December 11, 2006
Autodesk University 2006 Report - Part II
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Welcome to AECWeekly! At AU, Vice President, Plant, Mark Strassman offered a preview of the new Autodesk P&ID that is in beta, due to come out in early 2007. Plant seems like a logical next step for Autodesk for a number of reasons. First off, Strassman said that 15 percent of the AutoCAD/LT installed base is in the plant market space. "Over 80 percent of the owner operators use AutoCAD," he said. Over the years, many tools have been developed for plant that are based on AutoCAD. 

Also discussed: Autodesk Impression in beta. Read the coverage in this week's Industry News.

AECWeekly is a news magazine featuring important industry news profiles, a summary of recently published AEC product and company news, customer wins, and coming events. Brought to you by AECCafe.

AECWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Acquisitions/Agreements/Alliances, Announcements, Awards, New Products, and Upcoming Events.

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Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

Autodesk University 2006 Report - Part II

by Susan Smith

Autodesk Plant -

Vice President, Plant, Mark Strassman offered a preview of the new Autodesk P&ID that is in beta, due to come out in early 2007. Plant seems like a logical next step for Autodesk for a number of reasons. First off, Strassman said that 15 percent of the AutoCAD/LT installed base is in the plant market space. "Over 80 percent of the owner operators use AutoCAD," he said. Over the years, many tools have been developed for plant that are based on AutoCAD.

Strassman has been in product management, marketing and design for the Platform Technology Division for the past four years, where his focus was on AutoCAD/LT. In that time, he saw some unmet needs among customers: one being in the power and process market where the information needs of customers were not being met. Two, the need for an easy way to create illustrative presentation graphics, now taking the form of Autodesk Impression. The Plant group is now an entirely new business unit.

"The current high end, scalable plant tools are hard to implement, require database and ERP integration, a lot of  IT involvement and are very hard to train on," said Strassman. "Autodesk has been a tacit player in this space for a long time, relying on our partners. The industry has grown quite a bit, there is a huge staffing shortfall, as all of the plant design firms and owner operators have more and more plants and they can't find enough people to design them. It can take six months or more to train people on these plant design tools, which costs the company a lot of money."

In contrast, Autodesk already has an installed base in the plant space, and the new Autodesk plant products will be based on AutoCAD. "It will be very easy to get up to speed on the products, within an hour to two days," claimed Strassman. What's more, Autodesk views plant as more than just the pipes or a plant: it involves civil, infrastructure, piping and structural, the machinery inside the plant, and building around the plant. Considering that they already have integrated, 3D modeling solutions for those other areas, Strassman said they feel they will have a more complete solution than other vendors.

Autodesk's customer-centric approach can work well here, as they can help existing customers define their problems. "We see a huge team of players working together: owner operators, engineers, structural engineers, all doing their part."

The plant lifecycle starts with the concept - process simulation, PFDs, FEED - P&IDs, instrumentation, equipment design, electrical, plant layout, plant safety, detailed - 3D modeling, analysis and project management, procurement - materials management, construction - visualization, simulation, manufacturing, start up - starting up a plant and operations - maintaining the plant. "In the plant design lifecycle this is the whole cycle," Strassman pointed out. "Our first product in P&ID is mainly in the FEED and concept areas. Change management will allow you to go back to your front end design and modify it." Autodesk P&ID will be the blueprint for the plant. New P&ID

objects have been added that add just like AutoCAD blocks, so they can be dragged in with a lot of information attached to them, and they have relationships with each other. For example, the pipe knows where to connect to a valve. "It's much like Visio, where you connect things at connection points."

Civil, electrical and manufacturing engineers will make changes on it and share the information of that blueprint.

Plant and process data is all tagged, for example, piping has so much information between each valve and object in the plant. "We see with that all data -- it's relevant to not just plant, but to civil, geospatial, building," Strassman noted. Interoperability is key.

Plant lifecycle management tools must hook up to the high end systems databases of plant industry providers such as Intergraph and AVEVA. Autodesk will be offering specific database integration support.

The intelligent P&ID has intelligent data included with the drawings and is a powerful multiuser application. The data attached to your pipe drawing can be kept in either DWG files or in a high end database. Some users prefer the DWG file because it is easier to implement than the database; however, the database is high end and scalable. For example, contractors won't have their own database, so they can work on individual DWG files and hand it off to put in the owner operator's database. 

3D plant design's key functionality includes:

- physical design

- piping, structure, equipment, etc.

- exact pipe length, shape

- ISOs for pipe fabrication

- Industry specific content

- Clash detection

- interoperability with other engineering disciplines

Although BIM is beginning to hit the scene with architecture, civil and structural, plant has had 3D information models for over ten years. However, you have had to install Oracle and spend tens of thousands of dollars a seat to implement it, according to Strassman. As with other Autodesk 3D models, civil, architectural, and MEP can work on the same model, make changes and have those reflected across the entire plant lifecycle.

Autodesk has a road map for the next three releases. The 3D piping product, in development, is using a lot of the same attributes from AutoCAD P&ID such as full model based design, full integration and change management.

The vision for the future includes XML and finding the proper search tools. Autodesk will not only provide individual plant products but also complete plant solutions.

Autodesk P&ID is being built completely in house. They have done all the software design for 3D piping as well, but are going through the process of deciding whether to build the entire product or to buy some technology. Strassman said they're looking around to fill holes for products they don't have.

Autodesk Impression -

Available in beta for free at

Autodesk Labs, Impression offers an easy and quick method for users to create non-photorealistic presentation graphics to show many different themes to a client. All they have to do is open a DWF or DWG file in Impression, then add textures and materials, pre-built or custom styles and entourage files.

Because you're using CAD data, you can use layers and blocks when creating the images. Previously, it could take a couple of days to produce this type of creative presentation drawing, but now, using a simple isometric or elevation you can create an interesting drawing in 20 minutes.

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-- Susan Smith, Managing Editor.


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