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Of Points in Star Trek Time

Tags alignment, catchment, corridor, feature line, intersection, point, point group, point display, profile, pressure pipe, pipes, surface, wish

Just about a year ago I wrote a post called Point Dreams in the Annotative View Space which dealt with some of the issues we all have with AutoCAD Civil 3D Point Features. There are lots of posts here about the Points beast for a host of reasons – mostly customer questions about the perverse nature of these inanimate objects.

PPoints on Display

I’ll include the slightly revised and edited list here simply to make clear why these Points Matter to get us further along the way – my purpose for this post.

Point Feature Wish List

Here’s my revised wish list from that previous post that wrapped things up after some discussion on how to manage your Point display preferences by Point Group methods. None of these wishes came true in AutoCAD Civil 3D 2013.
Ah well… I did call them Dreams after all.

Maybe you'll want to agree or disagree with the following Point Dreams.
Please remember to express yourself in writing to Autodesk. Wish List items matter.

1) The doable - Description Keys should be able to scale in X,Y,Z independently.

2) The biggy - we should be able to RELATE Point rotational properties to Civil 3D linear Features like Alignments and Figures.
I think this rotation to Feature option should be is a Point Group property.
Please keep this collection of Points aligned to THAT primary alignment in this parallel, perpendicular, or a fixed rotational state.

3) Another quick and dirty doable - Please Give me XML driven importable/exportable Point and Figure Group definitions that are NOT dependent on existent Features or the current Description Key Set stack. Civil 3D does NOT always appear to read in that the total available Description Key Set stack anyway.

4) The Civil 3D Point Styles should be integrated and consistently work with AutoCAD Dynamic Blocks so we don't have to have near copies of lots and lots of common symbols. This is a basic issue of consistent property exposure in Civil 3D.
Wouldn’t a number or Name call to the visibility stack of a dynamic ACAD block be nice in a Description Key? One simple Point Style handles all my manhole variations.
Hey? Aren't utility structures utility structures? Aren’t all symbols symbols in Civil 3D? Well - sort of.

5) Point Features and Labels should be much more dynamically connected to and dynamically built on demand from many other Feature locations.
I'd hazard to guess that this Neverland wish will take a few more releases of Civil 3D and some pixy dust.

More Wishes

I’ll add these this year.  I‘ve mentioned most of these other times and elsewhere in this blog. They focus on the more significant issue that looms over us a bit like the national debt.
Gotta face it sometime…

Please don’t read from the following that Civil 3D can’t do the job that civil engineers and surveyors require in the real world today. It can. I believe AutoCAD Civil 3D can better than any other model-based sodtware.
I’d like to see Civil 3D made better.

Point performance is still poorer than we’d expect in Civil 3D 2013. Things haven’t really gotten much better on this front since 2010. Contrary to post published elsewhere the Point Feature does NOT appear to be a notably “lightweight” object. Civil 3D has a harder time driving the display, selection, and property changes for Points.

There’s a lot of annotative weight thrown at the “point” in model-based software for the civil engineering and surveying disciplines. This comes with the territory.

Win Don’t Whine

What the difference between a Point Label and the label we need on a point or related to a point of any other Feature?

Maybe it’s me, but I believe the fundamental structure of the point “object” is flawed in both concept and practice. The original object was constructed as a bridge between the old school LDT world and the new wider universe of Civil 3D.
Don’t change things too much because history matters.” was the initial and justifiable adage.

We don’t want to be stuck with this dumber thing.

If you’re pretty new to AutoCAD Civil 3D, you might want to stop reading here. The following stuff will probably just confuse things for you. I never want to do that.

Autodesk it’s time to rebuild and upgrade the fundamental objects that were created back in the old Civil 3D intro days.

A point and it’s label are the same thing everywhere. The only difference is the exposed data in the model that the objects point to. The Civil 3D interface can be adapted to deal with these differences. We need to be able to deal with this issue with fewer Styles and therefore fewer on-going maintenance issues.

A linear object and its group labels are the same everywhere. It is a linear object not an every growing pile of separate Features (objects) that must be converted from on type to another to deal with the linear object differently because of our current task’s context and need. Oh and converting the object destroys the existing annotation? Not Good.

Where No Man has Gone Before

Maybe I’m wrong. The now classic Civil 3D Interface to get at this stuff (as wonderfully consistent as it is) probably helps to grow or at least sustain some of the above problems or issues.

How we expect to see things is at the heart of many problems.
A new vision of the “normal” is often the lively center of the best innovation.

Autodesk, it’s really ok to change the management and edit interface of Civil 3D for the better.

Fundamental Spatial Geometry

We don’t live and work in “Flatland”.
Yes, we still must publish to a flat world and Civil 3D is good and capable at doing that.
We don’t live and work in a particulate world either. It's interrelated.
Yes, Civil 3D provides many specific kinds of parts (Features)  to allow us to more effectively get our jobs done.

The fundamental object representation most adaptable to the man-made world is a 3D topological mesh. All the familiar CAD parts we know are pieces of that mesh. They are simple players in the game. Our now more familiar Civil 3D Features are more parental, control, and managing shepherds in this new imaginary World Mesh.

To be clear I’m NOT talking surface models or any existing ACAD primitive when I speak of a World Mesh Feature. Think more along the lines of a Corridor model where both the node locations and the linear interconnecting vectors between the nodes are managed and controlled – if you perfer in classic horizontal and vertical control of civil engineering.

The math behind the World Mesh “Feature” isn’t unknown or a great unsolved mystery. The storage mechanics for such structures already exist too. They currently don’t exist in AutoCAD. I’d hazard to guess Autodesk owns or already licenses most of the intellectual capital and the patents to do this already.

The fact the work is perhaps being done elsewhere in other products and not in Civil 3D doesn’t bother me. I’d simply like to see more synergy and inclusion in future releases of AutoCAD Civil 3D.

Do we have the compute and storage power available to practically employ a World Mesh Feature? Yes. We’ll probably have to limit the scope and size of the create and edit interface perhaps for compute reasons but more likely because we as people are too often overwhelmed by too much information anyway.
Thank goodness for BOTH Feature and Style. You can get more here.

If you consider a World Mesh Feature for even a few minutes, you’ll recognize that World Mesh Nodes have to be much more intelligent than what we have in ACAD, Map 3D, or Civil 3D today.
(Like I said above how we look at the problem changes things.)

The Mesh Node must perform the intelligent cross connection work between multiple attached vectors of different types. For example: the Mesh Node must transmit to the “right” vectors tangency and/or slope constraints -this way, but not that way across the Mesh Node. It must do that to keep the child linear Feature properties straight (Pun intended).
You know what?
The more you look at the issues…

Points Matter and Must Get Smarter Faster at Warp Speed

Put another way…

“Mr. Data, Please Make It So”