Thursday, April 27, 2006

AutoCAD vs. ABS vs. Revit Systems

We have more choices everyday whether we want them or not. Remember when there were only four television stations? NBC, ABC, CBS and public TV. As a kid I remember when the President’s State of the Union address would come on. “Oh man! The President is on! Now I have to watch a documentary on Barn swallows." Some of you may be too young to remember life before cable, but I bet most can remember a time when your choice of CAD technologies was limited to one.

Digital Drafting
Whether you liked AutoCAD, MicroStation, or whatever. (I was a big fan of Mac Architron.) The technology they all used was the same. Digital lines. We still drafted, but with digital lines. These lines could only be differentiated by color, linetype and layer. So we made a mess of layers to control them.

Object Oriented
Then came ADT and ABS. This was revolutionary. Instead of digital lines, new entities called objects were introduced on the AutoCAD platform that contained specific properties to the object type. Doors have properties like height and width, diffusers in ABS have properties for flow. These properties allow us to step away from layers for display control and give us a mechanism for linked scheduling of any object type. As an added bonus, these objects are three dimensional which gives us relational clean up when similar objects meet, like duct and pipe, and interference detection when differing object types occupy the same space.

Parametric Modeling
Revit Systems and Autodesk’s other Revit based programs take a giant step ahead of digital drafting and object oriented technologies by creating a relational model that can be queried for any type of view, schedule or detail. How many times have you heard draw it once? The minute you draw it twice in AutoCAD or ABS somebody changes one of two and now, there’s a disconnect. A Revit project has only one model. You can only draw it once, literally. Further, it does not matter which view of the model you modify, all views update because they are all referencing the same thing.

Let’s compare these three technologies in a little more detail.

AutoCAD 2007

-Highly adaptive to most any drafting use.
-It’s the standard.

-Highly customizable.
-Large pool of qualified users.


-It Crashes too much.
-Can’t complete against Autodesk’s vertical products.
-Requires implementation, optimization and administration to be truly effective.

Bottom Line
You know what you got with AutoCAD, it’s comfortable, but I can visualize a time when the building industry uses AutoCAD about as much as we hand draft now.

Autodesk Building Systems (ABS) 2007

-It’s plain faster to drop in a complete object in a drawing that automatically connects to objects around it than draw line by line.
-ABS will draft AutoCAD into the ground when properly set up.
-The ability to import and export engineering data to familiar software for engineering calculations.
-Sections and elevations cut and schedules created in just seconds.
-Interference checking between ABS objects and ADT structural objects.

-Familiar Interface lures un-trained users to fall back on AutoCAD tools and procedures effectively negating the additional cost.
-Near impossible to implement without an experienced consultant.
-Training is required to effectively use ABS.

Bottom Line
It's the best thing we have for MEP engineering right now. Knowing AutoCAD is not a free ticket to understanding ABS. It goes a long way toward reducing redundancies but still requires manual updates between related design components.

Revit Systems 1
-Advanced Engineering capabilities include Load Balancing, Lighting Levels, Voltage Drop and Pressure Loss.
-Bidirectional Associativity.
-A single data base means I get accurate associations between all my data, all the time.
-I have never crashed Revit… Ever.

-Did somebody forget Plumbing? Tap, tap… is this thing on?
-Very, very few qualified users. Those who invest in learning how to reap the rewards of Revit Systems will have to be compensated.
-This is the first shot out for Revit Systems, no matter what they got right, you can bet there is going to be a list of things that will need to be fixed or added.

Bottom Line
A true Building Information Modeling solution. If I am going to dream about where BIM can go, currently Revit products are the best the building industry has to offer.

If you want to be on the cutting edge, jump on now.

Wait much longer and you will be playing catch up while your competition is widening the gap between the future (everybody else) and the past (you).


Anonymous said...

For the amount of time and training in ABS the user could have learnt VBA and created their own piping system.
For firms that use standard objects ABS is great, don't get me wrong, it's just that for more specialized companies they need to tailor their CAD to their work.

Anonymous said...

Good software is developed outside Autodesk also... ever tried ArchiCAD?

Anonymous said...

