Nate Holt's Blog

June 30, 2010

Tutorial: Basics of ‘Smart’ Panel Layout (Part 3) – AutoCAD Electrical

Filed under: Electrical, Tutorials — nateholt @ 9:40 pm

Reverse work-flow:  design panel layout first, then drive schematics from the list of panel layout components. 

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 middle part of the hour-long webcast. It might serve as a simple overview / tutorial of this AutoCAD Electrical feature. Note: links to the summaries of the first and second parts of the webcast are here:  

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

Tutorial – Basics of ‘Smart’ Panel Layout (Part 2)  

So, here we go…  

We ended the previous tutorial with showing how AutoCAD Electrical can make it easy to pick and place panel footprint representations by simply picking from a “Schematic list”.  


This assumes that you’ve created a first cut of your controls schematics first before  you begin to do the panel layout design.  


But what about the reverse work-flow? Let’s say you need to quickly add a couple motor starters to your custom enclosure design. The panel is a long lead-time purchase… you’ve got to get this thing on order and the panel design needs to show the motor starters. Adding the control schematics that actually show the wiring for these motor starters will have to wait.  

So, the workflow is reversed… the panel layouts happen first. Then come the control schematics.    

How does AutoCAD Electrical help support this workflow?  Let’s try it.  


Here’s one way to do the reverse workflow… to insert a motor starter panel footprint representation (screen-shot above).  From the “Panel” ribbon select “Icon Menu”.  Find and open the “Motor Control” page of the panel footprint icon menu. Select “Starter Coil” (above).  


Let’s say that our first motor starter needs to be a NEMA size 4 non-reversing. Just select the “Catalog lookup” button in the dialog above. We pick the desired NEMA 4 contactor’s catalog part number from the Catalog Lookup dialog and hit OK.  


AutoCAD Electrical takes our catalog assignment, goes to the “Footprint lookup” database (as it did in the previous tutorial), and finds the physical footprint representation that wild-card-matches with our selected manufacturer’s catalog part number.  

 The correct footprint attaches itself to our cursor and we pop it into a clear place on our backplate.  

 Then the Insert/Edit dialog automatically opens up.  


Let’s say that the schematic is ultimately drive the tag-ID that gets assigned to this motor starter.  

 For now, we’ll just manually type into the dialog shown above an “aliased” tag-ID name, “CONV MTR – NEMA 4”.  


Okay, in the screenshot above we’ve added our two extra motor starters to the panel layout. We gave them temporary “aliased” tag-ID names for now. This is because we have not yet added in these two motor starter coil symbols to the schematics.  

We can extract a BOM report from the panel layout components and get the major equipment stuff on order now.  


Now, several weeks later (and with the panel items on order), you have the design information needed to figure out the control requirements for these two extra motors.  Time to add them to the schematics. They’re already on the panel layouts, you just want to push them into the schematics (the “reverse workflow” from the examples in the first tutorials).  

 Here is the sequence. With the target schematic drawing “active” on the screen, select the “Schematic” insert from “Panel List” command.  


 This brings up a list of all panel devices found in the drawings of the active project (screenshot above). Scroll down and there are the two added motor starter footprints (highlighted in yellow in the screen shot). There is no “x” in the first column so that tells us that they are not yet accounted for in our schematic design.  


We pick on the first motor starter entry and make sure that the “TAG Options” radio button is set to “Use auto-generated schematic TAG”. What this does is let the tag-ID generated for the schematic symbol be the “master”. It will drive backwards to the panel layout and update/replace our “aliased” tag on the footprint.  

 We hit the “Insert” button on the bottom of the pick list dialog. 

(Screenshot above) Finally, we need to select a motor starter schematic coil symbol for insertion. We can do it from the normal schematic icon menu or pick on a nearby motor starter coil symbol if one already used on the drawing.  


Coil pops in at our pick point on the wire (screenshot above). Normal schematic Insert/Edit dialog pops open with a calculated  tag-ID for this motor starter coil. Other values pulled from the panel footprint version are also pre-populated in the dialog. We just hit OK… 




… and AutoCAD Electrical pushes the new, calculated schematic tag-ID back to the motor starter footprint on the panel layout drawing, replacing the original “aliased” tag-ID name.



There it is, the “reverse” workflow.

 1. We inserted panel items first. Gave them temporary aliased tag-ID names.

2. Added catalog part numbers and description text to the footprints

3. Later, when ready to do the schematics, we referenced the “Panel List” insert mode

4. Selected schematic symbols for each panel footprint. The calculated tag-IDs generated on the schematic then went back and updated the panel footprint representations.








  1. Dear sir,
    I want to learn the Cad electrical from the basics, pl suggest some material which will help me out in this regard, mail id-

    Comment by Naveen — July 10, 2010 @ 2:31 am

  2. Anyone want to comment?

    Comment by Nate Holt — July 10, 2010 @ 8:08 pm

  3. […] Tutorial – Basics of ‘Smart’ Panel Layout (Part 3 – Reverse workflow, Pnl –> Schematics… […]

    Pingback by Tutorial – Automation of PLC I/O Drawings – AutoCAD Electrical « AutoCAD Electrical Etcetera — September 1, 2010 @ 3:37 pm

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