Civil 3D Remote Collaboration Options

Six Civil 3D Collaboration Options for Remote Workers

Like many, I start 2021 with an optimism that this year will be better than 2020 was. Only time will tell if that optimism becomes a reality. While many questions remain about what the post-2020 world will look like, it seems undeniable it will be noticeably different from our pre-2020 world. Driving much of that change is what many are now calling the Great Dispersion.

Before the pandemic, workplace culture primarily centered around a physical location everyone reported to daily. Because of the Great Dispersion, the workplace locality has more to do with a common interest in our companies' goals than our geographic location.

While I hope teams will once again collaborate in person soon, I also expect many parts of our remote work practices to persist in our post-pandemic world. Even before the pandemic, many of the top employers placed an intentional focus on work-life balance. As we discover our post-pandemic normal, working from home will become a vital part of the work-life balance firms strive to provide for their employees.

Recognizing this paradigm, the trend I see among firms focuses on answering how more flexible work-from-home policies can be supported by their organizations. Among the many facets of this question is, how do teams collaborate when some or all team members are working remotely?

Like most things related to IT, there are many answers to that question, but the purpose of this post is to explore six possible options for Civil 3D users. So without any further ado, let's jump in.

Option 1: Manually Copy and Reconcile Drawings

When remote collaboration is only an occasional endeavor, a decidedly low-tech solution might be the best approach. Although a reconciliation of edits is necessary, this approach avoids typical internet bandwidth constraints present with other collaboration forms.

Despite these advantages, the manual reconciliation process cannot be overstated. That reconciliation, coupled with the asynchronous visibility of edits made to the project, only introduces new opportunities for project errors and omissions. For these reasons, such a workflow is only recommended for occasional remote collaboration – if ever.

Pros

  • As a simple file-based operation, no additional purchases are necessary.
  • Working from the local computer, remote workers can open and save drawings without experiencing network latency.
  • Teams can work on projects with neither a network nor an internet connection.

Cons

  • Reconciling edits can be more time consuming than the benefit gained from working remotely.
  • Teams have no visibility into edits made until edits are manually reconciled at a later time.
  • The asynchronous work dynamic provides no guarantee other team members are working from the latest project version.

Option 2: Collaborate using Cloud Storage (OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, etc.)

Today, cloud storage services like OneDrive and Dropbox are ubiquitous workplace collaboration tools. Over the last several years, Autodesk has even worked to build integrations between the most popular cloud storage services and AutoCAD. While these integrations are well made, none specifically accommodate the unique Civil 3D functionality, such as Data Shortcuts.

Beyond potential functional limitations, cloud storage tools like OneDrive excel at individual collaboration, not project collaboration. While such services can be a step-up from manually copying drawings to your computer, the limited data governance associated with them can be a liability for projects.

Pros

  • Because of their inclusion with Microsoft 365 and Google Workplace, cloud storage services often require no additional purchase to begin using.
  • Drawing edits automatically synchronize between individual users, reducing the possibility of team members working from out-of-date drawings.
  • Many of the most popular cloud storage services have direct integrations with AutoCAD, including viewing and comparing modifications between versions.

Cons

  • Despite tight integrations with AutoCAD as a foundation to Civil 3D, cloud storage services are not compatible with critical Civil 3D functionality such as Data Shortcuts.
  • Cloud storage services excel at individual collaboration and are often limiting when implemented for team collaboration.
  • Data governance over operations such as users' ability to create public links is limited and can pose data security concerns.

Option 3: Leverage Remote Desktop/VNC to Access Work Computer from Home

The large file size of Civil 3D drawings makes editing them over a VPN connection difficult. An easy way to mitigate this is to leverage Remote Desktop or some other VNC service to access your work computer from home. With Remote Desktop, your work computer's screen is streamed as a video to your remote computer, while your remote computer relays mouse and keyboard inputs back to your work computer.