As a principal with an engineering company, I am always looking for means to increase productivity and provide front end coordination of the design projects. We have some very good AutoCad/Designer types and they brought the ABS to my attention and we all sat down and watched the presentations; several times. I thought that this was the answer to alot of our problems, that have to be resolved with on-going and intensive tail end QA. I had them order the ABS system, commmitted 2 months to one person self training on the system, expecting him to indoctrinate the others in an orderly fashion and all I had to do was set back and wait for the productivity increase. I also planned on showing demonstrations to our clients of how this would benefit them, design build contractors, or the hard bid contractors because of the field coordination issues that would virtually be eliminated. Two years later we have decided that an hourly increase of about 200% to 300% every time we try and use the system is not what we had in mind. Also, none of the advantages are evident whenever we are successful in implementing the program. Our one Cad person, that had been working with the program, keeps finding things or doing things with it and informing the Autodesk people; to their suprise. My last comment to our people was that we should be paid as a beta site and trouble shooter instead of paying them. After spending time studying the documentation and reviewing the system with the Cad personnel, along with listening to the pitch for on-site, off-site training, I have concluded that what they must mean by training is a once a month three day session for perpetuity. We are now going to shelve the program and go back to a one week task being one week; not three. We are hoping for a future version that actually meets the sales hype and provides clear and accurate documentation.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous I say I’m glad I work for a company that knows the value of training! I assume you are an engineer. Did you just wake up one day and (POOF!) you were an engineer knowing everything? Or did you go to college for 4-6 years then work under an experienced engineer to fully learn your profession?

On of the things the principals in our company have learned over time is that people learn in different ways. Some people can pick up a cad program and a book and in a while know how to do things. Others require training from others. This second group of people are not dumb they are some of our best people using the software but do not know and are not interested in all the nuts and bolts. And just because as person knows something does not mean they can teach it! Did you ever have a teacher who was not so good at his/her job?

An example of what not to do is that almost 18 years ago one of our offices wanted to do a computer generated rendering of a building. So they bought 3D Studio (the best there was at the time) the assigned a mechanical technician to read the manual and create a rendered perspective which he did. But it looked like the technical drawing you might expect from one not trained in composition, lighting, etc. Our principals at the time expected because of the expensive software they’d get a great artistic creation like thjose of the professionals that they’d seen. Wrong.

NorfolkObserver is so off the wall I‘m struggling to know how to begin. I’m just glad I don’t have to work with anyone with your attitude. And I’m sorry for those that do. May I suggest Prozak?

I do not know ABS but do know ADT. It’s powerful yet not easy to learn just as Todd suggests for ABS and Revit Systems. Yet you berate the software as being a “buggy piece of crap” because YOU cannot open up the box load the software and instantly increase your productivity 200%. And then attack Todd for telling you it’s not as easy as a pencil and paper (and if you can recall some were better than others at manual drafting) – my analogy, not yours followed by the opposite accusation of Todd of trying to sell you a bill of goods – “It’s so easy…” Todd no where mislead you in that way. Did you even read what he said? Also, I saw no where that Todd was trying to sell his personal services.

Todd you did not deserve these types of responses when you are just trying to honestly inform people – for free I might add.

At this point, in our company, we have some users putting ABS to very good use and others still on the learning curve - mainly still learning because its still too easy to go back into their comfort zone of drawing lines in the computer rather than putting what they have learned to good use. People learn differently.

Anonymous said...

The above post, by a principal of an engineering firm, is true to the last letter. Furthermore, not only is the application difficult to work with, it is a sort of a misfit in the AEC world. Spending decades in the MEP field, engaging in activities ranging form pre-con work to commissioning, I find it puzzling why would Autodesk release ABS at its current stage of development. Why do I say this? First of all, architectural firms hire MEP Consultants to design the systems. Architect furnishes the cad files, MEP designers gather the parameters and come up with a design. Systems layout coordination is performed under Architect’s supervision and the final Contract Documents are released. Now, here is the kicker…The Bid Documents and the later
released-for-construction Contract Documents contain drawings that are DIAGRAMATIC in nature. Meaning, the responsibility of accurate, interference-free placement of MEP systems is placed upon the General Contractor and its subs. In all the years I have spent in this field I have never seen MEP drawings furnishing dimensional info relating to component location. And it is on this very account that most of the engineering firms do not waste time to laboriously draw their systems in 3D. 2D plan and sectional layouts are more then sufficient to accomplish this. It is the General Contractor’s responsibility to perform the final coordination among the MEP trades. Do all of the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing trades use 3D software? Not necessarily. The final coordination, under the General Contractor’s guidance, is done with overlays of uniform scale and common background on light tables. The trades that have to use 3D software, due to fabrication (piping and ductwork) cannot use ABS. ABS is NOT suited for this purpose, not yet.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not a bullheaded 2D fan. 3D is the way to go. However, some of the issues that have to be addressed first is the issue of responsibility/liability and the utmost issue, that of the cost. And this brings up my question: What was Autodesk aiming at when they released ABS. I have been using AutoCad since R10. Currently I am using ABS 2006 and sadly enough I must say that ABS is an out of control, bloated, and awkward piece of software.

