Adding 3D Modeling to 2D Designs, Part 1

Adding 3D Modeling to 2D Designs

Many companies today are transitioning from standard 2D drafting to 3D modeling. Companies are doing this for many reasons. Some see the marketability, others do it to improve design efficiencies. However, the main reason is to stay competitive. While some companies have available manpower, financial support, and resources to support this change, most smaller businesses don’t have that luxury. Making this transition can be expensive, stressful, and challenging; however, if you have a plan and understand a little of what the process will entail, it will make things a little easier. I’m going to take you through some tips and ideas for smaller businesses to make this transition as smooth as possible, starting with what you should be researching.



What software is available and what serves your needs and wants?

At Commonwealth Engineers, we have always used AutoCAD for our design software. Transitioning to 3D, we had to look at what additional software is needed and how it fit into our way of doing things. For example, a lot of firms use MEP software for process piping and equipment. However, for us not having the resources like other companies, we chose Plant 3D because it had the most content already built into the software. Thus, saving time and efforts for us having to create content.

Company’s current licensing breakdown

Adapting this process will force your company to look at their current licensing situation. Do you have stand-alone or multi-user licenses? Are you on subscription? When Commonwealth started this implementation, the suite was just coming out. This allowed us to have the software needed, but it cost more annually. Now, with Autodesk collections, you have the entire set of programs at your disposal.

Company’s overall software budget

As noted above, depending on your current licensing situation, the company will have to expect a higher annual cost for software. You must get ownership’s approval and understanding prior to starting this implementation.

AutoCAD: Adding 3D Modeling to 2D Designs


How can this implementation actually fit into your company’s daily and overall project workflows?

  1. Timing

For Commonwealth, during this implementation process, we were still expected to complete our design projects within budget and on time. For this implementation to happen, you have to figure out how can I fit this into my daily routine. Some companies may give you the luxury of just working on the implementation. However, small businesses may not have this luxury available. I suggest, looking for a design project that you just completed; if you have one with budget left great, but use this project as a pilot. If you already know the design and all the details, that just leaves implementing the design in new software.

  1. Personnel

Most companies have their power users. Smaller businesses may have one or two. You have to look at who, as a manager, can you pull away and trust to do this implementation. You have to be careful not to burn out your best users, however, most of the time they are the ones that want this challenge. Again, get ownership’s approval on who you are going to sign this task to and give them the help and support they need.

  1. Project Deadlines

Reminder: Implementation will take longer from a production standpoint at first so you have to be able to handle this. The first few projects we did with 3D modeling, I didn’t fully anticipate enough time during the design process. I knew it would take longer to model the design but didn’t account for the “unknowns.” These are things that you learn as you go. Something doesn’t look right or you have to create content, software issues, etc. At the end of the day, we got the designs done on time. But the initial design took longer than I expected, which added more stress.

  1. Help

Reseller: We used IMAGINIT to brainstorm different options based on our current situation. They also came in and demonstrated different programs that could potentially fit.

Other companies: I relied on our structural subcontractor for assistance and help. They use Revit and provided me with someone that I could turn to for help.

Check out Part 2 and Part 3 now!

Josh Wheatley

Josh Wheatley works at Commonwealth Engineers, Inc. as a Designer and CAD Manager. He has worked at Commonwealth Engineers since 2000, drafting and designing mostly wastewater and water treatment facilities, sewer systems, and other infrastructure projects. Josh is an AutoCAD Certified Professional for 2014 and 2015. Also experienced using Plant 3D, Revit, and Navisworks. When Josh is not working, he enjoys golf, traveling and coaching basketball for his daughter’s travel team.

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