Basic Modeling in AutoPLANT

This blog goes over some basic modeling tools and tips for AutoPLANT.  A list of the topics that are covered is given below. 


  • Before Modeling 
    • The different ways to launching AutoPLANT
      •  Icon (simplest)
      • Document Manager/Vision
    • Model Setup
    • Drawing Access Mode
    • Relationships
  • Modeling process
    • Centerline Routing
    • 2D to 3D
    • Basic Tap Port Vs. Advanced Tap Port Method
    • Assembly Manager
    • User Defined Equipment
    • Equipment Primitives
  • Modules

Before Modeling

Before one begins to model, there are a few things that they should be aware of. Including, ways to Start AutoPLANT, what Drawing Access Mode is and setting up Relationships. This section will review these topics and cover some basic information on them. It will also try to touch on a few known issues that users have experienced.

Starting AutoPLANT

There are multiple ways that this can be done, but the three main ways are through the Icon, Document Manager, or Vision.

The Icon

For most users, the first way they will ever start AutoPLANT is through the Plant Design Icon. The icon is typically named for the AutoCAD it is linked to and if the user has multiple AutoCAD versions installed on the desktop, they will see multiple Plant Design Icons displayed similar to the one below -

Since AutoPLANT is simply a profile that runs on top of AutoCAD, all the Plant Design Icon does is load AutoCAD with the correct profile launched. If one right clicks on the icon and selects "Properties", then they will see this.

In the target, the following information is given - "C:\Program Files\AutoCAD 2009\acad.exe" /p "C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Bentley\Plant V8i\AutoPLANT_PDW811ACAD_7001_409.arg"

The first part of this is pointing to the acad.exe, which in this example is in the AutoCAD 2009 folder under the Program Files folder. The '/p' part is telling AutoCAD to load the following profile, which is the "C\Documents and Settings..." part. AutoPLANT should create the profile and make this link during the install.

When launching AutoPLANT through this Icon, it will load AutoCAD with the AutoPLANT 3D menu. From the AutoPLANT 3D menu, users can select any of the AutoPLANT applications used in drafting. Most of the options in this menu are self explained, with the exception of Drawing Access Mode which will be covered later. (As a side Note, the Structural command in this menu loads ProSteel V8i, the name Structural is a throwback to our old Structural line which was renamed to ProSteel during the XM release. The command hasn't been changed to match this change yet.)

Launching from the icon handles a few things differently then the other two ways of loading AutoPLANT. First off, the program uses the AutoCAD default new document name called Drawing1.dwg so the drafter will either need to open the desired model or do a save to change the name and location. Second, no AutoPLANT Application will be preloaded. Also, the drafter will need to select a Project or Configuration to associate the model with during the loading of the application for new models. Existing models should already have a project associated with them and will default to that.

Document Manager/Vision

The other two main ways to load up AutoPLANT is through Document Manager or Vision. They are very similar to one another in how they look and work. Document Manager is a document management tool that is included with AutoPLANT, while Vision has more features and has it's own license that has to be purchased. Some of Vision's features include Report generating and list of Tags with their corresponding runs and models. Since creating documents and opening them is the same in both programs, this section will review Document Manager since it is the most widely used.

Document Manager



In a new project, the first thing that has to be done in Document Manager is to create the model. To do this, just right click on the node that the model will belong to, such as the AutoPLANT Piping node, then select "New..." 

This will bring up the New Document dialog. Here, the drafter will need to give the document a name and select the application to associate the document to. Since a piping model is being created, the AutoPLANT Piping application would be picked. Once the application is selected and the information is inserted, the Create button should be accessible now and pressing it will create the model and load the application. Hitting the Record Only button will create the document but not launch the application.

When the application is loaded, it will go straight into the model and begin to load the associated application.

One other helpful note on this is that if one right clicks in the "New Document" dialog above, on the Application, the application's "Excutable path:" like the one shown below. The information provided by this feature is similar to the information found in the Icon's Properties dialog.

Model Setup

When a model is being opened for the first time, it will launch the "Model Setup" dialog. This dialog displays settings for the model such as the North direction. The defaults for these settings can be set in Project Administrator by the project's admin. It is a good idea to check with the Admin before changing these values.