While Remote Desktop will reduce bandwidth usage compared to opening and saving drawings over a VPN connection, the method is not without bandwidth concerns. The live video broadcast of your work computer consumes bandwidth. Consequently, this method's viability is a function of both the bandwidth available at your office and the number of concurrent users. As the number of simultaneous users grows, so too will your office's bandwidth demands, and remote employees could begin experiencing laggy video.

Pros

  • Open, save, and edit large drawing files without the latency of a VPN.
  • Teams open drawings from your existing file server, thus maintaining a single source of truth.
  • Remote Desktop is included with Windows and requires no change in your current data infrastructure, such as file servers.

Cons

  • The video quality of remote connections will quickly degrade as the number of remote workers increase and consume a more significant amount of available internet bandwidth.
  • Each remote worker must have access to two physical computers, including a Civil 3D workstation at the office and a second computer at home.
  • Setting up Remote Desktop to work from outside the office can be tricky, and even after setup will not automatically reconnect after rebooting your work computer.

Option 4: Leverage a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) Service like Workspot

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) services like Workspot provide a way to overcome many of the challenges of using Remote Desktop at scale across an organization. Like Remote Desktop, remote workers use a host machine to connect to a remote workstation collocated with your drawing data. The critical difference between Remote Desktop and a VDI service like Workspot is where and what that remote computer is.

As the "virtual" terminology in the term VDI implies, the workstation remote workers connect to is not a physical machine, but instead a virtual machine located in a data center. Since your Civil 3D workstation lives in a data center, you can access a virtually unlimited amount of bandwidth. Beyond that, VDI services provide a suite of tools to manage tasks such as rebooting your machine or adding new workstations as your needs grow. Despite the many advantages of VDI services, you will also need to migrate your Civil 3D data to the cloud to realize their benefit fully.

Pros

  • Cloud VDI services are often more economical than procurement and management expenses associated with workstations, and server infrastructure.
  • With files stored in datacenters open and save times can be significantly faster than typical workstation SSDs.
  • Machine images make scaling to a larger workforces.

Cons

  • Cloud VDI services like Workspot often requires migrating your data to a cloud provider like Microsoft Azure.
  • Performance dependent on remote workers internet connection.
  • Storing drawing data in the cloud could have contract implications (ie. Some government projects).

Option 5: Leverage an On-Premise Document Management Solution like Autodesk Vault

Document Management solutions like Autodesk Vault function under the concept of creating managed copies on a user's workstation. Under this model, a user will check-out the drawing they need to edit. Doing so will lock that drawing to prevent others from editing it and simultaneously copying the latest version of that drawing to a user's machine. From that point, the user who checked out the drawing can open, save, and otherwise edit that local copy without limitation.

This basic workflow lets users edit drawings without bandwidth constraints while also avoiding the creation of conflicting versions commonly encountered with unmanaged copies. While this is a benefit, it's important to note other team members will not be able to view the latest edits to a drawing until a drawing is checked back into the Vault. Likewise, as an enterprise document management solution, a qualified Vault system administrator is necessary to perform system administration tasks such as backups.

Pros

  • Managed local copies of drawings allow remote workers to open and edit drawings without latency.
  • Once checked out from Vault client, remote workers and open, edit, and save drawings without an internet connection.
  • Each drawing check-in creates a new version of that drawing on the server that can be compared with past versions of the drawing to identify updates easily.

Cons

  • A knowledgeable Vault system administrator is required to perform essential system administration tasks such as backups.
  • Edits are asynchronous; users must check-out drawings before they can be edited and checked-in before others can see changes.
  • Drawings are only accessible from the Vault client and are not accessible from Windows File Explorer.

Option 6: Leverage a Cloud Document Management Solution like Autodesk BIM 360 Docs

As a product built by Autodesk, it should come as no surprise that BIM 360 offers the best overall integration and support for Civil 3D. Fundamentally, BIM 360 works like general-purpose cloud storage services like OneDrive and Dropbox in the way that a small application, the Autodesk Desktop Companion, caches copies of drawings on your computer. This means you're able to open and save drawings without the latency of a VPN.

