Finding the right boat in the sea of automated plant CAD

4 min readJul 6, 2021


You find yourself at the end of the dock ready to take on the challenge of the sea, but which boat best suits you? A canoe, a yacht, a cruise liner? Okay, maybe we’re not really jumping into boats, but the vastness of software available can feel a bit like an ocean, and finding the right one for the right price can be a daunting task. Today we’ll be diving into some of the top 3D plant development software, and seeing how they implement automation to save time, and money, in your workflow.


The newest CAD tool to enter the industry. PlantStream can auto-route 1,000 pipes in under 60 seconds, which saves piping engineers time more than ever. The algorithm is not just seeking the shortest routes, but utilizes information from hundreds of interviews with expert piping engineers to follow the industry’s best practices. PlantStream also uses a unique feature called Block Pattern, which is a preset template of equipment and parametrically-editable peripheral pipings. Block Pattern basically bridges the gap of “the last mile problem” of automatic pipe routing and achieves high quality piping results while keeping any manual operation as minimal as possible.

AspenTech — OptiRouter:

AspenTech recently acquired Optiplant, branching the product into two tools, OptiLayout and OptiRouter, with the latter focusing on the automation of pipe routing. OptiRouter’s strength lies in its ability to be flexible, and work alongside competitive CAD tools rather than being a separate toolset on its own. OptiRouter acts more as a plugin to existing programs such as Hexagon’s Smart3D or Aveva’s E3D, fleshing out their pipe auto routing and report generation.

Aveva E3D

Aveva’s E3D is one of the largest manual CAD tools in the industry for a while, and it’s not hard to see why. While setting industry standards in CAD tools, E3D continues to innovate and add to their toolset. Their auto pipe routing feature is available to experiment with for existing and new license holders at no additional charge. Alongside the automation tool, E3D also offers laser scan support giving users the ability to scan existing structures into their 3D designs. Which can be included by the rules used for automation when routing out the pipes, making repiping relatively painless.

Autodesk Plant3D

Being one of the most well established CAD companies in the world, Autodesk continues to expand their CAD library with Plant3D. By being so well established Autodesk is able to lower their licensing fees further than most of their competitors, making it the most accessible to new engineers. Plant3D has also implemented its own take on pipe automation, to help connect equipment as effortlessly as possible. Guided by “Piping Grips” users are able to quickly iterate on the pipe’s auto routing to best match their design needs.

Bentley PlantWise

Bentley has iterated on the fundamentals of plant design to provide a smooth experience for end users with their product, PlantWise. By incorporating automation into their toolset, PlantWise is able to rapidly create, design, and spec, allowing users to run through multiple “What if’’ scenarios during their planning phases. With the ability to convert 3D models to layout drawings, users are given a chance to visualize and share various scenarios, allowing decision makers to choose which layout would be the best for the project. Keeping it simple to basic cost estimates throughout the design iteration and feedback process.


All these products have so much to offer. But there’s only so much that can be fit into a single article. Hopefully these high level reviews have brought to light new paths for your workflow. If you’re interested in learning more on how PlantStream is working towards streamlining your workflow, you can follow us here: or subscribe to our newsletter here:

With that, we wish you smooth sailing in your ventures in the ocean of CAD tools.




Autonomous CAD tool that revolutionizes plant design.