3ds Max & AutoCAD Interoperability - Part 5 - Creating Curtain Walls

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Last modification: 26 Feb, 2018
  • Design Visualization
  • 2012
  • Media Management
  • Building Levels
  • Environment
  • Workflow
  • 3ds Max
Skill Level
  • Intermediate
9 min

3ds Max & AutoCAD Interoperability - Part 5 - Creating Curtain Walls

In final "Working with AutoCAD Files in 3ds Max " tutorial learn how to build curtain walls using a variety of polygon modeling techniques. You will also learn how to adjust the polygon IDs so that you can use the same material on the curtain wall as the patio doors.


  • Recorded in: 3ds Max 2012, AutoCad 2012
  • This tutorial is intended for use with 3ds Max version 2012 or higher.
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Most of the components are already in place, you still need to build the curtain wall though.

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3ds Max doesn't have any automated ways to build curtain walls, the way you can build doors and windows.

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However, with a little bit of know-how, you will learn that it's actually not a hard task at all.

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The methods of building curtain walls shown here rely on basic polygon editing techniques.

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In fact, these are the same methods covered in another tutorial named "Modeling Architectural Metal".

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Before you start, make sure nothing is selected and create a new layer named "3D-Curtain_Wall".

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Using Snap mode (S on the keyboard), create a line at the base of the first curtain wall opening, near the kitchen area.

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Disable Snap mode when done.

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Extrude the line 10' (feet) up to match the height of the exterior wall.

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At this time, it's paper-thin.

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Add a Shell modifier and give it an Inner Amount of half a foot, or 6" (inches).

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Set the Outer Amount to 0. You now have created what is essentially a box.

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Press F4 to see the underlying geometry.

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You could have created a box because at this point, you need to collapse the object to an Editable Poly.

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Next you subdivide the object to create mullions.

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In Edge mode, select all the horizontal edges.

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Using the Connect Settings tool, set the number of divisions to 3 to get four panes. Confirm the command.

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Now select all the vertical edges and use the Connect > Settings tool again, only this time, use one division only.

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Using the Move tool, set the edge loop's Z-height to 2'6". Use the type-in commands to that effect.

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Repeat the command to create an additional horizontal cut positioned at 9' high.

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Next you will give mullions thickness by manipulating the polygons around them.

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Switch to polygon mode and select all the front and back faces.

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Make sure the polygons in contact with the floor, ceiling or other walls are not selected.

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Click the Inset > Settings button.

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By default, selected polygons are inset as a group, but here, you need to inset them individually.

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Choose the By Polygon option and leave the value to 1".

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Since the inset is on both sides, that gives you mullions that are 2"-wide.

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Confirm the command and then choose Extrude > Settings.

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Set the extrusion height to -1". The selected faces are extruded inward.

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Click the Apply and Continue button. A first extrusion is applied and you're ready for another with the same values.

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Use Alt+drag to deselect the top faces. These represent blind panels and won't need any further adjustments.

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Click OK to confirm the extrusion of the glazing part.

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Add another Inset,

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and another smaller negative extrusion of -0'0.75"

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That's it, the only thing left to do is choose the proper face IDs to accommodate the material you used on the patio doors earlier.

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If you recall, the glazing on that material was defined by face ID #3.

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So go ahead and set the selected faces to ID #3.

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When that is done, choose Edit > Select Invert and set all remaining faces to ID #1.

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If you recall, Sub-materials 1, 2 4 & 5 were all instanced with the same bronze/brown shiny material.

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Exit polygon mode and apply to the curtain wall the same Multi/Sub-Object material you created earlier for the patio doors.

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And there you have it; you have built this part of the curtain wall.

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Since the two gaps are identical, you can duplicate the first curtain wall to create a second.

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Use the snap tool for precision placement.

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For the L-Shaped curtain wall sections, you could use the same technique, starting with a Line,

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extrude the line 10' up to match the height of the exterior wall,

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and then adding a Shell modifier and adjusting its values.

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Be careful to always use the Straighten Corners option to avoid deformations.

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However, you will need further modeling adjustments and cuts to accommodate the corner mullions.

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Instead, try using the AEC Extended > Wall tool as a base.

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Set its width to 6" and its height to 10'

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Set the justification according to the direction you are drawing the wall.

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Build the wall by snapping to the three needed points and right-click to end the command.

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Notice the difference between the two entities and how the square nature of the Wall tool corner makes it easier to deal with the corner mullion.

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Delete the other wall as you don't need it anymore.

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Exit Snap mode, and convert the wall to an Editable Poly.

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Use Edge mode to create a horizontal cut as you did earlier.

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Notice that you can't use the Transform Type-Ins the way you did earlier.

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That's due to the nature of the Wall object but you can beat it by converting the selection to vertex mode.

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This is done by holding Ctrl and then clicking the Vertex button.

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Now you can relocate the selected vertices to a height of 2'6"

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Repeat the procedure to create another cut at 9' high.

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Switch to Poly mode and select the polygons you need to work on. There are six on the outside and six on the inside.

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Use Ctrl to make a multiple selection.

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From this moment on, you need to repeat the Insets and Extrusions the same way you used them earlier.

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When you are done, apply the Multi/Sub-Object material and then Mirror/Instance the wall to create the last missing part.

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From this moment on, you have a condo unit that you can group and duplicate.

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Ultimately, you would need to add lighting scenarios which we are not doing here as it is not the focus of this tutorial.

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In this tutorial, you have learned to prepare and import a 2D AutoCAD drawing into 3ds Max,

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and use 3ds Max's modeling tools to quickly build 3D entities.

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In some cases, you used built-in tools like simple wall extrusions and 3D doors,

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in other cases, you learn to use polygon modeling techniques to fine-tune the work like bridging gaps and building curtain walls.

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You have also learned about the importance of Multi/Sub-Object materials and how to manage them.

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Let us know if you have enjoyed this tutorial. We hope to see you back soon.

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  • 3ds Max
  • 2012
  • Media Management
  • Building Levels
  • Environment
  • Workflow
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