Intergraph and Autodesk announced today that they have reached an agreement that allows Autodesk to embed Intergraph ISOGEN into AutoCAD Plant 3D. ISOGEN, with about 50,000 users worldwide, is often considered the industry standard for the automatic production of piping isometrics and bills of materials, critical documents in the fabrication of process plant components and the construction of plants themselves. Without products like ISOGEN, isometrics and bills of material must be laboriously extracted from 3D models; manual methods often led to fabrication and construction errors. According to Intergraph, today over 80% of all the digital isos generated globally are produced using ISOGEN.

ISOGEN was originally developed by Alias Ltd., a UK company acquired by Intergraph in 2006. Intergraph first partnered to connect its 3D plant design offering with ISOGEN in 1993; today, ISOGEN is embedded in almost all major 3D plant design packages. (The rest do not include an embedded ISOGEN but rather create an output a file that can be processed using a separate, standalone application. Either way, ISOGEN is integral to the production of fabrication documents.)

The benefits of this deal to plant design software users is undeniable. ISOGEN’s interoperability means that users of Autodesk Plant 3D, Intergraph PDS and SmartPlant, and other major plant design products can easily share information — a critical asset in the very fragmented plant design industry.

Autodesk could have built the expertise to create its own iso package, but elected to partner with Intergraph to quickly ramp up its offering in the 3D plant design space. Embedding ISOGEN serves to make the new AutoCAD Plant 3D product more credible and expands its reach and audience. Too, it bolsters Autodesk’s claim to openness and interoperability, key decision attributes in selecting a vendor as the buyer is likely to be in a consortium with a new set of partners on every project.

Under the agreement, Autodesk will provide front-line ISOGEN customer support for for its end-users. The only concern is that this could take off too quickly and overwhelm the support team’s resources — but AutoCAD Plant 3D is new in the 2010 lineup, so use and support should be able to grow in tandem.