How It Works: 3-D Software Provides Unparalleled Design Power from Every Angle

Turns out designing substations in three dimensions conserves valuable energy in the fourth dimension: time.

"Instead of 1,000 hours, we can do it in 600," says Roger Hormann, a CAD department manager in the Transmission & Distribution Group at Burns & McDonnell. "3-D design is a great advantage for us as a consulting engineering firm and for the client as well."

Burns & McDonnell is among the first domestic firms to use 3-D programs to design electrical substations, empowered by clients who welcome the time savings, reduced costs and improved accuracy generated by trained and certified professionals using the industry's most up-to-date tools.

If a utility specifies that its substations be designed with 3-D modeling — PG&E and AEP are among those that do — engineers apply their design knowledge through Bentley Substation, a CAD program that converts a project's inherent complexities into comprehensive data and connected images. The goal: maximum efficiency, quality and reliability of an accurate design.

T&D professionals at Burns & McDonnell are trained and certified on all of Bentley's vertical applications, giving them the ability to connect, track, calculate and identify the thousands of individual components that go into a particular substation. The system then allows the information to interact with every related component in both controls and physical drawings.

Designers no longer need to draft individual line drawings, because the 3-D model generates schematic and wiring diagrams. There's no need to manually count insulators, because the system automatically generates data files for each bill of materials or any client-specific documentation. Coordinating clearances is done on screen instead of on site, boosting efficiency and safety for all involved.

The software runs load calculations, checks connections and handles other previously manual tasks to confirm that a substation will operate as designed. That's the ultimate advantage of tying together thousands of individual design aspects into a cohesive entity, something the firm expects to be
doing for all substation design in the immediate future.

"We want to be the trailblazers when it comes to tools that help efficiency and quality," Hormann says. "With Bentley Substation and the countless number of applications at our disposal, Burns & McDonnell is ready to go."

For more information, contact Roger Hormann, 816-363-7240.

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