Todd M. Shackelford said...

It's good to hear from you again, and so constructive this time. I may have got this wrong, so please correct if so. You are agreeing with me now that if you are new to ABS you need help to implement it? I think your distinction is that companies that sell ABS don't know what they are talking about and should not be used as a consultant. I must agree that if you are looking for help with ABS please ensure that who ever you get help from has walked in your shoes or they just won't understand where you are trying to go with it. Further they will not know how to guide you to the good stuff or steer you away for the landmines.

Now some facts about me. I have been working for a reseller for the last 2 years. Before that I was the CAD administrator for the largest privately owned MEP consultant in the state of Nebraska for 5 years. I have been kicking out construction documents and managing projects for 12 years with a variety of software. Which to my way of thinking makes me quite the nuts and bolts man. This blog has nothing to do with selling software. It's mine alone. Read the blog description, I'm here to help others succeed. I appreciate your comments and will continue to publish them if constructive, but the personal attacks are childish, unprovoked and unfounded.

Anonymous said...


Norfolk Observer. What a positive attitude.

I enjoy knowing people like this guy are out there. They're gong to alow me to make a LOT of money. I may be able to retire before he does. A considerable feat considering this type of closed-minded, absolute, resistance to change is typically reserved for the guys who will procalim "I've been doing this for 30 years, and I ... *insert quippy comment here about technology being more of a burden than a benefit*" He's probably 5 years from retirement at the time of this post.

Anyway - thanks Todd. I'm reasearching to put together a BIM presentation, and ran accross your Blog. I realize that its a lot of work to keep up with, just to disseminate knowledge for free. People should say "thank you very much" if they find it useful, of just be on thier way if not. This guy obviously has nothing better to do with his time than flame someone who's trying to promote an evolving technology.

Probably the same type of guy who charges his clients 300 hours on a job, that could be done in 150 by working "smarter, not harder". Anyone who has a desire to learn teh technology, would be able to move in, and put this guy out of business, in short order. because, after all, money is what makes the world go round - and this software will allow you to do more, in less time. = $$

But you do have to invest in yourself, and bite the bullet to learn it. With the attidue of this relic, its obvious he will not be an adapter. he will be exticnt.

Todd M. Shackelford said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence. If you would like, I have a Power point I have been using for BIM presentations that I would not mind sharing with you. Please contact me at if you would like a copy, and good luck!

Anonymous said...

CAD drama! Just make your point?

I feel like I'm in here with teens.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

It's nice to see the reality of the Rivet program from some people (witout any sales rep. influence).

I can draw circles around Rivet m/e, esp. when it comes to the plumbing :)

I have a feeling many needed real training in autocad, maybe that's the real problem.

Why they make Rivet so different from Autocad is the real question should be asked, why not make Rivet the same feel as Autocad and if you want to bring features from Rivet have them incorporated into the program.

The other issue is the DESIGN aspect to this hole shmeal' what happens if you use this program and it's wronge? Who pay's to fix the BUILDT mistake? Does the software have liabiltie insurance to cover this? HELL NO ! so realy you don't save any time....since you must redo the calculations, I'm sure all Rivet users are doing this right? :)

Anyways if you are interested in fast, 100% accurate and not to mention full co-ordinated cad drawings check out my site. Not to mention the ASMEIL services :) that is fully automatic when revisions accur...and I also offer free information etc. for the process. This ASMEIL is great work for beginers/students etc. with the proper supervision.

cad drafting services said...

Very good post.CAD is becoming more applicable in the industry by its upcoming technologies.