connectCAD provides special parametric device tools to speed up the process of making commonly used devices. A parametric device is one that is created by a script according to details given by the user plus configuration info stored in text files or online. Typical examples are: jackfield and term-panel objects for video, audio, data and optical signals, audio and video distribution amplifiers and external connections.
The Device Builder let’s you quickly make devices. Here’s how to use it. Select the Device Builder tool. Click in the drawing where you want the top-left corner of the device to be. Now a dialog box opens where you can set up your device. There are 3 main sections:
- Device details: Here you enter the Name, Make and Model of the device plus the Tag and Description that are shown on the drawing.
- Physical: Here you can enter the dimensions, power consumption and weight, and if the device is a module mounted in a rack frame.
- Access online specs: The Find Online button looks up the Make and Model in our online device spec database. If the device type is found device data and socket groups are automatically entered. If the device is not in our database the checkbox Upload/Update online device let’s you contribute your device specs or corrections to the database. See this article on device sharing.
- Define sockets: Each row let’s you set up a group of sockets of the same type. Here’s what we mean:
In the example shown the device has 2 HD inputs. So in the first row in Define sockets
- we select 2 in the number (#) column,
- we set Type to IN,
- we set signal to HDV,
- we set connector to BNC,
- we put in the Name Prefix we want to use. By default this is HDV_IN.
- finally we can set the orientation to L or R if we like, but since these are inputs it defaults to L.
As you use the Device Builder you’ll discover a lot of little smart features. As you proceed to enter data most the fields ahead get filled in with sensible suggestions to speed you up. So although it’s a large dialog you can get through quite quickly.
Power-user trick: the Label Symbol dropdown let’s you choose between different device label symbols. Useful when you have several symbols that visualise different custom device fields.
Last of all, you can check the box to save your device as a symbol in the document resources.
The Matrix tool is the predecessor of the Device Builder. It’s much simpler. It creates a basic rectangular device with sequentially numbered inputs and outputs. We like it’s simplicity and couldn’t bring ourselves to completely remove it. So if you prefer the Matrix just use the Device Builder with the alt-key and you’re in the simple world again.
Using the dialog you can select the number of inputs and outputs, their signal and connector types etc.
This tool is a good starting point for creating devices. You can generate the basic device with its inputs and outputs and then add / edit sockets to create the device you want.
The size of the device created by Matrix and the spacing of the sockets follows the Vectorworks grid setting so that everything is on the grid. There are Tool Settings to adjust the default sizes.
Jackfield and Term Panel tools
These are tools that allow you to create or modify objects that represent jackfield and termination (a.k.a. demarc) panel feedthru’s. There are various types as shown above. They are stacked in 3 groups so you have to click and hold on each group to reveal the others.
new in 2015: compact Term Panels – the new term panels have only one special socket that can accept connections from either side. This more correctly models actual term panels, and also saves space on drawings.
The discussion below refers to video jackfield objects, but the same principles apply to all. The tool behaves as follows:
Using Jackfield and Term Panel tools
Like most connectCAD tools, the Jackfield tool is context-aware and behaves differently depending on where you click:
- Clicking on an empty part of the drawing lets you place one or more jacks starting at the click point.
- Clicking on a jack allows you to edit its parameters (in this case Repeat is disabled).
- If you have already selected more than one jack, and you click on one of them you can edit the parameters of several jacks at once.
- Clicking on circuit allows you to insert a jack or term panel into an existing circuit. A unique feature of connectCAD.
The Jackfield Setup dialog box is displayed to allow you to set the jackfield device parameters:
- If you already have a rack layout defined you can optionally preset the rack location of the jackfield (useful for re-design workflows).
- new in 2015: Groups let you extend the namespace of large patching systems by adding a group prefix [0-9] in front of the row/col value.
- Panel ID dropdowns. These are set up according to the Jackfield labelling style chosen in the connectCAD Settings.
- Port ID dropdowns. These are the port numbers from 01 to the number of ports on the jackfield.
- Renum checkbox – active when multiple jacks are selected.
- Repeat value of more than 1, lets you place a series of sequentially numbered jacks e.g. A01B, A02B … Repeated jacks are spaced by the Vectorworks grid setting.
These controls are enable / disabled in a sensible way to reflect what’s possible in the current use context (i.e. new jack creation, jack editing, multiple edit etc.).
If a jack is already selected on the current layer, the Jackfield tool automatically presets the numbering to the next jack in that row. This saves a lot of time when you are inserting a series of jacks. So each use of the tool auto-increments until the row end.
In connectCAD 2016 we have unified the dialog box for jackfields and term panels, and behind the scenes all panels comprising an ordered series of connectors can be modeled using a variant of the term panel tool. An example of this is the DIN Rail tool. What is exciting about this is that to create a new tool you need no new code. Just duplicate the term panel plug-in and adjust the parameters. Another example of the extraordinary customisation you can do with connectCAD.
