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Which AutoCAD is right for you?

By Nick Marchek | CAD

CHOOSE THE AUTOCAD THAT FITS YOUR BUSINESS

There are numerous products out there to help with your design and documentation workflows, but which one is right for you.  This blog article will look at the breadth of what AutoCAD offers in terms of products and specializations.  There are many benefits to using AutoCAD, but this blog will focus on helping you decide which AutoCAD is right for you.  For a more comprehensive breakdown of the benefits of AutoCAD, please see this blog post.

First and foremost, with the release of AutoCAD 2019, also known as “One AutoCAD”, Autodesk has moved away from the separate ‘vertical’ cad program subscriptions (i.e., Architecture, Electrical, Mechanical, MEP, etc.) and had now provided access to “specialized toolsets” for each discipline within the same subscription of AutoCAD.  In other words, there is no longer a need to purchase different AutoCAD products depending on your industry – instead, you now get a subscription for AutoCAD. In addition to the ‘vanilla’ version of AutoCAD, you will have the various industry-specific specialized toolsets available for download.

Please note: Civil 3D has remained a separate product outside of the new offering (more on that below).  So, while compatible with AutoCAD, Civil 3D will require a separate subscription if you intend to use it in conjunction with other cad software.

 

WHICH AUTOCAD IS BEST FOR ARCHITECTURE, MECHANICAL & ELECTRICAL ENGINEERS? 

These industry-specific toolsets provide features and libraries specific to certain trades or disciplines that are useful in automating and streamlining the design and documentation process, whether it is 2D drafting or 3D modeling.

By providing automated workflows and collections of intelligent parts, symbols, and building objects, the new AutoCAD offers more flexibility in its functionality in the ever-evolving world of BIM.  So, let’s take a look at a brief overview of the various toolset options so you can decide which is right for you.

Below are the products available to you as part of the “AutoCAD including specialized toolsets” package:

  • AutoCAD (Windows & Mac)
    • Used by designers from all trades and disciplines.
    • Often referred to as the base or “vanilla” AutoCAD, where all of the below is built on top of.
    • Provides tools for drawing and annotation tools for 2D documentation, as well as modeling and visualization tools to create 3D models.
    • Can be customized to meet the unique workflows for each user/office.
  • AutoCAD Architecture
    • Used by architects and designers.
    • Think of AutoCAD Architecture as the midpoint between regular AutoCAD and the parametric modeling offered by Autodesk Revit.
    • Provides tools to automate the process of setting up 2D drawings, schedules, and various documentation tasks.
    • 8000+ intelligent architectural objects and styles.
    • New/Featured Tools:
      • Architectural Renovation: Ability to display existing, demolished, and new construction all in the same drawing file rather than edit multiple files.
      • Walls. Doors, Windows: Real-world behavior and construction built into the elements.
      • Design & Documentation: Utilize detail components and keynoting tools to cut down on drafting time.
  • AutoCAD Electrical
    • Used by electrical engineers and users involved in documenting electrical control systems.
    • Supplies tools to create panel layouts, schematic diagrams, and other electrical drawings.
    • 65,000+ intelligent symbols.
    • New/Featured Tools:
      • Automatic Report Generation: Generate and update customized reports.
      • Customer & Supplier Collaboration: Easily share DWG drawings with stakeholders.
      • Easily Manage Projects: Use folders to organize drawings and reorder files for electrical drafting purposes.
  • AutoCAD Map 3D
    • Designed for users who need to utilize and maintain CAD and GIS data for planning, design, and data management.
    • Equips users with tools to create, maintain, and communicate mapping and GIS information within the AutoCAD drawing environment.
    • Manages GIS data and uses task-based tools to aggregate with design data.
    • New/Featured Tools:
      • Use Feature Data Objects (FDO) Technology: Work with spatial data from a variety of CAD and GIS data formats and coordinate systems.
      • Connect to ArcGIS: Streamline the flow of data between ArcGIS and Map 3D and keep features information up to date.
      • Convert Data Between DWG and GIS Data: Perform high-fidelity data conversions using MapImport and MapExport.
  • AutoCAD Mechanical
    • Used by manufacturing, product, and mechanical design professionals.
    • Provides tools to automate mechanical engineering tasks such as generating machine components, dimensioning, and creating a bill of materials.
    • 70,000+ intelligent objects.
    • Key/Featured Tools:
      • Layer Management: Isolate and restore layer groups and specify line types and line weights.
      • Hidden Lines: Update geometry automatically when a change occurs and minimize rework.
      • Machinery Generators & Calculators: Efficiently analyze designs, including shaft, spring, belt, and cam generators.
  • AutoCAD MEP
    • Used by mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection professionals.
    • Supplies tools to help draft, design, and document MEP building systems in both 2D and 3D cad.
    • 10,500+ intelligent MEP objects.
    • Key/Featured Tools:
      • MEP Workspaces: Workspace environments include individual palettes and domain-specific ribbons.
      • AutoCAD Block Conversion: Batch-convert single or multiple blocks and symbols.
      • Styles Browser: Get more MEP components and add folders to the Content Library.
  • AutoCAD Plant 3D
    • Used for 3D design of plant models.
    • Provides tools to generate and share isometrics, orthographic, and materials reports.
    • Also provides tools to create schematic diagrams, plant layouts, and other drawings necessary for plant design.
    • 400+ intelligent plant objects.
    • Key/Featured Tools:
      • Collaboration for Plant 3D: Collaborate on plant models across project teams and maintain compliance requirements, all in a cloud-based environment.
      • Quick P&ID Drafting: In-context AutoCAD commands help P&ID drafting easier.
      • Data Validation: Quickly identify possible errors by scanning P&IDs for data consistency according to user-defined rules.
  • AutoCAD Raster Design
    • Designed to help users edit scanned drawings and convert raster images to DWG objects.
    • Key/Featured Tools:
      • Image Editing & Cleanup: Despeckle, bias, mirror, and touch up your images.
      • Raster Entity Manipulation (REM): Use standard AutoCAD commands on raster regions and primitives.
      • Vectorization Tools: Create lines and polylines from raster images, and convert raster files into vector drawings.
      • Image Transformation Functionality: Show and analyze geo images in Civil 3D engineering software and the AutoCAD Map 3D toolset.

