Generating a Planet Earth model in AutoCAD using Microsoft Excel

AutoCAD 3D model of planet Earth

AutoCAD is awesome! In fact, AutoCAD is so much more awesome than many of its users think it is. One of the most underrated powerful features in AutoCAD is that it uses a command line to execute its tasks…and with the command line you can work MAGIC.

The fact that AutoCAD has this text based command line is an opportunity to use it for making models out of mathematical data and other table based info. For example if you had a set of coordinate points of the outline of a continent, you can design an Excel spreadsheet to generate AutoCAD commands for drawing out that continent automatically.

Lets try an example. Copy the following text and then paste it into the command line of a new AutoCAD document.

PL -155.33387,19.14715 -155.29172,19.18885 -154.84115,19.37317 -154.77956,19.41735 -154.78622,19.57268 -154.96736,19.74167 -155.039,19.94545 -155.62855,20.21231 -155.77883,20.18497 -155.78843,20.15163 -155.70734,19.99461 -155.92772,19.79674 -155.89392,19.59187 -155.79034,19.381 -155.78183,19.3016 -155.79507,19.13687 -155.68075,18.99333 -155.60753,18.95569 C RE RE

PL -156.09397,20.62943 -155.99515,20.76961 -156.03458,20.82655 -156.64508,20.98249 -156.6544,20.95409 -156.56025,20.80552 -156.49612,20.77417 -156.35478,20.57875 C RE RE

PL -156.72563,21.15468 -157.05441,21.19519 -157.25223,21.10842 -157.25057,21.09051 -156.81588,21.04276 C RE RE

PL -157.92257,21.66619 -157.99294,21.66619 -158.2319,21.51861 -158.21271,21.46227 -158.03029,21.35112 -157.78037,21.26203 -157.75773,21.44468 C RE RE

PL -159.30944,22.07361 -159.42911,22.22837 -159.53586,22.22595 -159.73805,22.06322 -159.51386,21.8765 -159.4168,21.86395 C RE RE

This should draw the rough outlines of the five biggest islands of Hawaii into the AutoCAD document. If you do not immediately see it, then try the “Zoom Extents” command by double-clicking the mouse wheel. So the text you pasted should have generated this:

Outlines of Hawaii in AutoCAD

Outlines of Hawaii in AutoCAD

So generating AutoCAD polylines using text pasted into the command line is a neat trick. But you can use this technique to do much more powerful stuff. For example, you could write Excel formulas to convert your data set into 3D data with just a little bit of trigonometrical knowledge. So if you converted a whole planet of outline data into 3D data you could generate a 3D model of planet Earth!

Planet Earth Animated GIF (704x469 - 90 Frames)

3D model of the continental shells of Planet Earth

Animation showing views of a 3D model of Planet Earth

Various views of a 3D model of Planet Earth

You can download these models from GrabCAD. I have uploaded various formats so whether you like to work with dwg, ipt, STEP, IGES, STL or SAT, the right format for you should be available. Click the button below to download the models on GrabCAD, you will have to register on the website to get access to download.

The Excel Data Set

Now all you need to start making your own models of the world is a data set of all the boundary data of earths landmasses. Luckily for you has produced a data set that you can download. This data set contains all the world’s continents and 508 of the largest islands.

You may use this data set as a template to produce a more detailed data set for yourself. Perhaps you would like to map out every country for yourself?

Using this excel data set is easy. All you really have to know is that the cells with yellow text and grey backgrounds are for pasting into AutoCAD. See the example below:

Screenshot showing and example of the Excel landmass dataset.

A screenshot from the Excel dataset

The two columns to the far right in the image are individually pastable into AutoCAD. After you download the Excel data set, give it a try. You can download the data set by clicking the download button below.


So now you have an extensive dataset with which you can start playing around. If you think we can add something or make some changes, we would love to hear your comments and suggestions in the comment section below. Happy modeling!


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