Applied Software's Guide to Plant 3D

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What is Plant 3D?

Plant 3D is an Autodesk application targeted to the design and layout of process plant facilities. It has the tools and features designers need to create detailed plant models, including piping, structural and equipment built on the familiar AutoCAD platform. Using spec-driven technology and standard parts catalogs, designers can streamline the placement of piping, equipment, support structures, and other plant components.

What can a designer do in Plant 3D?

  • Create and edit P&IDs
    • Create P&ID quickly from Industry-standard symbol libraries.
    • Use data validation to quickly identify possible errors
  • Create and edit accurate 3D models for structural steel, pipe and equipment customized to fit many process applications.
  • Create piping specs.
  • Extract and edit piping orthographic drawings.
  • Automate piping isometrics.
  • Automate project specific reports.
  • Create documentation for BIM models.

What can you do with Plant 3D?

Intelligent P&IDs

Each component placed into a P&ID drawing has data that links to the Data Manager. With the Data Manager, users can view data reports, export them to a spreadsheet or a CSV (comma separated values) file and import them back into the program.

  • Quick PID drafting with in-context AutoCAD commands.
  • Project-specific tag and report formats enable customization to client standards.
  • Data validation quickly determines data consistency and identifies potential errors.
  • Industry-standard symbol libraries in tool palettes . . .

A dynamic P&ID drawing is created by combining various types of components and lines, from which data reports can be produced and edited. Each P&ID component and line has an assigned layer name, color, scaling factor, tagging behavior, and other properties that are set up as part of the project.

Components include equipment (pumps, tanks, vessels), nozzles (flanged or flow), instruments (control valves, flow meters, instrument bubbles), inline components (valves and reducers), non-engineering items (connectors, flow arrows, other items lacking reportable data).

Schematic lines include pipe lines (primary and secondary line segments, jacketed pipe segments) and signal lines (electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic).

P&ID Component and Line Symbols:

Plant 3D includes a set of component and line symbols based on P&ID industry standards, PIP, ISA, ISO, DIN, and JIS. The P&ID tool palette provides a visual library of the symbols or components and lines that are used to create and document P&ID drawings.

Component and Line Creation:

If the user notices there are components and lines that are not part of the out-of-the-box symbol libraries, it is likely that they were created and added to the tool palette by an administrator. The default symbols or those provided by an administrator are recommended to ensure they comply with company standards and will show up in reports. If needed, AutoCAD objects can be converted to P&ID components or lines.

Need a Plant 3D administrator? Contact Applied Software for a discovery call to find out how the Plant 3D experts at Applied can get you through the hardest parts of Plant 3D administration?

3D Modeling

  • Rapid plant modeling in 3D
  • Parametric equipment templates
  • Structural modeling
  • Creation of project-specific piping specifications

Users can customize piping specifications to meet job requirements. Spec Editor creates and modifies specs, which include a spec sheet and a branch table. Parts can be added to the spec sheet and used in Plant 3D when routing pipe. Spec Editor will do the following:

  • Create, view, and edit a spec.
  • Add parts to a spec sheet from a catalog.
  • Set part-use priority for part groups based on part size.
  • Assign parts for use as branch fittings.
  • View, filter and locate parts in parts catalogs.
  • Assign wall thicknesses to DIN parts.
  • Export a spec sheet to Excel or import a modified spec sheet from Excel.

The model can even be reviewed and checked for interferences by using Autodesk Navisworks Manage.

Piping Documentation

  • Create automated, project-specific reports
  • Document BIM models
  • Create and edit piping orthographic drawings.
  • Produce automated piping isometrics – snapshots of the models created using styles

Piping Deliverables

Piping isometrics – Plant 3D offers automated isometrics that can be customized with title blocks, symbols, flow arrows, supports, insulation symbols, and more.
Orthographic drawings (sections and plans) – Sections and plans are made easy with Plant 3D. View ports are infinitely adjustable with viewcubes and an enhanced interface for creating detailed and easy to read sections and plans.
Reports – Create automated, project-specific reports, and document BIM models.

How to install and purchase Plant 3D


Autodesk announced that AutoCAD 2020 will no longer be separated into different distinct programs. Instead, subscribers to AutoCAD 2020 can access multiple offerings referred to as “specialized toolsets” from their Autodesk Account. Included in these toolsets is Plant 3D, formerly known as AutoCAD Plant 3D 2018. Even though Plant 3D is a toolset, it is still a separate download application.

Installation Resources

Plant 3D System Requirements
Guide for installing Plant 3D
Installation and configuration
Selecting content packs
Installing for Autodesk Vault (plant projects )
Installing Object Enablers


The Plant 3D toolset is included with AutoCAD including Specialized Toolsets. For a quick discovery call about Plant 3D and AutoCAD subscriptions, or to talk to an account manager, contact Applied Software today.

Common Challenges

1. Line Tagging

Access David Wolfe’s how-to video to learn the best practices of line tagging in just 25 minutes.

2.Isometric Title Block Setup

One of the most common challenges when setting up Plant 3D with a new user is the isometric title block. A customized isometric title block with a company’s logo and other custom information is often essential to project deliverables.

