Most of the new features of AutoCAD Plant 3D 2016 were released to subscription customers in 2015 Extension 1.
However, if you did not take out a subscription or have not kept up to date then you will find a new, extended interface to Vault and new and improved Isometric configuration and drawing production options. In addition, you’ll find improved off-page connector and line group functionality in the P&ID workspace. All of this has been available since last September.
For 2016 there are 2 new AutoCAD features that piping designers will find very useful:
- The first is the ability to create centrelines directly from cylindrical elements in point clouds. This feature makes it easy to create piping centrelines which can be used to create as-built piping models and help model tie-ins for upgrade projects.
- The second is AutoCAD’s ability to XREF Navisworks models directly. You can now collaborate in projects where different CAD systems are being used; you can snap to the geometry in the Navisworks models whilst routing pipes inside of Plant 3D.
To further aid the creation of as-built models, in 2016 you can now set tolerances in piping to allow connections to be made where piping is not exact. This is particularly useful when trying to connect new piping to existing piping where the existing piping has been created from point clouds.
A productivity enhancement for piping now sees the copy command recognizing piping so that it will automatically create a branch to insert copied piping into a line. The branch table determines which branch component will be used.
Continuing the Isometric enhancements introduced in 2015 Extension 1, the issue of repeat-ability has been addressed by the addition of a new option to define a start point for an isometric which always appears on sheet 1. As well as placing break points in the model, Isometric file split points can now be imported back into the model where they will be used as break points for future isometrics.
For users wanting to create new isometrics styles, a simple wizard has been introduced that walks you through the steps to create a new style. This is a fully graphical wizard – you simply select the style you want from the options that are shown in the wizard.
Finally, with the retirement of ASD, AutoCAD Plant 3D 2016 now has the ability to export structural models directly to Advance Steel using the Advance Steel XML Export file. This replaces the SDNF export that was available in prior releases.
Ok, so much for the headline functionality, what about the usability updates that have been made in 2016? Since, most of the new features of AutoCAD Plant 3D 2016 were released to subscription customers in 2015 Extension 1, the Autodesk development team have been able to focus on updating existing functionality and fixing long-term known issues.
Here are some of the most significant updates:
Although I’ve already mentioned this under New Functionality, in 2016, Plant 3D finally recognizes offset tolerances. The placeholders have been present in the DefaultConnectorsConfig.xml file since day one, and they are now recognised. You can now specify both offset and slope tolerances for all joint settings. So connection points of adjacent fittings no longer have to be located at the exact same co-ordinates to enable a connection to be made. However, setting too high a tolerance could compromise Isometric production.
- Pipe Spec Administration:
Prior to 2016, if you wanted to update a Pipe Spec that was in use in a project, you needed to do so in a location that was outside of the project. In 2016 you can now edit specs while they are being used in a project, Plant 3D no longer opens the specs for read/write.
- 3D Line Groups in the Data Manager:
Previously you were not able to create custom views for P3D Line Groups in the Data Manager, they would not display information. Although you could see them listed as Pipe Lines in the Area view, they were split by area which made it difficult to identify them. In 2016, custom views with P3D Line Groups are fully functional – you can use the import/export functionality from Data Manager to manage the line group data.
- Line Summary Report:
This may not affect too many people, but has been outstanding for a significant length of time. Changes that you make to the P&ID Line Summary Report are now saved – you can at last customise the report.
Plant Design Suite
What’s in and what’s out?
An obvious addition to the Plant Design Suite is AutoCAD MEP. What does this bring to the table? Libraries of HVAC, Cable Tray and Architectural components in an AutoCAD environment.
An obvious omission from the suite is AutoCAD Structural Detailing and there is no replacement product within the suite. Steel detailing and design in an AutoCAD environment is now available with Autodesk Advance Steel. However, this is only available as a standalone product and not currently included in any design suite.