Drawing Access Mode

When loading a model, some users may notice the following dialog appear -

This dialog is called when Drawing Access Mode is turned on. It allows the user to load a model into a Configuration rather then loading it into the Project. This is helpful for when the user needs to work on the model when they don't have access to the project. Placing a drawing into a configuration is also called Briefcase mode. To tell if Drawing Access Mode is turned on before loading AutoPLANT, just look at the command in the AutoPLANT 3D menu. If the icon appears to have a box around it, then the tool is turned on and the dialog will be displayed. If it doesn't, then the tool is off and the drawing will just load in the last Project/Configuration that it was saved in.

ON                                                                                           OFF 


When beginning to model, the drawing has to have some default relationships created to use for the components. These can be created in the Project Setup step, but sometimes this can be forgotten or push back until the first model is loaded. If the user attempts to place a component without relationships in place, they will see a dialog similar to the one below -

All this dialog is telling us is that there are no Line Numbers found in this project (or they existed but none of them are selected) and that there has to be some before a component can be placed. This can be easily fixed by adding the Relationships into Component Preferences.

Modeling Process

Now that all the projects setup is done, the drafters should be ready to being drawing the Models that are going to be included in the project. There are several ways that one can start with this process. For example, the Models could be based on P&IDs that were created either with the AutoPLANT P&ID application or through some other means. Other times, the job may not require P&IDs to be designed first and the draft is to go in with some specifications and just begin modeling. What ever the case maybe, AutoPLANT has tools that can help with these processes. The first that we will cover is the "2D to 3D" tool.

Centerline Routing

Laying out the placement of pipe can take the largest amount of time in a project. The P&IDs can help in determining what is needed, but it is AutoPLANT's job to determine where those components will be built. There are several ways that components can be placed. One technique that can speed up the modeling process is Centerline Routing. Centerline Routers are tools to place intelligent centerlines that can be used to place components. They can be accessed by going to Piping>Piping Tools>Centerline Routers.

There are a number of different ways to use Centerline. As one can see from the image above, the options include the following:

  • From Dialog
  • From Points
  • From Polyline
  • From File
  • From Components

There is also an option to change an existing Centerline's properties, which is the Edit Centerline Preferences. Similar to how Component Preferences setups the components, the Centerline Properties tells the program what options to use when placing the components on the centerline. Centerline Routing can also be started through the 2D to 3D tool, which will be covered later.

The centerlines that are placed using these tools work in conjunction with other tools, such as AutoFit, to insert pipe quickly and easily. When starting a Centerline Router, the program will first request the preferences that will be used for this line, unless using "From Dialog" which will ask if Router Line Info should be turned on or not.

Once all the desired settings are in place, pressing OK will accept this options. The next step depends on which router is being used. See the list below for information on each one.

  • From Dialog
    • Requests points to start the centerline, then brings up a dialog for more control over the centerline placement
  • From Points
    • The user picks points in the model and the centerline is generated from these points. Points can be anyway in space or be part of other components or AutoCAD objects that are snapped to
  • From Polyline
    • Requires a Polyline to be drawing in AutoCAD first. The line represents were the centerline will run and allows users to use any AutoCAD polyline which can be easier to work with more experienced AutoCAD users then the basic pipe placement commands
  • From File
    • Pulls information from a file to create the centerline, see the help file for more information on this option
  • From Components
    • Creates a centerline based on existing pipeline. Good for when a centerline is needed in pipe that has already been placed

No mater which option is used to place the Centerline, each can have the same tools used with them. Here is a basic placement of a Centerline placed using the From Points option.

  1. Begin by select Piping>Piping tools>Centerline Router>From Points
  2. Set the Preferences to use the following
    1. Spec = Cs150
    2. Line Number = L100
    3. Nominal Size = 6
    4. Insulation Thickness = 0.0
    5. Insulation Spec = AA
  3. Next, pick points similar to the image below
  4. Once done picking the points, exit the commend by hitting Enter

Now that the Centerline is placed, we will first us the AutoFit command to add some elbows to this line. To use the AutoFit command, just go to Piping>Piping Tools>AutoFit... like the image below.

