We are a team who has spent much of our time at Esri focusing on the integration of GIS and CAD. We wanted to use this experience and expertise to help close some of the gaps we see in community improvement projects and citizen engagement. Many organizations work on projects that help communities (water networks, sewers, telecommunications, housing and more) but they often lack an easy way to get the information stored in proprietary design files to the large audience of the community these projects will affect. We feel that the more information we can provide to a community the more we can help improve that community.

What it does

Blueprint Atlas, a melding of both CAD and GIS terms, is a simple desktop application that lets you share your CAD designs to a larger audience with relative ease. The tool requires the CAD user to drag and drop design files (of the DXF interchange format) into the program where it is them displayed on the map. The CAD designer can then use the tools within Blueprint Atlas to give some project details such as name, start date and status. The data within the design file is converted to GIS features where is then published to ArcGIS Online as a feature service. We believe that ArcGIS Online provides some of the best tools in the industry to present a community with well organized maps that can also capture requirements and information from that same community.

How we built it

We first set out to build some minimum requirements for the tool. The first being a simple desktop application that can live alongside the CAD designers software. We wanted this to not live within any individual application as it provides more flexibility for future file type support. The tool needed to read DXF files, an exchange format developed by Autodesk and supported by a countless number of design applications. Since most design applications can export to the DXF format, we area able to be agnostic to the design software used: thus opening the audience of the tool to a very large number of users and organizations. Our next requirement was to publish this data to a location that is accessible to anyone with a computer. That requirement was fulfilled by ArcGIS Online's Hosted Feature Layers. The application can publish one or more web feature layer(s) that stem from one or more DXF files. Often times design files are broken up into small pieces, we wanted to be able to combine them all onto a single map.

Every layer published allows the user to set the following attributes that help to give a community more information about the projects.

  • Project Name
  • Start Date
  • Status
  • Notes

Additionally Blueprint Atlas will publish a community engagement layer for each project that allows the community to add comments or photos to the map of an existing project.

Here is some additional information on the tools we used within Blueprint Atlas

Challenges we ran into

The biggest challenge we had was trying to figure out how to read DXF files. This type of work is something our team does regularly but it can be a very large task. We wanted to find a way to do it that was accessible by almost anyone. The answer to that came with the use of the netDXF library. We then were able to use that library as the starting point of the translation to ArcGIS features.

Another big challenge we had was time. We had a lot of ideas and things we wanted to incorporate into the project but had to limit our scope to fit within the time frame. One of the most obvious places of that time crunch is our support for only "Line" CAD entities, something we would want to expand in the future.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

  • Bringing Citizens and stakeholders even closer to the design of the projects that affect them
  • Using the ArcGIS Platform to accomplish our goal with relative ease
  • Integration of multiple APIs and Libraries to create a cohesive application

What we learned

We both came back from this experience with a greater understanding of the ArcGIS Platform and the ease as to which applications can be built upon it. Maps can be used by everyone and bringing that technology closer to both the CAD user and the larger community can provide real improvements in the results of public works projects (we hope!). The project also gave us insight into what can be done with a standalone tool that could do some of this work, not having to worry about developing within another application gave us a great sense of freedom. Exploring this project and design/development freedom gave us lots of ideas that we hope to incorporate into ArcGIS for AutoCAD and other projects we work on.

What's next for Blueprint Atlas

  • Expanding support for different geometry types
  • Add the ability to read coordinate systems embedded into the DXFs by tool such as ArcGIS for AutoCAD
  • Expanding support for custom fields
  • Adding support for additional file types
  • Adding support for the Mapping Specification for DWG/CAD

Built With

  • .net6
  • c#
  • esri
  • mahapps
  • netdxf
  • newtonsoft
  • wpf
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