Four-dimensional computer aided design

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1. Introduction

Four-dimensional computer aided design (4D CAD) is a new technique has been researched and applied in the field of construction since 1990s. This report is an investigative paper, presents the development of 3D and 4D simulations the field of construction firstly. The development of this technique including commercially, research and development areas are revealed. Several current 3D and 4D commercially software tools are analysed in second section includes two case studies. The benefits and limitations of 4D are discussed. In the end, the report talks about 4D technique impacts construction and the supply chain.

2. Development of Technique

The technology of construction design and planning has been developed for long time. Due to the computer science developing, the traditional technique has been trended to visualization realities from manual drawing.

2.1 4D CAD

Four-dimensional computer aide design (4D CAD) is a new technique combining with 3D models and construction processing in another mean is time. 2D and 3D improve construction design more quality and efficient. 3D development provides the foundation for 4D CAD in the field of construction management. 4D CAD led the abstract project planning can be presented directly and imaginative in simulation.

In 1984, CAS Inc developed PM-Vision which used 3D model to develop a database for construction (CSA, no date). The first developed 3D CAD models link to construction schedules was created in 1986-87 by Bechtel and Hitachi Ltd. They developed 4D Planner software. The 4D model creates by linking the schedule to the 3D CAD model to showing which pieces of the project will be constructed in sequence (Yerrapathruni, 2003)

In 1990's, 4D CAD has been increasingly developed around in commerce and research. Jacobus Technology developed and marketed a 4D simulation system called Construction Simulation Toolkit (CST) in 1992 (Yerrapathruni, 2003). CST allows user import CAD data from AutoCAD and Micostation combining with schedule data.

The Centre for Integrated Facilities Engineering (CIFE) of Stanford University begins academic research in 1994. CIFE started the first project research in the San Mateo County Health Facility which developed 4D model to communicate in the four-year construction. After the first project, CIFE continued to research related to 4D models. CIFE plays a leader role in 4D research area. Following CIFE, the academic research started in UK and Finland.

In UK, the research project of the Virtual Construction Site (VIRCON) which is a collaborative project between University College London, Teeside University, The University of Wolverhampton and eleven construction companies, was funded by UK government. The aim of project is to generate a tool allow planners to trade off the temporal sequencing of tasks with their spatial distribution. In University of Wolverhampton, Dr. David Heesom published Technology Opportunities and Potential for The Virtual Construction Site in 2002.

In 2000's, several commercial 4D software tools have been produced to construction industry. In the next section will take about the commercial software tools.

3. Existing Software analysis

From 2000, 4D technique has been developed rapid. There are a various results of research are published and commercially available software tools are produced such as common Point project 4DTM, JetStream TimelinerTM, Revit ArchitectureTM and xD Virtual BuilderTM. All 4D technique tool can export video format files for usage.

4D software

3.1.1. Common Point Project 4DTM - Common Point Int.

Common Point Project 4D was presented in 1999 by Common Point, Inc. It originated from the research activities undertaken at the Centre for Integrated Facility Engineering (CIFE) at Stanford University, USA (Heesom & Mahdjoubi, 2004). Project 4D is a construction simulation software tool that links schedule activities to 3D components. Project 4D's main feature is 4D playback, which allows the user to sequence construction issues according to a schedule for simulating construction events in chronological order. Common Point developed this system in recognition of the realization that the user to better communicate, plan and analyse construction activities throughout the project lifecycle.

The Project 4D import 3D data from common industry format, such as AutoCAD ArchiCAD, Microstation and 3D MAX. The schedule data can be imported from Primavera, SureTrak, Expedition, MS Project, Excel, comma or tab-delimited files.

However, Woolley (2007) argues that Project 4D works only with VRML CAD models (WRL and RAW file formats) and tends to limit it to architectural rather than engineered in construction applications. In addition, it does not allow user modify the 3D models in the 4D system.

