What is the difference between 2D drawing, 3D modeling and BIM?


From cave paintings to complex living 3D models, humans have come a long way in drawing and visualizing objects. Architects, Engineers and Construction Professionals (AECs) can now do it all on one computer; Squares and rulers are not as popular as they used to be.

2D computer-aided design, 3D modeling, and BIM may all seem similar to a layman, but their differences are much more prevalent in the real world. This article aims to explore the use of these three techniques, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.

2D drawing

Before the advent of computer aided design (CAD) in the 1950s, architects and designers around the world had to use the pen and paper method. However, the goal was always the same: to create a realistic graphical representation of an object. In addition to allowing us to capture existing buildings, the drawings helped us conceptualize, plan and execute them.

Of course, CAD has changed that. Many architects, engineers and designers quickly adopted it because it opened up new possibilities to them that they did not have before. Although hand drawing has its advantages, such as unlimited creativity, CAD has made the process simpler and faster. Plus, today’s software can do amazing things and has far fewer limitations than before.

2D drawing software

Artists and graphic designers today use programs like Adobe Illustrator, Procreate, Sketch, and Autodesk Sketchbook. They provide a wide array of artist tools including a range of different brushes for more realistic textures.

On the other hand, AutoCAD is by far the most commonly used software in AEC industries. Other programs, such as SolidWorks, FreeCAD, and LibreCAD, but none of them can match the popularity of AutoCAD. Additionally, Autodesk has constantly evolved over time, now offering a mobile version, 14 different language options, dozens of other AutoCAD extensions, and other useful software for AEC experts.

3D modeling

The emergence of 3D modeling has taken visualization to the next level. We can now create more realistic, dynamic and precise representations of objects than ever before. Besides buildings and their systems, 3D modeling can also be used to reproduce furniture, vehicles, even human organs, neurons and chemical structures. The best part is that 3D modeling made 3D printing possible.

However, 3D modeling may have had the most significant influence on the AEC industries. It forever changed the way we conceptualize buildings and structures, allowing us to predict the end product. It has never been easier to manage every detail, which is crucial for large-scale construction projects.

3D modeling software

Popular 3D modeling software includes Modo, Blender, Rhino 3D, SketchUp, and, unsurprisingly, AutoCAD. In the late 90s, Autodesk released AutoCAD Architecture (ACA), which offered the additional option of 3D modeling.

On top of that, ACA today offers an incredible architectural toolset, which includes over 8,000 smart styles and objects. If you can’t decide which one is best for your needs, we suggest you check out this AutoCAD Architecture vs AutoCAD breakdown.

Thanks to 3D design software like ACA, we can now design using realistic objects instead of simple lines and circles. In addition, 3D modeling has brought efficiency. The template can adapt quickly to every change you make, eliminating all of the tedious, mundane, and repetitive tasks associated with it.

Building data modeling (BIM)

Unlike 2D drawing and 3D modeling, which hobbyists and professionals in various industries use, BIM is specific to AEC experts. Additionally, while we use drawing and modeling primarily in the design phase, BIM is a process that follows the entire lifecycle of a building. It also includes maintenance, renovation and demolition.

BIM uses 3D modeling for visualization, but it’s much more than that. The model is the basis, always providing up-to-date and accurate data for each sector to be traversed. In addition to improving communication, BIM also helps with time and budget management. Overall, the goal of BIM is to increase the efficiency of the workflow as much as possible.

BIM software

Once again, Autodesk came out on top, this time with its premier BIM software, Revit. Other popular programs include VectorWorks, ArchiCAD, Tekla Structures, etc. Software like Revit is the basis of BIM, allowing you to create and control the entire project from a single computer.

Additionally, as technology evolves, so does BIM software. With the implementation of AI and machine learning, it will most likely become an even more powerful tool. In the future, we can expect most tasks to be automated, from simple calculations to the design itself. In addition, fed information on past projects, AI can easily analyze and detect errors, deviations and potential crashes in the current model.

Despite the common misconception, AutoCAD is not BIM software, nor is AutoCAD Architecture. Autodesk offers other programs for BIM – Revit and more recently Autodesk AEC Collection. However, they made them interoperable, so you might be able to import some AutoCAD elements into Revit and use them together.

Conclusion – Which one should you choose?

Although they share the same principle, these three techniques are quite different in almost every sense of the word. Today, 2D modeling is mainly used by artists and engineers, while 3D modeling has a wide range of potential uses, from sculpting to 3D printing. On the other hand, BIM is a global tool designed specifically for AEC projects.

So, if you want to create a simple initial roughing, 2D drawing is the fastest and most efficient choice. However, 3D modeling software will allow you to visualize the structure or object in its final form and help you design smarter. Finally, for complex construction projects and maximum efficiency throughout the construction process, you should use BIM software.


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