Jackfield labelling styles
connectCAD gives you three basic choices of labelling styles for jackfields. Unlike previous versions there is no need to set this individually for each and every tool. Instead you can set all jackfields using connectCAD Settings.
Term panel labelling styles
Term panel have two labelling styles – numeric and alphanumeric. You can set these up for all the term panel tools using connectCAD Settings.
Term Panel tool settings
It’s useful to take a closer look at Term Panel settings to see how panels work:
– No. of ways: a dropdown to select the number of ports on a panel ( the available choices can be edited in the Plug-in Manager )
– Group ID, Panel ID and Port ID series: best to explain this by example. Above the series “–;0-9” gives you a drop down comprising –,0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 and the series 01-99 gives you a dropdown “01,02,03,04…96,97,98,99”. Semicolons separate discrete items in the series and you can use hyphens to denote numeric (0-9) or alphabetic series (A-Z). This puts you in complete control of panel labelling.
– Delimiters: you can set the character to be used as a delimiter between Group ID and Panel ID, and between Panel ID and Port ID. Delimiters can be empty i.e. no delimiter. Be aware of course that if you use no delimiter your labelling series must be unambiguous. connectCAD will do it’s best at all times to interpret the values but don’t forget it’s only a computer program 🙂
connectCAD settings let’s you apply a labelling system across all panel tools which is normally what you’d want to do. But if you have specific requirements to meet, you can set different labelling settings for each panel tool. These settings are saved in the document and you can easily create templates for particular labelling preferences.
Connector Panel Tool:
Connector Panel devices are used on schematics to represent panel connectors on custom facilities panels. What we mean are those metal plates with various A/V connectors that are mounted throughout buildings to provide A/V services.
The Connector Panel setup dialog works in a similar way to jackfields and term panels, but with some significant differences.
- Each Panel has a unique ID. Two fields are provided: a text prefix and a numeric dropdown to create names like FOH1 for example.
- Each connector on the panel also an ID unique with the panel. Again a text prefix and a numeric dropdown let’s you create these.
- Schematic symbol.
- Sets the connector type of the panel connector
- Optionally sets the number of circuits for a multi-circuit connector
The choice of schematic symbol is significant:
GREEN means the outward-facing connector is an INPUT
i.e. the cable coming in from the left has cable connector and the circuit leaving from the right is wired direct to the panel connector
RED means the outward-facing connector is an OUTPUT
i.e. the cable coming in from the left is wired to the panel connector and the circuit leaving from the right has a cable connector
This is new in 2015 and means that the modeling of connector panels on schematics more truly reflects the reality.
DIN Rail Terminal
Puts DIN terminal symbols on the drawing.
This tool is highly configurable and can be used to create your own panel tools. A deeper guide to the DIN rail tool is given in the Appendix.
The VDA tool allows you to create pre-defined schematic devices to represent video distribution amplifiers. To use the tool click at the point in the drawing where the DA is to be inserted. The VDA Setup dialog appears:
- Select the make and model from the dropdown list
- Set the DA number to start from e.g. VDA01
- Select the number of ouputs for the DA ( up to the maximum for the chosen model )
- If you set a Repeat value greater than 1 then a series of DA’s are created in a column, sequentially numbered and spaced by the current grid setting.
DA definitions are stored in a text file called “VDAdata.txt”. You can edit this file to add your own DA types.
DA Tool settings:
Two different styles of DA are available: EU and US – style shown above. You can switch between these using the VDA Tool Settings (1) spanner icon top-left.
Clicking this icon brings up a dialog (2) with a dropdown to choose the DA style.
This tool works in a similar way to Video DA, but creates Audio DA objects instead. Audio DA definitions are stored in the file ‘ADAdata.txt’ and you can edit this in a similar way the the VDA data file.
Puts an External connection on the drawing.
Externals are used to define the system’s interface with the outside world. A typical example would be a set of feeds coming from a host broadcaster – you know, that bunch of cables that goes over the wall to some other company which we have to document, make the wires and put connectors, but have no details or concern about what devices are at the other end.
Externals can be in left or right orientations. The tools for these are stacked with the Link tool and you can access them by pressing and holding on the Link icon (1). Similar to sockets you can define their signal type, connector type and they can be single or multi-circuit. The Repeat field allows you to make sequentially numbered Externals. The spacing of repeated externals is the current Vectorworks grid setting.
When to use an External and when to use a Link? Links are very different – a Link marks a socket as connectable from outside the document. The cable (if any) is defined on another drawing possible outside our scope. But if our interface to the rest of the world is a bunch of cables we provide then you need an External to represent the foreign systems socket that our wire will go to. Hope I’ve made this distinction clear.
adds/removes a terminator to on loop-thru outputs.