Once in the command, select all the Centerlines and hit enter. Sometimes, a dialog called "Bentley AutoFit Resolver" will appear that looks similar to this - 

This dialog is displayed because the program needs some input on were the center of the bend will be placed. The dialog will display the reason why it needs user input in the Cause of Failure column. In this case, there are multiple classes in the spec that could be used and the program needs to know which one. The user can review the Bend here and zoom into were it will be placed by hitting the Center on Intersection. In this case, I am able to change between between Base/AT_ELBOW_LR_90 or Base/AT_GENERAL_BEND classes. I will leave it on the default option and press the Resolve Intersection on each row.

As I press the Resolve Intersection on each, the program inserts the component along the bends in the Centerline.

There is a TechNote, Unresolved intersections during AutoFit, that goes over the cuase of this issue and how to fix it. 

Now that the elbows are in, we will place some flanges at the both ends of this run. To do this, just go to Piping>Flanges>Weldneck and then use osnap to pick the end of the line. Also, make the distance 0 and make sure that the BW end of the flange is pointing towards the elbows.

Once the flanges are in place, now go to Piping>Pipe Components>AutoPipe.

What AutoPipe does is route pipe between existing components, such as the flanges and elbows in this example. The components must be lined up so that their centerlines are the same. This can be a handy way of checking if your components are odd angles are correctly aligned. If AutoPipe does not create the pipe, then most likely, the centerlines are not aligned properly and the two components would give you trouble if they are some how connected. After running AutoPipe, the line should be component and look like this -

Change Size/Change Spec Utility

Sometimes, a line will be drawing in one size and later on, the user will find that it needs to be done in a different size. What most users would do in this case if redraw the whole line. This is fine for when working on a short line, but what if the line contains many different components and is very long. This type of line could take some time to redraw. That is were the Change Size/Change Spec comes into play. This tool allows for users to change a lines size or spec to a new one. This tool can speed up this process, but it can also be very difficult to get it working. This section goes over how to change the line that was just drawn in the above section from a 6 inch line to a 4 inch line. To being this, go to Piping>Piping Tools>Change Size/Change Spec...

This will bring up the following dialog box - 

To being the process, press the Dismantle button, from there, the AutoPLANT selection dialog box will appear. Select the line that needs to be changed. After the components are selected, they will be placed into the Dismantled Components section like so - 

Here is a break down of what is displayed here - 

  • Status - shows the status of the component (Dismantled, Deleted, Rebuilt)
  • Description - shows the components Long Description
  • Line No. - displays the line number for the component 
  • Spec - shows the current spec of the component, change this to set the new spec
  • Size - shows the current size of the component, change this to set the new size
  • Anchor - tells the program if this component can be moved around to make up for the change in size, typically elbows and valves would have this checked so that they don't shift (notice that the elbows have it checked by default). The user can check other components, such as the Flanges to keep them from shifting, but keep in mind that if the there are two connecting components that will resize and they are both anchored, they may not stay connected. It is a good idea to play around with the anchor and only set it for components that have to stay in that exact spot.

Selecting one of the components will make the grayed out buttons available. Here is what they do -

  • Insert - inserts the component into the drawing with the set changes and sets the status to Rebuilt
  • Delete - deletes the component from the line and sets the status to Deleted
  • Restore - removed the component from the list without making any changes

Another section to know about is the Insertion Mode. This radio button has two choices, Auto Insert and Prompt. What this does is governs how the components will be placed when the Insert button is hit. If the Auto Insert is set, then the program will place the component into the drawing as close as to were it was before. If the Prompt is selected, then the program will ask for location points just like if you were placing the component from the normal command. This allows users to move the location of the pipe and even re shape the line to a point. For this, the Auto Insert will be used.

Finally, there is the other buttons which are next to the Rebuilt Components. The Rebuilt Components contains all the components that have been Inserted or Deleted. It allows the user to review the changes made. When selecting the components here, the UnRebuild button will become available. This button allows the users to undo any changes made and not rebuild the component. It also will cancel any delete jobs as well. The Apply Session button will apply the changes in the Rebuilt Components section.