Although the mechanics of BIM 360 work a lot like OneDrive and Dropbox, there are some critical differences. Concerning Civil 3D users, BIM 360 is the only cloud storage service built to work with Civil 3D Data Shortcuts. In addition to this, BIM 360 is project-oriented and offers unlimited storage (including file versions) and granular permissions for data governance.

Despite the many advantages of BIM 360, there are a few requirements that might dissuade some. First, teams need to use Civil 3D 2020 or newer to utilize BIM 360 on their Civil 3D projects fully. In addition to this, Civil 3D users will need both a BIM 360 Docs license and a BIM 360 Design license to work on Civil 3D projects using Data Shortcuts. The good news is non-Civil 3D users only require a BIM 360 Docs license, which includes robust viewing and markup functionality that could reduce your Civil 3D (AEC Collection) license usage for passive software users.

Pros

  • The Autodesk Desktop Companion application caches drawings on the local machine, making it possible to edit drawings without latency.
  • Robust AutoCAD/Civil 3D DWG viewing and markup functionality built into BIM 360 could reduce Civil 3D (AEC Collection) license use for reviewers.
  • Data governance is managed through a project-based structure that provides unlimited storage and unlimited versions for project teams.

Cons

  • A separate BIM 360 Design license is required for Civil 3D teams to use design collaboration features such as Data Shortcuts.
  • Teams must invest time to migrate data from existing file servers to BIM 360.
  • Civil 3D 2020 or newer is required to use design collaboration features such as Civil 3D Data Shortcuts.

Summary

While I am optimistic we are nearing the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, I believe many of the work habits we have adopted over the past year will persist for years to come. In my opinion, remote work is among the work habits from 2020 that will continue. Of course, what remote work looks like at one firm will likely vary from another.

How your firm defines remote work into the future will determine what option or combination of collaboration options are best for your company. For companies whose primary focus is to get through the current pandemic, I would start with a tool like Remote Desktop. It mitigates challenges associated with opening large drawings over a VPN while also leveraging tools your company probably has in place already.

By contrast, for companies looking for a solution that will support them today and well into the future, my default recommendation would be BIM 360. Although relatively new in the Civil 3D space, BIM 360 is well established among Revit users. Where a majority of companies self-hosted their Exchange server 5-10 years ago, a majority have adopted a cloud service like Microsoft 365 today. Just as companies incrementally migrated to services like Microsoft 365, I believe AEC firms will adopt BIM 360 in the same way over the next several years.

What has the remote work dynamic looked like at your firm, and what tools have you leveraged to support it? Let me know in the comments below.

Autodesk Civil 3D 2021.1 First Impressions civil 3d 2021 1 update

Autodesk Civil 3D 2021.1 First Impressions

Fresh off the heels of the release of AutoCAD 2021.1 is none other than Civil 3D 2021.1. Like the AutoCAD update, the Civil 3D 2021.1 update introduces general fixes to the software while also adding some handy new features too. Traditionally the fall update, or “little-r” release as I like to call it, introduces several handy new features, but nothing spectacular. I find Autodesk traditionally saves flagship new features to the spring release when we advance to the new version number.

A pleasant surprise to me with Civil 3D 2021.1 is the introduction of what I consider a flagship new feature in the form of Project Explorer. With it, you will gain several new ways to interact with, modify and report upon the design elements that comprise your model. Moving on from Project Explorer, we find several smaller, but no less handy new features introduced to Civil 3D. For me, my favorites are the new Feature Line tools, but the work you do will undoubtably influence what your favorites are. Let’s jump in to explore some of the features you will find inside Civil 3D 2021.1.

Civil 3D Project Explorer

The flagship new feature of Civil 3D 2021.1 is Project Explorer. If you have followed Autodesk news over the last year, you may recall that Autodesk acquired Project Explorer from 3AM Solutions in the UK. As a point of reference, 3AM Solutions is the same company Autodesk acquired DynamiteVSP, now known as Civil View, from back in 2010.

Project Explorer gives you a whole new way to review, analyze, and edit your project. With it, you can explore model elements without worrying about the documentation overhead of Civil 3D. For example, you can review the profile and cross sections of a road design entirely in Project Explorer without touching profile views and section views.

