Create a Project, Import PDF Background (Example 1)


To use FireCAD to produce automatic reports, risers, take-offs and other time saving features, you must create a project database and link that to the project drawing files that make up your background model. This can be an existing folder with .dwg files, or can be created when starting your project. In this example, we will create a FireCAD project from scratch using a vector PDF background. We will only be concerned with placing devices in this guide and then producing a project data export from the resulting file.


 To begin, please read the topics outlined below-

  1. The FireCAD Start Screen
  2. Displaying the FireCAD Tool Palette
  3. Importing a vector PDF file as a background drawing
  4. Setting the Proper Scale
  5. Saving the Drawing
  6. Create Project Database
  7. Adding a Project Drawing
  8. Placing Devices
  9. Exporting Project Data



The FireCAD Start Screen

When opening FireCAD, the Start screen appears with a list of previous drawings. The main ribbon will be grayed out and not accessible until a new or existing drawing file is open. Click the Start Drawing button to create a new drawing as shown below.


Displaying the FireCAD Tool Palette

After you have a drawing open, you will want to make sure the FireCAD Tool Palette is visible and docked on the left side of the application window. To open the FireCAD Palette, click the 'Open Project Palette' button on the 'View' panel of the FireCAD Tools ribbon tab.


Open Project Palette



When you have a visible FireCAD Palette and a new drawing open as shown below, you can create a new project database. It is recommended that you create a separate project folder on your hard drive or network location for your project drawing(s) and associated FireCAD project file. This will be the location that we will browse to in the project creation wizard.


Importing a Vector PDF File

To import a new vector PDF drawing to use for your background drawing, select the 'Insert' ribbon panel at the top of the screen, and then click the 'PDF Import' button on the 'Import' ribbon panel.



This will prompt you to select a file to import on the command line. Select the keyword 'File' to open a dialog to browse to your PDF file.



Browse to and select the PDF file that contains the vector background information and click 'Open'.



The Import PDF window will present you with options to pick a specific page to import as well as other settings. The default settings will usually work just fine.



The drawing modelspace will now display the imported vector PDF as normal AutoCAD entities.


Setting the Proper Scale

It is important to ensure that the imported drawing is scaled to real world measurements to ensure accurate reporting when certain reports are created. To verify this, you can use the DIST command to measure a known length on the floor plan, such as a scale marker, know column grid distance or even a standard door frame. In this example we will measure a door frame to see if our unit measurement indicates 36 units (inches).


Measure Distance

  1. Select the 'Distance' command from the 'Home' ribbon tab.



  1. You will then be prompted to select two points on the drawing, select two points on any standard door opening.

As you can see from this measurement above, .375" indicates that we will need to scale this drawing up to a real world size for an accurate measurement of 3', typical of a standard door size in this region. To scale this drawing up to the correct size, please follow the steps below.


Scale Drawing Entities

  1. Select the modelspace entities you want to scale.



  1. Select the 'Scale' command from the 'Home' ribbon tab.



  1. Select a basepoint in the drawing that you will scale the entities from.



  1. Select the keyword 'Reference' at the command line so we can scale by using a reference length.



  1. You will then be prompted to select two points on the drawing indicating the known measurement, please select two points that indicate a standard door frame opening.

  1. You will be prompted at the command line to enter the actual distance represented by the selected points. Type '36' at the command line and press 'Enter'. This will now scale the selected entities up to ensure the door frame measures 36 units (inches). You can verify this new length by repeating the 'Measure Distance' process above.


 Saving the Drawing

In order to use the drawing in your new project, you must first save the drawing into the local or network folder location you want to use. Click the application icon in the upper left corner to open the File menu and then click 'Save'. Use the Save File dialog to browse and save the drawing file into your desired location.



Create Project Database

Now that you have a project folder with a background drawing ready to place devices on, you will need to create a FireCAD project database with all the configures parts and devices you want to use in your project.


  1. From the 'FireCAD Tools' ribbon tab, select 'Create Project'.



  1. This will open the Project Creation Wizard window. Enter a project name and click 'Browse' to select the same directory where your background drawing is located.



  1. Next, click 'Connect' to choose what database connection you would like to copy parts from for your new project. In the Set Database Connection Dialog, select the server name or enter new credentials if required then click 'Connect'.



  1. Finally, choose the Project Templates that contain the correct parts or manufacturers for the project you are creating. After you check all the templates you need, click 'Create Project'. This will then copy all the parts you selected from the master connection into your local FireCAD project file.


Adding a Project Drawing

Once you have a FireCAD project created and open in the FireCAD Palette, you will need to link the project database to the drawing files located in the same folder in order to begin placing devices and generating reports or connecting to circuits.


In the FireCAD Palette, select the 'Project Tree' tab and click the 'Add or update project drawing' toolbar button. This will open up a file selection dialog that will allow you to select any drawing files in the project folder you want to use as your background drawing(s).



Please select the drawing(s) to add to the project and click 'Open'.



You will now see the select drawing(s) appear in the Project Tree. To open a drawing to work on, you can double click the drawing name and this will open the file or activate it if it is already open in the drawing editor.



After completing this step, it is recommended to save the project. Click the 'Save' toolbar button in the FireCAD Palette.


Placing Devices

Once you have a project created and a background drawing linked, you can use the FireCAD Palette to place devices on the drawing modelspace and design your system layout. Click on the 'Device Palette' tab to access the parts content and convenient search box.



To select and place a device on the drawing, use the filter box on the upper left corner to type a part number or description of the device you are looking for and then simply click the device button. This will put the block reference on your cursor and allow you to select a location in modelspace to place it.



Select a location on the drawing to place the new device.

You may see a window after placing various devices asking for a panel or module name, or a window presenting options to set device circuit settings. For the purposes of this quick start guide, cancel these windows as we will only be placing devices and exporting the project data.


Continue placing as many devices and different part numbers as required on the drawing for your inital layout. When you are complete, it is recommended that you save your drawing when you complete this step. Below is an example of what a completed layout may look like.


Exporting Project Data

After all your devices are initially placed on the drawing background, you have many options available to connect devices, generate legends and other reports. In this example, we will export all the project data to an Excel format file that can be used to transfer project information to other 3rd party applications or internal business processes.


On the FireCAD Tools ribbon tab, expand the Reports panel and select 'Export All Project Data'. Use the Save File Dialog to save the Excel format file to your desired location. By default, this will save the file in the current FireCAD project folder.



If you have an application on your machine that is registered to open Excel .XLSX files, the resulting file will open and should resemble the information below.



The exported data is ready to send or open any application that is set up to read the data file format.


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