The Attachments and Supports section will display any attachments (such as Topworks) or supports that are attached to the selected component in the Dismantled Components section. An example can be seen below - 

Also notice that the selected components will change color in the model to a grayish dashed line. This is to tell the drafter that these components are to be dismantled. If the component is selected in the Dismantled Components list, it will change slightly in the model space to show that it is selected and were it is. Here is an example of this -

In the example above, the valve is currently selected in the session and the other components are also going to be dismantled.

Now to make the change from Size 6 to Size 4. The Spec and Size columns can be changed by selecting them. A pull down will appear with all the available options. From there, just select the desired value, in this case the Size will be changed to 4. Multiple components can be changed by selecting the first component like the image below, then drag the mouse down to the other components or use Shift + left click to select all the component from the first to the last selected.

Multiple components can be changed by selecting the first component like the image below, then drag the mouse down to the other components or use Shift + left click to select all the component from the first to the last selected.

While these are select, click the pull down arrow and select the desired size, 4 in this example.

Once this is done, all the selected components will change their size to 4 like below.

With that set, pressing the Insert button will begin the insertion process for each selected component, if only one component is selected, then that component will be inserted, but the other components will not. Since there are multiple flanges in the spec that can be placed (ie. 150LB and 300LB flanges), then the program will request which one to place. Select the 150LB flange and press OK to continue. Now all the components are moved to the Rebuilt Components section.

Notice that the model now shows both the original pipe line (shown in white dashed lines) and the new pipe line.

The drafter can move around the model with the AutoCAD commands before applying the changes to make sure that everything looks ok. Once it all checks out, pressing the Apply Sessions button will apply the changes and remove the original components.

As a quick note, a good example of how the Anchoring effects components can be seen here. Below is an image of a Ball Valve that is being changed from 6 to 4. In this image the ball valve is anchored, notice how the centers of the 4 (in the light blue) and the center of the 6 (in the gray) are in the same location -

If the anchor is turned off on this component, here is the results -

Notice that center of the Rebuilt valve is offset from the center of the original one. This can come out fine, and the program will try to make it that way, but it all depends on the angle of the components and the order in which it is rebuilt. In this case, the flange on the upper left was rebuilt first, that is why that one is so close to its original location. If the valve was rebuilt first, it may have ended up in the correct location. The Anchor switch basically forces this to happen. 

One last note on this tool, do not just hit the Close button to exit the tool. If you had dismantled any components and just hit the Close button without Applying the changes, then the pipe may stay in the grayed dashed line style. It is recommended that if you didn't wish to rebuild the components, use the UnRebuild button to remove the modifications and then apply the session with the components in the Dismantled Components section. This will insert the components back in with their original settings and the color will go back to normal.

2D to 3D

In my own experience, the 2D to 3D tool is one of the best time savers in AutoPLANT, but it also sometimes seems to be the most over looked. What it basically does is allow users to extract data from their P&IDs (which most be created in AutoPLANT P&ID), and add them as 3D components into a 3D model within AutoPLANT. This allows the project to have a connection between the 2D and 3D aspects of the project. For example, if there is an Hand Valve on the P&ID with a tag of HV-01, the 2D to 3D tool can be used to add this valve to the 3D model and share the tag. If the tag is updated on the P&ID, then the tag will be updated on the 3D drawing as well. The tool will also keep track of what components have been placed, allowing users to quickly see what has and hasn't been done on a job.

To being using the "2D to 3D" tool, load Piping or Equipment. Then go into the menu to the "2D to 3D" command located directly under the pull down menu (such as Piping>2D to 3D as seen below). This tool can be accessed from both the Equipment module or Piping.

Once loaded, the user should see the 2D Browser open up, similar to the image below. 

In this dialog, one can see that the P&ID is listed with all of it's Piping components. In this one, the P&ID is called 2D-01 with a line called 2D-01-P1. The L100 is the name of the run under the P&ID and the 2D-01-H-1 is a valve that was placed on this line. If we go over to the equipment section, one will see that there is a Drum with a Nozzle on it.

