This is a translated blog post, originally featured in the Japanese industry focused magazine, “Piping Engineering 2021 April.” Text, images, layout have been modified to optimize for this blog post.
About PlantStream Inc.
Chiyoda Corporation and Arent Inc collaborated together to make the company and product, PlantStream. PlantStream is a powerful, fast, and accurate CAD tool that seeks to bring about worldwide innovation in spatial design (layout and modeling of equipment, piping, civil, structure, and cable), the core of plant engineering.
One of the issues facing plant design is the enormous breadth of the work involved. The designer in charge is likely to be overwhelmed by the scheduling and the multitude of tasks. The fundamental cause of this problem is the methodology of design, which has remained analog-centered and unchanged for decades. This process involves the creation of 3D models based on paper design schematics using P&ID, UHD, and plot plans,.
As such, our mission is to overhaul these outdated analog methodologies by converting the know-how into algorithms and to provide fully developed automated design tools. It is our hope that this will lead to a new environment in which engineers and designers can focus on work that allows them to exercise their creativity.
This paper will introduce the general features of PlantStream and how it can solve issues facing plant design.
In recent years, several incidents in the EPC (Engineering, Procurement, and Construction) of large-scale plants falling behind schedule and going over cost, have rocked the field of engineering across the globe.
A variety of issues in construction are often highlighted as the reason behind these incidents. However, the backdrop to these problems tends to be issues stemming from analog design, such as the need for shorter design periods, visualization of material, and construction quantities. It is no exaggeration to say that the ability to solve these issues can determine the fate of an engineering company.
Piping design in particular, which takes roughly 30% of the engineering phase, must conform to a variety of challenging limitations to standardize the design. Such as process requirements, costliness, usability, workability, responses to changes in the upstream phase, etc. This forces companies to overburden their seasoned designers, while the need to focus on increasing productivity and securing human resources remains an impediment to the EPC business.
By introducing PlantStream to the initial 3D modeling phase, the spatial design can be finalized quickly and with a high degree of accuracy, by allowing faster iterations before exporting to the detailed EPC design (Figure 1). This process allows us to satisfy two of the major requirements of plant owners, namely a reduction in the overall construction time and a reduction in costs by controlling overruns in the budget. By promoting the use of such digital technology, we believe it is possible to improve productivity, secure human resources, pass on the skills of an expert designer, and standardize plant engineering.
2. PlantStream — Primary Features
PlantStream provides three main functions for the creation of highly accurate 3D models right from the start of a project. Namely, Pipe Routing Assist, 3D plot plan study, Block Pattern (Figure 2).
Pipe Routing Assist
By turning spatial design know-how into algorithms, it is possible to automatically route thousands of pipes per minute. These automated routes take into account the size, fluid, and destination of pipe connections in the pipe rack as well as their layer assignment, the sequence within the layer, and process requirements (Figure 3).
Users can run Routing Assist by a specified number of pipes, easily edit routing results, and specify Pass Point to add constraints to the auto routing algorithm. Through a combination of automatic and manual routing, the program is capable of implementing highly accurate pipe route planning while studying the plot plan in accordance with the designer’s intentions.
In addition, PlantStream provides automatic routing of electrical and instrumentation cables/cable trays, allowing the designer to arrange trays by specifying the tray width, checking the separation distance between trays, and setting the cable type.
3D Plot Plan Study
PlantStream allows users to freely arrange every unit, piece of equipment, pipe rack, and other various plant components by simply dragging and dropping (see Figure 5). This allows users to conduct automatic routing between the various units, and to plan the roads for the entire plant, all while taking into account factors such as the separation distance between equipment and wind direction.
Until now, one of the most time-consuming parts of layout planning and 3D modeling was considering how to pipe around equipment, control valves, and safety valves in a limited space. These considerations are necessary and must be handled appropriately to conform to operability, safety, and workability requirements.
To overcome these issues, we developed Block Pattern to allow designers to adjust parameters based on their requirements (number of machines, pipe size, access space, valve layouts, etc.) that can be adjusted once a model of the equipment and its surrounding pipe layout is installed (see Figure 6).
This feature allows less experienced designers to standardize the pipe layouts and guarantee a level of consistency.
There are additional pump layouts available other than the End-Top Pump layout shown in Figure 6, such as the Top-Top Pump, AFC, heat exchanger, safety valve, control valve, etc. (see Figure 7).
3. PlantStream Efficacy
PlantStream has demonstrated that it can reduce man-hours in the basic design phase.
Chiyoda Corporation uses the product internally and has announced that it has been able to reduce the necessary man-hours in the basic design phase by roughly 80%, and is able to create 3D models roughly five times faster than older methods.
Revolutionizing the Engineering Workflow
Settling on a spatial design as early and accurately as possible in the initial stages of the engineering phase leads to lower EPC costs, shorter construction times, and overall optimization of the project. However, the first step to revolutionizing the engineering workflow is a change in mindset from the conventional, and unnecessarily laborious, paper-based creation of layout design.
As shown in Figure 8, a data-centric, 3D design approach using PlantStream makes it possible to create a 3D model even before printing the P&ID. Equipment layout and pipe routing plans can be started based on PFD (Process Flow Diagram).
Additionally, changes in the upstream process or system design can be reflected in the 3D model through the automatic routing function, making it possible to visualize the effects of those changes in real-time (confirming operability/workability, identifying material and construction quantities, etc.).
The result is that during the basic design process (supposing a 10-month project), the initial model is completed in 4 months, and through the acceleration of the 3D design period and the shortening of the modeling period, the entire basic design work and EPC estimate phase is expected to reduce the construction period by approximately 2 months. (See figure 9)
Additionally, exporting 3D data from PlantStream to the existing plant CAD for detailed EPC designs leads to further reductions in schedule times, not only from the basic design process, but all the way through to the construction phase.
Reviewing Multiple Layout Plans at Once
By using ultra-fast automatic routing and light equipment/unit placement functions, it is possible to quickly and easily perform 3D surveys of multiple layout plans during the basic design phase. Furthermore, by comparing the material/construction quantities and the safety evaluations (see Figure 10), it is possible to propose more competitive layout plans and/or optimized layouts that meet safety requirements.
Highly Accurate Cost Estimation During Early Project Stages
Until now, it was common during the initial pre-FEED, FEED, and EPC estimate phase to use 2D planning of the entire plant layout. This was followed by creating a piping diagram, and then manually conducting MTO (Material Take Off). However, PlantStream allows users to create highly accurate estimates including fittings in a short period of time.
PlantStream has the potential to completely transform any and all tasks relating to plant engineering. We believe that PlantStream contains the potential to totally transform design ideology leading to shortened EPC construction times and optimize plant design .