How to Open and Save 3D DWG or 3DS Files

by GRAPHISOFT and Katalin Götz · updated: 03.06.2013


The 3D modelling softwares have different engines to compute the objects, they have their own file formats. The conversion between these applications goes usually in two ways:

  • Using DWG/DXF format: the content of the file depends on the conversion system of the original modelling software. This decides for example, that the 3D surface in the original file appears in the dwg as block, polyline, 3d primitive, region etc. In case of advanced softwares, you have options to set this.
  • Using 3DS format: this is an other usually used format to transfer 3D data. ArchiCAD has a 3DS format supporting add-on.Read more: 3DStudio

Note: If the DWG file contains solid elements, converting settings in the ArchiCAD translator should be checked in the referring checkbox under Open Options > Convert 3D Solids, Regions and Bodies into GDL objects in the DWG/DXF-DWGTranslator dialog

ArchiCAD » AutoCAD

With the 3D window in front you can save 3D models of your project to *.3DS format. This 3D model can be placed in AutoCAD with Insert/3D Studio File Import command, too.


AutoCAD » ArchiCAD

ArchiCAD can open the 3D content of a DWG file as an ArchiCAD object.

For further modification transform the generated object into a MORPH element (introduced in ArchiCAD 16) with freely editable faces, edges and points. See details below.


Here are more ways to achieve the conversion:

1.: Merge the DWG File


Go to File > File Special > Merge… menu item. Select a DWG file to open, then the project content you want to import. In the appearing “Merge DXF-DWG Model Space” dialog, check in the “Import Model Space content as GDL object” option to import the model content as a single GDL Object.

See the details of merging 3D DWG file in this tutorial from BIMES Dubai:


2.: Open as GDL Object

2D drawings and 3D models made in AutoCAD can be opened and saved as a library part in ArchiCAD with the following steps:


Step 1: Open Object

Select File > Libraries and Objects > Open Object. In the appearing dialog browse for the DWG file and open it.

Clicking on “Settings…” button you can check the DXF-DWG Translator Settings which will be used during the DWG import. (Only the options used in 3D DWG conversion are listed.)

Note: If Custom Functions/ Open Extras/ Convert to GDL objects of 3D solids option is not checked in DWG Translator, 3D Solids, Regions and Bodies won’t be imported.



Step 2: Save Object

Save the imported object with Save command or while closing the Open Object dialog to the Embedded Library or to a custom folder.


Step 3: Place Object

The generated 3D library part will be available from Object Settings Dialog.

Click OK button and place the object. Now you will see the complete 3D object in ArchiCAD.

Note: It can result bad object position, if you would like to replace these objects with original ArchiCAD GDL Library Parts, because ArchiCAD’s intersection point differs from the original DWG intersection point. It can be solved if the DWG block is moved to 0,0,0 location in AutoCad.



3.: Convert into GDL Objects during the DWG Translation

While opening a DWG file, you can select the option to “Convert 3D Solids, Regions and Bodies into GDL objects” in the DWG Translator Settings dialog.


In this video by EricBobrow you’ll learn how to import manufacturer components as 3D library parts:


ArchiCAD » ArchiCAD

Convert the Library Object to a freely editable MORPH element (available from ArchiCAD 16): Select the Object in 2D or 3D view and go to Design > Convert Selection to Morph(s).

With this simple step any 3d element type can be converted to a full-fledged MORPH element.



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