Civil 3D 2021.1 Project Explorer

Additionally, Project Explorer provides several simple, but often wished for features. Among my favorites is the ability to set a constant pipe run slope. Beyond that, Project Explorer also extends the conventional reporting abilities of Civil 3D. With it, you can generate customizable reports, generate dynamic AutoCAD tables (not to be confused with Civil 3D tables) from Civil 3D data, and more.

From my limited beta use of Project Explorer, I really like what I see. This is undoubtably a tool that I am excited to put into the hands of the end-users I support to see how they begin integrating it into their daily workflows.

A few things to note about Project Explorer. While Autodesk is advertising it as part of the Civil 3D 2021.1 update, it is not part of the Civil 3D 2021.1 download. Instead it is a separate download and install. The reason for that is Project Explorer is only available to subscribers of the AEC Collection. If you only subscribe to Civil 3D as an individual product, Project Explorer is not available to you. Additionally, for those with multi-user licenses, you will likely need to generate a new license file to gain access to Project Explorer.

Civil 3D Feature Line Editing

Beyond Project Explorer, some of my favorite features inside Civil 3D 2021.1 are the Feature Line enhancements.

New Insert Points At Crossing Locations command.

Insert Points At Crossing Locations inside Civil 3D 2021.1

Civil 3D has long placed a split point PVI where two Feature Lines intersect. While this has helped make sure intersecting Feature Lines share a common elevation, split point PVIs do not allow you to edit or specify an elevation. The new Insert Points At Crossing Locations command will insert a regular PVI or Elevation point where two Features Lines intersect. As a PVI or Elevation Point like any other on your Feature Line, you gain all the same editing capabilities as the other PVIs and Elevation Points in your project.

New Set Grade/Slope Across Feature Lines command

Autodesk Civil 3D 2021.1 First Impressions civil 3d 2021 1 feature line grade multiple

Think of this as a supercharged Similar to the Set Grade/Slope Between Points command. Where the Similar to the Set Grade/Slope Between Points command is limited to a single Feature Line, the new Set Grade/Slope Across Feature Lines command allows you to set the grade or slope across multiple Feature Lines. The only requirement to make this work is the Feature Lines must share a PI or Elevation Point at their intersection. This is where the previously mentioned Insert Points At Crossing Locations command can come in handy; placing those PI or Elevation Points if they don’t already exist.

New Set Corridor Baseline Elevation by Reference command

Similar to the Set Feature Line Elevation by Reference command, the new Set Corridor Baseline Elevation by Reference command allows you to set the elevation of a point on a feature-line based corridor at a given grade or slope from a specified location. While I haven’t seen too many people adopt Corridors for full parking lot design, I have noticed more feature-line based corridors for various site elements. For that, I see this new Feature Line editing command to be a great addition to Civil 3D.

Pressure Networks

Civil 3D Pressure Network

Civil 3D 2021 was already a big release for Pressure Pipes, but Civil 3D 2021.1 extends that even further. Among my favorite Pressure Pipe additions is new Add/Move/Remove Vertical Bends. With it, you can interact with vertical pipe bends the way you probably always expected them to behave. You can place bends, move the bend by sliding its location along the pipe run, and if you remove the bend, everything heals back in place. This simple functionality has long been a pain point of mine when using Pressure Pipes in Civil 3D, and certainly a feature that will make Pressure Pipes more useable for users.

Fixed Issues

Beyond the new features found inside this release is a lengthy list of issues Autodesk has fixed. You can find the complete list of issues fixed by consulting the Civil 3D documentation, but some highlights include.

Autodesk Collaboration for Civil 3D

First introduced to Civil 3D 2020, Autodesk continues to make improvements to Collaboration for Civil 3D (formerly BIM 360 Design and Collaboration for Revit). While the initial introduction of Collaboration for Civil 3D added essential functionality to the software, it did omit some important functionality. Civil 3D 2021.1 closes many of those gaps by adding support for Sheet Set Manager data files (DST). Now when you upload a DST file to BIM 360, all sheets that are part of that Sheet Set will also be uploaded to BIM 360.

