coordinates into the address bar, and repeat the steps we initially did to integrate a map.
Fig 18. Pulling info from google maps
For even more customization and specificity, you should consider getting Desktop Program “Map Info” as well as the AutoCAD Map 3D toolset. Additionally, it should be noted that AutoCAD Civil 3D is better equipped for dealing with things such as bridges, roads, and other location-specific entities.
So, these are the basics of using the map in AutoCAD. If you have questions related to this article let me know in the comments below.
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Ben Richardson is a director of Acuity Training. Acuity Training is based in Guildford, UK and provides classroom-based IT training on packages including AutoCAD, Adobe and Microsoft Office. He’s a recent to convert to CAD but is an engineer at heart, having studied materials science at Cambridge University, UK.