Subassemblies or PKTs in Civil 3D

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To sub or not to sub. That is the question.
Do you employ the Autodesk Civil 3D stock subassemblies or your own custom PKT files versions produced with the Civil 3D Subassembly Composer to produce Assemblies used in Baseline Regions in your Corridor designs? As in the norm with the Civil 3D Diva, we soon discover there is good news and bad news. Call it Nuance and Nightmare if you so choose.

It’s safe to say that there are great arguments for both approaches. The stock subassemblies do not change much Civil 3D release to release and/or Update to Update. Their operational performance, functionality, and vital documentation is also supported directly by Autodesk.

I can say it. Autodesk developed the Civil 3D Subassembly Composer to escape this developmental, maintenance, and support ditch.

Autodesk has only crawled back into the subassembly dev ditch for specialty content. The roadway rehab subs and rehab Corridor tools introduced in Civil 3D 2018.1 come to mind. If you can get that sort of roadway rehab and repave project work, these are valuable tool and skill sets to know in Civil 3D.
See the post and video series that begins with Rehab Corridors from Survey.

I personally wish the Subassembly Composer tool had been developed around the Autodesk Inventor’s parametric engine. We would all have less to learn in the long run. One supposes that Autodesk sales and licensing mechanics wouldn’t allow that and/or other factors were more important at the time.

In Civil 3D Land we bite the bullet and learn to work with the results.

As I like to incessantly proclaim …

Know Thy Subassemblies

Your organization’s Civil 3D project production capability and capacity for Complex Corridor Design is directly constrained by how well your Civil 3D users know and understand nuances of the Autodesk stock subassemblies.

This is inescapable. The learning curve is no less true for your own custom PKT file versions. Good and consistent documentation matters whether you see that at the time you build a PKT or not.

Your Heart’s Content

Civil 3D Subassembly Composer PTK files are a form of editable Civil 3D content. Like a Dynamo for Civil 3D script, the PKT is code you can tweak and edit to your heart’s content if you can get your hands on it.
“It is easier to edit than create.”
Don’t ignore the Autodesk supplied PKT resources for Civil 3D. Don’t like them? Change them.

PKTs Are Out There

Thanks to the good taxpayers in the state of Florida, the FDOT PKTs are available in the public domain. The FDOT PKTs are a bit more problematic to get to these days since you can only get them via the State Kit install. There are a goodly number of PKT well-documented goodies in there.

No fooling. FDOT released their latest new FDOT Civil 3D 2020 State Kit on April 1, 2020. Not all the other State DOTs and Federal agencies that produce content for Civil 3D are as public with their PKT resources, but the PKT content is content. It is gettable, editable, and adaptable - therefore edible.

Some of the many downloadable Autodesk Country Kits also contain PKT content. Your results may vary. All are in metric units, but most can be a convertible like a Corvette.

Speaking of Autodesk Country Kits, Ireland, and the Civil 3D Subassembly Composer here’s a video from a tech at the Autodesk partner Procad Ireland…


How to Build an Embankment in the Subassembly Composer

This is a nicely delivered basic Sub Composer tutorial video. It covers the mechanics and important naming details well. See the Subassembly Composer video section for more help.

This Irish embankment may be his levee or her diversion dike. More about that name nuance in a minute.

The PKT file produced would replicate an entire Assembly you could build easily with the stock Civil 3D Subassembly tools with the Civil 3D Tool Palette interface a bit quicker.
No harm in that unless you fall into the bottomless pit of always confusing PKTs with entire Assemblies as a standard usage and practice case for the Subassembly Composer.

Subassemblies and/or PKTs in a named Assembly collection are not the same thing as an Assembly when push comes to shove and applied in a Baseline Region in a Corridor.
Better managed separate PKT parts may often produce better and more adaptive design results.
Put another way…

One and done is nice until you find yourself confined to fewer and/or less productive results.

Let’s get back to those aforementioned naming nuances that are always so mission critical for the task of directing the Civil 3D Diva and her performance.

The Languages and Namespace of Codes

What and whether you name all the Point, Link, Shapes and Parameters in your PKTs matters. The codes pour out into your project work like a hive of angry hornets. Can you say, Edit Properties or Code Set Style? Heck, you probably have complaints about what Autodesk named these things in the stock Subassemblies too. Me too.

Honey, What gives? Did you hear about the 2” long Japanese hornets that have invaded Washington State? They hunt bees. I thought that the overworked American worker bees already needed a break.

Technically, you can actually change the names of the codes in the Autodesk stock subassemblies as these are given numeric GUIDs and named aliases via the Civil 3D stock subassemblies .codes file. This is done in Civil 3D for language translations - So Irish folk can talk about Kerbs instead of Curbs etc.

Sadly, the Civil 3D Subassembly Composer doesn’t support the attachment of a namespace file or have namespace manager. Why folks who write code for a living would do this to Civil 3D users is beyond me.
We bite the bullet and learn to work with the results.

Manage the Codes Namespace or Else

We need to manage all of that work ourselves. Put bluntly, the more different and unmanaged the codes names you employ for the Point, Link, Shapes, and Parameters in your PKTs, the larger the swarm of angry hornets that your Civil 3D users must contend with.

More hornets mean more separate edit properties, more Code Set Styles, more Code Set Style edits, and more or less consistency in your project work which now totally depends on these not-so-silly little name details.
Careful. All these codes insects are case sensitive little bastards too.

If you manage the Civil 3D codes namespace well, Civil 3D Corridor design and all the many ways to produce Corridor output, annotation, and published design results get both easier to execute and more adaptive to changed project circumstance.

Now that would be a good thing…
Take that from a fella who once lived through the stings of 500 hornets one day long ago.

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