Construction to Fabrication Workflows with Autodesk Revit, AutoCAD and linked applications

By Damien Jovica, Redstack

AutoCAD is commonly used for fabrication in construction because of its popularity upstream and downstream of a workflow.  Many companies are still using 2D workflows, so it's easy to collaborate with AutoCAD using 2D formats.  While there are many advantages of using 3D modelling and BIM, AutoCAD is either used solely or in conjunction with 3D modelling to maintain compatibility with the DWG format.

This commonly adopted methodlogy can create gaps in systems and between departments internally to maintain compatibility with suppliers or clients.  If you're experiencing these challenges in your own workflows, this is something Redstack can help you address.

This video explains a typical workflow where the client uses Revit and the user has AutoCAD, Solidworks and Rhino and how this workflow can be improved:

With increasing adoption of BIM throughout the architecture and construction industries many projects are being modelled in Revit. Autodesk Revit has great tools for Architecture, Structural and MEP disciplines but lacks the detailing features required for fabrication, so AutoCAD has been the preferred option to deliver the level of detail required for fabrication purposes.  There is also an abundance of skilled AutoCAD operators in the marketplace, making it easy to find skilled operators to deliver the required output.  

Typical Fabrication Design Workflows

While AutoCAD has powerful detailing tools in 2D, it has significant limitations as a 3D modeller, so companies then use 3D applications like Autodesk Inventor, Rhinoceros and Solidworks to delier their 3D models.

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

Fabrication workflow

Usually, Fabricators acquire Autodesk Revit just to check the model or they request DWG files so they can bring it into AutoCAD. The fabricatr may also use a similar 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.  There is usually still a need to export to a DWG file though. In this example the fabricator is using both Solidworks and DWG, creating a further disconnect in their workflow.

Fabrication workflow

Many companies are using Rhino as well 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. Large SAT files can also make the Revit Project run slower.

Now why not just stop using AutoCAD completely? There are a number of reasons why companies are reluctant. There’s a fear of losing their investment in technology and people, the downtime flow on effect, cocnerns over the quality of detailling and file compatibility issues when collaborating with others for example. There’s just no time to address these issues when deadlines are  tight, so they add to the problems of a disconnected workflow.

Improving The Design Workflow

The good news is there are ways to resolve these challenges. Let's take a look at what happens when we introduce Autodesk Inventor from the Autodesk Product Design & Manufacturing Collection into the workflow.

Fabrication workflow

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 deal with compatability issues.

Inventor also has an associative link with 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 automatically update in AutoCAD saving huge amounts of time and reducing the risk of errrors.

Adding Fusion 360 Into The Workflow

The Product Design & Manufacturing Collection also comes with Fusion 360 which is available on PC and MAC. Fusion 360 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, you can still export surfaces to Revit via SAT but with the added bonus of associativity with Autodesk Inventor.

Fabrication workflow

Consolidating the Workflow

We have introduced two additional applications into the workflow to streamline it, providing a connectivity and compatibility.  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 the workflow:

Fabrication workflow

In addition to resolving connectivity issues, Inventor can 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 automatically, again saving large amounts of time and reducing the risk of errors.

Fusion 360


Comparing Workflows Side by Side 

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

Fabrication workflow

Let’s talk Time & Dollars

Many companies and individuals are resistant to change, so they just keep adding to their workflow problems.  The challenge of changing AutoCAD to a 3D application and needing that DWG compatibility is far greater than simply switching one 3D CAD application for another.

If you have used Rhino and Solidworks, you can pick up Fusion 360 and Autodesk Inventor quickly and 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 Autodesk Inventor is that you can maintain associativity with Solidworks, so new projects can be done inside Inventor and reference Solidworks files without requiring any modifications. 

When it comes to the dollars, this is a no brainer. If you already have AutoCAD, there are options ot upgrade to the Product Design & Manufacturing Collection at low cost.  See current pricing at

if you already have Solidworks licenses, you will be well aware of the ongoing costs to maintain your license. 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.

Contact us today on 1300 667 263 to discuss how we can optimise your wokflow to save time and reduce your risks today. 


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