Civil 3D: How Far it has Come and Where It’s Going

Dave Simeone – Sr. Product Manager, Civil 3D

I’d like to take this opportunity to provide some background on the Civil 3D 2018.1 Update that we’ve recently released and to share some insight on where we are investing in the near-term.

The improvements delivered in AutoCAD Civil 3D 2018.1 represent a balance between improving current workflows that impact all customers and a new workflow for modeling and optimizing roadway rehabilitation.

Roadway Rehabilitiation

Before reading any further, if you have any interest in road rehab design register for the “Deep dive into Road Rehab Workflows in Civil 3D 2018.1” webcast coming up on Nov 8th!

The driver for the new Rehab workflow was a clear and compelling message from transportation agencies who are tasked with maintaining existing roads using limited budgets. It’s become critically important that they spend less per lane mile while also delivering a better driving experience. From our perspective, the solution includes the following:

  1. Provide a low-cost way to get a surface that accurately reflects the pavement conditions (including rutting and potholes). The point cloud -> linear extraction tools introduced in Autodesk InfraWorks 2018.1 provide a really nice solution.
  2. Provide a purpose-built workflow that leverages the strengths of Civil 3D to help engineers develop milling, leveling and overlay scenarios. This also includes providing the various reports and outputs that teams can use to select the ideal solution and to pass onto to contractors for implementation.

But rather than listening to me, I thought you’d benefit from hearing directly from the product managers who owned the 2 key areas that make up our rehab workflow.

Chakri Gavini – Product Manager, Transportation

Chakri Gavini is the Autodesk Transportation Product Manager focusing on road and rail design capabilities in both Civil 3D and InfraWorks. He took on the responsibility of gathering requirements from customers and then working with the development team to ensure that our solution met or exceeded expectations.

Dave: What’s the core problem that transportation agencies are trying to solve using this improved pavement rehab workflow?

Chakri: There’s general agreement that our roadways are in urgent need of maintenance and the result is that owners are transitioning their project budgets to maintaining current networks. Restoring pavement provides smoother and safer driving conditions as well as helping to reduce the need for costly subgrade reconstruction. What we’ve learned is that owners can provide better results at a lower cost by optimizing milling, leveling and overlay. These cost savings can then be used to maintain more lane miles or invested in network upgrades. 

Dave: Can’t you already do this using the existing mill and overlay subassemblies to build a corridor? How is this different? 

Chakri: We quickly realized that our best solution would be to leverage the Civil 3D corridor engine as it provides the necessary modeling flexibility and we’ll inherit corridor derivatives such as surface modeling, sections, solids, etc. We also realized that there are unique requirements for pavement, so a new workflow that guides users through the process was going to be necessary for mass adoption. The result is the new Rehab Corridor and Rehab Manager.

Dave: The reporting tools jump out as a major part of the workflow? Why not just export to spreadsheets? 

Chakri: Our research clearly found that people need to be able combine tabular, planimetric and sectional views throughout the process. What’s more, this needs to be a highly iterative workflow… ultimately people need to extract reports such as spreadsheets but we determined that these analytical tools really needed to be tightly integrated with the modeling process. In other words – change something in the model and immediately see the results in your analytics – OR, change a numeric value to directly change the model. Our integrated solution, with highly analytical views of data, is becoming an efficient communication tool between highway engineers and pavement managers – resulting in more effective rehab strategies and road future operations.

Dave: How did you ensure that what we were building met customers needs? 

Chakri: From the start we worked closely with experts from municipalities, DOTs and consulting engineering companies to understand how they worked today and then to validate possible product alternatives. We greatly appreciate the time and knowledge shared by those who were involved throughout the development cycle. We had a relatively short timeline for this project and this active participation was key in keeping us on track.  

Dave: Thanks Chakri

Chakri: You’re welcome Dave.

Ramesh Sridharan – Product Manager, Infrastructure Reality Capture

Beyond the modeling and analytics, the rehab optimization workflow is dependent on users having a surface that represents the variations in the existing pavement. Ramesh Sridharan is our Product Manager for Infrastructure Reality Capture.

Dave: Ramesh, what were the goals of the linear string (breaklines) and transverse point extraction capabilities in InfraWorks 2018.1 and how do they tie into the rehab workflow? 

Ramesh: Extraction of linear strings and generation of an accurate surface that reflects existing conditions are some of the most vital needs for road design and modeling. Point clouds capture these in detail and they can be extracted. Point cloud capabilities released in Infraworks 2018.1 address this exact industry need with simple and easy to use tools for you. This new point cloud tool is tuned to help you quickly extract linear geometry such as line striping, curb edges, etc. It also helps extract transverse points that capture non-linear deformities such as bumps, dips and potholes in high detail.

Coincidentally, generation of a surface that accurately reflects pavement irregularities such as rutting and potholes is vital for road rehab work as well. Hence the combination of linear strings and transverse points provides all the accurate details needed for rehab workflow.

Dave: All of this extraction is done in InfraWorks. How does that end up as a Civil 3D surface? 

Ramesh: We added the capability to export 3D SHP (linear strings) and CSV (points) files from the extracted results that you can then import into Civil 3D. From there, people can leverage the native Civil 3D surface modeling capabilities to build a surface.

Dave: Excellent. Thanks Ramesh… Really cool stuff.  

Ramesh: You’re welcome. We’re excited about what we currently have and the things that we’re considering for the future.

Other Improvements

Thanks to both Chakri and Ramesh for sharing your thoughts on this new area of focus.  We’re very excited about the new Rehab workflow but we want to make sure that it doesn’t overshadow the improvements that we’ve implemented as these are of high value to our worldwide user base who are working on all types of projects. Here’s a bullet list:

 

  • Parts Editor – new utility for customizing drainage and pressure part families/assemblies

 

 

  • Reference Templates now include a wider array of content that is part of an organization’s production standards. We now include blocks, layers, linetypes, command settings and more!

 

  • The IFC Import/Export tools now support IFC 4, IFC4x1 along with alignments and profiles.

 

One last point – Update 1 merges into the current Civil 3D UI and there are no changes to object format.

For more of the technical details about what’s new in Civil 3D 2018.1, check out John Sayre’s article.

What’s to Come?

So – what’s next?

The big areas that we’re focusing on now fall into the following themes:

  1. Continue to focus on general Civil 3D improvements including usability, performance, scalability, and expanded workflows. As much as possible, we want to improve the day-to-day efficiency of our current users. These improvements will be influenced by Autodesk Ideas but will also come from our interaction with customers in our beta/preview programs, direct customer workflow evaluation, and more.
  2. Make it easier for Civil 3D users to share models with people using other products. This includes other Autodesk products (e.g., InfraWorks and Revit) and other applications that our customers are using for production, analysis and at other stages of an infrastructure project (e.g., GIS, construction).
  3. Leverage the accessibility and flexibility of the cloud to enable production teams to work more efficiently and to extend access to stakeholders resulting in improved coordination and collaboration. We’re working closely with other Autodesk product teams (e.g., BIM 360) so that we can directly leverage the toolset that is rapidly emerging and so that our customers have a consistent solution spanning different industry segments.
  4. Finally we’re making a focused effort around expanding our support for rail track design/modeling. We have people using Civil 3D globally on rail projects and other Autodesk products, specifically Revit, are heavily used for station/platform design. Our intention is to provide a more targeted solution for those who are working on rail projects.

As always, we appreciate your decision to use AutoCAD Civil 3D as your production civil engineering solution. We have a great team working hard to ensure that you have a dependable workhorse today while also coming up with innovative solutions for what will be needed in the future.