To find out more about AutoCAD including specialized toolsets, click here.

For an overview of new features in AutoCAD 2021, please see here.

 

WHICH AUTOCAD IS BEST FOR CIVIL ENGINEERS AND INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS? 

As mentioned above, AutoCAD Civil 3D is still a separate product outside of the new bundled offering of AutoCAD including specialized toolsets.

AutoCAD Civil 3D is built on top of AutoCAD Map 3D and the base AutoCAD.  It has all of the features of both but also provides dynamic tools for civil engineering tasks such as grading, road design, pipe networks, and profiles.

Civil 3D is a civil engineering design software that supports BIM with integrated features to improve drafting, design, and construction documentation.

    • Key/Featured Tools:
      • Collaboration for Civil 3D: Securely access Civil 3D files, data shortcuts, and xrefs from multiple locations and companies, all in a common data environment.
      • Connector for ArcGIS: Streamline the flow of data between ArcGIS and Civil 3D.  Access the latest data and keep features information up to date.  Task-based tools to manage GIS data and aggregate GIS data with design data.
      • Dynamo for Civil 3D: Use the Dynamo visual scripting environment to develop routines that automate repetitive design tasks and expedites workflows.
      • Bridge Design: Coordinate workflows more efficiently across the various disciplines working on complex bridge design projects.
      • Pressure Network: Use enhanced tools for more efficient pressure pipe network layout and design.
      • New Transit & Rail Design Features: An expanded toolkit for transit and rail design including spirals, dynamic alignments, profiles, and superelevation design.
      • Design & Documentation: Create plans, profiles, and cross-sections for roads, land development, and other civil designs.  Consistent project standards with drawings organized in a project-based structure.
      • Access to Information: Standard data schema, automated business workflows, and report templates for Electric North America, Electric Europe, Water, Wastewater, Gas industry.
      • Intelligent Objects: Intelligent civil objects that interact to create interconnected designs along with configurable styles to conform to nearly any graphical standards.

To find out more about AutoCAD Civil 3D, click here.

 

SUMMARY

Choosing the right AutoCAD software can be confusing.  With the all-in-one offering created by Autodesk for AutoCAD starting in 2019, that has become a little easier of a decision.  You may still have the decision as to whether you want to move forward with AutoCAD or possibly go to a solution that leans more toward full BIM, like Revit.  Or, you may be looking at other 3D modeling software like Rhino, Solidworks, Sketchup, or again even Revit.

These decisions will come down to what you are trying to accomplish with the software – are you drafting and creating construction documentation, are you preparing models for renderings or 3D printing, or are you simply looking for the most affordable solution that meets the need of your team at this time?

You want the features and licensing options that make you and your team more productive. The truth is – it isn’t just the price you pay that matters. The right software will likely include features that save you so much time and labor costs that it more than pays for itself.

There are a lot of options out there.  This blog, hopefully, helps walk you through the options when considering AutoCAD as the solution that best fits your needs.

For more information on pricing and options, please email info@microsolresources.com.

 

INDUSTRIES: Architecture, Buildings, Civil Engineering, Civil Infrastructure, Construction, Media & Entertainment, MEP Engineering, Structural Engineering

About the Author

Nick is a Building Information Modeling (BIM) Specialist based in our Philadelphia office. He has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in architecture from The Pennsylvania State University. He provides consulting, training, technical support, model management, and implementation services to our architectural and building engineering clients. Nick is an Autodesk Certified Instructor and Revit Architecture Certified Professional.

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