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Ampirical's ECAD Experience - Thursday, September 12, 2013


Ampirical was hired in late summer of 2011 to design and engineer a large 230/115/15kV Substation Upgrade at a large Hydroelectric Facility (492MW) in North Dakota.  The three year project involved modifying an existing 230/115/15kV switchyard and building a new 230/115/15kV substation.

Ampirical made an internal decision early in the project to model several areas and the eventual modified
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switchyard in 3D using Inventor 2012 Professional. All equipment, structures, foundations and existing underground tunnels were modeled to the highest accuracy and detail utilizing vendor drawings, archived drawings, and the design engineerís specifications. To accomplish this, Ampirical relied heavily on its 12 years of experience in using and developing 3D design software solutions in the following areas:


Levels of Detail were created within the master switchyard assembly to quickly generate the typical substation layout and elevation drawings.  Dimension styles and other CAD standards were generated in accordance with the clientís standard documents.  Dimensions were drawn between model planes allowing for quick drawing updates.  All files were in DWG format, 
230kV Breaker with Obstruction Volumes
allowing the attributed title block, notes and BOM tables (exported from Inventor) to be created/inserted using our existing AutoCAD resources. This 3D Inventor to 2D AutoCAD workflow required all information to come from the 3D model, which has always been an
Ampirical 3D modeling standard. In this workflow, we ensure that the overall design has undergone the proper design checks and is constructible down to the hardware connections before anything gets added or updated in the drawings. This process has yielded higher accuracies and greatly reduced any construction issues in our 12 years of experience using 3D design methods. 


Our next step after laying out our preliminary design was to run design clearance checks; both electrical and physical. For our physical clearance checks, such as in the case of high voltage breakers, we create obstruction volumes in the part file that represent the cabinet door swing, SF6 tank removal, conduit penetrations, and brushing removal.

After verifying that all physical clearances have been met, we perform an electrical clearance check. 

All Ampirical Inventor parts are required to have certain custom attributes, point and planes in order to work properly within the Substation Designer System (from Automation Force). A couple of these requirements are the identification of live parts and phasing which are then reference by the Design Checker per a specified voltage and minimum clearances. 

The engineer or designer will run reports for both the phase to phase and phase to ground clearances from live parts. In the case of the Hydroelectric Dam Project, Design Checker indicated that we were outside our phase to ground clearance tolerance going from a 230kV breaker to high switch, So 24" outriggers were added and verified to be within tolerance. 

Breaker to High Switch with 24" Outriggers

A complete Bill of Materials report was exported from our inventor master assembly. In addition to saving time, this BOM report is highly accurate because the itemized list is produced directly from the model, eliminating the chance for human error in counting or listing the required components. 


During the initial stages of the project, Ampirical used 3ds Max (Mental Ray) to generate several high definition renderings in addition to 2D drawings out of Inventor. These images allowed a clear picture of the overall final design product that both technical and non-technical stakeholders could immediately understand.

Since the Hydroelectric Dam project began, Ampirical has expanded its use of Inventor 2012 to incorporate customized Inventor tool sets, such as Substation Designer to speed up design workflows, and AutoCAD WS for design and teaching presentations. 

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