Civil 3D Future Design and Optimization Styles

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We all have things we want changed in Civil 3D. If you live and work in Civil 3D Land, you probably have more than a few Civil 3D Wish List items. I do. You do too. Some of those whines and moans are related to things Civil 3D cannot do yet. Others to the stuff Civil 3D cannot do very well from our perspective.

How we choose to work habitually matters significantly to our perspective. Let’s try not to forget that.

We might all agree the most annoying issues are the last 20% problems that the Civil 3D team cannot or refuses to take the time to fix. 80%+ of the Civil 3D code works ok or even great. Those final bits, pieces, and details never seem to get done. Arrrgh.

We are left to endlessly hassle with cleanups, fixes, and creative workarounds.
You get that. There’s actually an art to that. This blog and site is full of that artful madness.

I get asked about these issues often when I train folks. You know the drill.
“Why do I have to do all of that? Why won’t Autodesk fix it?”

The snarky and evasive response (even when I agree with them) might be –
“If civil engineering and survey work was easy, then anyone could do it.
At that point, we probably wouldn’t like the pay scale all that much.
The good news…”

Tradecraft and Skill Always Matters

In all valuable human endeavor the knowing and wisdom springs from the doing.
Oddly enough, evil human endeavors don’t usually work that way.

We acknowledge then that carefully addressing how, when, where, and why we do things is the real rocket science; this is both the personal and corporate challenge; and this is the iterative critical path to viable, adaptive, and creative solutions.

The Iterative Critical Path to a Better Civil 3D

A customer recently asked me what I thought about Groundforce – one of Autodesk’s Civil 3D Futures projects.
Groundforce is a bunch of code Autodesk may or may not put into a product. It doesn’t yet exist in a public form. It’s easy enough to join the Autodesk Civil 3D Futures group if you are interested in finding out more.

The intentionalyl vague particulars of Groundforce discussed here are only here to only serve as examples to remind us of the more significant issues.

As to Groundforce itself? Hmmm?

Welcome to Disturbia

At first glance for most, a GroundForce generative programming approach is completely outside our familiar CAD-based civil engineering design heuristics and common workflows.
The fella rightfully asked,
“Why would anyone want to do that?”

So. Is Groundforce a solution waiting for a problem? By no means. The code also brings up some important Civil 3D things, approaches we employ, and so we might want to think those about issues and address them.

Groundforce can automatically optimize surface topologies. Way cool. The processes are currently based on manually classified Features Lines or CAD primitives with defined Property Set rules applied to them.

  • We create a stack of Property Set rules.
  • Apply them to Typed Feature Lines or CAD primitives.
  • Allow the computer to iteratively optimize the result.

The code produces a Surface (a topology) and a revised collection of Feature Lines.
Would, could, or should many Civil 3D users consider the revised Feature Line collection a topology too?

The currently demonstrable results can and do potentially reduce the current manual tweaking and editing time that we are currently burdened with.

A goal to significantly reduce those significant man-hours invested in these common grading problems and tasks is certainly is worthy of pursuit.

Groundforce is talked about currently as a new sort of a collection of smarter Civil 3D Grading Features.
I want to argue loudly it really is not.

The last thing we need is another new Civil 3D Grading Feature in the Civil 3D Toolspace that works alone and/or separately. I want to Optimize to my heart’s content. I want managed optionalities.

Civil 3D Optimization Styles

I pointed out in writing to the Autodesk powers that be, that these new Property Set rules should be formal Civil 3D General Optimization Styles that should potentially be applied to parts of many Civil 3D Features.

To clarify my meaning in a current and available Civil 3D context -
All the Best Fit algorithms (commands) spread out all over Civil 3D Ribbons are forms of Optimization Style currently hardcoded into Civil 3D Feature specific commands (e.g. Best Fit Alignment, Best Fit Profile, Best Fit Line, Best Fit Curve, etc.).

Put another way - an Optimization Style of a specific class collects rules properties; requires types of CAD primitive or Civil 3D Feature input; and potentially produces iterative results.

A singleton result remains as important as a selectable and/or testable and/or optimizable array of choices. The Best Fit tools employ individually set Weight properties to manage a singleton result.

A non-existent optimized Best Fit process version would allow you to check and select from many variable weighted results and input objects.
Please find potential best fit Alignment and Profile pairs for a flood control channel or a roadway.

If you’ve around a while, maybe you remember the Autodesk Alignment and Profile cloud-based optimization tools.

Managed External Sources Are Important

From a long- term and interoperability perspective by definition an Optimization Style should have formal import and export capabilities and/or selectable formalized external file sources. Case in point, we probably want our Optimization Styles for Alignments and Profiles to be reusable in Infraworks, Civil 3D, certainly for Dynamo, and probably Revit.

To clarify again in the current Civil 3D context, we have Superelevation properties and parameters attached to an Alignment Feature’s segments. These are in part dependent on the Design Speed properties, external tables, and to specific segments – These are typically curve segments.

Thankfully, curve segment specificity is not a necessity (in case you didn’t know). Therefore, we can employ applied Superelevation slope parameters to manage Slope control in tangent segments too. Hoorah, for smoother intersections.

This is not the same thing as optimizing the Design Control Alignment and all its Profile and Offset children to also some other related design criteria (e.g. line of site interference checks) or, on the scary and more productive end, the geometries of another Alignment family collection.
Freeway Off and On ramp design choices come to mind.
Build me a set(s) of Connected Alignment choices between the Main Street Alignment family and the First Street Alignment family. Maybe you want to check out the Connected to Alignments in Civil 3D detailed training video? 

Sorry to sort of employ the Revit Family name word in vain, but the word makes a bit of sense in the discussion.

It’s pretty obvious that Optimization Styles could potentially change how we work in Civil 3D completely if we want to.

If we want to, I believe, is the significant issue…

“Do We have a Problem?”

I wouldn’t count on all of that in Civil 3D anytime real soon now, not because it isn’t possible and potentially practical, but because the methodology is not how we as Civil 3D customers tend to attack these design problems and how we as Civil 3D customers think about how we employ the important Civil 3D Features and CAD primitives.

Next time more on how we must think differently about the familiar CAD primitives and the familiar Civil 3D Features we think we know. We may misunderstand and need to approach them differently.

How we choose to work habitually in Civil 3D matters significantly to our perspective and understanding.

Now that might be interesting too?

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