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AutoCAD Plant 3D: What is a Good Model Size?

Your Plant Buddy

Your Plant Buddy: Buddy Legnon

Good day readers!

Thanks for coming to our blog regarding the use of AutoCAD’s Plant 3D Tools. Today’s topic will be model sizes! What is a good model size? Well there are plenty of factors that can affect your models beyond size, such as custom parts, inserted parts from programs like Autodesk Inventor and other vendor supplied parts. What is typical of GDP for plant is the – ‘What will fit on the D size Plan Drawing’ And ‘Will that model fit on that D size sheet with a 3/8 scale’ type of thinking. This is why these important topics should be covered prior to detail design beginning. Arranging the project in Areas helps keeps the project models organized. Discipline can also be a separator inside that area. And finally, to keep 3D models in bite sized chunks, you can keep an eye on model sizes as they should stay at or under 5meg’s for working models. Working models are updated daily and are always under editing conditions during detail design. Here is a pic of a rather typical Project Manager Structure setup by Area / Discipline


Typical Project Manager Setup

As you can see, Area is just the first part of the breakdown. If your project does not use Area, perhaps System or Services can be substituted as an alternative. The point is, making your models in your project sized so that the speed of rendering, ortho creation and rotating will not be slowed or delayed by size. Couple that with the time it may take to recreate a corrupt or deleted model and you will have a very good reason to keep models bite sized.

One customer I have creates their project and numbered it in a very unique way. Each P&ID was given a unique number. Each 3D model was a model on only that P&ID. They also tagged each pipe line and equipment with part of the P&ID number so designers knew right where the models were, the schematic that it was designed from and all other pertinent information for detailed design.

It may not work for you and your project but it was rather unique and thought I would share it.

Since it is very difficult to define model sizes for each user, I’ve attached a document to help you in this endeavor. This document can assist you with your project creations. Download it and keep it handy, and try it out on a test project environment.

How to Manage Large Projects in AutoCAD Plant 3D

Once a model is done, it may be larger than 5MB but that’s ok if the model is reviewed with Navisworks.  This topic brings us into new workflows, but I will save that for another day.

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About the Author

About the Author: Buddy Legnon has been a Technical Specialist with Autodesk for nearly 2 years. As a Subject Matter Expert, Buddy’s duties include helping customers by understanding their business issues and finding solutions that solve their challenges. Buddy has over 21 years of experience across multiple segments of the AEC industry, 4 years of experience with Autodesk’s Plant Suite of vertical solutions and over 20 years of experience with AutoCAD.   Prior to joining Autodesk, Buddy was a Sr. Piping Designer for a large sized Chemical Plant in Plaquemine Louisiana. Buddy got the existing competitors house to switch to Plant 3D for new projects moving forward. Prior to that position, Buddy was the 3D Administrator for a power generation company in Alabama working on very large projects for US Government Study on the gasification of coal. .


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There Are 11 Brilliant Comments

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  1. dave says:

    Buddy, great article thanks so much for posting! I have a question though, is 5MB a little small? I have seen models up to 40MB (extreme) but 20MB seems reasonable.

    • Buddy says:

      While I agree with you in most respects, the issue of 5megs is a conservative number for those who may be new to plant, 3D and using the out of the box SQL lite. I too have seen bigger models perform but typically they are supported thru Oracle or SQL Express.

  2. dave says:

    Thanks for that answer. How much do machine specs play a role in model performance?

    • Buddy says:

      Good point Dave. We all know hardware has a profound effect on performance with software. You can have too little RAM but never enough it seems. Between video cards, RAM amounts and processor speeds we are, to some degree, limited by these hardware parts and our efforts to do great things. However Autodesk has published minimum hardware requirements for many Autodesk software titles.

      Anything more than the minimum allows a greater range of file sizes and performance gains.

      • dave says:

        Awesome, thanks for that. Is there a point at which it maxes out?

        • Buddy says:

          While there is no ‘line in the sand’ as far as file sizes go for Plant3D Models, there are some guidelines that I would recommend.
          *Always aggregate your models in a model review platform such as Navisworks.
          *Don’t use your Plant3D environment for that function. *Also, once a model is completed (90% phase) and its size is over 10 meg yet under 20meg, that should not cause concerns provided your database structure is not SQL lite.
          *Make sure your larger models and projects are working within a robust database software structure.

          Following these guidelines and using the documents linked on this blog will help you get a better understanding of project construction as well as keep your project and models performing at a high level.

  3. Paul says:

    I have personally worked wth 80+mb models without Plant 3D issues. This was due to vendor equipment models. These wer of coarse shrink wrapped to reduce from orginal size and of coarse this was backed by a powerfull server over Citrix. The issue I have run into is multi platforms (Revit, AutoCAD) in that a large exported DWG beind utilzed as an in place family this seemed to be a hadling issue on the Revit side. Being tha said I woud much rather handle a saller model. Ram, CPU and GPU is definately key.

    • dave says:

      Paul, I doubt you can show anything but I would really like to see this file! Was Citrix running on VM? Is there any chance you can get the specs on the server?

  4. Erwin Meulman says:

    AutoCAD plant3d has a single-threaded kernel, big plants will be a problem, use a mesh kernel like tekla or microstation for big plant design

  5. Tony D Dao says:

    Hi Dave.
    Great artical and the supporting PDF for large project.

    I see that you have a section on “Distributed Environment” but it needs Buzzaw.

    Is there an alternative not to use Buzzaw.


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