10 Commands and Functions that a Piping Software must have

The complexity of an industrial plant makes it necessary to use computer systems that guarantee a simple, rapid design and that allow to speed up the construction or modification of the plant. The initial idea provided by the client must in fact be the subject of an in-depth study. It will analyze the most important aspects of the project: from the regulatory requirements to the different components to be used, up to the study of costs and construction times.

You must therefore analyze in detail and integrate with all the information necessary for the correct positioning of each element within the industrial plant, the idea provided by the customer. The first step is the realization of the P&ID (Piping and Instrumentation Diagram), the initial process scheme on which the entire design process is based.

Subsequently, you will carry out the study of the path of the pipes , through the use of a plant software. ESAin’s 3D Piping software guarantees a fast, accurate and precise three-dimensional modeling.  The designers will then have a three-dimensional physical layout with which it will be possible to identify each element and extract the isometric sketches containing the list of materials, the list of welds and the cutting tables necessary for the next prefabrication phase.

Main commands and functions of a 3D Piping software

The software for the design of pipes in 3D must therefore provide a series of features that allow to create layouts of plants. It will facilitate the work of designers and minimizing the work time required by three-dimensional modeling. The main features of a Piping software must in fact provide specific commands for each aspect related to the design of an industrial plant, from the initial process scheme to the final fabrication.

Let’s find out together the main commands that a piping software must absolutely have:

1 – Managing Process Schemes

As anticipated, the P&ID is fundamental and preparatory to the design of the physical layout of the plant.

A plant engineering software must therefore include functions that allow you to create process diagrams quickly and accurately, reducing the risk of error, in particular the commands for:

  • Schematically draw process lines complete with related data, such as diameter, class, and temperatures.
  • Quickly insert equipment, valves, line components, instruments and control valves.
  • Automatically generate lists of lines, valves, equipment, and tools.
  • Quickly and accurately handle any changes, such as line number, class, nominal diameter, etc.

2 – Management of material catalogs and piping classes

The components used during the creation of piping lines are largely standardized and mostly comply with various international standards: a piping design software must therefore have catalogs of materials that include the main regulatory references (ASME, DIN, EN, UNI etc.).  It must also have the possibility to define line specifications that, based on the process conditions (fluid, pressure and temperature), allow to establish in advance which materials to use to build the various lines or line classes.  

A piping modeling software must therefore have commands to:

  • Manage and possibly customize the catalogs of materials.
  • Define a series of piping classes by choosing the components to be used for each of them.
  • Define a “branch table” (or table of intersections) where for each pipe diameter are listed all the derivation components (for example, Tees and Half couplings) that can be used to make the detachments of any other pipes.
  • Allow the definition of any technological parameters that constrain the construction of the lines (such as: welding processes, maximum commercial length for pipes, etc.).

3 – Equipment Management

The equipment is one of the fundamental components of an industrial plant. It represents the main reason to design the piping lines : they allow the fluid to flow inside the pipes (e.g. pumps), or to heat or cool a certain fluid to create the desired process conditions (e.g. boilers or industrial coolers).

In order to correctly manage the equipment,  have a 3D representation of the machines  and the relative attachment points of the pipes (nozzles), a piping software must therefore have specific commands for:

  • Import 3D equipment from any mechanical design software.
  • Quickly model equipment that can’t be found in 3D from the vendor.
  • Assign an identification name (tag) to each equipment present on the system.
  • Define the position and characteristics of the individual nozzles of each device (e.g. diameter, type of connection, etc.).
  • Extract an Excel file with the list of all the equipment present in the plant and their characteristics.

4 – Piping Line Modeling

The purpose of a plant engineering software is to design a series of piping lines quickly and easily. It is therefore evident that the features dedicated to this specific activity have a very important weight in the evaluation of a piping system.

