Blueprint reader and takeoff tool.
Converting CAD to images:
Normally paper plans are mailed to the plan center to be scanned, processed and mailed back. Drawings can be electronically submission to the plan center by converting the CAD or other format documents of the plans and/or specs to raster images and then transferring them via FTP to our server where we will then complete the processing and put them online. This process saves printing costs, mailing costs, time and provides higher quality images for the end users of the plans. The images can also be sent to a reprographics company to produce the paper copies. Doing this eliminates pen definition problems because the image is completely rendered on your machine and no conversion or rendering happens afterwards.
Generating the Images
The are several ways to create the images of the sheets and pages. First, the most common method which may be used if your drawings are in AutoCAD. If you have AutoCAD 2002 or newer, select Dimensional CALS output device and plot to it to generate images. If you are using AutoCAD 14 or 2000, here is Autodesk's ADI driver. After installing the driver, each drawing sheet must be opened and plotted to it. ( Unless you use one of the plot spooler utilities which allow you to batch this process. ) When configuring the driver, a resolution setting of 400 dpi is recommended. Also when plotting, be sure to select the correct target paper size.
If your drawings are not in AutoCAD 14 there are always other ways to generate images. Plotting to postscript and then converting the postscript file to an image is one method we've used with few problems. Some other CAD system may have a way to generate the Bi-Tone images. And if there is no direct conversion method or the drawings were drafted by hand then they must be scanned by a Full Scale Scanner ( which is what we use the majority of the time ).
The specs may be converted to images if they are in a word processing format, usually with the postscript method. Or they may be scanned by a page scanner or sent to us. Simple page scanners are quite reasonably priced, however a duplex ( two sided ), auto feed page scanner is needed to minimize the required labor.
Another product, which we just discovered and purchased, is Pro Driver from www.peernet.com. It's a windows printer driver for NT and 98 which outputs color or monochrome tiffs ( and other formats ). If you install it and set it for black and white only, 1 bit image, CCITT group4 compression and 300 dpi it will output nice quality images from any windows program or CAD system. They offer a two week trial period then a two pack can be purchased for $149.
The only problems I've heard about with the AutoDesk CALS driver is it's handling of TrueType fonts. The Peernet driver should not have this problem.
Transferring the Images
After the images are generated they need to be transferred to our server via FTP ( File Transfer Protocol ). An FTP account will be created for you to upload the images. After each batch is transferred, send us notification via email so we can finish the processing. An FTP client program such as WS_FTP95 from http://www.ipswitch.com makes FTP'ing real easy.
I may be contacted at email@example.com to arrange an FTP account if you want to submit images.