In addition to the new Sheet Set Manger functionality, Civil 3D 2021.1 also adds support for Civil 3D Reference Templates. If you are using Civil 3D Reference Templates on a drawing you upload to BIM 360, the Reference Template will also be uploaded to BIM 360. Likewise, as others open that drawing, the associated Reference Template will be downloaded.

A Note about BIM 360

To continue using BIM 360 services after installing Civil 3D 2021.1, you will also need to update the Autodesk Desktop Connector application.

In Summary…

Project Explorer is something I would consider a major new feature for Civil 3D. While I wish its licensing was a little less confusing for Civil 3D users, it is a feature I am pleasantly surprised to see added to the “little-r” release. While I hoped the tool would be added to the 2021.1 release, I did not expect to see it until the 2022 release in the spring.

Beyond that, the Civil 3D 2021.1 update is what you are come to expect of the fall update to Civil 3D. Autodesk has added several small but significant new features to the current release of the software. As such, I see the update as one worth taking the time to download and install on your machine.

For me, the Feature Line tools are among my favorite new features found inside the release, but it is likely you’ll find your own favorites. Go give Civil 3D 2021. 1 a try and let me know what your favorite new feature is in the comments below.

Project Kameleon Autodesk Labs

Project Kameleon Updated in Autodesk Labs

For anyone who has tried Part Builder in AutoCAD Civil 3D and didn’t like it (which is probably everyone), Project Kameleon is worth your attention. Currently an Autodesk Labs technology preview, Project Kameleon is a standalone parts editor that brings the process of modeling custom Civil 3D content into the 21st century. Beyond simply modernizing the process of modeling custom content in Civil 3D, Project Kameleon also introduces several long wished for features. Unlike Part Builder, Project Kameleon is capable of modeling content for both gravity and pressure networks in Civil 3D.

While the inclusion of pressure networks is exciting, one of my favorite things about Project Kameleon is the interoperability that’s built in. The parts you model with this new tool are built to work inside both AutoCAD Civil 3D and InfraWorks. Speaking of InfraWorks, the modeling tools extend beyond just gravity and pressure networks. The Project Kameleon part editor is also capable of modeling bridge content for InfraWorks.

The Different Faces of Project Kameleon

Project Kameleon Shape Modeler
Project Kameleon Shape Modeler

Project Kameleon is structured in two parts; the Parts Editor, and the Shape Modeler. The entire engine is built atop the Autodesk Inventor modeling engine. The Shape Modeler is a civil-tailored Inventor modeling environment you will model the individual pieces and parts of your model. By contrast, the Parts Editor is where you can then assemble those pieces and parts into the model you’ll eventually use in Civil 3D or InfraWorks.

Project Kameleon Parts Editor
Project Kameleon Parts Editor

While there are of course differences, the underlying concept is very similar to whats possible with Assemblies in Civil 3D today. The Shape Modeler is the general equivalent to Subassembly Composer, and Part Editor is akin to the process of building an Assembly in Civil 3D whereby the individual Subassemblies are snapped together.

Project Kameleon Parts Editor Catalog
Project Kameleon Parts Editor Catalog

As you might imagine, with a modeling engine as powerful as the one packed into Autodesk Inventor, the possibilities of Shape Modeler are virtually limitless. Of course, while the Shape Builder tool is indeed available, like Subassembly Composer, there’s a good chance you’ll never use it. Similar to the catalog of Subassemblies Autodesk ships with Civil 3D, Project Kameleon ships with a catalog of pre-built Shapes. It is thus possible to build custom structures by simply assembling those Shapes into the structure you need using the Part Editor tool.

Accessing Project Kameleon

Project Kameleon is currently available as a Technology Preview on the Autodesk Labs site. If you’re not familiar with Autodesk Labs, it’s Autodesk’s way of sharing innovative new technologies. Every Labs project has both a start and end date, and projects are oftentimes used to gauge whether a technology should be incorporated into an Autodesk Product. That said, the latest update of Project Kameleon will work until May 15, 2016. At that time Autodesk developers may choose to retire, extend, or graduate the project (aka incorporate into an official Autodesk product).