In order to be really effective, a plant design software must have commands for:

  • Easily model pipe lines.
  • Provide a set of features that allow you to easily get around any obstacles along the way.
  • Change the path and characteristics of the pipelines at any time.
  • Easily insert valves and line components into the desired position.
  • Provide construction methods that allow you to model the lines even in the presence of light spaces.
  • Easily manage any sloping pipes and insulated lines.

5 – Simplified insertion of valves and line components

Together with instrumentation, valves and line components are devices that allow you to check and regulate the flow within the pipes. Their correct positioning inside the system is therefore essential to ensure that they perform their function correctly, and to allow easy access to the operator or simple disassembly for maintenance needs.

To allow a correct management of these components, a plant design software must have commands for:

  • Place a component on a pipeline that has already been drawn.
  • Verify that the inserted component is compatible with the line class.
  • Choose the orientation of the flyer.
  • Automatically insert the flanges, gaskets and bolts necessary for the assembly of the component.
  • Easily change the position and orientation of an object that you already inserted to better fit it into the available space.

6 – Clash detection

When designing an industrial plant, you often find yourself working in very crowded areas. It is possible to have a large number of objects concentrated in very confined spaces. In this context, having features that can detect any collisions between objects (interference), becomes vital to prevent any problems that may occur during the assembly phase.

In order to correctly manage all the problems related to interference between the various pipes, a piping software must have commands for:

  • Automatically detect when one component clashes with another.
  • Check to have enough space for any lines coated with insulating material.
  • Indicate when you do not have enough space left around the component to ensure maneuvering or disassembly.

7 – Consistency check between the process diagram and the 3D model

Throughout the life cycle of a project, several revisions are usually made. Most of these arise from process-related needs and are therefore reported within the P&ID. However, it may happen that the project has in the meantime reached a more advanced stage and that the mechanical office has already begun to model the piping lines.

At this point, having a series of tools that allow you to analyze and highlight  the differences between the schema and the 3D model, becomes an absolute necessity.

To solve any misalignment problems between the P&ID scheme and the 3D piping model, a plant design software must have commands for:

  • Indicate which objects in the schema have not yet been piped.
  • Highlight objects that have changed in the P&ID.
  • Automatically detect which objects have been deleted in one of the two environments but are still present in the other.

8 – Generating Material Lists

Materials management plays a fundamental role in plant design. In fact, the costs of building a plant are not so much related to the engineering design part, but rather to the price of materials and related labor. It is therefore essential to have the possibility to correctly count the materials, in order to keep costs under control.

In order to effectively manage materials, a plant design software must provide commands for:

  • Create a general bill of materials piping.
  • Easily check how these materials were used within the individual lines.
  • Make comparisons between current quantities and those relating to previous revisions.

9 – Creating 2D drawings

Once the three-dimensional model has been made (piping), it is necessary to create a series of 2D drawings. They will show the path of the various pipes and their positioning inside the system (general arrangement).  

To easily realize these 2D drawings, a plant design software must have commands for:

  • Create a series of orthogonal views of the plant.
  • Allow you to create a view by cutting the plant and removing parts that you do not want to display.
  • Add linear and elevation dimensions.
  • Insert text labels showing component abbreviations and line numbers.

10 – Generation of isometric sketches and tables for the workshop

In order to build a plant, it is necessary to provide workshops with a series of construction drawings that clearly show the pipes that must be prefabricated, complete with relative dimensions and bills of materials.  These drawings (isometric sketches) are a simple single-line representation of the piping line, with all the technological information necessary for their prefabrication.

To easily manage the prefabrication phase, an industrial piping software must have commands to:

  • Automatically create an isometric sketch from a 3D model.
  • Automatically dimension the entire sketch to show the dimensions of the various pieces.
  • Create a material table and its balloon on the drawing.
  • Generate a weld table and its numbering on the drawing.
  • Create a BOM to show the lengths of individual pipe strokes.
  • Customize the graphic style of the design in order to adhere to the customer’s standard (e.g. cartouche).

Do you want to discover the main commands of a piping software? Contact us !

Francesco Pais initially wrote this post on January 5t