Additional information on these components is displayed by hitting the More>> button. This additional information gives details on what spec, service and area is being used by the component, as well as a few other details. In order to place these components, just drag and drop the component into the 3d model space. If this is done with the Drum, a dialog will appear to get more of an understanding of what component is desired -

In this case, the Plain Horizontal Vessel is selected.

Next, the program needs to determine how this component will look in 3d space and will prompt the components properties. Just set these to anything that is needed, and then finish placing the component (it will also request the location, elevation, and direction). With this done, one can edit the Drum and notice that it has the same TAG as the Drum from the P&ID drawing.

Adding the Nozzle is very similar, just drag and drop the nozzle in to the Model space area of the drawing. The program will then request what type of Nozzle to be placed. These are the same options that are given under the Equipment>Nozzle> section under the Pull Down Menu. Select the desired one and the program will next request the location for this nozzle on the equipment. Once this is select, the Nozzles properties dialog will be displayed just as the Drums was. Notice that all the information for the Nozzle is already placed, such as the Spec and Line Number. This is because it pulled this information from the P&ID.

There are a few other options that this tool allows if one right clicks on a component. This includes the below options.

  • Consistency Check
    • Compares the selected component with it's 3D inserted counter part
  • Consistency Check All
    • Compares all components with their 3D inserted counter parts
  • Show Consistency Results
    • Shows the results for this component's Consistency Check
  • Show Consistency Results All
    • Shows the results for all components after running a Consistency Check All
  • Insert in 3D
    • Same effect as drawing the component into the model space
  • Zoom
    • Zooms to the component in the 3D model space, has been known to throw an error when the line has not be inserted
  • Reset
    • Resets the 2D Browser dialog and removes and Consistency reports

An example of a Consistency Report that comes back clean is below. These two components are in the 3D model and in the P&ID with all the same information that is needed.

An example of what will be displayed if the component is not inserted into the 3D model is give below. As one can see, the status stats that the component has not yet been inserted.

Some of the messages given by the Consistency Report are not as clear, as one can see below -

In image, the message says "Status: Dependent Mismatch". What this means is that a dependent under this component has not be inserted and is missing from the 3d model. In this case, it would be the valve that was shown in the previous example.

Piping works a little different in the 2D Browser then Equipment. The first thing that one my notice is that it has a different option when right-clicking on the line number, Set Preferences in 3D.

What this does is apply the current lines settings into the Component Preferences of Piping. (One thing to note, Unit is not used in P&ID, so it will need to be set manually in the Component Preferences).

Right clicking on the Run (L100) also displays some different options as seen below -

In this case, instead of the "Insert in 3D", the option "Centerline Routers" is displayed with to available options. In order to place lines, the 2D Browser has to use the Centerline routing tools. This will also require some manual inserting by the user, such as placement for the Run and location of bends an such. A full understanding of Centerline Routing will help a long way into working with this feature.

The Valve is very similar to how the equipment is displayed as it uses the "Insert in 3D" options to be placed. How ever, it needs to have the line part of the line that it will be in to be selected and the Insert command to be used (if the line is already build and not drawn after placing the valve).

What happens if the P&ID tag is changed?

Lets say that the Valve tag was incorrect and needs to be changed to show more detail on what type of Valve is being used. The previous tag was 2D-01-H-1. So it is changed in the P&ID to 2D-01-BV-1 to better show that this is a Ball Valve being used. If the 3D model is not opened at the time that the changes are done, the 3D model will be automatically updated because the two drawings are linked to the same database. Of course, work is never perfect and sometimes a drafter might just be in the 3D model while the P&ID is changed. This can result in the model not getting updated because it is currently access a temporary database that has the wrong information. An easy way to fix this is to just simply reload the 3D model and those changes will take effect. Another way to fix this would be to run the Consistency Checker in the 2D Browser to locate what tags changed and then manually change the components Tags to match to new ones. This can be a bit confusing since the 2D Browser will show the new tag and if the drafter doesn't know which tag was changed, they will need to either know the original tags name and which one is missing or go through each component. It is usually quicker to just reload the model.

