Benefits of 3D CAD for Architects, Designers and Engineers

    Posted by Antonio Pascucci on Dec 18, 2012 2:30:00 PM

    What do the 1920s-era steam plant at North Carolina’s Duke University, China’s Guangzhou Opera House and the rescued miners from Chile’s 2010 mine disaster have in common?

    They owe their existence to 3D CAD.  

    When Duke University wanted to go green, engineers and architects armed with 3D CAD solutions renovated the campus’ old steam plant to meet environmental standards and serve the needs of the Duke community.

    During an international competition to see who would design China’s third-largest theater, architect Zaha Hadid wowed the judges with a primarily 3D CAD design for the opera house. (The finished product opened its doors in 2010.)

    And the Chilean miners? They spent two months less than anticipated trapped underground—because a drill company used 3D models and simulation add-ons to optimize the equipment that rescued them.

    Screen Shot 2012 12 12 at 10.46.07 AM resized 600These were tasks that 2D CAD just couldn’t handle.

    Today, architects and engineers face daunting challenges: structures, designs and workflows are becoming more complex, while clients demand more for their money. 3D modeling solutions give you and your company several benefits over 2D counterparts.

    Here are four ways 3D CAD solutions can improve your architecture and engineering design work.

    1. You’ll avoid costly mistakes.

    3D modeling solutions offer unprecedented insight when creating designs. They give you the ability to test the stress factors and tolerances of a building or product before you build, saving time, money and potentially disastrous consequences. A 3D model also lets you see the end result before it’s built, allowing you to correct issues before it’s too late.

    3D CAD software goes way beyond design, with support for advanced analysis tools that do everything from simulating the flow of fluid to measuring vibrations in key structural components. Simulating those environmental factors is critical to identifying design flaws and pinpointing serious build problems—before you have to pay for them.

    You can also take advantage of 3D printing technologies, which use 3D CAD files to quickly “print” prototypes and models—driving down prototyping costs. With commercial 3D printers coming down in price all the time, even small firms can take part in the action and print on-demand in response to customer needs.

    2. You’ll save time and work more efficiently.

    When comparing newer 3D technology to 2D CAD solutions, 3D offers you some advantages. In 2D CAD, a lot of time and energy is spent ensuring that your plan, section and elevation agree. In 3D, architects and engineers quickly and easily extract that 2D information from a completed model, leaving more time to focus on the design process.

    With 3D CAD software, each individual component of a structure can also be isolated, analyzed, tested, approved or changed—without accidentally altering other design components—all before you pour an ounce of concrete or fire up the production line.

    Feeling understaffed or overwhelmed? 3D modeling’s efficiency can help you do more with less. Colorado-based Oakwood Homes told Professional Builder that they designed, built and closed more than 300 homes in 2011 with just a 3-man design team. How? By switching to more efficient 3D CAD software.

    Note: The company switched from 3D-assisted CAD software to AutoCAD Architecture integrated with Blackpoint, a design solution that also helps manage document workflow.

    3. You’ll gain more precision and control.

    One of the major benefits associated with 3D software is its precision. Each component of a building, product or machine can be analyzed and measured individually. When paired with a 3D mouse, the design process becomes even more precise.

    A 3D mouse improves your control over designs with the ability to simultaneously pan, zoom and rotate 3D models or camera views. Paired with a standard mouse, a 3D mouse offers a more comfortable, intuitive and productive work solution, helping you develop a deeper connection to your design.

    Increased control equals increased efficiency: 3D mouse users click their standard mouse a lot less, produce more and identify mistakes more easily, shortening design cycles and improving the quality of deliverables.

    4. It can help you win quotes and keep clients happy.

    While your 2D designs might look great, nothing compares to giving clients and prospects a virtual tour of their building. 3D modeling shows clients a polished and interactive visual representation of the final product, before you even need to think about a physical prototype or model.

    Firms equipped with a 3D printer can go one step further and create a physical representation of their designs before meeting with clients—at a price far cheaper than factory molding fees.

    3D designers also gain a significant market advantage: they can offer clients more customized building designs, since individual design elements can be changed with ease. Since the software is built for customization, those changes don’t cost much aside from mouse clicks—increasing your profit margins.

    Are you considering a switch to 3D CAD software? What questions do you have? Already upgraded to 3D? Please share your experiences from the transition.

    The above image is a 3D architectural design created by architectural firm HOK, using Autodesk Revit and 3Dconnexion's SpacePilot Pro.

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    Tags: Engineering, Design, Architecture, 3D Mice