Friday, December 23, 2011

Map 3D and You

If you aren’t using the Map capabilities in Civil 3D then you should be. Especially if you are required to show vicinity A Practical Guide to AutoCAD Map 3D 2012maps on your plans. By using queries to data it makes it easy to create and label the streets. If you need to create maps showing zoning, sewer lines, and other information then Map 3D is something you should look into.

If you are looking to learn Map 3D you might want to take a class or purchase a book. One such book, I received from Cadapult Software Solutions, Inc. (for free), is A Practical Guide to AutoCAD Map 3D 2012.

I just happened to have projects to perform a sewer studies. As part of the study I needed to determine the flow of sewer flowing in the existing sewer lines in front of the projects. A great source of data was provided free (and some at a low cost) from the County of Los Angeles. I used the book as a reference guide to display the relevant information in order to perform the analysis for the sewer flow calculations.

The book covers both using Object Data and an FDO connection, which I used on this project. It covers the basics to allow me to label both types of data and explains the difference between the two ways to access the data. By using the book I was able to perform the basic tasks I needed to do to display the data. Once I had the data displayed I was able to determine the zoning type of the parcels that discharge into the sewer system allowing me to determine if the sewer has adequate capacity.

The book breaks possible tasks into Chapters with each having a similar structure of Introduction, Key Concepts, Objectives, and then a discussion of topic at hand. This makes it easy to pick up anywhere in the book for the concept you are to learning. The book covers the basic, so if you are looking for the book to hold your hand through every conceivable task, then you might be disappointed. Since Map 3D’s user interface is quite daunting I would think a book that was able to do that would be hard to find.

The book is large in size and has a spiral binding to lay flat. I usually dislike spiral binding since it’s hard to spot the title of the book on a book shelf (for you printers out there please develop a way to print the name of the book and the end of the pages of the book to fix this problem). But for using the book in a coffee shop while traveling it made it easy to take advantage of the sometimes small space available. I thought the book could use an expanded index, but the table of contents helped find topics if the word I was looking for wasn’t in the index. Overall I thought the book was great.

If you are looking to have a sewer study completed in the State of California or need a workflow developed to create vicinity maps utilizing Civil 3D or Map 3D. Then Email me for more information.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mass MLeader Renumber

I wrote this code a while back that changes all of the MLeaders found in a drawing’s model space from an existing number to a new one. I’m just putting it here for a reminder later for when I may need it.

Sub ChangeMLeaderNumber()

Dim oAcadObject As AcadObject
Dim sOriginalNumber As String
Dim sChangedNumber As String
Dim oMLeader As AcadMLeader
Dim oAttDef As AcadAttribute

sOriginalNumber = ThisDrawing.Utility.GetString(1, "Enter existing MLeader Number to change: ")
sChangedNumber = ThisDrawing.Utility.GetString(1, "Enter new MLeader Number: ")

For Each oAcadObject In ThisDrawing.ModelSpace

If (TypeOf oAcadObject Is AcadMLeader) Then
Set oMLeader = oAcadObject

Dim sBlock As String
sBlock = oMLeader.ContentBlockName

Dim oEnt As AcadEntity
For Each oEnt In ThisDrawing.Blocks(sBlock)
If oEnt.ObjectName = "AcDbAttributeDefinition" Then
Set oAttDef = oEnt
If oAttDef.TagString = "CIRCLE" And oAttDef.TextString = sOriginalNumber Then
oMLeader.SetBlockAttributeValue oAttDef.ObjectID, sChangedNumber
End If
End If
End If

End Sub

The code was set up for the MLeader I was working with at the time. It would need to be changed to match the block you are using.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Synchro–Explore Options. Manage Solutions

A while back I participated in a demonstration of a software product called Synchro. Synchro is a lot like Navisworks, but built from a scheduling perspective rather than an approach of bringing together different models. From my initial impressions of the product this makes it much more powerful then Navisworks.

By having the schedule be the driver, rather then the models, it makes it easier to assign the objects to the schedule. The product is able to import the most common scheduling formats as well as provide a direct link between them. From talking to the representatives they are actively adding the scheduling formats they don’t have. The schedule items then can be assigned to the objects in the model. For different tasks such as placing forms, rebar, pouring, etc. different colors may be assigned to the objects as they are done. You can even split up the objects to schedule your pours.

From a modeling perspective they are focusing on using solids to bring the models together. Since Civil 3D doesn’t really have a solid model to share, you are able to use their modeling tools inside the product to create a model that would represent the design. While not a perfect solution, it does provide a method to schedule the work. Synchro also provides the ability to split up the model for scheduling purposes. So if you only want to do 250 feet of lane 2 in the first phase you can split it out for scheduling purposes.

If you are worried about the costs of the project, you can assign the costs of the project to the schedule. This would enable you to see what your costs are going to be across the project lifespan. You can determine how much money is expected to be needed. This way you can optimize the schedule to reduce carrying costs.

The product is more focused on the construction industry rather than the design industry, I could see a use for it for designers involved in design-build projects. By using this tool in the proposal process it could be possible to provide savings for the owner by scheduling the project in an efficient manner for cash flow purposes.

