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There are some interesting and recurring questions that are worth thinking about regarding the content of Civil 3D Data Reference (DREF) containers and project stability and performance in Civil 3D.

You should employ, No Styles templates for DREF containers.
These are drawings that only contain Standard Styles built only by the Civil 3D virus/code.
Maybe we could call these Standard Only templates or drawings.
Standard in any resource file name has too many other confusing meanings for me and most Civil 3D and AutoCAD users.
No Styles means to me - none of our custom Style stuff.

A Project Manager and Civil 3D User asks,

Why advocate that we take the time to make the Civil 3D Features shared in these drawings employ nothing but Standard styles as much as possible?
Isn’t the data in the DREF the only thing that is shared?
If the DREF gets corrupted, can’t we just ask that a backup be restored?”

First Major Riff

Glad the man believes he has dependable backup procedures happening in his house. [Drum roll]
I have to ask, “When was the backup good?” [Cymbal crash] You know the drill.

We want to do what we can to preserve shared DREFs in our projects whenever possible.
A blown up DREF with key Surfaces or Alignments etc. can cascade into more than a few wasted project man-hours. This rarely happens to me. Does it happen to you?
Happily, this happens less today in Civil 3D than the famous song Yesterday.

Typically, DREF containers and their contents do not get mashed because people don’t touch them. The Hands off principal is one of the best things about DREFs - a popular reason to employ them. Did you know or remember there is a Civil 3D Toolbox project reporting tool that tells you where DREFs are in use? Where the heck is that?

Speaking of Hands Off and Engineering…

This very short time-lapse video of a boat being 3D printed from wood-based bioplastics in just 72 hours might give us a pause. The patrol boat is 25' long and weighs 5,000 lbs.


Three World Records for One Boat

The UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center received three Guinness World Records on Oct. 10, 2019 for the world's largest prototype polymer 3D printer, largest solid 3D-printed object, and largest 3D-printed boat. Back in the day someone I know well and today no one else would believe was Miss Boston Whaler for a year.

Here’s the link to the press release. Notice all the folks who showed up to crow about the project. There were no boat show models at this event.

The new 3D printer is designed to print objects as long as 100 feet by 22 feet wide by 10 feet high. It can print at 500 pounds per hour. Other immediate applications for the 3D printer include a 5,000-pound, 21-foot-long 3D-printed mold for a new 76-foot-long composites bridge girder.

The DOD wants concealment applications, structural shelters and high-temperature fire retardant materials for vehicle-mounted shelters. There’s recent video of that being printed too. See the YouTube link in the video above.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says that this large 3D printing capability supports the development of rapid construction of transportation infrastructure emplacement, repair, and rehabilitation parts.
Can you say, “recycled wood waste and weatherproof”?
Sort of makes you want to jump right in and build the bridge parts for Civil 3D and Revit.
I’m in the wrong business here in California. Time to move to politically correct manufactured framing systems from almond hulls, grape prunings, dead trees, and need-less-to-say hemp.

Let’s get back to the containers of the third kind…our Civil 3D project DREFs.

Political Project Corruption

The project corruption problem often happens when Bob in the cubie next door decides he doesn’t need that one and erases it the DREF to clean things up for himself.
I should not blame Bob. I’ve been known to do this to myself and find out days later. Dooh.
We’ve all heard that song before.
Sounds like Me and Bobby McGee – the screaming banshee Janis Joplin version.

Of course, we all recognize the opposing political noise problem of a bunch of now dead DREFs cluttering up a Civil 3D project. Maybe you employ a DREF folder structure built into your Civil 3D Project Template(s) that helps everyone keep better track? Yes. You can do that.

First Minor Riff

The name(s) of the assigned Style(s) are also shared by default via the Data Shortcut.
That alone can be good news or bad news depending on the current project context.
What you want the DREF to do and how you need the data behind to be represented now is the most pertinent question to ask at that Data Reference attachment moment.
A default of Standard is a safe choice. That Standard name usually causes us to pause and consider what we really want.

