Civil 3D Assembly State Management

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The Design State. When we employ Civil 3D Corridors for any form of design the Design State matters. What is that?

When was the last time in a Civil 3D project you only had to employ a single Assembly? Ok. Sometimes even the good get lucky. A single Assembly that works alone seems to be the exception not the rule.

Assemblies seem to run in packs with different forms and of colors. Some packs are bigger, bader, and more detailed. Some Assembly packs are lighter and more nimble.

The most effective Corridor design Assembly packs work together. This matters whether we talk road, rail, pond, or the classic site grading project.

Civil 3D Assembly State Management

Principals are important - Choice matters particularly when our choice of multiple options is low risk and high reward.

A lot of our civil engineering design problems that can or could be solved by Corridor design require multiple Assembly Sets each with such options. The Civil 3D Tool Palette tools provide the illusion of managed Assemblies but lack the real substance of a managed system. Let’s face it. The original Tool Palette tools were and are focused on creating Assemblies not managing collections of Assemblies at all.

Assemblies are the Pack

Assemblies are complex resource collections that deserve more attention to detail and standards than the Tool Palette Tools alone allow. Assembly collections sure as heck require more than a fancy block insert.

Most people don’t appear 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.

Did Feature Line Baselines introduced back in Civil 3D 2018+change your design world in Civil 3D?

Why not?

Someone does the Assembly building, but probably not all your Civil 3D users.
I can only rant…

Know Thy Subassemblies

Read any Subassembly or PKT help file at least once a week. If you don’t know, you don’t know.
Most of us have wasted days trying to solve a problem that has already been solved because we don’t know or work to gain the capacity to see that a solution exists. Just sayin’.

Assemblies are not single Assemblies but Sets of related Assemblies where the kinks and mission critical Property issues are best worked out in advance.

Don’t be a chump and build untested and QA’d Assemblies in your project drawings.
It is best to remember that the work habits shown in Civil 3D on-line courseware and product demos are not always viable and healthy practices in your live Civil 3D project.

Doesn’t an Assembly from a Tool Palette allow us to manage them?
Yes – one at a time. No – never together. Arrrrgh.
Ok. You can cheat and use fake Intersections and Assembly Sets as one weird way to get to them all at once. Huh? Such nuanced work arounds are a hassle.

With such an Assembly Set collection, many of the Subassemblies share common Property values. Many Properties should and must be matched. At this point, the Properties are almost all handled separately by the individual Subassemblies unless you skillfully employ Output Parameters.
The detail all works well for the Civil 3D corridor engine.

This is does not work so hot for us dumb-bunny humans. Our lack of attention to such detail is problematic when we talk about real world production project work. It costs man-hours.

The single Assembly is a cheap suit. This then requires way too much silly Civil 3D user time and attention to these inappropriate kinds of details.

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 site design requirements to emphasize this point about applied standards that vary because of the current design heuristic.

To use the classic roadway design example - an increase in the design speed of the roadway requires changes to all the curb height properties or shoulder width properties.

The current design heuristic is a state. We might hope the current state is the endgame, but it usually does not work out that way.

To Be Fair

Civil 3D is 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 Autodesk programmers can characterize our project benchmarks that define the states on which our heuristics are built.

You should not dodge the need for defined benchmarks (part of a corporate heuristic) even for more familiar things like existing surfaces.

Emergent Design

Many of us would like more complex Assembly Sets to replace simpler Sets with a lot less user Civil 3D interface hassle?

Show me only the curb return Regions in my Corridor. 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 and workflows? Probably. 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 now changing design state - Point this old list of shared Properties to that new list of shared Properties.
Externalized approaches to Standards help us all.

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

I’ve proposed to Autodesk the concept of the Assembly Set Template (AREF). This is construction and maintenance interface of specialized Assembly Set tools and managed resources to allow what we discussed above.

The Emergent Thrives in a State of Change

There are things we can do even if Autodesk won’t change the current 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 tear gas round, don’t worry about it. Try to do it.

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

By the way…Shouldn’t it be possible to manage all the Civil 3D Name Templates with some rules from one place in Civil 3D? The fact is - No one will make you employ these 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 their 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 Ahead Make My Day

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

A fancy load my Assembly Set file from here command in Civil 3D 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. Could 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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Grading with Site Corridors Posts

Updates, additions, and fixes to the posts in this series are on-going.