Nate Holt's Blog

June 22, 2010

Tutorial – Basics of ‘Smart’ Panel Layout (Part 1) – AutoCAD Electrical

Filed under: Electrical, Tutorials — nateholt @ 10:05 am

Overview of how AutoCAD Electrical can link control schematics to the panel layouts

NOTE: 100+ other AutoCAD Electrical utilities indexed here.

Autodesk’s Dustin Clark hosted a webcast earlier this month that focused on AutoCAD Electrical’s ‘smart’ panel layout feature. I helped put the demo together and was responsible for real-time Q & A support while Dustin was “on stage”.

This posting is a brief summary of what Dustin covered in the first part of the hour-long webcast. It might serve as a simple overview / tutorial of this AutoCAD Electrical feature.

Here we go…

What is meant by the panel layout drawings being “smart”? …

 Answer: …the layouts have a “smart” relationship with their control schematic counter-parts.

Consider this: The panel layout drawings are probably just one part of your overall electrical controls drawing package. The other very key part of the package is the electrical controls “schematic” drawings.

The electrical schematic drawings in your design define the interconnected wiring between control devices such as relays, pilot lights, switches, motor starters, I/O modules, and such. They might be drawn in a “ladder” format as shown here, or sideways ladders, or even drawn in more of a point-to-point interconnection style.

 These schematics are actually quite “smart” all by themselves. They can have automatically generated tag-IDs, child contact cross-referencing, automatic wire number assignments, various BOM reports, and on and on.

 But, when panel layout drawings and associated schematics are combined in a single AutoCAD Electrical project, then the panel layouts get a big “Project IQ” boost from the presence of their schematics.

The panel layouts and the electrical controls schematics are tied  very closely together.  Now, in the image above we have portions of two drawings: an electrical schematic on the left and a panel door layout on the right.

 Electrical components shown on the schematics will often have physical representations on the panel layouts. Here we see where three pilot lights in the schematics on the left show up on the panel door layout drawing on the right. The left side shows the “schematic” representations of each pilot light device. The right side shows the physical representation of each pilot light positioned in the “layout” drawing.

 “Smart” means that

 1.If the schematics exists while the panel layouts are being constructed, then physical representations can be quickly inserted into the layout drawings by just picked from a “schematic component list”. Existing labels and such carried on the picked schematic representation automatically transfers over to the physical representations in the layout.

2.After the layout has been created, an edit or change to a component on one drawing type can auto-update the same component representations on the other drawing type. For example, changing the text label on a pushbutton on the schematic can automatically update the label shown on the physical representation of that pushbutton found on the panel layout.

Let’s edit one of the schematic symbols and see if it is smart enough to update the panel layout.

We right-click on the “SAFETY OKAY” pilot light in the schematic (above screenshot) and select “Edit Component”.

Which then displays the AutoCAD Electrical “Insert/Edit Component” dialog above. Let’s change the 2nd line of the description from “OKAY” to “ENABLED”. Now we hit OK to exit the dialog.

The description change to the pilot light representation on the schematic finds its way “smartly” to its physical representation on the door layout. The panel layout drawing auto-updates to match the schematic change. (Actually there are two footprints in this example that update… the pilot light representation and the nameplate representation around it… both update but only the nameplate has “visible” attributes).

Let’s try that again. But this time let’s change the schematic’s catalog part number assignment.

We again right-click on the schematic pilot-light symbol to bring up the “Edit Component” dialog. Look at the current catalog assignment… it is a 30.5mm, 120VAC transformer type with a red plastic lens.

Just for fun, let’s change the part number assignment on the schematic symbol to that of a miniature red pilot light and see what happens to our “smart” panel layout.

We flip the catalog lookup dialog from TYPE “30.5mm” to “22.5mm”…

… and this brings up the catalog selections (screenshot above) for 120VAC XFMR red pilot lights that are type 22.5mm diameter. We make our selection, hit OK. What happens??

And there it is… the “smart” panel layout drawing automatically updated based upon the schematic symbol’s part number change. Notice that the footprint representation of the 22.5mm series pilot light has popped in and its physical size is smaller than the standard 30.5mm units around it.

Pretty cool. But there are a few clean-up issues the may need attention: 1) the 22.5mm series footprint pulled from the default AutoCAD Electrical library has a prefix “RE” instead of the original “R” for “red”. You can use any attribute editor tool (DDATTE, EATTEDIT, etc.) to flip this back to just an “R”. 2) The tag-ID attribute value LT409 comes in as “visible” when the new footprint swaps in. You can use one of AutoCAD Electrical’s schematic attribute tools to re-hide this attribute value.

More to come

There is much more to discuss. Will put together a “Smart Panel Layout – Part 2″ posting soon.

UPDATE: here are some other panel-related tutorials

Tutorial – Basics of ‘Smart’ Panel Layout (Part 1)  
Tutorial – Basics of ‘Smart’ Panel Layout (Part 2)  
Tutorial – Basics of ‘Smart’ Panel Layout (Part 3)
Tutorial – Mapping schematic components to panel layout
Tutorial – Automatic Wire Annotation from Schematic to W/D (Part 1)

Webcast replay to be available soon…

Look for the full webcast to be posted soon here.


  1. […] Tutorial – Basics of ‘Smart’ Panel Layout (Part 1 – linking schem to panel components) […]

    Pingback by Tutorial – Automation of PLC I/O Drawings – AutoCAD Electrical « AutoCAD Electrical Etcetera — September 1, 2010 @ 3:36 pm

  2. Hi Nate. I tried to find a post where this question might be somewhat applicable.

    I’m diving into AutoCAD Electrical as I start a new project, and I want to know if ACAD E has vendor specific physical layouts of PLC components. I saw it in an Autodesk video here: (the beginning). I’m using Modicon, and I’ve found wiring blocks, but nothing that I can use for a PLC layout.


    Comment by Jonathan Schmidt — February 16, 2011 @ 10:31 pm

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