Image courtesy of Morphosis Architects; CATIA model of the Kolon One & Only Tower in Seoul, Korea

Beyond BIM 2.0 with 3DEXPERIENCE

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The worlds of Architecture, Construction and Manufacturing are rapidly converging. Business process transformation is being driven by the need for greater efficiency, technology advancements, accelerated project timelines, increasing sustainability requirements and demographic challenges. Dassault Systèmes offers the AEC industry the next generation design to manufacturing platform for AEC firms

The technology evolution of the AEC industry started with the digital replication of 2D drawings with desktop CAD. Twenty years later, the next phase, called Building Information Modelling (BIM), introduced the concept of modelling buildings and infrastructure in 3D, to derive 2D sections and elevations for general assembly drawings. While BIM assisted in the production of coordinated document sets, it did little to connect the digital thread in construction. Roll on 20 years later and today these now old BIM software tools have failed to offer significant additional productivity benefits. The bulk of the industry is still fixated on the production and distribution of plan, sections and elevations via PDFs, when advanced AEC firms are looking for model-based workflows, to work from design to fabrication, to Digital Twins and lifecycle use.

To make matters worse, complex geometry cannot always be defined in today’s mainly facet-based BIM systems and additional packages are required to sculpt or generate complex surfaces found in todays’ expressive architectural vocabulary. This means, that BIM models become a combination of ‘smart’ objects and dumb meshes. Today’s BIM tools were designed to be all about documentation and were never intended to drive downstream fabrication processes, leading to the proliferation of multiple models, at various levels of detail.

With these limitations, mature, AEC firms have started evaluating next generation tools, termed BIM 2.0, to improve performance, increase design efficiency, drive sustainability goals, enable seamless collaboration and connect models to digital fabrication systems.

Paris-based, Dassault Systèmes has been developing convergent, market-specific flavours of its 3DEXPERIENCE platform to bring the same, industry proven design, fabrication and Digital Twin tools, used by firms such as Tesla, Honda, Boeing, Ford Motor Company and Ferrari, to designers and fabricators in the AEC market. The incumbent AEC software vendors are only now starting to develop their next generation tools and hope to offer cloud-based collaboration, database-centric modelling, and links to CNC/ gCode/ for digital fabrication. These capabilities have already been built-in to Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE Platform for over a decade and tried and tested by the world’s most advanced engineering firms.

Dassault Systèmes in AEC

Historically speaking, Dassault Systèmes tools are no stranger to being used to solve the hardest problems in AEC. Until Frank Gehry’s practice adopted CATIA, contractors’ bids priced out many of his complex designs from being built due to the risk of bidding on his designs from 2D drawings. By explicitly modelling his buildings in CATIA, his practice de-risked his designs for contractors, despite their complexity, as every component was modelled and could be quantified. On projects like the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, this meant all the contractor bids dropped to within 1% of each other. The Museum was delivered on time, inside six years, and cost $3 million less than the $100 million budgeted.

On the Taiwanese Denjiang Bridge project, Zaha Hadid Architects used 3DEXPERIENCE CATIA on the cloud, to talk the same ‘infrastructure’ language and collaborate with structural Engineer, Leonhardt and local engineering consultants Sinotech Engineering. The practice uses 3DEXPERIENCE CATIA on projects which have high fabrication needs.

SHoP Architects, a distinguished architectural firm based in New York, recognised the need to better manage the collaboration between various disciplines involved in their projects and handle the copious amounts of data generated throughout the design process. The practice were keen to move away from typical section, elevation output, to create digital build models for fabrication. To address this challenge, SHoP implemented Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE Platform with the Design for Fabrication industry solution. See video below.

Firms do not need to be signature architects to benefit from using 3DEXPERIENCE CATIA. London based Innovative boutique design firm, KREOD, Chun Qing Li exclusively uses 3DEXPERIENCE CATIA to regain the role of ‘Master Architect’, modelling projects at 1:1 scale, to drive through to fabrication (DfMA), as well as to de-risk projects by modelling every detail, including bringing in laser scans from site to their models.

While architects enjoy the powerful modelling, 3DEXPERIENCE is also driving business process improvements in construction. Bouygues Construction chose Dassault Systèmes as a technology partner, to develop a broad digital transformation strategy to move from BIM to Virtual Twin and adopt automation with industrial methods of fabrication. The firm makes use of 3DEXPERIENCE platform on the cloud with ENOVIA and DELMIA in addition to CATIA, ‘industrialising’ its project management, anticipating the various phases of a project and planning their on-site implementation in fine detail. All data related to a construction project, from the design to the execution phase, to the operation and maintenance of the building are now located in one platform.


