How Do You Configure Standards in AutoCAD Mechanical?

Standards management with AutoCAD Mechanical

What is a standard? The dictionary says it is a level of quality or attainment, like offering a high standard of service. It is the second definition, however, that applies to drafting and engineering: an idea or thing used as a measure, norm, or model in comparative evaluations.

We set up standards to ensure consistency—as in everyone doing the same thing in the same way.

Standards lead to consistency. If drawings always look the same and present information in a similar fashion, it makes it much easier to read and interpret the information. Following a CAD standard ensures that designs are clear, correct and understandable by all parties viewing them.

A standard is a set of agreed-upon guidelines. In AutoCAD, it typically includes assorted styles, layers and blocks (symbols). Layer management is important because it organizes the drawings and controls how the objects are presented.

AutoCAD is not great at managing standards. Sure, you can preset the styles, build common blocks (like the title block) and establish standard sheets, but these elements are only loosely related. You rely on the user to select the correct template. It is not easy to update an existing drawing to match an existing standard.

AutoCAD Mechanical

AutoCAD Mechanical (ACM) is one of the flavors of AutoCAD. Like AutoCAD Architecture and AutoCAD Map, it is included with an AutoCAD subscription. As an AutoCAD user, you already have access to it. You just need to install it.

AutoCAD Mechanical is built on top of AutoCAD. It can do everything that AutoCAD can do but is purpose built for mechanical and manufacturing drafting, design and detailing.

There are many things that set AutoCAD Mechanical apart from AutoCAD. This includes a collection of mechanical-specific tools to speed up common drafting procedures. Its content library includes over 700,000 standards-based parts and features, dimensioning and annotation tools specific to mechanical detailing and a bill of materials system to document 2D components.

AutoCAD Mechanical includes standards. It is preconfigured with international standards and U.S. standards including ISO, DIN and ANSI. Also, you can build your company’s standard using one of the international standards as the starting point.

What is in an AutoCAD Mechanical standard?

  • Layer management
  • Dimension and text styles
  • View properties
  • Line styles
  • Symbol management
  • Bill of materials setup

Being standards-based means that it can automate or semiautomate many tasks so that things stay standard. This is not just glorified AutoCAD styles either (although it does rely on styles). For example, you do not just create the layers but also map the objects that should go on these layers. This means that when you place things like dimensions, ACM automatically places the objects on the correct layers. This feature, all by itself, is sufficient reason to switch to ACM from regular AutoCAD.


It all starts in the Options. ACM appends seven “AM” tabs to the AutoCAD standard Options dialog. Find the AM:Standards tab to begin configuring the standards.

Start by selecting the desired standard from the list. This includes ANSI, BSI, CSN, DIN, GB, GOST, ISO and JIS. Once you select a standard, ACM will load the appropriate settings.

It is not easy to discover how to create your own standard, but we will tell you how. You type a name (Mystandard, for example) into the standard drop-down menu. This copies the active standard into a new standard. This also removes all restrictions enforced by the included standards. Your custom standards are wide open to any changes you wish to make.

Enable (check) Apply new settings to layers when a standard is created or changed to have ACM update existing layers when you change the standard. Otherwise, it will update the settings but keep the existing layer structure.

When changing the Measurement, ACM prompts if it should perform text scaling. More on scaling later.

It is important to note that your selection sets the drafting standard. By switching the standard, the settings update, but it does not affect existing objects. However, there is a tool for that.

Standard Elements

The top of the Standard Elements tree is called the root, strange as that may seem. At the root level is where the magic happens.

The root shows the active standard. Double-click the top of the tree to access the standard’s master settings. These master settings set the defaults for many of the elements within the standard.

By enabling Dimension Link, you are linking the text and leader settings to a dimension style. Changes made to the base then apply to the linked dimension style. Changes made to the linked dimension style apply back to these text and leader settings. Also, with this choice selected, you can add nonstandard text heights.

Use the Style drop-down to select the linked dimension style.

Check Link to leader dimension style only to restrict the dimension style control to leaders. Otherwise, changes will apply to all dimension styles and substyles. This can be good or bad, depending on what you want it to do.

Now configure how you want the Text and Leaders to appear. This includes heights, colors and arrowhead type. ACM applies these selections to all dimensions and symbols. Remember that standards are important for consistency and this makes it easy to build consistency.

By allowing ACM to manage object properties, ACM automatically assigns the properties to the objects you create using ACM-specific commands.

