As you build up the complexity of your AutoCAD Plant 3D model, you need to be thinking about things like XREFs, model complexity, networked files, computer hardware, etc. These are examples of things that can negatively affect modelling performance in Plant 3D if you aren’t careful. In this post I am going to take a look at how to use vendor supplied equipment models so they have a minimal impact on modelling performance in Plant 3D.
In many cases you will have access to detailed CAD models of the equipment used in your projects. But manufacturing CAD models of pumps, heat exchangers, even vessels, etc. will have much more detail than is necessary in Plant. Resist the urge to import these models in full detail; Equipment needs to be represented accurately but should be shown with much simpler models than those normally provided by manufacturers. Using highly detailed models will quickly decrease modelling performance in Plant 3D and become a constant frustration.
The good news is that there are a number of ways to create equipment in Plant. Using the equipment builder is a great option to create your own simplified representation of any piece of equipment. On the down side, it can be a tedious and sometimes difficult process to build equipment and arrange nozzles in their correct locations.
You could also insert a 3D block or AutoCAD solid into your model and convert it into a Plant object. This is a good method if you have a simplified model in a DWG format already. Finally, you can use Inventor to work with equipment models (and specify their connection information) to simplify designs and bring them into Plant through Inventor’s BIM Exchange environment.
Let’s work with Inventor and the detailed CAD model of the pump (without its drive motor or mounting platform) below which can be downloaded from KSB’s website.
You might be tempted to use this model directly without any changes in Plant since all the information is already present in the model. It’s an attractive option since the model looks great but some simplification is in order to be sure that my pipe modelling won’t be negatively affected.
To simplify this model use Inventor to open the file in the format you receive it. Then use the shrinkwrap tool in the component panel drop-down to create a simplified part that represents the entire pump.
Inventor’s shrinkwrap tools allow a lot of model simplification without much drafting effort. We can select the style options for how parts will be merged, how to remove parts (by visibility or size), how to remove holes and whether or not to remove any internal voids. There are many options here to be sure and all of the selections can reduce the complexity of the assembly and produce a result as a single part file.
The result shown is a very simple model derrived from the original design. By merging the parts and removing holes we have reduced the overall complexity and face count. There is still a lot of unnecessary detail though, like bolt patterns and mounting feet, etc. Let’s take this a step further then.
All we need for our piping design is an accurate nozzle position. So; mounting surfaces, nozzle centers and a generally recognizable pump model are all that is required to route pipe from. If we step back and use some of Inventor’s other simplification tools on the simplify panel we can define overall envelopes (around the gearbox for example) and manually select which parts to include before performing a shrinkwrap.
By taking the shrinkwrapped file and then replacing the more complex geometry with some basic extrude features the model can be simplified further without losing critical information. While the final representation below might feel too simple it is quite good for use in Plant 3D.
The number of features and faces have been reduced to the minimum needed while still representing our pump nozzles accurately. This representation will return the best result in Plant for our pipe model performance but does sacrifice significant detail.
Once the model is simplified, we can use the BIM Exchange environment in Inventor to create connection information so that, when inserted, this pump will be immediately recognized by Plant as a piece of equipment with two nozzles that can connect to a pipe line.
You might end up with a different result than that shown since there are many different ways to simplify a design in Inventor. As you are simplifying your own equipment CAD models think about the compromise between the detail needed in a piece of equipment and the performance of your piping model in Plant.
Resist the temptation to use detailed vendor CAD models directly in Plant 3D. Time will need to be invested in the equipment builder to create new equipment models or in Inventor to remove detail from finished CAD models to prepare them for use in Plant. Whichever method you choose, having simplified representations of your equipment is an essential part of good performing Plant 3D models.