Software Comparison

Document Created: January 2010

3D Software Evaluation Summary and Report


This report documents the 3D Piping Software evaluation, and makes a recommendation on a specific software, for the transition from the 2D software “PROCAD 2D Designer”, to the 3D world.

1.        Exective Summary
1.1     Purpose
1.2     Scope
1.3     Results
1.4     Recommendations
2.            Discussion
2.1     Why move to 3D design software
2.1.1     Client deliverable
2.1.2     Global Build
2.1.3     Unrealized New Release Benefits
2.1.4     Piping Group Request
2.1.5     Project Costs
2.1.6     Client Review
2.1.7     Increased Efficiency
2.1.8     Reduced Error Rate
2.2     Assumptions
2.2.1     Efficiency
2.2.2     Software Upgrades
2.2.3     Future of Design
2.3     Evaluation Procedures
2.3.1     Evaluation Software
2.3.2     Setup
2.3.3     About The Evaluator
2.4     Additional Considerations
2.4.1     Software Costs
2.4.2     User Familiarity
2.4.3     Training & Learning Curve
2.4.4     Customization
2.4.5     New Software releases
3.            Conclusions
3.1.1     P&ID Development
3.1.2     Model Development
3.1.3     Structural Components
3.1.4     Ortho Generation:
3.1.5     Iso Generation:
3.1.6     Branch Tables
4.            Recommendations
4.1     Software Administrator Recommendations
4.2    Piping Designer Recommendations
5.            Drawing and Model Files
5.1        Test Project Deliverable Drawings (DWF Format)
5.2        Installing the DWF Viewer
5.3         ENavigating the DWF report
5.4        Opening the DWF Report
6.            Comparison Videos
6.1      3D Modeling Comparison Videos
7.          Reference Material
7.1       External 2D vs 3D Study Report

1.      Exective Summary

1.1        Purpose

Evaluate and recommend a suitable, cost effective, 3D based replacement software for legacy 2D piping package (PROCAD 2D Designer).

1.2        Scope

This evaluation was configured as a side-by-side comparison of the following Piping Design Software packages.

AutoCAD P&ID 2010 and Plant 3D 2010 by Autodesk

CADWorx P&ID 2010 and PLANT 2010 by COADE

1.3        Results

Both software packages successfully handled the most common tasks performed by a piping designer.  AutoCAD Plant 3D was clearly more intuitive, faster, and has more built-in intelligence.  These features combine to provide a piping design tool that results in less time spent ‘working” the software, thereby freeing up valuable design time.

1.4        Recommendations

It is the recommendation of this author that AutoCAD Plant 3D be utilized as a cost effective replacement for existing 2D ProCAD piping software.

2.      Discussion

2.1        Why move to 3D design software?

There are a number of hurdles to overcome in moving away from a 2D design environment and adopting new release software. The following represents the main benefits of moving to 3D-based design software for all projects, regardless of size.

2.1.1     Client deliverable

Clients sometimes mandate an AutoCAD deliverable in AutoCAD 2008 format or better to align with their in house CAD software. This may require an additional work process of converting the drawings to match the required deliverable release if you are not utilizing the current software version

2.1.2     Standard Build

Due to 3rd party software limitations with respect to AutoCAD versioning, it can be difficult to seamlessly implement your companies standard build.

2.1.3     Unrealized New Release Benefits

If software releases are not kept current within the company you will be unable to utilize the added features of the base AutoCAD software because of the limitations of the 3rd party software (ie: pdf plotting and dgn file referencing)

2.1.4     Piping Group Request

Piping designers and design managers are, with greater frequency, asking for a 3D software solution on their smaller projects.   Designers who utilize the software tools daily desire to utilize newer technology that make their work more efficient

2.1.5     Project Costs

Project managers are empowered to continually choose the use of the 2D piping package, stating that the scope of work does not warrant the use of an expensive 3D design software package.  There appears to remain the perception that 3D design is an elite complex process that requires significant project additional cost.  Perhaps the real benefits of 3D design are not being properly evaluated against perceived costs.

2.1.6     Client Review

While it is hard to quantify the added value of being able to perform a client review of a 3D model, there is no doubt that it requested more frequently by the client.  There has been at least 2 cases where 2D projects required a “dummy” 3D model to be built (graphics only – no data), at the request of the client, to effectively convey design intent.

