To get the most out of both your technical drawings and geographic data, it is almost inevitable to use both a technical drawing program and a geographic information system. On this page you will find frequently asked questions about combining both types of software.

Need support integrating AutoCAD or MicroStation data into ArcGIS? Then feel free to get in touch!

Using ArcGIS as technical drawing software

Is it possible to create technical drawings in ArcGIS?

Application rationalisation is an ongoing theme among Tensing customers. Doing more with fewer systems is a key aspiration at many organisations. Drawing technical drawings directly into your GIS is very interesting from that perspective. It is possible to create drawings in ArcGIS, but in practice these functionalities are too limited for many projects. The reverse is also true: technical drawing programs like AutoCAD offer analysis capabilities, but these are sparse compared to a platform like ArcGIS. From Tensing, we therefore especially recommend smart data integration of your technical drawing programme and your GIS.

AutoCAD and ArcGIS

How can I import AutoCAD drawings into ArcGIS?

You can follow the following steps to import AutoCAD drawings into ArcGIS:

  1. Convert AutoCAD drawings to a suitable format. There are several methods for this. The simplest method performs as follows: open your AutoCAD drawing in ArcGIS Pro as .DWG, then save the file in a format compatible with ArcGIS.
  2. Make sure the coordinate system of the converted AutoCAD drawing matches that of the ArcGIS project.
  3. Import the drawing into ArcGIS next. The 'Add Data' button allows you to import the file and then add it to your project.
  4. Assign attributes from the imported drawing to the relevant fields in the ArcGIS dataset you are using. You can do this using 'Attribute Table' and the 'Field Calculator'.
  5. Visualise the AutoCAD drawing in ArcGIS.
Can I edit AutoCAD drawings in ArcGIS?

It is not possible to edit AutoCAD drawings (DWG or DXF files) directly in ArcGIS. However, it is possible to convert files and then edit them.

The ArcGIS for AutoCAD plugin allows you to simplify the integration of the two systems. Using this extension, you can work directly with ArcGIS data within your AutoCAD environment, eliminating the need to import data. ArcGIS for AutoCAD plugin allows you to edit, analyse and visualise GIS data without converting files.

Please go through the following steps in ArcGIS for AutoCAD to edit engineering drawings:

  1. Download the free ArcGIS for AutoCAD plugin;
  2. Start AutoCAD and open the drawing you want to edit;
  3. Go to the 'ArcGIS' tab in AutoCAD and activate the ArcGIS for AutoCAD plug-in;

Keep in mind that ArcGIS for AutoCAD does not allow you to use all the features available in ArcGIS. The plugin is mainly intended to simplify integration. For complex analyses and visualisations, converting to ArcGIS is still necessary.

Can I create a real-time connection between AutoCAD and ArcGIS?

Yes, it is possible to create a real-time link using the ArcGIS for AutoCAD plugin. This plugin gives you the following options:

  • You can use ArcGIS features in AutoCAD.
  • A features service allows you to share AutoCAD data with other ArcGIS users. For example, it is possible to add notes to your AutoCAD file and share them with your colleagues.
  • You can link your drawing to a geographical location;
  • You can perform basic guessing analysis, such as measuring distances and areas.

3D CAD and ArcGIS

What possibilities does 3d CAD offer in combination with ArcGIS?

It's a powerful combination: AutoCAD 3D and ArcGIS. Combining the two software packages offers a number of possibilities:

  • The 3D design capabilities of AutoCAD are very advanced. For 3d modelling of buildings, infrastructure objects and landscaping, AutoCAD is well suited. You can then import these models into ArcGIS for further visualisation and analysis.
  • Digital 3d maps make finding spatial relationships and patterns easier. In addition, 3D is a powerful tool when presenting your plans to stakeholders. 3D is more visually appealing and appeals more to the imagination, especially to stakeholders from outside your GIS department.
  • With 3D, you can make analyses that are not possible using 2D drawings. For example: line-of-sight calculations, studying shadow and sun casts and other issues involving the height of objects.
What opportunities does 3d CAD offer in combination with BIM?

Combining a 3D CAD software package with BIM offers extensive possibilities for designing, planning, building and managing construction projects. Some of the possibilities:

  • AutoCAD 3D offers possibilities to create highly detailed 3D building models. From the BIM, you can supplement the data with materials used, costs and planning, to name just a few examples.
  • By combining AutoCAD 3d and BIM, you promote collaboration between architects, engineers, contractors and other stakeholders. It makes communication about model changes much easier.
  • The analysis capabilities when combining AutoCAD 3D and BIM data are very extensive. For example, it is possible to calculate the energy performance and amount of daylight for a specific building.
  • Integrating 4D (time), 5D (cost) and 6D (maintenance) is possible using BIM. This makes it easier to plan accurately for construction and for the future maintenance of the object.
  • BIM offers the possibility of generating detailed documentation based on the 3d model.
  • After construction of the object, the BIM model can be used for facilities management and maintenance. With the help of BIM, the owners of the object get detailed information about the lifecycle of assets present.

Microstation and ArcGIS

How can I export MicroStation files to ArcGIS while retaining georeferences?

Please go through the following steps to export MicroStation files to ArcGIS while maintaining georeferences:

  1. Convert the MicroStation DGN file. Open the file and go to File > Save As and then use the EXPORT command. Save the file in the desired file type (DWG or DXF).
  2. The MicroStation file must contain georeferencing data in order to export it to ArcGIS. Does the file to be exported not yet contain georeference data? Then add it before proceeding.
  3. Import the DWG or DXF file into ArcGIS Pro next. You can do this by clicking Insert > Import Folder and then selecting the converted file. Then click Open to import the file.

After completing these steps, you can visualise the imported file using the georeference data. Please note that complex geometries, such as 3D objects, may not be supported when importing into ArcGIS. You may need to make manual adjustments after the import is complete.

Can I use MicroStation to export 3D models to ArcGIS?

Yes, it is possible to export 3d models from MicroStation to ArcGIS for subsequent visualisation and analysis. To do so, go through the following steps:

  1. Export your MicroStation 3d model to a format supported by ArcGIS: COLLADA (.dae), Wavefront (.obj) or 3D Studio (.3ds).
  2. Make sure the georeferenced data is included (see previous question-answer combination).
  3. Import the 3d model into ArcGIS, thereby integrating the 3d model with other GIS data and layers in your project.

After completing these steps, you can start visualising and analysing.

Can I connect MicroStation with ArcGIS software?

There is no direct connection between MicroStation and ArcGIS software possible. However, there are ways to exchange data between the different platforms. From Tensing, we recommend our clients to use FME to transform and convert data on a large scale. FME is a data integration platform that in practice is mainly used for geographical data and also works very well with ArcGIS.