Advance Steel SDNF export – how and where to create new entries?


Recently this question came up from a colleague on how and where you find the Database entries behind the SDNF Export from Advance Steel.   So, this is what is behind todays idea for the blog.  

Within Advance Steel there are many different types of Export/import options, the core one of these is the SMLX options for transfer from Advance steel to Revit to Advance Steel, but sometimes over more traditional export formats are needed, in this case the SDNF format (Steel detailing neutral format) was being used to link to a Steel and piping software, the user was using Advance steel to complete their steel process but wishes to update within their piping platform. The simple answer is that the SDNF export uses the Databases called the GTC mapping, but which one, as there are two locations and then which tables, as there are several within the database. So, with this goal in mind, we looked into the actual database and more importantly which table and how the entries in the table are completed.   The conclusions of this and approach is explained in the attached document link, but the summary is that for the export process the GTC mapping database, that is located under the Advance folder of Autodesk within your program files, is where you need to look and it is using the table called the ‘Profile Export conversions’, under the Advance Steel type. Also, the entries for the table can be created using the ‘Autodesk one to one mapping’ or can use the ‘expression format’ that is common within the database entries.

Advance Steel SDNF Export Mapping

Using Advance Steel 2021 version and the for the Export to SDNF option via the ribbon, we look at how to make a section group into the Export systems.

Which Database

For the SDNF mapping the database is the GTC mapping.MDB database, this is found under the Advance\data folder of Autodesk within your program files.

C:\ProgramData\Autodesk\Advance\Data

Note: to see this you may have to enable hidden files and folders under the windows explorer options.

The data base is an Microsoft access database, the best way to edit this is with ‘Access’.

Which Table/s

So the heading says which tables, for good reason, the system actually uses the Profile Export conversion table:

Although if you are creating entries via the mapping dialog that appears in the software, if it finds a beam type not mapped previously, in that case it creates two entries, with the other being in the GTC profile conversion.  If you do create entries manually, you can go in and remove these, as they are not used.

How to find an entry in the table.

For the Access field , you can filter this down by checking the box under the column filter to show only those elements:

In this case just uncheck select all, then scroll the list and check for example HEB

You will see several listings for HEB, some with different GTC standard and export applications listed.

But actuall none of these may be any good to export exactly what you need.  For example the line 1011 would look good for this export to SDNF,  but trying this it is not doing what you would expect.

The issue is coming from the  GTC standard, this does not have the correct reference that is aligned to the entry in the profile master table. That is the tynename text used in the profile master table, under the astorprofiles database.

The HEB reference is using the other table, and obsolete one.

The solution

The easiest way round this is to create a new table reference, to reflect the correct string and references,  so you can either manually do this, or maybe just take a few sections and map them, and look for the entries in the DB table,  they should start with prefix of 20000.

By mapping these manually, the GTC standard is created , so you can use this to form the string required.

If you have Excel this is an ideal platform in which to do this and create them and copy and paste back into Excel.

So, this is the simple way to create a line entry, then copy it out, then use the functions of Excel and expand the entries to cover all the sections from the profile table.  This can take some time to create, but more importantly they add lots of entries to the main DB.

But there is another way to reduce this input.

Single line entry using Expressions

Within the GTC database, the user will notice there are entries, which appear to use a code abbreviation, a formula so to speak.

 These expressions come from a format called regular expressions and there is some good information on this via this website link:  ‘learn RegEx Experssion  this website very useful, very good step by step tutorial.  Take note there are many websites that explain this concept so feel free to google it and suggest others.’

This example the HEB beam mapping.

So from the previous entry in the profile export conversion table we can see the expression elements used in the line, so whilst in Access you can copy the line and paste it into Excel changing the key value to a more suitable entry, then comparing this to the manual lines, we can create a combined entry and paste it back into the Access table.

So with this line pasted back into the Access database, then close any open session of AS, close the access Database, Open the Profile export conversation table, then paste in the new entry, copied from excel.

Using this/ testing.

Create a simple model of the sections in question, then with new session of Advance steel open,  run the process for using these new entries. Select the SDNF button and process the HEB thorough the new table entries. If this is understood correctly and we run the export and the Advance steel mapping is present the process should complete within out the need for one-by-one map process.

The output

Checking the SDNF file format and naming etc, your notepad of notepad ++, you can view the file and see the names created in the listing.

All this from one line in a table, this is the process used, beyond the manual mapping of sections, it is also used for the Revit transfer of objects via the SMLX format, again using these expressions to map multiple entries.  Please see the Autodesk University class that I had the privilege to present, over the Revit AS workflow, you see the same in this class for Revit and AS.

https://www.autodesk.com/autodesk-university/class/Steel-Fabrication-Transfer-Revit-Advance-Steel-Under-Hood-2019

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