How to Use the Automatic Framing Tool

The ClearCalcs Automatic Framing Tool allows engineers to quickly produce accurate and cost-effective residential framing computations in a fraction of the usual time. With the easy to use CAD plugin, simply tag the roof outline, walls, beams, and studs, and the Automatic Framing Tool will automatically determine tributary areas and loads, as well as create and automatically size all framing members in ClearCalcs.

Getting Started

How It Works

The framing tool takes traditional 2D drafting and attaches ‘properties’ to line data so we can identify what is a beam, truss, roof etc. Using this information, we can automatically determine what the loads and supports are for each member, and as a result do the engineering for them.

In order to work, the framing tool requires the user to draw:

  1. An outside roof area
  2. All structural beams/lintels, connected by load bearing walls
  3. Any interior beams and load bearing walls (N.B. Any beams or walls with ‘disconnected’ ends such as interior load bearing walls must have the end line ‘Allow Disconnect’ property ticked in the properties panel
  4. All girder trusses must be drawn in
  5. Hip trusses must connect to the GT from the roof line.
  6. Properties for purpose and name must be specified for each beam and truss (eg. Specify whether it is a hip or GT)

System Requirements

To use the Automatic Framing Tool, an engineer must have:

  • An active ClearCalcs license
  • Windows with a 64 bit copy of AutoCAD v16-20 or BricsCAD v17-19 with the ClearCalcs Automatic Framing Tool Plugin installed (available in the app store)

Installing the Automatic Framing Tool Plugin

Install via app store.

Using the ClearCalcs Automatic Framing Tool

In CAD

Setup

Ensure the ClearCalcs Automatic Framing Tool Plugin has been installed and loaded into CAD then open your architectural framing drawing.

Draw or Convert Roof Area

Most drawings come with the roof area already drawn as a group block in the architectural, including the roof slope, but we only want the external roof area, which needs to be a closed polyline. We can either re-draw over the top, or do what I did in the video which is EXPLODE -> PEDIT -> JOIN a new closed polyline using only the exterior lines before running CC:TOROOF.
EXPLODE existing roof outline

PEDIT end JOIN external area then CC:TOROOF and change properties to match project

Note – You can change the default Dead and Live roof load in the properties panel after you have converted the roof, as well as roof slope which will affect the engineering calculations - for example a sheet metal roof at a slope of 25 degrees.

Current Limitations

  • We don’t currently support multiple roof areas, types, or heights. If you find a job where this is the case, please let us know at help@clearcalcs.com so we have examples for future development.

Draw Or Convert Studs

Identifying the stud/column locations helps us identify supports for trusses, as well as cantilevers for beams. 
The fastest way to do this if you have an existing column/stud layer is to quick select (QSELECT) the appropriate layer which will add all of the objects to the selection, then CC:TOCOLUMN or press the Convert to Column button in the ribbon.
This will place an X point in the center of each selected object

NOTE – columns must be connected to a beam, wall, or truss (i.e. they cannot be on their own. You can select and move a column if needed, or delete if unnecessary.

Draw or Convert All Beams and Load Bearing Walls

Use CC:BEAM or CC:TOBEAM commands as well as CC:WALL or CC:TOWALL to draw in all beams and load bearing walls (ignore non load bearing walls). Load bearing walls can be drawn on their own layer that can be hidden later if desired.

The external wall must be one continuous line, however internal load bearing walls can be disconnected. If a line is disconnected, you must select the disconnected segment and tick "Allow Disconnect" in the properties panel.

For speed, we suggest that you start in one direction and go around so that the lines all attach correctly – try and avoid any diagonal/non straight beams and walls as this will likely cause errors.
Please draw beams center-to-center into studs.
Note – Cannot TOWALL or TOBEAM a polyline.
After beams are drawn, you need to add properties in the properties panel. Can multi select and add purpose = Roof Bearer or purpose = Roof Lintel as applicable as well as the name the beam will be given on upload (ex. RB3). Currently in order to name them, they need to be selected one by one. We are working on improving this to make it faster.
Current Limitations
  • You can’t currently draw multiple consecutive load bearing walls or it will only attach properties to the last line segment drawn. For now, need to draw a line segment, hit spacebar to end, select the load bearing wall tool, and draw a new segment etc. You can see me doing this in the video by hitting spacebar then hitting the up arrow to select the most recent command in either CC:WALL or CC:BEAM. If you accidentally do this and don’t want to re-draw, just select all the wall segments and run CC:TOWALL and it will attach properties.
  • In BricsCAD there is a bug where the most recently selected tool in command line will show as LINE instead of CC:WALL or CC:BEAM. We have raised this with the BricsCAD developers, but for now, need to hit up arrow twice if you want to re-select the previous tool.

Draw or Convert Girder Trusses

The Automatic Framing Tool uses Girder and Hip truss location to infer rafter direction and the loads on each beam and lintel. 

If you are converting the girder trusses included in the architectural drawings, it's important to ensure these are touching the beams so that point loads can be determined. This may require stretching the existing lines before using the CC:TOTRUSS command/button. If these lines are disconnected, you will get an error when you run CC:CHECKCONNECTIVITY later.

Important – you need to add properties to each truss once it is converted in the properties panel (access this by clicking the Properties button or running CC:PROPS) in order to show the dockable panel. Girder trusses should be given type = GIRDER. To save time, you can multi select and assign properties to these all at once.

Draw or Convert Hip Trusses

Where present, hip trusses need to be drawn connecting from the exterior roof area to where they point load onto the girder trusses.

It's important to assign properties in the properties panel afterwards as TrussType = Hip. 

Note - It's good to pay attention and ensure the hip truss is properly connected to the roof and girder truss, and that it bears onto any columns as drawn, otherwise it will have an unstable support configuration when uploaded into ClearCalcs.

Check Connectivity

One you're done drawing, click the ‘Check Connectivity’ button or CC:DEBUGCONNECTIVITY to double check everything is connected and not overlapping. The debug panel will say All Lines Connected if no issues are found.

This command will change the colour of all connected lines to green and any disconnected lines to red + it will zoom into the first disconnected line it finds. Keep running the command as you fix issues to have it quickly zoom to the next issue. The debug panel 
Tip: A really quick way to work out what’s broken is to run CC:DEBUGCONNECTIVITY and hide every single layer except for the ClearCalcs drawing layer so there’s no noise.
Tip: If beam or wall is supposed to be disconnected (for example an internal load bearing wall), tick ‘Allow Disconnect’ in properties panel for the selection.

Check Truss and Rafter Directions

You need to run CC:DEBUGLOADAREAS or Check Rafter Direction button to fix any instances where the plugin can’t automatically determine the truss direction -> It will zoom and auto select the first missing truss area -> Select the correct x or y direction using judgement.

Tip: You can multi select rafter areas that go in the same direction and change the property at once.

Check Load Widths and Tributary Areas

Once everything is working, you should get a display of all the load width areas colour coded by the direction the load is travelling, double check this looks ok, then prepare for export and upload to ClearCalcs

If you click toggle load widths and nothing shows up, you should see an error in the command panel that will likely say something about disconnected lines found or rafter directions (see previous steps).

Export to ClearCalcs

When you’re finished drafting, please use the CC:EXPORT or Export button to open a save as panel where you can save a copy of the drawing as a CCFRAME file which we use for import. Once you have saved the file, you can log into ClearCalcs, create a new project, and upload the file from the Member Schedule

Tip: Specify preferred sections before uploading the file to ensure all beams are AutoSized.

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