Computer design & project management products

An update on the latest CAD products on the market for M/E/P engineering...


With an abundance of computer-aided design (CAD) and Web-based project management tools, M/E firms are increasingly finding it difficult to choose from an ever-growing selection of software packages. These trends are not only uncovering thorny management and business issues (see "Professional Practices," page 21), but also changing the way that software businesses operate and distribute their products. Below are some of the most important new CAD releases for engineers.

Stand-alone engineering package allows the user to design, simulate and animate circuits consisting of various automation technologies including pneumatics, hydraulics, PLCs and electrical controls. (Automation Studio)

Add-on toolkit facilitates the user's ability to run LISP programs within AutoCAD LT. Other features include the ability to access DOS and Windows commands from LISP and the removal of any limitations involving the loading of LISP files. (LT Toolkit by Drcauto)

Lighting-design program combines drafting and modeling tools with features that make it easy to create light plots, automate paperwork and visualize 3D design concepts. This software features a library of more than 400 intelligent instruments that draw beams in both 2D and 3D and allow complete customization of labels on the plot and track data. (Spotlight by VectorWorks)

Raster-to-vector conversion software automatically converts scanned drawings into mono or color DXF files suitable for editing in CAD. This program is not restricted to drawing-size limits and offers improved color recognition capabilities. (Scan2CAD6 by Softcover International)

CAD security program allows users to use standard AutoCAD commands to save locked drawing files containing programmed access privileges. When loaded onto a recipient's machine, these locked drawing files then enable only certain AutoCAD commands and activities. (CADLock)

3D-drawing software allows the user to draw the edges of a desired object just like with a pencil and paper. Inferencing capabilities automatically determine the nature of the lines and fill the shapes to create 3D geometry. (SketchUp by @Last Software)

Design-build tool encompasses all functions of the construction process from project management to document management. This ASP-based solution can be accessed via browsers, allowing disparate members of the building team to interact and make revisions. (IBS by Tririga)

Revision-management tool provides a way to determine the differences between two AutoCAD drawings, especially those with the same name. This add-on compares two DWG files and reports the differences between them, displaying the results within AutoCAD or in a separate DWG file. (CompareDWG by Furix)

Synchronized information-management system ensures that back-office project design data is systematically shared with project participants. This software integrates with design and management tools to help coordinate internally managed data with externally shared data. (ProjectWise Version 3.2 by Bentley Systems)

On-line product guide links section information from AIA's master specification system to industry catalogs, removing the inefficiencies associated with paper catalogues and unlinked services. (AEC Direct)

Utility software encompasses a wide variety of functions for electric, gas and water utilities. Latest edition includes tools for adding aggregated features such as switchgear cabinets or regular stations. An extension of the program provides the ability to conduct facility editing, facility design, work-sketch preparation and work-management system integration. (ArcFM by Miner & Miner)

Airflow modeling simulator allows the user to model not only airflow, but also heat transfer, contaminant transport and thermal comfort for a ventilation system. This program eliminates the need for purchasing additional software to export the computer animations of the modeling results, and lets the user import existing CAD geometries in IGES or DXF formats. (Airpak 2.0 by Fluent)

HVAC design software allows the user to build air handlers, airflow diagrams and even hydronic systems. This program uses intelligent objects that can be dragged onto the page, customized for the specific component information and connected to other components in schematic form. (HVAC Solution)

Web-based construction manager facilitates document sharing, team collaboration, secure information hosting, revision capabilities and teleconferencing for the entire building team. (TeamBuilder by e-Builder)

On-line specifications database has been redesigned, and offers a comprehensive resource for information on manufacturers and their building components. Organized under CSI Masterformat divisions, this searchable database offers contact information, product details and preformatted, written specifications. (

Parametric building modeler associates its components with construction phases and relates them to one another over time intervals. The construction of any component can be recorded in a phase, and multiple generations of phased construction documents can be created from the single parametric model. (Revit Version 3.1)

Design software offers an assortment of new options for the design professional, including improved dimensioning, new attachable camera objects and new lights. This software is compatible with AutoCAD and MicroStation, and allows the user to publish CAD files directly on the Internet. (TurboCAD 7.0)

Design and monitoring tool for process, water, air and wastewater-treatment engineering. Application gives users the opportunity to design and then access information for these systems online. (Dilato, Inc.)

Fire-alarm specification software is a pictorial driven, free program that allows the user to select specific product types. This software sources more than just the vendor's equipment, utilizing three additional manufacturers with comparable equipment. (WinSpec by Secutron)

Third-generation design software offers greater AutoCAD compatibility with a host of new functions, including complex line types, xref clipping and the display and printing of ACIS solid models. (IntelliCAD 2001)

Piping software for designing and troubleshooting fluid-piping systems features faster calculation rates, and simplifies the selection of pumps and valves. (Pipe-Flow v.7 by Engineered Software)

Weather-data program bins information by dry-bulb temperature, wet-bulb temperature and humidity. This software calculates the energy needed to cool and dehumidify the outside air and the package also includes ASHRAE design data. (BinMaker Plus by InterEnergy Software)

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