Under the Hood: How Design Automation with Dynamo for Civil 3D Helps Drive Creative Infrastructure Solutions

BY NIGEL PETERS

Every month, an Autodesk expert gets technical and provides an overview of the AEC Collection’s most powerful workflows. Read on to find out more about automated design processes and their benefits, using Dynamo for Civil 3D.

To meet the demands of a growing population, it is estimated that the world needs $94 trillion in new infrastructure spending on everything from roads to clean water delivery systems between now and 2040. That is over three percent of the world’s GDP. Meeting this demand will be a daunting challenge. That is why enhancing the existing automation capabilities of infrastructure design software is so important — without this, we won’t meet those demands.

Not only will enhanced automation speed up the work of the civil engineers tasked with designing these intricate projects, but it will also free them up to focus their energies to solve ever more complex problems with creative solutions.

RELATED: DESIGN AUTOMATION FOR INFRASTRUCTURE: THE FUTURE IS HERE

 

Save time and energy with Dynamo for Civil 3D

That is why I am excited to share that Autodesk has taken the first steps along the journey to this automated future with the introduction of Dynamo for Civil 3D, the popular open source visual programming and scripting tool used by engineers and designers everywhere to build processes into common workflows. At Autodesk, we’ve developed a number of common tasks and routines for civil engineers through scripts.

Dynamo is already popular with architects and engineers using Autodesk’s Revit software to design buildings. Because designers and engineers often interact across disciplines, adding Dynamo to Civil 3D improves the effectiveness of both Revit and Civil 3D.

 

See how GHD realized a time savings of up to 99% with Dynamo

 

Designed for civil infrastructure professionals

One of the reasons for Dynamo’s popularity is that it is made for engineers and designers, not programmers. Scripts are written using nodes. Nodes represent AutoCAD and Civil 3D commands and functions. In fact, Dynamo uses the same powerful modeling engine found in AutoCAD. Visually, nodes appear as blocks. These blocks contain all the design parameters for a particular element of the model you are working on. Nodes are then strung together using a visual editor to form the final script. These scripts can expedite time-consuming or repetitive workflows. You can save these scripts in a library and reuse them as needed. Watch the video below to see Dynamo for Civil 3d in action:

We’ve equipped Dynamo for Civil 3D with sample scripts, showing users how Dynamo could be beneficial to their workflows. Many more scripts are available via the Dynamo open source project website.

This initial release focuses on corridor workflows and provides a preview of the powerful possibilities Dynamo integration brings to designers and engineers.

 

Enhanced workflows for transportation design

Image courtesy of Dawn Digital

By using Dynamo, engineers and designers can export data that can be used directly by contractors to improve the construction process. Dynamo can be used to ingest data from multiple database schemata, including SQL and Oracle.

It also allows engineers to design against the required criteria and client standards of their project. This is especially helpful as BIM standards become more widely adopted.

Dynamo for Civil 3D also allows engineers to build and incorporate solid models directly into their designs using native AutoCAD or Civil 3D objects.

 

There are many use cases for engineers and designers, particularly in highway and rail design. Some of the more popular functionality comes standard in this release, including:

 

Adding non-linear elements to highways

Engineers can use Dynamo to easily place non-linear elements along a corridor. For example, high-mass lighting, overhead sign structures, and guard rails could be scripted such that these elements would be geometrically and accurately placed along the corridor.

With Dynamo, not only can engineers model the objects directly in Civil 3D, Dynamo will automatically update the placement of these elements as the design changes. In the past, this required a lot of manual effort in Civil 3D, and it was not automatically updated as the design changed.

 

Slicing corridor models

Design to construction has been one of the biggest barriers to adopting BIM workflows in infrastructure – often, the models produced by design don’t align with the requirements for construction. Pre-construction activities involve deconstruction of the model, which introduces the potential for more errors and risks. Through design automation with Dynamo, the slicing of models to replicate construction activities closes the gap between design to construction, making the move to BIM more attainable.

Now with Dynamo for Civil 3D, engineers can divide the corridor solid into segments, as defined by construction sequencing or other pre-construction activities, which can then be used to quantify materials for each section or phase of construction.

 

Changing parameters: Working with data made easier

Using Dynamo, engineers can easily export station alignment and corridor parameters into a CSV file. They can then revise the CSV file outside of Civil 3D and import the new parameters. Dynamo automatically updates the corridor geometry based on the revised parameters.

Dynamo also aids in the automatic re-labeling of locations, like a culvert on an alignment. Dynamo scripts can be set to monitor the alignment so that every time the alignment changes, the script will dynamically update the location of the culvert based on the new alignment.

RELATED: THE BEST OF INFRAWORKS AND CIVIL 3D 2020

 

Free up your resources with Dynamo

The introduction of Dynamo for Civil 3D is an important step forward for the AEC industry. Not only does it showcase the early stages of generative design, but it also frees up time and resources so engineers can focus on creating new and better workflows to deliver infrastructure for the future now.

Ready to get started?  

New customers can start a 30-day free trial of Civil 3D. Current subscribers can download Civil 3D 2020 through the Autodesk Desktop App or from your Autodesk Account. **Please note that Dynamo for Civil 3D is available as a separate installation through the Autodesk Desktop App and from your Autodesk Account.

 

Nigel Peters is the Transportation Product Manager for the AEC Infrastructure Product Development team at Autodesk, which supports Autodesk BIM 360, Civil 3D, InfraWorks, and Vehicle Tracking. Nigel is passionate about bringing transportation solutions to customers.