2.1.7     Increased Efficiency

Current 2D work process requires the same pipe routing to be manually drawn 3 or 4 times – depending upon required sections and deliverables.  For example, the pipe is drawn in plan view, then depending on complexity, that same pipe will be again be drawn in elevation, and manually dimensioned and annotated accordingly.  After completing plans and sections, an isometric representation of that same pipe will be then be manually drawn, dimensioned and annotated – yet again.

2.1.8     Reduced Error Rate

Model review and clash detection tools that allow design intent to be clearly reviewed and corrected.  The same can not be said for the 2D drawing development.

2.2     Assumptions

2.2.1     Efficiency

Your company has a very real interest in increased efficiency & reduced costs.

2.2.2     Software Upgrades

Upgrading software is a necessity, and is sometimes client driven.

2.2.3     Future of Design

It would not be wise to invest in the continued upgrading, maintenance, and administration of a 2D piping package.

2.3     Evaluation Procedures

2.3.1     Evaluation Software

COADE CADWorx P&ID 2010 and PLANT 2010

AUTODESK AutoCAD P&ID 2010 and Plant 3D 2010

2.3.2     Setup

This evaluation procedure was setup as a side-by-side comparison of both software packages.

An actual project, completed using Procad 2D Designer, was replicated using both evaluation packages.

P&ID’s, 3D Models, Ortho’s, Isometrics and generated reports like MTO’s, LDT’s and Spec sheets were created in both evaluation software packages.

Various work processes within each software package were implemented to create and modify a piping system in the most convenient and fastest way possible.

2.3.3     About The Evaluator

Richard Pacle, a Piping Designer with 14 years industry experience, has worked with various 3D plant software packages including SmartPlant 3D, PDS, AutoPlant, CADWorx, and ProCAD.  Richard has also been an active user and member of AutoCAD Plant 3D Beta versions.

2.4     Additional Considerations

2.4.1     Software Costs

3rd Party Software

CadWorx, and Procad, are 3rd party software that are not functional without the purchase of AutoCAD software.  AutoCAD Plant 3D, has AutoCAD embedded in it, and can be used as straight AutoCAD if needed.

Software Cross-Grading

Currently owned Autodesk assets can be cross-graded.  That is to say if you seats of AutoCAD software, you are able to cross-grade that asset to the AutoCAD Plant 3D software at a reduced cost.

Software Licensing

It may prove difficult to put a dollar value on the cost of administering licenses.  The fact that AutoCAD Plant 3D utilizes the Autodesk FlexLM licensing model, and would incorporate these licenses in with all other Autodesk software, is an efficiency gained.

If a 3rd party software like CADWorx, that sits on top of AutoCAD, an additional licensing system will be required, adding another administrative component.  Using 3rd party software also requires 2 separate installations when setting up users.

2.4.2     User Familiarity

Both 3D software packages proved to be an easy replacement to the current functionality found in the current 2D piping package Procad 2D Designer. I believe, however, that the AutoCAD Plant 3D package is a more intuitive piece of software, allowing for a more dynamic work process with respect to design changes. Given that current users would be making the transition from 2D to 3D, AutoCAD Plant 3D would not be introducing any foreign functionality or concepts. All interoperability is with standard and familiar AutoCAD commands.

2.4.3     Training & Learning Curve

As briefly mentioned above, all drafting functionality in AutoCAD Plant 3D is based on familiar core AutoCAD functionality and therefore is more readily grasped by new users. Further, any training for users could be sourced from just one vendor as opposed to the two that would be required for any 3rd party application (AutoCAD & the 3rd party application).

2.4.4     Customization

Any customization done to the software would be reliant on each vendor’s sources for technical assistance. In the case of CadWORX, that would mean two separate sources that could potentially be divergent from one another. AutoCAD Plant 3D technical support for customization would be from one source only – for both core AutoCAD and AutoCAD Plant 3D.

2.4.5     New Software releases

Often when using 3rd party software, these 3rd party companies, struggle to maintain the base software companies software release.  If an Autodesk product was used for Piping Design, the lag for new release software for Autodesk Plant 3D and AutoCAD would most certainly be minimal if not non-existent.

3.    Conclusions

Both software packages successfully handled the most common tasks performed by a piping designer.  AutoCAD Plant 3D was clearly more intuitive, faster, and has more built-in intelligence.  These features combine to provide a piping design tool that results in less time spent ‘working” the software, thereby freeing up valuable design time.