Join Project Kameleon (and other interesting Autodesk Labs projects) at http://labs.autodesk.com

Establishing Shared Coordinates Between Revit and Civil 3D the Easy Way shared coordinates e1514873091111

Establishing Shared Coordinates Between Revit and Civil 3D the Easy Way

"Model Coordination" in the AEC (Architecture, Engineering, and Construction) industry is most often limited to what's in Revit. While that ensures a coordinated building model, it leaves the question of what to do about the Civil 3D model unanswered. Revit has a Survey Point, but in my experience only a small percentage of teams spend the time to set everything up. I won't hypothesize why that's the case, but what I can do is share how easy it is to coordinate the building AND civil models for your projects with the Shared Reference Point tool for Civil 3D and Revit.

If you've never heard of the Shared Reference Point tool, it's an Autodesk Subscription plugin for both Civil 3D and Revit that helps teams coordinate their building and civil models. The Civil 3D plugin will generate an XML-based reference point file. With the Revit portion of the plugin, the XML file created by Civil 3D may be imported into Revit as the Survey Point. Seem too easy to be true? Watch the video above to see the workflow from start-to-finish.

Download the Shared Reference Point plugin from the Autodesk  Account site at: https://accounts-subs.autodesk.com/sp/servlet/download/item?siteID=11564774&id=24455330

CAD Geek Interview: Streamlining Decision Making with Civil 3D and InfraWorks DLT Video

CAD Geek Interview: Streamlining Decision Making with Civil 3D and InfraWorks

On July 22, 2015 I joined DLT Solutions with my company (CADD Microsystems) and Lynn Allen for an event specifically tailored to the challenges faced by government customers. During the event, I shared a presentation on InfraWorks that demonstrated ways it could be applied as a planning and preliminary design tool very early in the project cycle. During that presentation, I identified the phrase "Just Imagine" as the two most toxic words teams could use to describe their designs.

Why do I feel "just imagine" are the two most toxic words of design?

Put simply imagination is a thing with infinite possibilities, whereas your project will only be built one of those ways. Describing your project with the term "just imagine" is like playing stakeholder roulette; there's a chance your imagination matches theirs, but odds are your imagined solution and theirs are two entirely different things.

My presentation at the DLT event focused on this very point, and how InfraWorks can be used as a tool to communicate designs to stakeholders in lieu of imagining designs with stakeholders. After the event, I had chatted with the team from DLT on what all of this means for public-sector design teams in the video interview above.

Autodesk Screencast

A quick look at the simplest way to share what you know using Autodesk Screencast

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is a video worth? For me, video has long been an invaluable tool for supporting end-users first as a CAD manager, and today in my role at CADD Microsystems. I find it possible to record in a minute what might take me five minutes to write in an email (an instant value for me). While the value of a video is greater than that of an email both for myself and the recipient, it's not to say video doesn't come without complications.

I remember some of my earliest technical support videos were not very well received by the people I was sending them to. It took me a while to truly realize just how complicated even the simplest AutoCAD procedure could be. As a result, some of my earliest videos neglected to communicate to the viewer some of the things you don't see on the screen. Did I right-click or left-click to access a tool, or was it a Ctrl key combination? Learning to properly address these details on-screen has (IMHO) been among the most difficult barriers to people effectively sharing their knowledge with others.

First introduced as an Autodesk Labs project, Autodesk recently introduced an incredible tool that Autodesk describes as "a simple way to capture and share what you know." After using Autodesk Screencast for the last several months to assist in supporting some of our customers, I'm not sure recording, editing, and sharing a video could be any easier.