3. Local Data Cache Purger

Finding and Using the PnPLocalDataCachePurger.exe to clear local data cache

4. Reporting Tools Customization

Webinar: Master Plant 3D Reporting

Blog: 4 Things You Should Know About Plant 3D Reporting Functionality

Content and Reporting Templates

5. Pipe Specs

Course: Piping Specification Writing Workflows

Course: How to Create Unbreakable Project Workflows

Course: Let Your Data Flow Between the Plant Specs, AutoCAD P&ID (Spec Driven), and AutoCAD Plant 3D

Course: Connecting Piping Design in AutoCAD Plant 3D to Piping Fabrication Through Spoolgen

6. Custom P&ID blocks

Course: Customizing Auto-CADR-PID-201

7. Line List

Blog: How the Ultimate P&ID Line List Will Make Your Life Easier

Webinar: The Ultimate Line List


1. Plant 3D + SQL Server

Autodesk knowledge network: How to Configure Microsoft SQL Server for AutoCAD Plant 3D Projects

2. Plant 3D + Vault

Plant 3d + Vault Series

3. Plant 3D + BIM 360

Plant 3D + BIM 360 Series


CADLearning has personalized courses of study.

For the basics of using Plant 3D and more in depth features, visit Autodesk Knowledge Network Learn.

You can search for previous years’ Autodesk University classes that pertain to Plant 3D.

System Performance

AutoCAD Plant 3D is built on the general purpose CAD engine platform of AutoCAD. Since AutoCAD is used for many things, it is not optimized for 3D graphics. AutoCAD Plant 3D default settings are not set up specifically to favor editor response speed over display quality.

When looking to improve performance, the first thing to consider is using the Visual Styles Manager to reduce 3D display detail. You can also use 3dconfig to set options that affect the graphics card hardware performance.

Performance increases can be accomplished by turning off disconnect markers, breaking up large drawings using external references and operating in 2dwireframe mode. Plant 3D palettes not being used can be closed when working in the model. For example, closing the Data Manager can improve performance, especially when editing. Project Manager can also be closed (as opposed to Auto-Hide) to improve performance.

AutoCAD Settings

There is no single best AutoCAD setting for performance, because some settings are designed to disable features needed for selecting and editing.

The most significant choice is between 2D and 3D view modes. 2D modes can display 3D objects that look similar to 3D wireframe, but the modes use a significantly different redraw database. The 3D redraw database is designed for quality and response, but not scalability. In practical terms, this means that in 3D view modes, performance deteriorates faster as the model in the display gets larger.

Changing to 2D wireframe with silhouettes off can significantly improve performance. If dispsilh is turned off to improve performance in wireframe, isolines should be set to 4. Piping also uses plantpipesilhdisplay, which displays silhouettes for tube segments when dispsilh is off. For more information, see Control the Visual Style of the Plant 3D Model.

Some alternative settings could cause undesired behavior. For example, turning off pickfirst speeds up browsing, but it disables the select connected parts shortcut menu. Dragging in 2dwireframe can be slower than 3dwireframe. The best performance configuration depends on how the user is working with the model. Setting a low viewres speeds up dragging in 2D mode. Facetres is a similar variable that affects 3D views.

Vtoptions can be used to set a fast transition speed, lower the performance (fps) threshold, or disable view transitions.

Other settings that are not specific to display can be used. For example, unused layers can be frozen to improve performance, instead of turning a layer off.

Users can also turn off features not used. For example, the properties window does not need to be open until it is needed. Tracking, dynamic input, and even grips can be turned off when not used.

Breaking up larger drawings into smaller ones using external references can significantly improve performance. For example, equipment, piping, and structure can be placed into different drawings, and large drawings can be broken up by area.

Additional Resources

Python Scripting

Interested in custom Python scripts for Plant 3D? See this AU presentation by David Wolfe, Applied Software Director of MTG Services.

David also wrote a three-part blog series on the topic:

Custom Python Scripts for AutoCAD Plant 3D – Part 1

Custom Python Scripts for AutoCAD Plant 3D – Part 2

Custom Python Scripts for AutoCAD Plant 3D – Part 3

Easy Python Decompiler Tool

More Autodesk Links

Autodesk describes AutoCAD Plant 3D as specification-driven software for creating 3D models of process plant components – routing pipe, adding equipment, adding components, and including support structures. Within Plant 3D, the underlying data is exchanged directly among the 3D model, P&IDs, isometrics, and orthographics, ensuring that the information is consistent and up-to-date.

Autodesk YouTube Channel with video tutorials and product and industry videos.

AutoCAD Plant 3D videos – video content for users getting started with Plant 3D.

Autodesk Knowledge Network – AutoCAD Toolsets page with video tutorials on Plant 3D features and using Plant 3D.

Includes videos:

Includes learning articles on:

For quick references, check out the AutoCAD Plant 3D Quick Reference Guide.

To share your Plant 3D knowledge or explore popular Plant 3D topics, participate in the AutoCAD Plant 3D Forum. Also referred to as the “Autodesk Community,” you can find answers, share expertise and connect with peers.

To see if a problem you’re experiencing has been addressed and solved, see the Autodesk Knowledge Network troubleshooting content. It includes featured how-to lessons for using Plant 3D.

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