Better Civil 3D Assembly Management

Tags corridor, Assembly, Assembly Set, Subassembly, subassembly composer, change management, Project Management, CAD Standards, heuristics

If you follow this blog, you’ve perhaps noticed that I’m not a big fan of Autodesk’s dependence on Tool Palettes to manage the complexity in the Civil 3D Assemblies that are employed in Corridor Baseline Regions. Time for an intervention? A 12-step rehab program would help. Some acts of contrition are probably in order. I know this is unlikely. Denial is a powerful thing. Are you a bit confused? No worries.

Civil 3D Assembly Management

When was the last time in a real project you only had to employ a single Assembly? Sometimes even the good get lucky. The Feature Line Only crowd won’t read this post anyway.

The single Assembly that works alone seems to be the exception not the rule.

Assemblies seem to run in packs with different colors of fur and some differences of form too. Some bigger and bader. Some more nimble and slight. There are innies and outies – or male and female if you like. The more effective Corridor design pack works together.

A lot of our civil engineering design problems that can/could be solved by Corridor design require multiple kinds of packs - multiple Assembly Sets each with options. Tool Palette tools provide the illusion of managed Assemblies but lack the real substance of managed systems.
Options matter particularly when they are low risk and high reward choices.

Assembly Sets are the Pack

Assemblies are pretty complex collections that deserve more attention to detail and standards than a Tool Palette tool allows. They sure as heck require more than a fancy block insert. Ok. Now maybe I am being snarky.

I could argue most people don’t really want to use individual Subassemblies to build up Assemblies at all. We perform Assembly construction that way for historical visual interface reasons. The entire cross section in one Assembly made sense once upon a time. That fantasy went up in smoke forever back in Civil 3D 2018+, but maybe you didn’t notice.

Someone does the Assembly building, but probably not all users. I can only repeat…

Know Thy Subassemblies

Read a Subassembly or PKT help file at least once a week. If you don’t know, you don’t know. Both of us have wasted days trying to solve a problem that has already been solved. Just sayin’.

Assemblies are really not single Assemblies but Sets of related Assemblies where the kinks and mission critical issues are best worked out in advance. In other words, don’t be a chump and build untested and QA’d Assemblies in your project drawings. Courseware and demos are not projects.

Doesn’t an Assembly from a Tool Palette do that? Yes and no.
With such a Set collection many of the Subassembly properties are actually share values. Many should and must be matched. At this point, the properties are all handled separately by the individual Subassemblies. Good for the Civil 3D corridor modelling engine not so hot for us dumb-bunny humans.

The Assembly is a cheap suit. This then requires way too much silly Civil 3D user time and attention to the inappropriate kind of detail. Maybe the danger of this inappropriate level of detail would be clearer if you read the We See in Civil 3D and Can Be Blind post.

Can I Hear an Amen?

I contend we might want to be able to dynamically build an Assembly from a list of Subassemblies with matched and standardized properties not the other way around. At this point, I could mutter something about AASHTO or other state, federal, and local requirements to emphasize this point about applied standards that vary based on the current design heuristic.
For example, an increase in the design speed of the roadway tweaks all the curb height properties or shoulder width properties.

The current design heuristic is a state. Maybe we hope the current state is the endgame, but it usually does not work out that way. The people who do demos and the programmers pray it is the endgame. You can read the How to See More in Civil 3D Tools post for more about that.

To Be Fair

Civil 3D is very good at letting us define our design heuristics.
Civil 3D is better than most of the other civil engineering software at supporting options and choice.
You can tweak and build all the parts to your hearts content.
Civil 3D is not yet so hot at managing the system and these changes of design state.

I’m not all that sure the programmers can define our project benchmarks that define the states. You should not dodge the defined benchmark heuristic even for more familiar things like existing surfaces.

More Emergent Design

Can I mention that many of us would like more complex Assembly Sets to replace simpler Sets with a lot less user interface hassle?

Show me only the curb return Regions. For those Assemblies. Now please load and apply these Subassembly properties where they exist.

Don’t even get me started about the silliness of handicap ramps and driveways. Can these be Intersections with different heuristics? Maybe. Maybe not. Do not hold your breath.

A lot of the tedious User Corridor Targeting problems in the Corridor interface could be solved with matched list point and shoot interfaces. We are changing design state - Point old A to new B.

I think or hope that design state management for Corridors (or at least for Regions) will emerge in Civil 3D.

The Emergent Thrives in a State of Change

There are things we can do even if Autodesk won’t change the state of affairs.
We are not prisoners of the software. We are empowered and skilled users of the tools.

Change from this old set of Alignment, Offset Alignments, Profile, and etc references to this new set. Yes. This means that the design control for most Corridors iterates and includes options over time. It has states. You/we can control this.

If the following flies by your head like a 9mm round, don’t worry about it. Try to do it.

You can already manage this by using ONLY DREF references in your Corridors and then exchanging the sources. You must pay a lot of careful attention to the common Name Rules for the parts and pieces. Some of the current Civil 3D name templates seem to fight against this practice.

Shouldn’t it be possible to manage all the Civil 3D Name Templates with some rules from one place in Civil 3D? No one will make you use rules.

The Tool Palette Users Cheat Anyway

Folks who have spent all the time to build detailed and in-depth Assembly Tool Palettes often discover to their dismay that their Civil 3D users just cheat and ignore the Tool Palettes all together.

You know the drill. Go to the last project and copy and paste those Assemblies that worked into your new drawing in a new project. They do it. You do it. I do it too.

Go head.
Create Assembly Set resources drawings in a library of resources drawings and let your users Insert/Explode them as needed. Allow the best of breed to emerge. Use a placeholder Windows shortcut to the library in your Civil 3D Project Template to manage the location. This works. You could probably even build a Tool Palette tool. Eheh.

Autodesk was even kind enough to build a tool to cleanup the unused Assembly chaff. This fulfilled Civil 3D wish list item should tell you something. There are some mandatory rename fixes your users must/should do. Programmers have this thing about automatic counters they cannot put down.

A please load my Assembly Set file from here command would help even more. Don’t you think?

If my Assembly Set were really a Style Set, I could load the Set in a Reference Template (TREF) which would be truly terrifying. Wait a minute. Can you do that now?

Assembly Set collection resource drawings are more a viable and more practical resources in real project situations and workflows.

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The Multiplicity of Civil 3D Templates

  • How the effective use of the multiplicity of Civil 3D Templates enables a productive difference

The Multiplicity of Civil 3D Drawing Types

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