If you want to learn more about the product and how it’s being used, Synchro is having an Inaugural User Conference in Orlando, Florida on January 25, 2012. Unfortunately I probably won’t be able to attend, but if you want to see what forward thinking contractor’s are doing I’d check it out.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Retirement of the Civil 3D Reminders Pack

Today Civil Reminders is announcing the cessation of development of the Civil 3D Reminders Pack. For the past 3 years the Civil 3D Reminders Pack has been provided free to whoever choose to download it. Many of the ideas for the commands contained in the pack came from readers of the blog, questions from the Civil 3D discussion groups, and solving issues to make me more productive.

In the future the commands will be improved with better user interfaces, error catching, and adding more capabilities and incorporated into the SincPac-C3D. The SincPac-C3D is developed by Quux Software. Currently the SincPac-C3D contains the following Civil 3D Reminders Pack commands:

CorridorExtractPolylines - Extract multiple polylines from a Corridor, even through an XREF.

DLLabels - Dynamically link Profile View labels to Profiles and Pipes.

SSMRenumber - Renumbers pages in a Sheet Set.

SwapPipeNetworkParts - Swap multiple network parts at once.

The Swap Parts lets you swap multiple pipes and structures at one time instead of individually as Civil 3D now requires. The swap Pipe Network Parts now includes an option to determine the match point of the swap for pipes. Previously in the Civil 3D Reminders Pack the match point was the center of the pipe.

 SwapPipeNetworkParts Dialog box

I’ve been working on the DLLabels command for quite a long time and it’s finally available. It allows you to link a profile view label to a pipe or a profile. No longer do you have to manually adjust your crossing pipe labels or labels callout out finish grade or existing grade (you  still have to verify the label doesn’t overlap other labels or objects). As an added application for this command you can show the crossing pipe as a block in the profile view label to show a more rounded pipe rather than a tall crossing pipe that may look like like a fat line when printed out. Here’s a short video showing the command updating a profile linked profile view label.

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The CorridorExtractPolylines has an added dialog box to allow you to select which feature lines to extract as 3DPolylines from the corridor. This is an added improvement for the command, previously the feature line codes needed to be typed in. The command lets you extract feature lines from a corridor in the drawing or through an Xref.

Select Corridor Featurelines Dialog box

In future versions a dynamic sewer lateral linking command will be included. If you want to adjust pipe laterals to a main line pipe try using the undocumented command DLSewerLaterals in the SincPac. The command is still in development, but will adjust the laterals in one pipe network to the main line pipes in another network. Although it currently won’t dynamically update to changes in the main line pipe. Here’s a short video showing a more complete version in action. Got suggestions for this command? Send me an email at

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The SincPac starts out at a reasonable price of $175 for a module and $350 for a full edition. Volume pricing is also available.

A BIM-less Design

I’m back from Autodesk University (AU) and starting on my first project in my return. It’s preparing a model for incorporation into a bid for survey work for a landfill project. To my delight the plans were prepared utilizing Civil 3D,image unfortunately the model is rubbish for extracting the information I’m interested. Essentially the model is just for the showing the top layer of the landfill.

There’s no modeling for the various layers that will make up the impervious layer of the landfill. No swale object to determine the length required to construct and no easy way to determine the differentiation between the perforated pipe and non-perforated pipes. Definitely not a BIM model.

During AU I was fed a constant stream of quotes regarding innovation and disruptive technology. Here are some of the quotes:

Jeff Kowalski, Chief Technology Officer, Autodesk

“The sea of complexity has waves of disruption. We can ride even the biggest wave if we have the right mind set and toolset.”

Carl Bass, President and Chief Executive Officer, Autodesk

“Tools are what amplify our ability.”

“Use infinite computing to achieve optimal designs.”

“Our tools allow you to translate your ideas into a computable model so that you can test how your design reacts and interacts with the environment.”

I think my problem is that I’ve bought into all of the quotes. I want to ride the wave of disruption. I want my computer tools to amplify my ability to design and construct and I want to put my ideas into a computable model. Unfortunately the tools Autodesk have provided for the Civil industry have failed to deliver on the marketing. I can’t ride the wave, since the wave sets aren’t coming in.

While some Land Desktop (LDD) users have been reluctant to move to Civil 3D, they are missing out on a better version of Land Desktop. Essentially Civil 3D is just a better version of LDD. The alignments are editable, there are tools to do our labeling better. Unfortunately the output of our designs are the same. For instance for surfaces, the surface contours are still the main design interaction of designers rather than modeling the project and extracting the contours from the model. The surface is made up of feature lines instead of a clay layer, impervious manmade liner and gravel around the perforated pipes.

During AU I was a lab instructor for Navisworks for executive level users of the product. The architectural models that were being used looked awesome, a far cry from the Civil 3D  models I’ve created in the past. A non-corridor based model comes in as on big green blob. It’s hard to differentiate between the pavement, curb and gutter, landscaping and the like. In the project from above not even the rip rap protection at the bottom of the downslope is modeled. Mainly because it’s hard to model. The tools just aren’t in Civil 3D.

Maybe I should start a company to develop such a product. I have the ideas, but I guess I’m lacking the capital to take the ideas from concept to reality. Until then I’ll be working on improving my experience with the product through customization.


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