Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Data Management or Object Management Problem

I have been using Civil 3D for the past 6 years. At first it was a great, although buggy, improvement over Land Desktop, unfortunately the product has stopped evolving. The program has seen improvements in speed, but it still dreadfully slow at regenerating viewports. The hype over BIM started three or four years ago, unfortunately all it has been is sizzle and with no meat.

Some have blamed Civil 3D’s slowness on it being built on top of AutoCAD. Unfortunately I don’t think this is the case. The issue is the Civil 3D framework itself. Civil 3D Objects go through numerous checks to make sure it’s up to date when an object is asked to present it’s information. For instance clicking on a pipe object causes it to be opened and closed programmatically up to seven times. Now think about what happens when you print with a viewport with a drawing containing pipe networks. Each pipe object is opened and closed numerous times, even if it isn’t located within the viewport. Each and every object that is visible in model space is accessed. You’d think by now the programmers of Civil 3D would recognize this slowness and fixed it. 

I was working on a programming project that created viewports for corresponding profile views. There were 30 profile views in the drawing. Attempting to create layouts and viewports for the profile views took up to 45 minutes, if it even got there before causing Civil 3D to crash. The horrendous performance of Civil 3D was evident in this project when the all of the layers where turned off and the layout and viewport creation took about 45 seconds. Any time savings Civil 3D provides in labeling is quickly consumed by plotting out a set. Heaven forbid a last minute sheet gets added to a project after you plot the set. Do we really deserve to take an hour or two to plot out a large set of drawings?

Now it looks like Autodesk is going to release and/or market to us about point cloud features in Civil 3D, or at least I’m guessing due to some Twitter activity. So Autodesk has spent the last three or four years marketing to us about BIM, failing to deliver any new complete features to make it a reality. Evidently they have been working on point cloud features instead of BIM features. I don’t quite get this push into point clouds. What’s the point if we only get a surface object? A surface object, if history is any indication, where we’ll have to winnow out a majority of the point cloud points to get a workable surface. If we can’t turn the point clouds into pavement, curbs, gutters, trees, retaining walls, pipes, signs, striping, curb ramps, sidewalks, and all of the other objects we design what’s the point?

I personally don’t see myself interacting with point clouds, and I suspect a vast majority of engineers are in the same boat. I do know a majority of engineers design pavement, curbs, gutters, trees, retaining walls, pipes, signs, striping, curb ramps, sidewalks, spillways, detention basins, and all of the other objects. I think I’m at the point where I don’t renew my subscription in a few months when it comes due. Maybe it’s time I’m as tight with my software budget as Autodesk is for BIM features in Civil 3D. I guess you could say I’m a disgruntled customer.

Some might indicate my rants are ill advised. But really this blog isn’t about pleasing Autodesk, or any other vendors. This blog is about reminders to myself. This one just memorializes my feelings on the state of the Civil 3D product and possibly a reminder on why I ended my Civil 3D subscription. Ultimately I’m just a consumer of a product and get to choose whether or not I purchase a product or not. The blog doesn’t make massive amounts of money for myself, and due to the small potential audience I doubt it ever will. Unless of course someone offers to to pay pre dot com crash money for the blog.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the comments about point clouds and the lack of BIM functionality in general in Civil 3D

Anonymous said...

In our corner of the country, Point Clouds have been flown and point data classified. Currently, this is used in place of DEM files or any other conceptual surface data you might find.

Why? At least for us, the point clouds are obviously not the same quality as a ground or aerial survey. But it is better than most other data types for planning.

So why do i need such a large data source to plan a project? Well, transportation projects are a clear use of this data. But also anything else that is miles of linear development would be applicable; like an oil or gas pipeline.

By the way, I do agree with your general assessment of Civil 3D. Every firm i visit, talks about their production process. When i mention the speed/regen topic about layouts, lightbulbs in their heads start going off. Any way... love your posts!

Christopher Fugitt said...

I get the advantages of point clouds, I just don't see the advantage of using point clouds with Civil 3D if there are no objects to turn them into. I think Jeff Kowalski at AU 2011 inadvertently illustrated the issue in his infinite computing talk on the main stage. The point cloud image showed a bridge, sign, pavement, curb, cars, and trees. The infinite computing was used to remove all of the point clouds except for the ground surface. If we have infinite computing shouldn't we be creating tree, bridge, and the other objects in Civil 3D? Seems like Autodesk has no real BIM version, other then using the term to sell us a crappy BIM product.

Anonymous said...

We survey using laser scanning. We use a Reigl scanner which is one of the fastest, long range terrestrial scanners available. We scan building interiors, exteriors, runways, and certain sites not suitable for conventional surveying; we can provide such detail that we can monitor for erosion and structural deviations over time. The precision that these scanners provide has been comparable to conventional surveys. Using laser scanning enables us to turn days in the field into hours and also enables us to retain high quality digital photography of site features as well as point clouds containing those features which allows us to virtually "walk the site" at any time. We currently use a product called TopoDot which installs as a 3rd party on MicroStation. Although TopoDot provides some sophisticated tools for extracting linework and site features from point clouds (even measuring the dips of utility wires for power companies), we would rather be doing this in AutoCAD due to various issues with entities that come over from the conversion process.

I agree with you on many points in this post. I would like to see Autodesk provide a tool for extracting features out of point clouds but not necessarilly inside Civil 3D. I do believe there are many existing "features" in Civil 3D that require improvement. I'm really not interested in anymore Civil 3D new features. Fix the old features. I have a list. Maybe I'll post it in my next blog.

Anonymous said...

Nice! I like C3D Cougars comment as well. I'm with you as well, don't give us any more features that 95% of the users don't or can't use anyways. Make it work and get us all back into some productions, as we all expected out of this venture. :-)

Just because a small handful of us can do it, doesn't help the much larger user base that can't. Yes us long time C3D junkies can figure out how to get around it, the other 95% are out of luck, until the software is better, in many ways. Said by someone who loves Autodesk, AutoCAD, Civil 3D, you get the point....


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