Utilizing Inventor, Factory Layout Design and CFD for COVID-19


The workplace has radically changed since COVID-19 shut down offices in every corner of the globe. Employers of all sizes, from small to multinational firms facing 2020 realities are looking for ways to unify around shared design DNA and culture from remote settings—and to maintain the personal relationships critical to pulling any institution though a historical crisis.

For employers, the risk of exposing employees to illness is a big concern. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommend several preventative measures to keep safe while out in public:

  • Keep physically distanced from others a minimum of 6 feet
  • Avoid groups of 10 or more
  • Wear a mask to protect yourself and those around you

As the economy continues to slowly inch towards reopening, employers are confronted with the challenge of incorporating these guidelines into their reopening plans, whether those involve factory floors or office spaces. Enforcing these recommendations across job sites presents employers with several difficult decisions to make – is the current layout optimal to maintain physical distancing? Is there sufficient ventilation? Do work cells need to be modified? How best to stagger the workforce for safe operation?

Beyond daily management measures, companies are turning to advanced tools to help identify and anticipate safety concerns. Autodesk Factory Design Utilities and Autodesk CFD are two such tools.

What is Autodesk Factory Layout Design Utilities?

Factory Design Utilities provide design tools and an optimized environment for factory floor layout. They also allow you to open legacy DWG facility layouts and add factory intelligence to those drawings. The factory drawings can then be used to populate a 3D layout in Inventor Factory. This helps to bridge the gap between modeling in a 2D environment to a 3D space and saving you time in the process. However, do not let the word “factory” limit the scope or your view of this application. Anyone who needs to lay out a space or design with a common collection of assets can take advantage of the workflow offered by Factory Design Utilities.

Fig 1: Factory Design Utilities provides a 3D layout of the factory floor

What is Autodesk CFD?

Autodesk CFD is a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and thermal simulation tool that helps predict product performance, optimize designs, and validate product behavior where a fluid or gas flow is playing a crucial role. Electronic cooling, pressure drops in equipment, or even simulating the natural ventilation inside a building are all examples where CFD simulation software can help you to optimize the design.

CFD also has widespread applications for employers trying to reopen while grappling with the coronavirus pandemic. Among other things, CFD can help determine whether workspaces are safe for operation, the limits on the number of employees that may be in the workplace at any given time, and whether employers are able to satisfy local health guidelines.

Fig 2: Autodesk CFD can determine airflow patterns in a room. Here, we see airflow in an operating theater with multiple people around the operating table.

CFD to Address COVID-19 Challenges

Employers will be required to re-examine existing measures in place to reduce the spread of infection, as well as what improvements can be made. HVAC systems are especially important to consider through this lens because infections such as COVID-19 can be transmitted through aerosolization. CFD can help address these challenges.

Fig 3: Inventor – Factory Design – CFD workflow

Autodesk CFD connects directly to Factory Design Utilities, which provides a seamless workflow and allows for multiple “what if” scenarios to be considered at the same time, including routine questions like determining whether opening windows is preferable to turning on the AC, to more complex decisions like placement of AC vents. The use of CFD on factory floors can also help determine the thermal comfort level of workers, particularly when wearing face coverings.

Fig 4: Using Factory Design Utilities and CFD together can determine thermal comfort of workers


COVID-19 has pushed all of us to consider the issue of airborne disease, and the changes we can make to ensure we are better positioned to address these challenges going forward. One way of analyzing all the possibilities is by using a simulation program like Autodesk CFD to address airflow and thermal challenges. In the current environment of reopening offices and manufacturing facilities, this simulation is made more effective by combining it with Factory Design Utilities. When done correctly, the result is a safe workplace where the infection is unlikely to spread from one employee to another.

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