By Andy Davis
In AutoCAD Plant 3D, if a piping component is not available in a default catalog, you can add it yourself. A component must be in a catalog before it can be added to a spec.
When you create a piping component, you usually specify the component type (Plant 3D Class), choose a parametric model, and assign sizes and dimensions to the component.
However, you can also create components using AutoCAD blocks. If you have an accurate manufacturer’s 3D CAD drawing of a component you may wish to re-use this to save you the time and effort of defining the geometry; it will also produce a visually more accurate Plant model.
The block-based butterfly valve, above left, is visually more appealing than the simple parametric shape, above right. Often though, it is difficult to obtain accurate CAD drawings that can be used directly by AutoCAD Plant 3D.
However, more and more manufacturers are now providing Revit family files to help leverage their products in the BIM arena. Although we are not able to use these files directly in AutoCAD Plant 3D, we can export the geometry from the Revit elements into AutoCAD blocks. All we need to do then is mark the location of the connection ports on the blocks and add them to our own Plant 3D catalog.
The workflow is quite simple.
Obviously, the first task is to locate a Revit family file that contains the component we require. A good place to start in the UK is the bimstore, a free resource for specifiers (designers).
Having located and downloaded the family file we require, we load it into a Revit project.
We then insert a standalone element of each size into a 3D view in the Revit project.
Here, we have loaded a family of lever-operated butterfly valves ranging in size from 50mm to 200mm and created an instance of each size.
We now export this view to an AutoCAD DWG format file.
Each element will be created as a unique block within the AutoCAD file. We must ensure that during the export, colours are exported as True colour (RGB values) and solids are exported as ACIS solids
Our exported AutoCAD file now contains a block for each size of valve.
We now run the PlantPartConvert command within AutioCAD Plant 3D to mark the location of the connection ports on each block and generate the preview image for the catalog and toolpalette.
Once we save and close the file we can add the blocks to a catalog and hence a spec, or use them as custom fittings within a Plant 3D model file.