There is a few times were this information will not show updated in the 2D Browser. For example, if I change the tag of the drum while someone is in the model. The drum will be updated the next time they load up the model, but the nozzles could have trouble updating. Usually the Nozzle does update, but it has been seen were the 2D Browser displays that this has not happened like the image below -

This can be a bit of a pain to fix because the program believes that the nozzle doesn't have all the correct information when it does between the two tools. If you exit out of the drawing and reenter it, the tag information does get updated properly, but the icons will continue to display that the information is incorrect. The only complete way to fix this is to remove the equipment and nozzle and then replace them.

Basic Tap Port Vs. Advanced Tap Port Method

Most of the time, a component that requires a Tap Port can be placed with the basic tap port placement. This would include typical angles such as a simple olet that connects at a 90 to a pipe. Such as the image below -

This can be done by just doing the basic Tap Port command found under the Branching Components>Olets as shown below.

But what if a more complicated angle is needed for the tap. Such as the one below -

This is were the Advanced Tap Port Method would come into play. To learn more about how to use the Advanced Tap Port Method, check out the TechNote - Using Advanced Tap Port Method In Piping

Assembly Manager

This section goes over the Assembly Manager tool in AutoPLANT Piping.  It covers what Assembly Manager is, the basics on how to use Assembly Manager to create an Assembly, how to use the Assembly, and some known issues. 

What is Assembly Manager?

During modeling, sometimes a plant will have similar spools of pipe that are repeatedly used through out it. For example, the spool below could be used in multiple locations of a plant were a return with a valve insert would be needed -

If this spool is going to be used multiple times, we can make it into an Assembly so that it doesn't need to be drafted every time. Assemblies are like pre-built spools that can be stored in the project for later use. They can also be changed slightly so that variations of the spool, such as different ratings or sizes could be placed as well without the need of creating another Assembly. In order to add these components to an Assembly, the Assembly Manager has to be used. To launch the Assembly Manager, just go into Piping>Assembly Manager.

This will load the following dialog. For more information about this dialog, I would recommend clicking the Help button and reviewing the information provided there. There are sections on inserting , creating and editing them. I will review the basics of using Assemblies here, but for more advanced information or details on them, I would strongly recommend reviewing those sections of the Help.

Creating an Assembly

To begin, we have to draw the Spool that will be used for the Assembly. One thing to note, Spools are not the only thing that can be used to make an Assembly. Any grouping of AutoPLANT Piping Components can be used to create an Assembly. Topworks and Supports can even be included in the Assembly, or even make up the whole Assembly.

Once the components are placed in our model, we then start the Assembly Manager and select the "User Assemblies" node in the Assembly Location area. From there, click the Create to begin the creation process.

The first step in the creation process is to select all the components that will make up the Assembly. Once all the components are selected, press Enter to end the select. Next, the "Assembly Manager {Builder Mode} dialog will be displayed like below -

From here, we give the Assembly a name, I am calling this one Returning Valve. One can also review the components in the Assembly by clicking the Component Hierarchy's ROOT's +. There you can see all the components and their properties like this -

Some of the properties can be modified, but that is for more advanced users and I would not recommend doing it until the help file has been fully reviewed and not in a production environment until all the needed values have been determined. Now that we have the name set to how we want it and are sure that all the components are in that are needed. We can build the Assembly by pressing the Build button. The program will begin to build the Assembly and once it is complete, the Assembly Manager will reload and be back to the "User Assemblies" section with the "Returning Valve" displayed in the Current Assemblies area. Now, we can just insert this Assembly into the current model, but I am going to load up a new model to show how the Assembly is now stored in the Project. Close out of the currently drawing and save all changes. Next, create a new model and load it up in that same project.

Inserting Assemblies

Once piping is fully loaded, go to the Assembly Manager and select the new Assembly. Next, the program will request that you pick a point for the elevation. Once this is done, the "Insert Assembly" dialog will appear. Here we can change the Spec File that is being used or even the size of the line.

