Construction to Fabrication Workflows – Revit, AutoCAD and other 3D Apps

When it comes to Fabrication in Construction, AutoCAD is a widely used format and it’s because of its popularity upstream and downstream of a workflow, that many companies still use 2D workflows.  Even though 3D modelling and BIM offer many advantages, AutoCAD is either used solely or in conjunction with 3D modelling because of maintaining compatibility with the DWG format.

This can create disconnects in systems and departments internally in favour of maintaining compatibility with suppliers or clients.

I’ll explain the various workflows, however, if you would prefer to just watch an animated video, here is a video of a typical workflow where the client uses Revit and the user has AutoCAD, Solidworks and Rhino and how this workflow can be improved:

More and more, the Architect and Construction company are using BIM and have a model in Revit, however, Revit has tools for Architecture, Structural and MEP and lacks the detailing at the fabrication level to be adopted, so AutoCAD has been the popular choice to provide the level of detail required to provide fabrication level drawings for construction and also because you can get experienced AutoCAD users from industry.

Typical Design Workflows

So even though AutoCAD has powerful detailing tools in 2D, it has it’s limitations as a 3D modeller, so companies then use 3D applications like Autodesk Inventor, Rhinoceros and Solidworks.

In this workflow, you can see that there’s a disconnect between Revit and AutoCAD:


Usually, Fabricators get Revit just to check the model or ask for or then export DWG’s so they can bring it into AutoCAD or some other file format like IFC or SAT.

3D Mechanical CAD systems like Solidworks are also used so Fabricators can not only design at a high level of detail but can also analyse and produce Fabrication drawings, but usually there’s a need to export to DWG. In this example the Fabricator is using both Solidworks and DWG and there’s a further disconnect.







Many companies are using Rhino aswell because it has excellent surfacing tools, however, there’s also a disconnect and the users have to export Rhino to SAT into Revit, losing compatibility and large SAT files can also make the Revit Project run slower.

Now why not just stop using AutoCAD? Well, many companies are reluctant for many reasons. There’s a fear of losing their investment in technology and people, the downtime flow on effect, 3D CAD systems sometimes don’t have the same quality of 2D detailing as AutoCAD, working in DWG when the supply chain up or downsteam is easier, especially when you lose entities or have mapping issues and for some, there’s just no time when deadlines are already so tight, so they add to the problems of a disconnected workflow.

Improving The Design Workflow

So let’s take a look at what happens when we introduce Autodesk Inventor from the Autodesk Product Design & Manufacturing Collection.









You can see a different workflow here immediately. Inventor imports Revit Projects natively, so you don’t need to export to DWG or any other file format and lose compatibility.

Inventor also has an associative link between Solidworks, so if there’s a change in Solidworks, it will update inside Inventor.

In this example Rhino exports to SAT into Revit. Rhino still needs to export to SAT in this workflow and Revit, Inventor, Solidworks and AutoCAD can all import SAT files.

Ultimately, you need to produce 2D DWG’s, so AutoCAD has associativity with Inventor so if the Inventor 3D model (Which can be comprised of Inventor, Revit and Solidworks 3D Models) changes, those changes will update in AutoCAD.

Adding Fusion 360

The Product Design & Manufacturing Collection also comes with Fusion 360 which is available on PC and MAC and is a NURBS with T-Splines based surfacing tool so it’s comparable to Rhino with additional tools for solid modelling, CAM and Nesting.

By introducing Fusion 360 into the workflow, yo can still export surfaces to Revit via SAT but you also have associativity with Inventor as well.







Consolidating the Workflow

We’ve introduced 2 applications into the workflow to streamline it by providing a connectivity and compatibility and we have also doubled up as Inventor and Solidworks are similar and Fusion 360 and also similar, so this is what it would look like if we were to consolidate:









In addition to the connectivity from Revit to Inventor is the ability of Inventor to export Revit Families to Revit and if required, Inventor has 2D DWG associativity with AutoCAD, so you can link in a 2D DWG into Inventor, reference entities, create 3D geometry from those entities and if the 2D DWG changes, the 3D geometry will update.

Comparing Workflows Side by Side 

If you compare the two workflows side by side, you can clearly see a difference between the two.









So Let’s talk Time & Money

Many companies don’t like to change, instead they add to the workflow. The challenge of changing AutoCAD to a 3D Application and needing that DWG compatibility is far greater than changing from one 3D Application to another.

If you have used Rhino and Solidworks, you can pick up Fusion 360 and Inventor pretty easily. As always, you may lose or not like some functionality, but then you gain features and functionality not present in the existing applications too.

The great thing about transitioning to Inventor is that you can maintain associativity with Solidworks, so new projects can be done inside Inventor and reference Solidworks files that don’t require modification or if so can be done in Inventor or Solidworks.

When it comes to money, this is a no brainer. If you already have AutoCAD, there’s ways where you can uplift to the Product Design & Manufacturing Collection for very little money.

The Product Design & Manufacturing Collection is AUD$3,460 Ex. GST on an Annual Subscription, AutoCAD is AUD$2,460 Ex. GST on an Annual Subscription.

if you already have Solidworks, the cheapest version of Solidworks is about AUD$2,000 Ex. GST to keep renewing the Maintenance/Subscription while Solidworks Premium Maintenance/Subscription is around AUD$3,000.

The comparable equivalent to Solidworks Premium is Inventor Professional which is in the Product Design & Manufacturing Collection so you’re getting AutoCAD, Inventor Professional, Fusion 360 plus many more applications depending on your requirements.

Rhino is about $1,100 Ex. GST up front to buy while Fusion 360 is included in the Product Design & Manufacturing Collection or is $375 Ex. GST on its own.

if you’re interested in seeing how this workflow can benefit your business, feel free to contact me on 0400 732 928 or email me at

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