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AutoCAD Civil 3D, as model-based software, continues to create new wrinkles 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 parts in the same old ways, we can make ourselves more work.

A Wrinkle in Time

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 parts may come back to bite us. Search this blog for posts for each “Blocks”, “Layers”,  and “Linetypes” for more specific examples.

For example - 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 a typical Autodesk example that exists to show off product features. (There’s a pun in there somewhere.) Everyone learns pretty quickly that the stock templates are not something you can actually employ to do real work. Ouch!

We DO sell more complete AutoCAD Civil 3D template solutions that do work.

Meaning By Group

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.

This publication specification is important to consider. For example: the minimum size of text in the NCS exists so “E” sized drawings can be reduced to “B” and still remain readable. Really? Really.

All us civil people figured out be now that the NCS layer scheme works on the concept of coded Major and Minor Groups. The Group names give a rule based “meaning” to the output.
“C-ROAD-LINE” and “V-ROAD-EDGE” mean something easy enough to understand.

We employ this basic 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.

We employ a Standard Set of Keys to everything. You can find them here.

You can say all the above and still be led astray by unintentionally adding granularity (more detail) to your 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.
You can easily end up with hundreds of layers and many more Civil 3D Styles, Label Styles, and Sets to create, edit, and maintain. That’s no fun.

Hand That Man a Shovel

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

We’re introduced a new Major Group in the Release 5.0 of our Production Solution products to help reduce both the Layers and the related Style issues of too much granularity (detail).

The new Major Group is so obvious you’ve probably done it yourself already.

The Major Group VIEW

Civil 3D has a rasher of View Features – Profile, Superelevation, Sections, Mass Haul, and the railway Cant View. The Autodesk example ncs (lower case used on purpose) templates employ a Minor Group “VIEW” to separate these things. In earlier releases that’s the way we did it too. We did not want to confuse new users too much. :-)
We at least changed all the View Features to employ a true NCS compliant form.

The Minor Group positioning in the layer names 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.
A new perspective was needed.  Like a stone tossed into a pond the Minor Group “View” created ripples and those created even more refracted ripples of complexity.

Time of Simplify

The following peudocode for the various 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 these specific Civil 3D Features.

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.
Not my idea of a way to make anyone's workday easier.

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 appears to turn out to be worth the consistency and Management by Style ease of use benefits.

Next time we’ll chat up this concept for Plan Representations and talk more about how Discipline specific Keys might help you out when projects get big and hairy.

On Standards and Keys in Civil 3D