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3D Studio Files in ArchiCAD

by KatalinTakacs, MartaTron, updated 2012-11-14

Import 3ds Max Files (.3ds)

With the help of 3DStudio In Add-On you will be able to convert .3ds files to ArchiCAD GDL objects. By default, it is not integrated into ArchiCAD’s interface.

Download and install "3DStudio In" Add-On

  • You can download this Add-On amongst other Goodies by clicking on Help menu/ ArchiCAD Downloads option in ArchiCAD.
    In the appearing Graphisoft download site please select the OS icon matching your computer to download 3DStudio Add-On.


  • Start the installer and follow the instructions. The add-on will be automatically loaded the next time you start ArchiCAD.
  • The new set of commands will appear in the File/File Special/Import 3D Studio Files submenu by default.

  • 3dsMenu.png

Convert a 3DS object

The 3D Studio file to GDL object conversion process can be customized by the User.

  • Select the 3ds file with the Convert 3DS to GDL object command from the File/File Special/Import 3D Studio Files.

  • The add-on displays information about the original 3DS file (number of points, polygons and object count). You can modify the object sizes (X dimension(A), Y dimension(B) and height).
    • Force smooth option: The add-on tries smoothing all object surfaces.

    • Import hidden objects: Hidden objects will also be imported from the file.

    • Use texture’s alpha channel: The transparency information will be imported from the 3D Studio file, if the related TGA/TIFF textures contain alpha channel information.

  • Click OK.

  • The add-on checks whether the 3DS file contains texture links. If the defined texture file does not exist next to the 3DS file, the program asks the user to specify its location.
  • During the conversion, the add-on copies all textures to the given destination folder alongside the converted GSM object.
  • The add-on creates the new library part (open Object Tool's Settings dialog) . The name will be generated from the original .3ds file name (without the.3ds extension). At the end of the conversion, a message is shown about the created .gsm file path.

    3dsloaded.png UseAcGlobal.png

Input data: a .3ds file (3DS Studio file), and occasionally jpg or other texture files. Texture file formats must be one of the picture formats that ArchiCAD supports. Currently these are BMP, GIF, TIFF, TGA, JPG, PICT.
Output data: a .gsm file, and occasionally some texture files (jpg, gif, pict, ...) registered to ArchiCAD Library Part manager.
The result will be a fully customizable object regarding materials: Using the Object Selection Settings dialog you are able to reattach global or give local materials as well.

Conversion options

The conversion process is customizable with the Options... command from the File/File Special/Import 3D Studio Files menu.

  • 3dsconvert.png

Coordinate transformation:

The user can assign the correct x,y or z instead of the original (x=x, y=y, z=z) assignment. There can be a '-'-sign before x, y or z. For example, when 3ds file is converted from Lightwave, the recommended assignment is: x=x, y=z, z=y.
Scale: Sets how many millimeters correspond to a unit in the 3ds file.
Decimals: Specifies the precision of the converted object’s size.

Fitting transformation:
Fit bottom to z=0: fit the object's bottom to z=0.
Fit object’s gravity point to (x=0, y=0): fit the object's gravity point to (x=0, y=0) in the top view.
Fit gravity point to 0 only when needed: this means that "fit gravity point to x=0, y=0" works only when the object in the 2D top view doesn't contain the (x=0, y=0) point (the 2D origin).

Hotspot creation:

Hotspots in 2D:
Bounding box: Automatic ArchiCAD bounding box (this will also occur when no hotspots assigned for 2D)
Zero point: x=0, y=0
Outermost point: Top left, bottom left, top right, etc.... max. 8 hotspot points from among the object's points
Gravity point: The object's gravity point
Note: The selected option results in hotspots in 3D too!

Hotspots in 3D:
Bounding box: Maximum of 6 of the outermost points. Each of these hotspot points is a point on the object.
Zero point: x=0, y=0, z=0
Gravity point: The object's gravity point

Export to 3DStudio Max File (.3ds)

3DStudio File (*.3ds) format can be saved from ArchiCAD by default; it is not necessary to have a "3DStudio In" Add-On installed.


  • Open the model you would like to export in 3D view.

  • Choose File/Save as... command and select file type 3DStudio File (*.3ds) format and save your model.

    While saving a 3DS file you have to specify in millimeters or inches the unit to which dimensions of the model should be converted to in the resulting 3DS file. Originally, the Wikipedia: DOS version of 3D Studio was always expecting dimension data in inches. That was its default dimension unit. In 3D Studio Max, however, there is a setting in Preferences called 'Default Units'. Because of these added options the conversion can go wrong if not the correct procedure is followed.
    There is a checkbox in 3D Studio MAX called 'Convert Units'. Here is an extract from the 3DS MAX Reference Guide:
    "Convert units: when selected, 3DS MAX assumes units in the imported file to be in inches, and converts them to the current system of units. When unselected, 3DS MAX assumes the units in the imported file match the current system unit and doesn't convert the units..."

    There are possible two cases:

    1. ArchiCAD saves dimension in inches in the 3DS file, but the default unit in 3D Studio MAX is not inches (it is meters, for example). In this case, the 'Convert Units' checkbox should be activated for correct conversion of sizes.
    2. ArchiCAD saves dimension data in millimeters (for example, sets drawing unit in the 3DS file to '1000 mm'). In this case one must not check the 'Convert Units' checkbox in 3D Studio MAX, and he needs to set 1 meter (1000 mm) for default unit.

Note: The software is provided to you "AS IS," and you acknowledge that it may contain errors. Graphisoft disclaims any warranty or liability obligations of any kind.

Tips & Tricks


Tips to Exchange Models Between ArchiCAD and Autodesk 3ds Max
Some tips to import 3D Studio Files into ArchiCAD, export 3D Studio Files from ArchiCAD and the suggested workflow for data exchange


GDL Objects' Link Collection
Thousands of objects that are available and can be downloaded in native GDL format on BIMcomponents.com and on other object download sites

Categories: CategoryAddOns Category3ds Category3dModeling

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