Challenges in Substation Design CAD Work
Substations are the points in the power network where transmission lines and distribution feeders are connected together through circuit breakers or switches via busbars and transformers. This allows for the control of power flows in the network and general switching operations for maintenance purposes.

The design work involves physical and electrical designs to establish the overall layout of the station, separation of maintenance zones, placement of major equipment, conductor systems, insulation, power transformer design and the complete station protection schemes.

While all tasks require advanced knowledge of the physical and electrical design standards, trying to implement those standards using out-of-the-box Computer-Aided Design (CAD) tools puts a heavy workload on the designer. Manufacturers of CAD applications aim to support a wide range of industries and intentionally avoid niche workflows relying instead on close development partners to add them. Such is the case with Substation Design Suite™ (SDS) developed by SBS on the Autodesk CAD platforms.
The Substation Design Suite™ software provides applications for specific substation design tasks including physical and electrical design tools that drastically reduce the effort required to design substations in a CAD system. These tools emphasize reducing user picks and clicks for advanced 3D modelling like bare conductor runs or by adding intelligent connectivity to raster drawings for brownfield work.

Physical Design
Autodesk Inventor is a 3D mechanical solid modeling design software developed by Autodesk to create 3D digital prototypes. It is used for 3D mechanical design, design communication, tooling creation and product simulation. This software enables users to produce accurate 3D models to aid in designing, visualizing and simulating products before they are built.

Inventor was designed to support multiple industries and therefore knows nothing about substation design or its related components. Also, Inventor has no way of understanding the various electrical and mechanical relationships between substation components. The Substation Design Suite™ not only provides this understanding but leverages Inventor’s 3D modeling kernel to enable automated bus routing, trench and conduit routing, ground grid and ground lead routing and most importantly, substation specific design checking such as phase to phase and lightning protection.

Substation Design Suite™ – Physical Design module adds the following functionality to Autodesk Inventor:

Model content editor Ground grid and ground grid routing
BOM status tools Trench and conduit routing
Multiple design checks Multiple cable and bus fittings
Bar cable routing Raster tools

The above list is only a sample. Please refer to Substation Design Suite for a comprehensive listing.

Electrical Design
AutoCAD Electrical is an AutoCAD-based software for controls designers that is purpose-built to create and modify electrical control systems. It includes all the functionality of AutoCAD plus comprehensive symbol libraries and tools for automating control engineering tasks.

What AutoCAD Electrical doesn’t do is substation specific protection and controls design. Out-of-the-box AutoCAD Electrical doesn’t know how to relate a one-line breaker symbol to a three-line breaker symbol, how to ensure terminals are wired correctly for a Schweitzer relay or how to verify that the Bill of Materials is matching specific work order information and not the entire design BOM.

The Substation Design Suite™ – Protection and Controls module adds the following functionality to AutoCAD Electrical:

BOM status tools Libraries
Raster design tools Test switch
Cable fan-in tools Project wide editor
Relay editing tools Circuit editor
Raster design Terminal strips
Relay design Cable tag

The above list is only a sample. Please refer to Substation Design Suite for a comprehensive listing.

Potential Benefits from Using Substation Design Suite™ Solution

Planning, Estimating Efficiency
5% or more reduction in contingency budget for projects

Design Efficiency for Detailed Design
20% to 80% improvement in timeframe for project timelines
50% improvement in timeline for project changes and updates

Leveraging Standards
Engineering and business rules are applied in the project
Improved asset selection and allocation (CU’s)

Construction, Commission, Operate
Eliminate or significantly reduce change orders by catching errors and omissions in the design process
Faster construction and commissioning
Improved as-built process

Potential ROI for Capital Projects
Industry estimates cost savings opportunity from 3% – 7% of project budget
Reduce project contingency funding
Make more capital available earlier

The Substation Design Suite™ products add so much functionality to Inventor and AutoCAD Electrical that CAD designers can move from trying to configure their out-of-the-box software to perform unnatural tasks to focusing on their design efforts and allowing Substation Design Suite™ to handle the required configurations.

Using the Substation Design Suite™ solution, the physical designers move from model creators to intelligent assemblers of components and the electrical designers focus on protection schemes and verifying designs as opposed to administering CAD applications.