Custom Components in AutoCAD Plant 3D

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Custom Piping Components - Plant 3D

One fundamental process that all AutoCAD-based plant design systems have to answer is “how do you create custom components.”  Today we are going to walk through the process of creating an pressure indicator for AutoCAD Plant 3D.

Because pressure indicators aren’t really a pipe fitting or valve, they are usually one of the most often created specialty types of components.


Here’s an outline of the steps we are going to follow to create our custom component.

1. Create a drawing that has the solids we want to turn into a component.

2. Block the items we want.

3. Add port information using the PLANTPARTCONVERT command.

4. Add our component to a catalog.

5. Add our component to a spec.


Creating our 3D Model

When we go to add our component to a catalog, the catalog editor is looking for a drawing file that has the blocks we want to add stored inside of it.  So, rather than creating a block and using the WBLOCK command to save it out to an individual file, we are working with the blocks stored in a single file.

As a personal preference, I like to keep copies of my shapes in stages so I can come back later and easily make changes if necessary.  You’ll notice the three stages I use in the drawings below.


The drawing Swagelok Model B Pressure Indicators is included in the content download.

Create custom Pressure Indicator (442 downloads)

I am using the data for a Swagelok Model B Pressure Indicator which is available here:

Swagelok Pressure Indicator (669 downloads)


To spare details, I will not go through creating the AutoCAD solids, or blocking.


Adding port information

After you have build your shape and created a block for it, you are ready to run the PLANTPARTCONVERT command so type in PLANTPARTCONVERT at the command line and hit enter.

Select the block to convert.



Choose Add a port:


Select your port location:


Select the port direction:


Select Accept and exit to complete the command.

Repeat the process for all of the sizes in you are making your shape.

I recommend creating all the sizes that a manufacturer sells so that anyone using the catalog knows that those are the only sizes available and doesn’t have to back track your research.

The PLANTPARTCONVERT command creates images in the folder with the drawing, along with an xml file that has some data.


Adding the component to a catalog

Currently, I haven’t figured out a way to place an inline instrument category in the catalog editor. So until we can get that resolved, I’ll put it under a different category.

Included in the content download is an Empty Catalog, and a PDO Base catalog which contains the results of the next few steps.

In the Catalog editor, click Create new Component.




In the Create New Component category, select Use Custom Geometry, set the Component Category to Miscellaneous, and set the piping component to cap. Set the Short Description to Pressure Indicator, Default end type to THDM, number of ports to 1, and size range from 1/4”-3/8” Imperial and click create.



Fill out the connection port properties- end type = THDM, Pressure Class = 200 psi


Fill out the piping component properties: LD = Pressure Indicator 2 1/2” Dial, Manufacturer = Swagelok, Material = Stainless Steel, Short Desc = Pressure Indicator, Iso Symbol Type = INSTRUMENT-DIAL, Iso Symbol Key = IDPL.



Switch to the Sizes Tab.


With the 1/4” size selected on the left, click the Select Model button.


Select our drawing file and select the 1_4_2_5_PI from the block list:


Fill in the properties on the right. Matching pipe OD = .54, Engagement Length = 0.44, LD = 1/4” Male NPT Pressure indicator with 2 1/2” Dial.

You may reference the following pipe sheet for Sizes and ODs:

[Download not found]

You can view a reference sheet with the nipple engagement lengths for Plant 3D here:

Checkout (0 downloads)


Repeat the process for the 3/8” inch dial.

The block name is 3_8_2_5_PI, matching pipe od = 0.675, LD = 3/8” Male NPT Pressure Indicator with 2 1/2” Dial.  Make sure to scroll down in the Connection port properties and set the engagement length (0.5).



Click Save to Catalog.  Repeat the process for the 4” dial, and the 6” dial.

Block Names for the 4” dial = 1_4_4_PI, and 1_2_4_PI.

The block name for the 6” dial is 1_2_6_PI.

Adding the Indicator to the Spec

Although the pressure indicator is in the catalog, we have to add it to our project specs in order to use it in a model.  After closing AutoCAD Plant 3D, open the Spec Editor.

If the catalog containing the indicator isn’t open, you’ll have to browse for it on the Catalog drop-down.



After the catalog is opened, you can select the pressure indicators and click Add to Spec.


After items have been added to the spec, the part use priority must be set.


Click the yellow diamond to open the part use priority dialog. Make sure that the actual cap components are always placed first.  Check the Mark resolved box for every size to clear the yellow indicator.


Save the changes.

To place the indicator we will need a threaded coupling with female ends.  Add one to the spec, save the changes and close the editor.

Final Output

After having added the indicator to the spec we can place the indicator in our model.  I made a 4” line with a 1/2” sock-o-let, 3” long nipple, and a threaded coupling.




Here’s a shot of the ortho drawing elevation:


After some magic in the Iso settings, our production iso looks like the picture below and includes a symbol for the pressure indicator and an entry in the BOM.  A future article will talk about how to create your own isometric symbol


That’s it for now, I hope you found this walkthrough very helpful!

Series NavigationSymbol for the Isometric Generator in AutoCAD Plant 3D