In this example, I am going to change the Size for this from 6, which is what the original components were that made up this assembly, and I will use 4 instead. After making this change, pressing the Insert button begins the insertion process. Here, the program will prompt the user to make any specification selections that might be needed such as the rating of a Flange like below -

The program will go through a number of these options to determine what is best needed for this particular placement of the Assembly. Since there is a Handwheel in this Assembly, the Handwheel properties will also appear. After all the dialogs have been processed, the program will then request the insertion point to be selected. Since this Assembly has two open ports, the Assembly can be toggled between those to ports at the point that was selected in the Elevation selection step. Press Enter to select the insertion point. Next, the program will request the direction of the Assembly. Just select the desired direction and press Enter when done. Once finished, the program will go back to the Assembly Manager dialog. The Assembly should be completely inserted into the model now.

Known Issues with Assembly Manager

  • No error is reported when connecting assemblies to incompatible sizes 
  • Reinforcement Pads do not get reinserted using Assembly Manager 
  • Miscellaneous Attachments disappear when an assembly containing them is placed
  • Image not available for some supports in Assembly Manager {Builder Mode} 
  • Assemblies created with a spec starting with zero will fail to be inserted 
  • Assembly Manager removes wafer bolts 
  • Some graphical anomalies have been seen when placing joints and Topworks

User Defined Equipment

User Defined Equipment is a feature that allows users to create their own equipment based on AutoCAD shapes. To do this, just needs the shape drawn first, then press the User Defined Equipment under Equipment, and then follow the steps need to convert the AutoCAD object into an AutoPLANT component. As an example, we are going to take a Sphere and make it into a Spherical Tank. Below is a display of what the AutoCAD Object currently looks like -

One the left side is a view of the object in wireframe and on the right is a view of it rendered.

To begin converting this shape into our Equipment, we first select the command like below -

This will first request a Tag for the new Equipment, we will call this one ST-01. After setting the tag up, we will then see the following dialog -

As you can see, all the options except for "Select Entities" and "Cancel" are grayed out. This is because the program needs an object selected before it can proceed. To do this, press the "Select Entities" button and then select the Sphere. After this is done, the program will go back into the dialog and more options will become available.

A list of each value and what it does can be found below:

  • Tag - defined in the first step
  • Group ID - automatically be generated when the Equipment is created
  • Description - the user can give the equipment any description desired here
  • Length - the length or height of the equipment, grayed out until the Location, Direction and Orientation are set
  • Radius - the radius of the equipment, also grayed out until the Location, Direction and Orientation are set
  • Location point - this is the base point of the equipment
  • Direction Point - this tells the program which way the equipment is going
  • Orientation Point - decides the orientation of the tank

Now to setup each point, start with the Location Point, then do the Direction Point and finally the Orientation Point. With a Sphere, it can be a bit difficult to decide which direction is best. In this example, the location point was made to be the center of the sphere, the direction point was end going in the positive X direction, while the Orientation was in the Positive Y direction. These points decide how the nozzles will be aligned. When placing a nozzle, if it is noticed that the nozzle isn't function the way that was intended, all one needs to do is edit the User Equipment, which will in turn load the User Defined Equipment dialog, and one can redo the points. After the points are done, the Length and Radius become available. Since I know that my Sphere is 6' in Diameter, I will set the Length to 6' and the radius to 3'.

After doing hitting the OK, one will see that the AutoCAD object changes color to match the set color of the Equipment, by default this would be green. Also, the new equipment will be assigned a Group ID, which is the same as the COMP_ID of other AutoPLANT components. Now the equipment can have Nozzles placed on it and connected to piping.

One thing to note, it can be difficult to determine the best placement of the points, try place nozzles and seeing how they react to the setup, then make some changes to the points to see how they change. This is the best way to determine how it reacts. Also, location Nozzles can be a big help when using User Defined Equipment.

Equipment Primitives

Another way to create custom equipment would be to use the Equipment Primitives and Associative Primitives. These two sections can be found under the Equipment menu as seen below -

What these two options do is allow users to build equipment from primitive objects, similar to AutoCAD's 3D shapes. To begin working with these, one needs to start with an Equipment Primitive. Think of it as a base for the Equipment or main part. After placing that, one can then add on Associative Primitives, think of these like the Head of a vessel or a skirt.

There are multiple Equipment Primitive shapes, including Cylinders, Cones, Spheres, and many others. Each one has a different menu when being placed so that the different values that define that shape can be set. In this example, a Cones>Vertical will be placed.