3.1.2. JetStream TimelinerTM - Navisworks

JetStream Timeliner is developed by Navisworks. It is enable 3D model data to be linked with project software for create 4D visualisation of construction schedule. This software allows user showing all tasks occurring in the interval period, to ensure small tasks occurring between interval points in the project does not miss in 4D simulation. The software allows imports most CAD format from, such as AutoCAD (.dwg, .dxf, .sat), 3D Studio (3ds .prj), SketchUp (.skp) and Navisoworks (.nwd .nwf .nwc). The project schedule software and formats supported by JetStream TimeLiner is PowerProject, MS Project and Primavera. Timeliner provides extension that allows text, site tasks and process showing in simulation. The behavior of the task simulation is configurable and the display can be customized. (Navisworks, no date)

According to Khemlani (2004), the biggest limitation of Timeliner is perspective. The display of model is a generic geometry-based solution. The price show in the website of Timeliner is 1250 dollars. If the user want to buy whole the JetStream package in total is 8450 dollars. It is quite expensive for most construction industry firms.

3.1.3. Revit ArchitectureTM- Autodesk

Revit Architecture was developed by Autodesk. This software based on Autodesk research that called Building Information Modelling (BIM). The theory of BIM is covers geometry, spatial relationships, geographic information, quantities and properties of building components. BIM can be used to demonstrate the entire building lifecycle including the processes of construction and facility operation (Wikipedia, no date). The concept of BIM is similar with 4D. Using Revit Architecture provides user record and review entire project from design period to construct period coordinating plans, schedules, and construction documents in visual. (Autodesk, no date)

Compare with other commercial 4D software, Revit can create 3D model in the system. Due to Autodesk strength, using with Autodesk Software, Revit can provides detailed plans and renders of elevations. However, without Autodesk Software it could import other common software. It is mean that project schedule data should be created in original technique. The users ought to spend a lot of time to understand and the software Standard single user price is up to 4000 pounds.

4. Benefits and future

3D and 4D simulation has been used in construction industry. 3D simulation is popular in architectural and structural design. Designer can produce an attractive model in detail level, use it to present their design and communicate with other design parties. However, 3D simulation in construction management is not useful. Most 3D software are attentive the feature of rendering. In real time simulation, it could not generated 3D model link with other construction activities. To undertaken a successful 3D model need user expend much strength in training and understanding software because of a lot features and functions should be used in.

In long history traditional construction, planning tools such as bar chart and network diagrams are abstract for most people. To understand the project planning need people study its and practise. According to Fischer (2002), 4D models combine 3D CAD models with project schedule and other project information to show a visual model for technical and non-technical stakeholders in understanding, analyzing and communicating a design and construction schedule. In communication of project, 4D model provides a visual simulation for all coordinators such as designers, clients, contractors and builder to understand the project effective. For example, Walt Paradise Pier' GC only spent 2 days to understand the entire project sequence. By using 4D, project developers can evaluate the sequence, process, construction methods and risk in construction project. In addition, detail 3D and 4D modelling can reduce the waste of materials and resources. The 4D model also support user gauge materials quantity and deliver time. Finally, 4D create a platform for designers and contactors to review and stakeout the progress in construction.

Although 4D CAD has advantages in construction management, most 4D software tools just simple combine with 3D model and schedule, as play mesosphere. These software tools could not provide supplementary function for construction management. The other functions such as cost, materials information, rendering, and human resource could not present in 4D model. In the practical construction applications, 4D CAD must rely on complex 3D models, the limitation of it obviously.

4D development trend could be including:

  • Improve the 4D CAD exporting in same format
  • Reduce 3D model creating time.
  • Improve the rendering capability of 3D model in 4D CAD.
  • Integrate construction cost and material information, constitutes to 5D CAD, indeed nD CAD system.

To improve the features of 4D technique need researcher in Substantial exploration and research. Some organizations such as CIFE and ARUP are starting to develop 4D CAD in usage in construction.


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