Use the Object Properties Settings dialog to set the behavior. The Category section lists the object types. Select a category and then use the main section to set the desired layer and other properties. Typically, you set the layer and allow the layer to manage the color, linetype and lineweight. This allows you to change things like the color of subelements such as the text color in a balloon, without needing different layers.

You may want to create layers first before setting the Object Defaults. You can create layers on the fly but cannot set their properties, meaning adjusting after.

The projection angle applies only to views created from Inventor models or by the ACM shaft generator.

Getting into the Specifics…

Double-click on any element within the tree to make changes to the category. Or you can right-click an element and select Settings. With any of the settings, you can override the defaults, including those inherited from the master root settings.

Most of the categories align with specific ACM commands. You only need to configure the sections for the AutoCAD Mechanical commands you will use. If you do not use Hole Charts, for example, there is no reason to configure its behavior.

Some elements, like Daum and Feature Identifier, supply more than one standard. Use the right-click Insert Standard to add the revision to the drawing. Then use the right-click Set Current option to set the desired revision active.

Pro Tip: Because you can mix standards in a drawing, use the properties to find which standard the object uses.

There are 11 symbol types, each with its own configuration. They all rely on the base to set the defaults. This includes the arrowhead type and size, the text size and the colors. With each setting, you can override the base if needed.

Outside the base defaults, the symbol settings will be specific to the type of symbol. For example, with Datum Targets, you set the default target size, hatch angle and boundary linetype.

Welding symbols are simple; you can disable specific symbols and set the symbol scale size.

AutoCAD Mechanical has its own method of adding leaders (with notes). As such, you can configure its default behavior. The power in Leader Notes is its ability to extract information, such as properties from the mechanical content (like bolts) and features (like counterbore holes). With the standard, you create templates to configure what ACM extracts and how it displays the information.

The changes made apply only to the active standard. If you make a change to the ISO standard, for example, this does not carry over to the other standards.

At any time, use the right-click Restore Defaults to remove all overrides. This will restore the element back to the ACM defaults.

Dimension Styles

With the Dimension Settings, you set the base style that all dimensions use. ACM automatically adds child substyles to micro-manage the various dimension types. Use Edit to access the Dimension Style dialog to further define your base style.

Enable the force option to prevent dimension overrides. This is a nice way to force dimensions to conform to the standard.

You will want to check the Ignore AutoCAD Scale Factor for Linear Dimension Measurements feature. The drawing then ignores system variables and other settings that control scale. When this feature is enabled, you force the dimensions to honor the drawing scale (discussed later).

ACM’s Power Dimensioning includes fits and tolerances. Use the settings to manage the default appearance and behavior.

What else?

  • Use Predefined Text to build text snippets for insertion when dimensioning
  • Enable the Dimension Text Editor to appear by default during dimension placement
  • Set default Placement Options, like the distance (snap value) between dimensions 

Pro tip: When you have your standards defined, you want to create a template (.DWT). You can create a template from any drawing by using Save As.

Default Standards Template

When opening a non-AutoCAD drawing, the application applies the ANSI or ISO standard based on the unit type of the drawing.

You set the default template on the AM:Standards tab. With your template set, any non-AutoCAD Mechanical drawing opened in AutoCAD Mechanical will have the settings in this template applied to it.

Need to update the current drawing to the standard? Just use the AMSETUPDWG function.

What is AMSETUPDWG? I love this command. It lets you update an existing drawing to your standard, regardless the version of AutoCAD that was used to create it.

AMSETUPDWG defaults to being command-line driven. Invoke the Wizard option to use a series of dialogs instead. The first step is selecting the template that has the standard information you want to use. This only works with DWT files; drawings (DWG) are not supported.

The wizard method supplies more options, including selecting the types of settings and the specific standards to import. The command-line version fully imports all standard and configuration settings (unprompted).

Pro Tip: If you have set a default standard template, it defaults as the template to use with the command.

Drawing Scale

AutoCAD Mechanical’s drawing scale is like AutoCAD’s annotation scale in that it manages the size of annotations and other features. Just change the scale and let AutoCAD Mechanical do the work!

After changing the scale and returning to the drawing, ACM prompts you to start AMRESCALE. But you can use AMRESCALE at any time. Select the objects to scale, or type ALL to scale all annotation objects in the drawing.

Wrapping It Up

Standards supply a common set of guidelines. By sticking to standards, we ensure that our drawings are consistent, understandable and can be interpreted by others. This is essential for effective communication.

AutoCAD Mechanical ratchets up standard management and makes it both easier to implement (and follow) and harder to veer off course. Even if you do not use the full suite of AutoCAD Mechanical features, you need to establish a standard and apply it to your and your teammates’ daily activities.