Human Factors Engineering

Ok. Maybe all your Civil 3D users always manage to do the right thing. Maybe you are the sole master of all your project domains. You believe the only human factors you have to deal with are personal. There is more going on here.

The Bridge Over Troubled Water

Lots of folk in Civil 3D Land safely ignore my NoStyles DREF advice and deal with the results. We pay the piper sometime.

Almost all of these people have more issues and expenses related to the implementation of Civil 3D Upgrades and Civil 3D Updates.

The practical long-term project context issue is that Autodesk changes the Civil 3D Object Model (the data behind itself) whenever they want to change it.

In any new numbered Release or Update, the data behind defined by the Object Model can and does change. Pipe Networks etc are not the same in 2019.3 and 2020.1 for example…there is new stuff in the Object Model and the Pipe Network data behind. Pressure Networks etc are currently in a state of bake and flake. See the recent Civil 3D 2020.1 Framework Release 8 Superpowers post and the latest Release 8 Details page.

The issue missed by the user is that it is in Autodesk’s best sales interest to disguise these Object Model changes as much as possible. They seem to have stopped doing Object Model changes in numbered releases because of the years of bad experiences and/or bad press if you prefer. They studiously avoid changing the most used (and most unused) ones to make the software appear safer and more stable to users.

However, Autodesk now cascades back new Object Model changes and fixed code via Updates to reduce the different release issues and bug complaints. By the sales numbers this drags their customers to Upgrade – sometimes kicking and screaming.

The Project’s Data Behind

This means the data behind in all your projects IS going to change.

Not implementing any new Updates is probably an even more painful and expensive strategy.

Standard Styles are by definition both built by and updated by the Civil 3D Object Model code/virus itself. By definition, DREF sources that contain only Standard Styles are easier for Civil 3D to Update. The new data behind of Features is less likely to fail.

The accumulation of custom Styles in DREF sources complicates ALL the mission critical core processes and in-project DREF performance (but probably not a lot).

When there are problems, our Styles often make the data behind problem identification problems more difficult to nail down. Guess what gets the blame.

I argue that the pretty simple workflows to make critical DREFs as Styleless as possible are worth the small man-hour investment.

When your Civil 3D users need to do it is a business decision. Why I employ to the term benchmark when I talk about this. All Project Managers and many Civil 3D users want the fast and dirty until the crud hits the fan. From a business perspective, I suggest that desire should be managed towards longer-term project stability.

DREF Separation Buckets and the Data Behind

We tend to think of the Civil 3D data behind as one thing – e.g a resolved Surface model - because that is how we deal with and experience the separate and collected Feature data behind in Civil 3D. Each of the Civil 3D Features are themselves containers of collections of sets of collected property data of different types and separate build property specifics. Yes. That’s a mouthful of marbles.

I like to say the Civil 3D Features have Buckets. The most important Features have Buckets that have Buckets. For example: Alignments have many Buckets. They also contain Profiles and a bunch of other Features each with buckets each with more buckets of their own.

Separating the DREF buckets is important to both Civil 3D project performance and stabily.

The Civil 3D Object Model code and the resultant data behind is intentionally compartmentalized into Buckets for both code maintenance and Upgrade/Update reasons.

Autodesk replaces the definitions of the buckets…this changes the definitions of the data behind. It is in Autodesk’s best interest not to destroy your existing drawing data shared or not. Our Styles…not so much.

Our customization of Styles are the visible and the most likely (hard to find and identify) victims of changes in the Object Model. Our Styles can be broken by any Object Model change. These failures are always annoying, sometimes expensive, but rarely terminal.

For the data that is mission critically shared across a working project, the effect of those potential failures should be reduced as much as possible. No Styles for DREFs makes sense.

By design the Civil 3D Style, Label Style, and Set (Rules) representations are intentionally almost separate from the data behind. We should pay attention to and use that Civil 3D Style behavior to our advantage.

This is both the beauty and the beast of Civil 3D so to speak.

What would happen if you suddenly needed to publish your project right after the latest Update or maybe even to a new set of CAD Standards? Sounds like Halloween or a Steven King novel, doesn’t it?

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