3.1.1     P&ID Development

AutoCAD P&ID is much more user friendly, automating and combining individual steps, resulting in less drafting time.

3.1.2     Model Development

AutoCAD Plant 3D is much faster in creating and modifying a Piping System.  It is more intuitive, and has more intelligence, resulting in far less steps for users to place piping components.

3.1.3     Structural Components

CadWorx Plant built in structural steel modeling component is more comprehensive.

3.1.4     Ortho Generation:

CadWorx Plant has more automated Annotation features, as well as more flexibility in creating orthographic views.

3.1.5     Iso Generation:

Both platforms utilize Isogen as the base engine for developing isometrics

3.1.6     Branch Tables

AutoCAD Plant 3D utilizes branch tables, resulting in automatic selection when modeling.  This feature does not exist with CadWorx Plant

4.      Recommendations

4.1        Software Administrator Recommendations

It is the recommendation of this author that AutoCAD Plant 3D should be used as a cost effective replacement for any existing 2D piping software package.  If a company is upgrading their existing AutoCAD based 3D piping software, I recommend the company investigate the benefits of AutoCAD Plant 3D’s Design Suite. From an administration perspective the AutoCAD software is clean and utilizes familiar Autocad administration philosophies, that make it simple for experienced AutoCAD administrators.

4.2        Piping Designers Recommendations

“AutoCAD Plant 3D is the first AutoCAD based Piping package that I have seen that utilizes a highly intuitive, user friendly concept for pipe routing.  This concept eliminates a great deal of user input by intelligently placing, adding, and modifying piping components.  AutoCAD Plant 3D is fast and easy to use.

Although Cadworx exist for over a decade now, the concept and technology doesn’t change much. Because of its limitation in automation, the user needs to be well versed in Autocad 3D design and must be a good Piping designer to produced a decent piping system.

Plant 3D, being on its first release, already shows a better concept and much more intelligence.   A lot of automation and continous development.   As we know Autodesk Product like AutoCAD, delivers new features every year to make things easier.

I recommend the Company make the switch from 2D Procad to AutoCAD Plant 3D.”

5.      Drawing and Model Files

5.1        Test Project Deliverable Drawings (DWF format)

The comparison exercise resulted in the creation of 3D Models, P&ID’s, General Arrangements, & Isometrics. All of which have been turned into a single Drawing Web Format (DWF) file (Drawing Web Format) that can be viewed using Autodesk’s Design Review (free).

5.2             Installing DWF Viewer

Click on the link below and follow the download instructions to install Autodesk’s Design Review

5.3           Navigating The DWF Report

From the List view tab, you will see a listing of all the pages in the document.  Simply click on each page to review the content

Sections 1 and 2 contain the AutoCAD Plant 3D deliverable drawings c/w comments.  Sections 3 and 4 contain the CADWorx Plant deliverable drawings c/w comments NOTE:  The pages within the DWF are c/w electronic markup of the drawings and models highlighting the pros (shown in green) and cons (shown in red) of each software package

5.4        Opening the DWF Report

After installing Autodesk’s Design Review Software on your computer, click on the link below to review the DWF report,

6        Comparison Videos

While running through this comparison exercise, Richard also created some excellent comparison videos showing the functionality of each software by performing the same exercise with both programs.  For those of you that don’t have time to do an extensive evaluation of your own, I highly recommend taking the time to review these video’s, as they will provide some valuable insight into how the software works.  Approximately half way through each video, the demonstration will repeat the same process using the other software.

6.1         3D Modeling Comparison Videos

The following videos have been uploaded to   Simply click on the titles below to view the comparison videos

  1. Equipment Modeling
  2. Piping Modeling
  3. Piping Modeling Part 2
  4. Pipe Support Placement
  5. Ortho Drawing Extraction
  6. Isometric Drawing Extraction

7        Additional References

For those of you that are still using a 2D design package to create your deliverable designs the following study will provide you with some valuable food for thought in deciding to move to a 3D design tool.

7.1         External 2D vs 3D Study Report

DARATECH 2D vs. 3D Study – May 2008 Executive Summary

The study linked below, is about the relative merits of 2D vs. 3D plant creation and maintenance software and is based on the opinions of process and power industry engineers, managers and executives engaged in plant creation, operations and maintenance.


1 Response to Software Comparison

  1. Pingback: 3D Piping Software Evaluation Summary | Doug's CAD Blog

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