With the digital convergence of AEC and Manufacturing, the key deliverables of design and fabrication change. Historic workflows and tools become less useful, as they still concentrate on 2D information exchange, while the process inherently becomes increasingly model-centric, to drive the fabrication processes and Virtual Twin processes beyond. Traditional AEC/BIM developers are scrambling to come up with ways to connect low-level of detail architectural BIM design models to modern fabrication systems. The truth is, it’s only engineering design software like 3DEXPERIENCE that can offer AEC design through to fabrication in a single platform. Dassault Systèmes has decades of manufacturing knowledge, spanning multiple industries and already has turnkey solutions for the built environment ready to go.

Finally, while CATIA is a high-end manufacturing application, with appropriate pricing, Dassault Systèmes recognises that the cost dynamic in the AEC space requires a lower pricing model (without loss of functionality). Dassault Systèmes tools for AEC customers reflect typical price points of solutions from other mainstream, professional AEC software suppliers. To learn more about AEC pricing in your country, visit this website

Dassault Systèmes – a quick history

For those of you unfamiliar with Dassault Systèmes, while the business was incorporated in 1981, the company started in 1977, when Francis Bernard and 15 engineers from Avions Marcel Dassault, set about developing a new generation of 3D CAD system to assist in aircraft design. The boss of the company, Marcel Dassault, at 88 years old, was so impressed with the software, he decided to spin it out as a separate company, Dassault Systèmes, with Bernard heading it up. The product was named CATIA.

As essentially Dassault Systèmes was an engineering software developer, it teamed up with IBM to handle global sales and marketing. Within ten years the software was a mainstay of large aerospace and automotive firms such as Boeing and Mercedes-Benz, expanding to markets such as consumer goods, machinery, and shipbuilding.

The company invented the concept of the Digital Mockup (DMU, now called Virtual Twin or Digital Twin in AEC) as well as Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) – the process of managing a product and all its related data, from initial ideation, through development, service, and disposal.

Dassault Systèmes acquired Solidworks in 1997, which went on to be the market-dominating mid-range 3D CAD system for product design, and still is to this day. SolidWorks plays a key role in the fabrication of many manufactured building components, from windows to facades.

Today, Dassault Systèmes has 22,500 employees, across 197 global offices and a market capitalisation of $49.39 Billion. It offers a wide range of solutions for manufacturing, infrastructure and cities, life sciences and healthcare based on its 3DEXPERIENCE(3DX) collaborative platform, which connects people, ideas, data and solutions to accomplish business-critical tasks.

At 42 years old, having gone through several major rewrites and journeyed to the cloud, CATIA is still at the core of Dassault Systèmes engineering and construction 3DEXPERIENCE ecosystem.

Dassault Systèmes AEC and Infrastructure key concepts

3DEXPERIENCE platform is Dassault Systèmes’ core SaaS-based platform that integrates all software applications together into one place. It is the single social collaborative environment and first point of contact for all Dassault Systemes’ products. There is a huge catalogue of ‘Apps’ providing design, collaboration (no silos), simulation and project management tools. As it’s cloud-based, it can be used from anywhere on any device.

CATIA is the flagship Dassault Systèmes software dedicated to the design and engineering of all things. Based on the industry-leading CGM geometry kernel, CATIA supports surface and solid mathematically defined geometry with exacting precision. The applications are packaged up into commercial products called ‘Roles’ for users, to fulfil certain design roles in a workflow, tailored for various industries, from Aerospace and Automotive, to Ship Building, Civil Infrastructure, Buildings and beyond.

CATIA Building Designer is a dedicated AEC Role, which is a special interface and group of ‘applications’ specifically created for AEC design. This brings a familiar set a building design tools and components, reminiscent of traditional BIM applications, but these can be customised and developed by the designer and are more powerful in defining complex geometry, such as facades. This can be combined with CATIA xGenerative Design to define all the geometry in one place, by one application.

CATIA xGenerative Design (xGen for short) is a browser based generative design application,
native to the platform and combines visual scripting with interactive 3D modelling, combine parametric with algorithmic design. Think of this as Rhino Grasshopper for CATIA.

Building Design for Fabrication is a solution for integrating building design for manufacture and assembly, featuring 3D modelling for DfMA, architectural design, computational design, structural design, 4D modelling, clash management, PLM portfolio management.

From Experience to Construction offers a range of tools to productise project deliverables using modular, per-project, configurable sub-components.

Integrated Built Environment is a web-based, project and asset information solution, for Virtual Twin data exchange, design reviews, data analytics and integrated project orchestration amongst stakeholders.

ENOVIA is the SaaS product lifecycle management backbone of the Dassault Systèmes portfolio, for design management, product planning, Bill of Materials management, configuration change management, quality compliance, project management and execution.

DELMIA is a digital manufacturing planning, simulation logistics solution, with supply chain optimisation and planning. DELMIA has been used to devise and optimise off-site AEC fabrication, to optimise factory layout and flow of parts.

Main image courtesy of Morphosis Architects; CATIA model of the Kolon One & Only Tower in Seoul, Korea


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