When placing an Equipment Primitive, the program will start out by requesting the Tag number for this Equipment. After the tag number is assigned, it will then bring up the Equipment properties dialog, in this case, it is the Equipment Horizontal Solid dialog.

If a Horizontal Rectangle was placed instead, then the dialog would be the follow -

The dialogs are similar, but have some differences that correspond to the different types of Primitives being used. Set the dimensions to the desired values and then press OK to begin placing the Primitive in the model. The program will first ask for the elevation, followed by the location, then the direction, and finally the orientation angle. After all of this is set, the program will place in the equipment primitive.

Now to place Associative Primitives, there has to be an Equipment Primitive to associate it to. Using the Equipment primitive that was just placed, place a Associative Rectangular Solid on the bottom. Start this process by going to Equipment>Associative Primitives>Rectangular Solid like below -

Now when starting this command, the program will request which primitive to associate this Associative Primitive with. Just select the Equipment Primitive that was placed. Next, the program will bring up a dialog to customize the shape and layout of the Associative Primitive. To make this rectangular solid act as a bottom for the cone, use the below settings.

After setting the values into the dialog, press OK and notice that the Associative is placed connected to the cone. It should now look similar to the image below -

Now, we can also place more primitives on this equipment, such as a Head on the top. Also, one can attach an Associative Primitive to another Associative Primitive. The Primitive that these Associative Primitives can be considered Parents while the attached Associative Primitive can be called the Child. Anything that happens to the Parent in turn affects the child. For example, if the rectangle had associative primitives attached to it and it was deleted, all the associates attached to the rectangle will be deleted as well, but its parent, the Cone, will remain.


Piping has many tools that help get specific jobs done. One group of these tools are called Modules. Modules are like plug-ins for AutoPLANT. They use the functions and features of AutoPLANT combined with more tools and custom specs to create unique piping components. Some examples of Modules are Victaulic, Ductile Iron and High Purity. These modules are kind of like customizations that are provided in the program to do special jobs. For example, Victaulic pipe has special coupling connects to join pipe rather then using welds. The Victaulic module knows this and will help in placing these connections. An example of one of these couplings can be seen below -

In order to work with these modules, one needs to load them up first. To do this, simple go to Piping>Setup>Module Setup...


After selecting this, the below dialog will appear -

This dialog allows users to Load or unload the selected module or all of the modules. It also allows the user to view information about each module so that they can learn more about it. To load a module, just select the module from the Available Modules list, pick the desired option, and then hit either OK or Apply. OK will do the desired action and close the Module Setup dialog while Apply will perform the desired action and keep the dialog open, which is hand for when you wish to load multiple, but not all of the modules.

Once loaded, a Module will appear as a pull down in AutoCAD, much like how Piping and Equipment are handled. Each module has it's own commands that reside in the pull down. Unloading the module will remove this module from the pull down menus, but any components placed with this module will remain. The component can also still be edited to a point using the Piping commands, but in order to place new module based components, the module will need to be loaded again.

Each module uses different specs for the components that they place. For example, the Imperial specs for the Victaulic module is called Victalic. Of course, not all of the specs are that easy to find. The imperial Victaulic also uses the NIBCO, EPC, and AWWA specs. More information on which specs are used for which module can be found under the Help menu for that module. For example, to learn what specs are used for the HVAC module, first one needs to load the HVAC module. Once loaded, go to HVAC>Help>Contents...

This will bring up the HVAC help file. Here you can find useful information on how to use the corresponding modules commands. To locate which specs are needed for this module, either do a search on Specs or Specifications. Another way of locating this information is to go to Getting Started>HVAC Specifications (of course, the name HVAC will be different depending on which module's help file is being viewed). Below is an image of this to help in locating it.


This concludes the Basic Modeling blog. In this blog, some basic features were covered and reviewed, but not all the features in AutoPLANT were included. Remember to review the AutoPLANT Help files if more understanding is required to use a feature. The help files can be either accessed from within the programs, through the use of Help buttons in some dialogs (this loads the help file up on the topic that corresponds to the menu that the Help button was in), or by going to the Help folder under the Bentley Plant V8i folder.