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Designing for mechanical engineering at Stangl Associates

Mitchel Stangl started Stangl Associates in 1995 and made 3D modeling a cornerstone of their practice. He knew he had come across the right tool when he found SketchUp in 2001. "For the first time," he says, "I could model electronically as fast as I could sketch by hand."

Stangl Associates works in process plant design. Trained as a mechanical engineer, Stangl claims the adoption of SketchUp was mostly due to its intuitive operator interface and simplicity. In Stangl's opinion, "SketchUp's intuitiveness comes from its ability to always relate back to basic geometric principles. It's geometry-driven instead of menu-driven, and even engineering colleagues who 'don't do CAD' pick up SketchUp very quickly."


Stangl Associates uses SketchUp throughout their entire workflow. “We skip paper sketches and go right into 3D modeling. Traditional Process Flow Diagrams and spatial requirements, general arrangements, are developed in tandem for all projects using SketchUp. That way we can determine the equipment specifications and project estimates much earlier in the design process and with greater accuracy,” says Stangl. “We start our models with simplified equipment and building elements. As the process and equipment components are selected we refine the model. In other words, we start with a conceptual model and end up with a highly detailed model. All construction drawings are based on this one model.”

"SketchUp has eliminated the traditional back-and-forth client drawing review and red-lining process. These days we meet online with a client and review the model prior to creation of the drawings. The SketchUp model allows the clients to quickly understand the design, instead of leafing through a stack of drawings to piece together the design elements. We often model design iterations immediately online, as the client comments, rather than after the meeting, saving subsequent meetings and design time," says Stangl.


"We spend about half of project time actually designing the process. Actual modeling tasks take up only 10% of a project, but the model is constantly used in the design process as a PIM (Project Information Model) and for communication. Everyone in my office feels that modeling and design are one in the same, because for us, they are so tightly linked. The other half of the project is setting up construction documents" says Stangl.

Once the fundamental design is complete, the team will export the SketchUp model to a DWG model or import the model into LayOut to create construction documents. “We have used AutoCAD for CDs historically, but since the release of LayOut 2, we have started using LayOut for CDs,” says Stangl. “The drawing presentation in the program is impressive. LayOut has also decreased the time required to create CDs because of the tight integration between SketchUp and LayOut.”

"At the end of the day," says Stangl, "The models and CDs we create are based on the same information, the SketchUp model. This model is reviewed with our client thoroughly and we therefore have minimized or eliminated design changes and construction change orders. SketchUp's geometry-driven modeler makes it accessible to everyone on the team, and there's a joy to being in a model and working on it.”

Stangl Associates

About the Author

Chris joined the SketchUp team in its infancy with @Last Software and has found ways to use SketchUp for just about anything. It's also important to note that he thoroughly enjoys scones, coffee, and the Colorado outdoors.

Profile Photo of Chris Dizon