Entegra’s primtech 3D is designed to help substation designers conceive and deliver designs based on the principles of integrated product modelling. Wolfgang Eyrich, Managing Director, shares how primtech provides a geographical context to substation designing
Entegra’s primtech has been a pioneer in 3D model-based design solutions for substations. What do your customers see as the most important benefits of an integrated solution such as primtech 3D?
From the very beginning, primtech 3D adopted an engineering-to-order (ETO) process-based approach, due to unsatisfactory experience with other 3D software, which supported 3D modelling and calculations but not the engineering design. To reuse the same information model from tender through the construction of the physical substation was the challenge. That is why we talk about the ‘next generation of substation design solutions’. The process way of thinking is something like a fourth dimension or the missing link between engineer-to-order design and 3D modelling.
Our development team has a passion for optimising the design process. We are not concerned about other segments of utility design market. We have concentrated exclusively on the needs of our substation customers. In primtech 3D, we have incorporated many tools for accentuating “graphical” power in a way that no other tool supported them before.
Are gas insulated substations (GIS) becoming more prevalent? What are the challenges?
Yes, in fact I have held several discussions within the utility industry regarding this. A gas insulation substation is a leading edge high-tech product. Standards for interoperating parts from different manufacturers have not yet been developed, so gas insulated substations require that all parts come from one manufacturer. An important motivation for investing in gas insulated substations is NIMBY. People, especially in cities, do not want substations in their neighbourhoods because they are considered to be eyesores. In such a situation, a gas insulated station is a perfect solution. They are low on maintenance, much smaller in size, require less land, and have much less visual impact. You can even build a gas insulation substation in a basement, and nobody will be aware that it is there. Also, it does not need any major maintenance for 15 to 20 years. And it is secure due to no sound pollution or electromagnetic field emission. However, they are expensive, costing three to four times what a regular substation costs. For high-populated urban areas GIS substation is the best solution, though in low populated areas a normal substation is competitive and more flexible for less money.
We have support gas-insulated substations from the very beginning — but the new tool includes technology for deep design support like module configuration, automatic solution solving, and gas-compartment design. However, we still see the traditional substation design market as our core business.
Some see important benefits from 3D model-based design not only during the design phase, but also during construction and during the operations and maintenance phase. Are your customers starting to see benefits from a whole lifecycle approach based on 3D models?
I think it is not restricted to just 3D model. Our substation information model — hosted in a database — is based on cross linked highly specialised high voltage (HV)-substation entities. The database brings all the information together in a smart (BIM) model which is very close to reality. In primtech, users are using this model for all kinds of calculations and simulations to optimise the design. Our customers report that this intelligent model brings down costs during the construction phase, for example, payback can be achieved in less than four months. They also find that the model can be used throughout the lifecycle of a substation.
Some of our customers are also using primtech for redesigning old substation. It allows them to recalculate their design parameters based on the latest algorithms and standards. Another example is a research project we delivered in cooperation with a customer which used the primtech -model for generating project specific manuals for use both during construction and later for maintenance.
Substation design involves several different teams with different skills, for example, electric network design, protection, communications, mechanical, and sitting. Does 3D model-based design help these different teams work together more productively?
Because it is a highly iterative design process, it is a core requirement to link all the available information together and make it available to the design team. That is what we call the “integrated product model”. primtech delivers an integrated product model which includes geometry and an integrated database. We like to say that if you have a primtech model, you have complete data for everything from concrete to nuts and bolts that is needed throughout the lifecycle of the substation.
Most people first design in 2D or in a mechanical 3D system. However, that approach runs the risk of not updating all the drawings whenever a change is made in the 2D design. Primtech provides standard templates where designers start the work. All of the information is stored in the database as well as in drawing files, but the database controls the drawing file. One can also query, for example, for geographic or ERP (enterprise resource planning) information at the database level. The database avoids the limitations of CAD files.
In the graphical (CAD) environment, we use AutoCAD which can integrate with other AutoCAD applications like AutoCAD Architecture, AutoCAD MEP, Civil3D, and other AutoCAD applications at the highest integration level C for example, linking to Civil3D enables the geographic dimension for site design and preparation based on a digital terrain model.
When people design a substation using primtech do they use the database and model as a maintenance database?
Yes, they do. By just one click you can export the model on a detailed Excel sheet. So, they can get all the required information about the objects. As a result, many utilities are asking the designers and contractors for the model because they intend to use it for maintenance. While the as-built documentation is still on paper or PDF, they also keep the primtech model for maintenance.
With primtech can you do all of the steps, mechanical, electric analysis, protection and other subsystem designs?
That is a point where we are different from other products. We focus on the 3D physical design of the substation and implement the best available technology. This includes electromechanical design, civil design, high-voltage calculations, lightening protection calculation, but for ERP or secondary design we support interfaces to other products. There are around 200 companies providing specialised tools for low-voltage electrical design in this market. Starting with basic tools like AutoCAD Electrical going up to specialised solution for SCADA design. Our philosophy is to enable primtech to interoperate with the best of class products from other vendors for different types of design, depending upon the customers’ requirements.
Does primtech integrate with geospatial/GIS products to enable your customers to visualize 3D substation designs in their geospatial context?
It is important to our customers and we do integrate geographical data in primtech — from the beginning, the visualisation features were heavily used by our customers. It is important to remember that we are situated in Germany. In a very densely populated environment NIMBY is a very significant problem. Explaining the advantages and disadvantages of complex projects to ordinary, non-technical people becomes one of the biggest challenges in each project. Therefore, a modern and professional communication strategy is essential. The objective of this strategy is to use realistically rendered pictures, movies and interactive media to help people understand what a new substation is going to look like and to encourage them to participate in designing the substation and site.
One of the ways to do this is to use Autodesk Navisworks. For our customers, Navisworks is a standard tool that allows designs to be visualised photorealistically together with geographic information such as terrain models. Recently, we have also tried a new product BIM 360 Glue, where we put the substation model on the Cloud and the customer can see it in a geographic context on an iPad. For example, two months ago, at the headquarters of ABB, we showed a substation design in a terrain model, and they were very impressed.
One of the most important reasons for primtech’s success is that it enables the people to see how the substation would look in a real environment. You can sit by people who have no idea what a substation is and show it to them in its geographic context on an iPad and let them swipe through the model and experience it.