• Bereket Abebe

How Manufacturers Can Use BIM to Win More Business

Manufacturers that design products and equipment that go into buildings have long used digital models to develop new offerings on shorter schedules. Now, their customers on the building and construction side— including architects, contractors, and building owner/operators—are adopting sophisticated digital approaches in masse. And while both groups understand the benefits of digital workflow, they each have very different needs. Manufacturers of everything from HVAC systems to windows to elevators typically use 3D mechanical CAD software to create high-fidelity models needed to ensure proper manufacturing and assembly. Architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms use a different standard, Building Information Modeling (BIM), to plan, design, construct, and manage building projects. Each of these models is fundamentally different and they can’t be used interchangeably. Here we'll explore how BIM is used and show how building product manufacturers can (and should) create BIM content from their CAD models with the appropriate level of detail, making it easier for architects and contractors to spec their products into new projects and help manufacturers win more business.


Creating BIM-ready content

To deliver BIM objects with an LOD suitable for construction, building product manufacturers can start by simplifying a full-fledged 3D CAD model, essentially stripping all the detail that would not be relevant to the AEC firm and then exporting a “BIM version” of the original model from this much smaller file. Simplifying a manufacturing model in this way can work for products with only one size, but not as well for configurable products. With configurable products, manufacturers would have to pre-build each possible geometry, export them, and maintain them separately. This would be incredibly time-consuming and is generally not practical for building product manufacturers with many configurable products. What tends to be more effective is simplifying the manufacturing model natively, within the same application with which it was designed. This capability allows manufacturers to view the manufacturing detail for any product, configure it appropriately for the project in question, then download the BIM content with much less manual work. Once the model is simplified, connection points can be defined for electrical, plumbing, ducts, conduit, or cable trays along with relevant properties such as size, voltage, and flow direction. In addition, OmniClass numbering, and naming can be applied to the BIM content for correct categorization within the BIM project where specific manufacturer and model number details can also be added. Because you are converting detailed mechanical designs into lightweight content with the correct number of metadata, these natively simplified objects are very easy for customers to integrate in their BIM models. There are no extra steps and no back-and-forth required. In addition, native simplification gives you more control over your intellectual property, because there is no need to share your complete product designs with a third-party provider or with the customer.


Creating BIM content with configurable products

With configurable products, creating BIM content can be done internally as well as externally. Autodesk, for example, offers an online product configurator that can be deployed online to sales teams and customers. The online configurator speeds up the selection of custom products using rules-based design to control the allowable customization options without complex programming. The workflow for this configurator usually runs as follows:


  1. Start with the fully detailed, configurable engineering model

  2. Simplify the master model

  3. Author MEP connections

  4. Author BIM metadata

  5. Upload to the configurator and embed in website

  6. Customer visits the website to choose options and see a dynamic, high-detail 3D rendering

  7. Behind the scenes, the BIM design view of the configuration is exported to a requested format

  8. Customer downloads the BIM object and inserts into project


Best practices for BIM content

Regardless of the tools you use to produce BIM content for your products, there are a handful of best practices manufacturers can follow to make the process more successful.


1- Rules-based design

For configurable building products, rules-based design enables you to publish 3D product models that customers or sales teams can configure as needed, on demand, that account for allowable specifications and fabrication constraints. Not only does this speed up the RFP process, but it frees up valuable engineering time that would normally be spent manually configuring products to order.


2- Model Simplification

For configurable building products, rules-based design enables you to publish 3D product models that customers or sales teams can configure as needed, on demand, that account for allowable specifications and fabrication constraints. Not only does this speed up the RFP process, but it frees up valuable engineering time that would normally be spent manually configuring products to order.


3- Metadata integration

Building designers and contractors want lightweight geometry enriched with critical product data, including digital installation instructions, operational guidance, digital warranty, and service data. Adding this information along with details of connection points allows the design team to better understand how the product will fit, and perform, within the overall system.


4- Deployment to online configurator or direct export

BIM content should be exported as the industry standard IFC2x3 format (.ifc) or the native Revit Family (.rfa). Some tools, such as Autodesk Inventor, can read CAD files (in native 3D) from multiple software vendors, allowing manufacturers to output a lightweight Revit or IFC object, greatly simplifying the creation of BIM content without additional costs.


To learn more about BIM or Van Bower's BIM services, please contact us at info@vanbower.com

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