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Does it help us to explore the end of things to discover a path to a better beginning?

Questions like this are worth consideration in the circular and iterative process world of Autodesk Civil 3D.

In this Book of Alignments series of posts, we talk about the Alignment as a Design Control Manager in Autodesk Civil 3D. There are at least a dozen management roles for the Alignment in Civil 3D. See the list of links at the bottom of the post.

Some of the many Design Control roles involve the classic civil engineering and survey geometry management roles that we all expect from an Alignment. Comes with the territory.

Many of the other Design Control Manager roles appear somewhat counter-intuitive if we expect linear process resolutions. Many folks appear to struggle with the Civil 3D reality that an Alignment, a linear path Feature with vector direction, plays a major and central management role in the iterative design tools of Civil 3D.

The substantial number of other Design Control Manager roles involve the Alignment’s strange (or strained) entanglements with the five major Civil 3D design model collectors: Corridors, Parcels, Networks, Surfaces, and Points.

To further clarify these design process points, you might want revisit the two previous paragraphs in the opposite order.

Model-based software like Civil 3D employs the linear and sequential to manage the circular and iterative design development.

A niffy, but confusing trick, and a twisted, but functional, form of logic.

Plan for Production

The principals and concepts of Intelligent Publish on Demand (iPOD) are another central theme for model-based software that we discuss all the time in this blog. See The Arts of the Separation of Powers in Civil 3D post and the related series of posts.

If the Alignment’s Design Control Manager roles and Publish on Demand principals are practical and useful production methodologies in Civil 3D, somehow the Alignment should help us out with the publication of our design models and the published nuances of the data behind.

The One and the Many

Real world civil and survey projects include multiple design models. Most of the time we are not dealing with One to One relationships and a singular design model. Most of the time we are constructing One to Many or Many to Many relationships that affect multiple and related design models.

Learn to Think Differently

Is it a bit unnatural to think like this? It is certainly not sequential.
It is way too easy to overlook that this congress applies as much to survey publication as conceptual or finished design publication. Our predilection is to start at the beginning with the survey data cleanup, surface building, and worry about the publication later. We tend to naturally follow this same sort of path in our design processes.

Civil 3D allows us to prepare for and execute both design and publication processes together with a bit of plan and execution. If you have corridor like design or survey data, get some form of publication Alignment built post haste. This will reduce your production time. The same is certainly true for our design processes and workflows.

We won’t belabor the topic, need, and benefits of continuous development of Civil 3D Project Templates here.

Annotative Alignments

There is no doubt that Alignment Style and Alignment Group Label Style can aid, produce, and manifest many specific publication benefits. An annotative Alignment is a more than useful publication tool. The coupling of the Style and Label Style can replace many forms of linetype and other annotative representations in Civil 3D. You might want to review the Alignment Reference Group Labels video and post for some other interesting examples.

Most of the Alignment Design Control Manager roles are collected in the Civil 3D Toolspace and Ribbons interfaces along with the Alignment itself. Some manifest as obvious Alignment children.

Alignment is a Publication Manager

The Alignment Design Control Publication Manager role is also manifest and stored elsewhere and separately in the Viewframe Group collector.

A ViewFrame Group is as much a child of an Alignment as a Profile, but because the Feature and its children are all about publication and tied to the Plan Publication Tools that collector Feature is represented differently in the Civil 3D interface.

The ViewFrame Group –Immediate or the Planned

The Civil 3D ViewFrame collector is built with the assumption that the moment of model publication is at hand and now we want to do it. This is a one-time and one-way publication process. Right?

Autodesk thinks like you. Perhaps because they listen to you?
Or is this strange separation of powers because Autodesk choose to implement the tools and interface as a linear and sequential step-by-step wizard?

ViewFrame Mechanics

The ViewFrame Group is notoriously full of unalterable on-create properties and decisions. Thankfully, the Style based decisions we can change after the Sheets are generated. Whew!

The View Frame tools are not as interactive as they should be. Why can we grip edit the View Frames but not plug in real numbers into the property boxes? Arrrgh.
The Frames are generated from the details in place on creation.
This appears to reflect the old Autodesk Civil 3D mantra: If it ain’t broke, don’t improve it.

If you revise the horizontal control of the Alignment too much, a new ViewFrame Group may be the order of the day.
There you go again thinking that the publication is about a design alignment.

Oh Sheet

For new Civil 3D users, we are also stuck with the fact that we have to have the Sheet layouts and the array of Civil 3D Styles built, worked out in detail, and at the ready. Since this is more than intimating for the newbie, and even for the Civil 3D skilled, our Framework for Civil 3D products all provide those resources out of the box.

To get the Sheet title block graphics and Sheet Set data mechanics tweaked only requires an AutoCAD level set of skills. We tell new Framework customers to do this Sheet Set customization first for a good reason. We must…

Plan to Execute

The View Frame and Match Line properties employ the power of Civil 3D Name Templates. Plan ahead. If you want Station details on the Match Lines and employ an alphabetic scheme you can get them with only a minor tweak to the Name Template details before you generate the View Frames for the Group. The idea of Name Templates is to save us work not make us work more because we were unprepared.

The Civil 3D Project Context

Given you have a publication Alignment (this may have nothing to do with a “real” project design Alignment) thoughtfully shared into the Civil 3D project context, you can generate the publication View Frames.
Do this in a data reference drawing where you store the publication Alignment control not in a working survey or design drawing.
That way you build them once and you can DREF them in whenever you need them. Just sayin’.

Show Me the Alignment Design Control

These days in Civil 3D project-based Alignment (DREF) publication resources can be easily updated from different design control drawings into well-built and managed project publication drawings.
See the Civil 3D Data Shortcut Manager Tool post.
The included video employs DSM replacements of the much more complex DREF design control replacement of a Corridor model

Alignment-based publication does work for Site Plan publication too if you pay attention. We built a Topo Grid AddOn based on Alignments in part with this dual purpose of annotation and publication mechanics. See The Topo Grids AddOn video.

What forms we employ to construct and publish our Site Plan model data matters as well.
See the Basic Spot Label Style Expression Set Rewards video and posts for more details.

Hit the Ground Running

Spend a little time after creation to tweak the View Frames into something usable. Sorry. It isn’t very intuitive that the on-create Frame size is coming from the AutoCAD Viewports in the referenced Sheet Layouts.
Do you want to maximize the size of the Viewport or make sure that the Viewport size usually aligns better to Stations? A resource collection of Sheet Layouts matters in the daily grind.

Practice Makes Us Flexible

Don’t get functionally fixed on the way the Create ViewFrames tool automatically does things.
We can change that.

  • Does the publication Alignment have to be in the View Frame? Not really.
    Maybe we want to employ the Right of Way or an off-page Section line or something similar?
  • Recognize it is often it is easier to delete bad View Frames and add new Frames back in.
  • The Add View Frame tool is hidden away a bit in the Civil 3D View Frame Ribbon in the Modify View Frame panel.
  • When you add View Frame(s) back in, recognize that we should work from the END of the Alignment and work backwards.

Indeed. For a better managed Design Process and better Design Control the way forward to more productivity can be to think and act backwards.

The Autodesk Civil 3D mental challenge is to learn to master the linear and sequential to manage the iterative and circular.

The payoff from Alignment Design Control Publication Manager role mastery is to get those non-linear production results we all adore.

The Liberty to Work in Civil 3D
Get the Framework for Civil 3D Release 8


Book of Alignments Posts

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