Export AutoCAD to Maya

From TOI-Pedia


This tutorial covers exporting 2D lines from AutoCAD to Maya. The lines are converted to curve objects in Maya.

It is very useful to import AutoCAD drawings in Maya. The 2D drawing can be used to quickly create a 3D model, either by modeling NURBS from curves or creating Polygons using curves. AutoCAD is specifically aimed at drawing. While Maya is capable of drawing curves, AutoCAD has some advantages over Maya for drawing line drawings.


Make sure the AutoCAD drawing is clean: remove any objects (and layers) you don't need. It might be a good idea to select the objects you need and copy-paste them into a new dwg file.

Quick Checklist:

  • Origin: Place your drawing in AutoCAD on or near the origin
  • Organize: Remove any line or object you don't need and remove layers you don't need
  • Scale: Make sure you're drawing has a suitable scale for Maya (1 unit equals 1 meter)
  • Cleanup: Avoid double lines and try to use polylines where possible.

Place in Origin

Make sure you place the drawing in or near the origin in autoCAD. Select the drawing and use the MOVE command to move the drawing to the origin. Either click near the origin or type 0,0 while using the MOVE command. When you're using Dynamic Input, enter #0,0.

The reason for placing the drawing in the origin is the fact that when the drawing is imported in Maya the drawing is sometimes "lost" when it is placed too far from the origin. In that case it is placed somewhere in the 3d world, but it is too far away to see it properly. The best solution is the aforementioned positioning in AutoCad prior to imorting into Maya. Or one could identify the drawing in Maya through the Outliner and snap in onto the grid using the Move Tool and Grid Snap.

AutocadExport 02.jpg

Organize the drawing

Remove any unnecessary elements like hatches or lines that are not required for creating the Maya model. Organize all remaining lines into Layers. Layers will also be imported in Maya.

Note that if the drawing contains more than 254 objects, Maya does not import the layers; this is a known bug in Direct Connect (CR#282355).

AutocadExport 01.jpg

Scale the drawing

Scale the drawing to meters. In Maya choosing meters as units in most likely for architectural purposes. In AutoCAD the choice is likely to be a millimeter as unit. Select the drawing and use the SCALE command to scale the drawing. Preferably use the origin as basepoint for the scale action to make sure the drawing remains placed in the origin. Use a scale factor of 0.001 to convert the drawing from millimeter to meters.

Save the drawing as a *.dwg-file. Choose File > Save as and save the drawing to your hard drive.

If you might have trouble importing the file in Maya using the next few steps. You could consider to save as an earlier version of AutoCAD. This sometimes seems to make a difference.

AutocadExport 03.jpg

Cleanup the drawing

Optional. It's recommended to avoid having double or overlapping lines in your drawing. To cleanup your drawing, you can use the OVERKILL command in AutoCAD to remove double and overlapping lines.

AutoDesk MAP 3D contains the Drawing Cleanup Tool. It can be started using the _mapclean command.


Note: To be able to import DWG files into Maya, Direct Connect must be installed and the Direct Connect plug-in has to be loaded (Window > Settings/Preferences > Plug-in Manager).

Direct Connect is an application that must be downloaded and installed separately. It's available for free from the Autodesk website and from the Maya for Students website for TU Delft students.

The DWG import option for Direct Connect is not supported for Mac OS X at the moment, unfortunately.

If you want to import a DWG file in Maya 7, please refer to the section Import DWG drawings in Maya 7.

Go to File > Import and choose the optionbox.

AutocadExport 04.jpg

Select the option to group all imported objects. This makes selecting the whole much easier. Choose DWG_DC as the filetype. Hit the Import button.

AutocadExport 05.jpg

Choose the AutoCad drawing to be imported. And hit the Import button. The drawing appears in the viewport.

AutocadExport 06.jpg


Because Maya uses the Y-axis as the up-axis and AutoCAD uses the Z-axis, sometimes you need to rotate your drawing:

Acadmaya dwginmaya.jpg

The curves are now in the XY plane. If you need them to be in the XZ plane, select the group (either using the Outliner or selecting a curve from the drawing and pressing the up-arrow on your keyboard) and rotate it -90 degrees around the X-axis. It might be convenient to place the pivot of the group on the origin first (by moving the pivot, the group or both).

Acadmaya dwginmaya2.jpg


Once i've imported the DGW-file, i don't see anything in my 3D world

Open the Outliner and check whether any curves have been imported (in the group). Select a or a few curves in the Outliner, activate the perspective viewport and press 'F' to focus on the selected object. If you see the curve now, the import was successful.

Possible causes:

  • The AutoCAD drawing is too far from the origin (in the DWG file). Move the group in Maya. This can be achieved by centering the pivot of the group and using absolute numeric input to move to the origin. Or the DWG file could be edited and redo the import.
  • The scale isn't correct (drawing is Maya is far to big). Check your scale settings. You could change the scale of the group to adjust.
  • When the autoCAD drawing is very big, for example when importing maps, it's possible that the Clipping Planes of the camera(s) need to be adjusted to allow the greater distance between camera and objects.

Import DWG drawings in Maya 7

Note: To be able to import DWG files into Maya 7, the dwgtranslator plug-in needs to be loaded (Window > Settings/Preferences > Plug-in Manager).

Acadmaya importoptions.jpg

  1. File > Import [Option Box]
  2. Choose File Type DWG_DXF (If it's not in the list, the plug-in isn't loaded)
  3. Check Group, which groups all imported geometry
  4. Check Override file units with and choose Centimeters; Maya is configured to centimeters by default. By setting this, Maya will assume centimeters for the CAD drawing as well. Therefore Maya won't apply it's own scale factor to convert between both file units and only the user set scale will be applied. Note that Maya 8.0 and above don't offer this option anymore.
  5. Choose a scale.
  6. Choose Import and select the DWG file that contains the data to be imported.

Some example scales:

1 unit in autoCAD 1 unit in Maya Scale factor
1 millimeter 1 meter 0.001
1 millimeter 1 centimeter 0.1
1 meter 1 meter 1
1 meter 1 millimeter 1000

When using Maya 7.01, I can't find the dwgtranslator plug-in

In Maya 7.01, the dwgtranslator plug-in is no longer supported. Fortunately an unsupported workaround exists: download the Maya 7.0.1 dwgTranslator from the TOI site -> unzip and follow the instructions in the included .txt file

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