View and KISS the Ripples in Civil 3D

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When we talk about ripples are we talking about wave functions or particle behavior? This physical quandary led to our modern “quantum” perspective of the physical universe. That new relativity changed how we think about Everything. That changed What and How we do many things…even reading this blog post.

Certainly, the storm surges from storms like Sandy and her topical cousins will continue to pile up consequences. Maybe the double spike and dip of the solar maximum of 2013 will produce another different sort of wave and particle storm that’s even more disturbing. Maybe one of those asteroids that are whizzing by in a wave this February and March got your attention? I hear there’s a new comet in bound that may whack Mars a good one on its rebound.

Ripples are Strangely Related

AutoCAD Civil 3D, as model-based software, continues to create new ripples that affect how we deal with old AutoCAD management stuff like Layers, Linetypes, Blocks and all the rest. If we try to ignore and treat these fundamental particles in the same old ways, we can make ourselves more work.

Simply put – to create, edit, manage, and publish a model is not drawing stuff. As our models get more complex and more functional, the details of how we manage the fundamental particles (parts) come back to bite us. Search this blog for posts on “Blocks”, “Layers”,  and “Linetypes” for example.

A Ripple in Time for Civil 3D

Here’s a not so simple case in point. AutoCAD Civil 3D ships with a drawing template that purports by its name to be NCS (National CAD Standard) compliant. It isn’t. It’s just an example and as everyone learns pretty quickly. It is not something you can actually employ to do real work. We sell more complete AutoCAD Civil 3D template solutions that do work.

The NCS employs a Layer scheme that’s designed to make the publication of CAD files more consistent, transparent, and more understandable to more people in and from more applications. That scheme works on the concept of coded Major and Minor Groups. These Group names give a rule based “meaning” to the output. “C-ROAD-LINE” and “V-ROAD-EDGE” mean something easy to understand.

Meaning By Group

We employ this NCS Rule based “meaning” and naming language to Layers, Linetypes, and Blocks in all our products. Why?

  • A lot of smart folks worked pretty hard on developing and testing this method in many types and scales of projects over a long time period. They continue to do so. Why reinvent the wheel?
  • The system is “robust”. It’s adaptable, flexible, and consistent all at the same time.
  • The Major and Minor Group concept makes it easier for Users to deal with the complexity for Civil 3D models and their myriad forms of input and output.
  • Users can connect ANY and ALL the resources by connecting the consistent Standard names.

You can say all the above and still be led astray by unintentionally adding granularity (more detail or more particles) to the naming system than is necessary.  More isn’t always better.
I did it. You probably did it too if you’ve tried to build your own Civil 3D templates and Styles.
Simply put – you can easily end up with hundreds of layers and many more Civil 3D Styles, Label Styles, and Sets to create, edit, and maintain.

It is not good to stubble into a pit of chaos of your own making.

We’re introducing a new Major Group in the upcoming 5.0 release of our products to help reduce both the Layers and the Style related issues of too much granularity (detail). This new Major Group is so obvious you’ve probably done it yourself already. It’s the end result of additional Civil 3D Features. We’ve debated whether to convert over to employing it since 2010. Now is the time.

The VIEW Major Group

Civil 3D has a rash of View Features – Profile, Superelevation, Sections, Mass Haul, and a new Cant View in AutoCAD Civil 3D 2013. The Autodesk example templates employ a Minor Group “VIEW” to separate these things. That’s the way we did it too so as not to confuse our new users too much. We did at least change all the View Features to employ a true NCS compliant form.

The Minor Group positioning for View Features always bothered me. It added a lot of unnecessary detail to the total Layer count and increased the necessary Style count in equal measure. Like the Particle Soup problem in the Standard Model in particle physics that happened over time, something was out of wack. A new perspective was needed.  Like a stone tossed in a pond this Minor Group created ripples and those created even more refracted ripples of complexity. Dooh.

Time of Simplify

The following peudo code for the Civil 3D View Features works. These are all Design Discipline layers. The root layers have the additional related Layers to hold the other View Feature Component variations – TICK, LABL (TEXT), GRID, etc.

  • Profile – <Discipline>-VIEW-PROF-<Major Group>
  • Section - <Discipline>-VIEW-SCTN-<Major Group>
  • Superelevation – <Discipline>-VIEW-SUPR-<Major Group>
  • Mass Haul - <Discipline>-VIEW-MASS-<Major Group>
  • Cant - - <Discipline>-VIEW-CANT-<Major Group>

It might appear be less complex to not employ the VIEW as a Major Group at all.
For example:

  • Profiles – <Discipline>-PROF-<Major Group>

However, removing the Major Group “VIEW” causes things to get muddy and mixed up not in the Layer scheme itself but in the requisite nested Civil 3D Styles, Label Styles, and Sets for the Features themselves. In other words, if you simplify too much you just get dumber models that are harder to design, edit, quality check, and publish with Style changes.

We need the balance the Layer count to the ease of use and management by Style in AutoCAD Civil 3D. A little more Layer complexity turns out to be worth the consistency and management by Style benefits.

What About Plan Representations?

In the NCS a “Plan” representation annotation might be theoretically routed to <Discipline>-ANNO-<Major Group> layers or <Discipline>--<Major Group>- ANNO. However, both of these approaches have issues. The NCS “ANNO” Major Group is really about Sheet and Plan Set annotation and not about model annotation – linework (LINE,CURV,SPIR etc), labels (LABL or TEXT), marks (MARK), etc.

Employing the “ANNO” as a Minor Group is formally discouraged in the NCS as well.
In the 5.0 version it is even formally “not recommended”. Huh?
Why is that?
Maybe you don’t want to see a title block etc on a Sheet at the moment, but accidentally not printing critical buried annotative content in a Sheet or Plan Set can have really bad consequences.

Property related Features are already nicely classified in the NCS “PROP”, “ESMT”, “BNDY” Major Groups. No changes needed there.

Alignments play an ever growing significant role in Civil 3D production use. Don’t Corridor solutions rock? The magic of Alignment related control in Civil 3D’s Managed Dynamic Models is important. No problem there either. The Alignment Feature needs a Major Group. We still might argue over the details of the Major Group name-  Is it ALGN or ALIN?

Plan Design Features:

  • Alignments – <Discipline>-ALIN-<Major Group>

Site Related Features

There are a couple of ways to approach these issues.
Take the Civil –“C” Discipline approach. That means we probably have to employ the “SITE” Major Group as a predicate for Feature Lines, Gradings, and even Figure related geometry and annotation. Many typical commercial, residential, and public projects will work that way. The approach works fine, but you do end up with both longer Layer names and some muddling of the Layer waters as the project complexity grows. Is the road side ditch produced from the corridor model a ROAD feature or a SITE feature?

The second approach or optional addition is to employ the Works – “W” discipline. This gets necessary in larger dirt projects where the number of kinds of earthwork details is important to track and differentiate. When you employ the Works Discipline you can avoid lots of potentially redundant C-SITE layers and manage the production process and published output better as well.

For either approach our new VIEW Major Group used for all AutoCAD Civil 3D View Features works really well to simplify both design and publication work very nicely.