Earlier this week I had a customer contact me asking how they could turn on Point Labels in their AutoCAD Civil 3D drawing. The fix was simple, but writing a step-by-step response would have taken longer than it would for me to show the customer how to solve the issue they were experiencing. I enlisted Autodesk Screencast for the job, and recorded the following video I sent to the customer:

There are plenty of tools that allow you to record and share videos, but what makes Autodesk Screencast unique is the metadata it captures as you record a video. In the embedded version of the video above, a panel displays everything I did within AutoCAD Civil 3D during the recording. If you view the same video on the Autodesk Screencast website, an additional timeline is displayed below the video. This timeline captures the precise moment each command is started, every dialog that opens, and more. Using that timeline, viewers can fast-forward (or rewind) to those key moments in your recording, so even if I neglected to mention something in my audio commentary, Autodesk Screencast still captures every step for viewers.

Although you can record anything on your screen, Screencast delivers compiles detailed timelines for Autodesk Fusion 360, AutoCAD, Revit, Inventor, and their verticals. Screencast is a free download from http://screencast.autodesk.com, and with it you can record videos of any length, and share them either publicly or privately at no cost on the Screencast website.

Visit http://screencast.autodesk.com to get started with Autodesk Screencast.

New Volumes Dashboard for Civil 3D 2012 hiking boots 455754

New Volumes Dashboard for Civil 3D 2012

I’ve been working on a rather sizable project at work over the last couple of months. While I can’t unveil the results of those efforts quite yet, I do look forward to making an announcement in a couple of weeks – so stay tuned. With some time to settle back into the blogging routine, I wanted to share what should be a very exciting tool for AutoCAD Civil 3D 2012 Subscription Customers.

Autodesk just released a Volumes Dashboard for AutoCAD Civil 3D 2012. At first glance, the tool may not seem like much of a formidable improvement over the volume surface tools we’ve had in Civil 3D for some time. After some brief tests, some standout features of this tool include:

One Surface, Multiple Areas

While you do indeed begin with a standard volume surface, the Volumes Dashboard provides the ability to define multiple bounded volumes. In other words, this lets you quickly and easily determine the cut/fill volumes for a single parcel, or just the pond you designed.

Interactive Panorama

Enhanced Panorama analysis tools provide incredibly useful tools to help you make meaningful adjustments while you’re designing. Real-time updates give you always accurate data that’s accompanied by easy-to-read cut/fill graphs of your design.

Simple Reporting Tools

While the Panorama is a great way to receive interactive reporting as you’re designing, there will come a time when you’ll need to communicate that data with your client. With a single click, the Volumes Dashboard will generate a detailed report in your web browser, or even within your DWG.

Stay tuned for a more in-depth review, but in the meantime be sure to visit the Subscription Center (http://subscription.autodesk.com) to download this new extension today!

Missing Links

Missing Links of the Autodesk Infrastructure Design Suite

If you haven’t already checked out the new-for-2012 Autodesk Infrastructure Design Suite, stop what you’re doing and call your reseller. The various industry-specific Design Suites introduced this year by Autodesk accomplish a number of things including, but not limited to making the cost prohibitive, multi-product workflow you’ve heard about for years more attainable than ever. Over the last several weeks I’ve progressed from “kicking the tires” to actually taking the new Autodesk Infrastructure Design Suite for a real test drive. While my overall impression of the suite has been positive – I have had to swing at a couple curveballs.

Easily manage your Civil 3D Styles and Templates for FREE

EE ProPack CAD Manager Tools
EE ProPack CAD Manager Tools Palette

Getting the initial manuscript for my upcoming book AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT: No Experience Required submitted has made me fall behind on reading some of my favorite blogs. This morning I took a quick minute to get caught up on what’s happening in the blogosphere, and came across an announcement on the EE Civil3DPedia blog that made me double-check today was March 1, not April 1 (aka April Fool’s Day).

One of my biggest complaints about Civil 3D has been its lack of an easy way to manage styles and command settings across many drawings. It’s certainly not uncommon to add or even update a style to your companies’ Civil 3D template. Such revisions oftentimes mean changes to your default command settings, and so the domino effect begins. With styles you do at least have the option to drag-and-drop styles from one drawing to another, but even this method has its caveats. Command settings have always been a different story; short of manually making the change across multiple drawings, I have yet to find a great way to manage changes to command settings out of the box.

Autodesk Acquires Dynamite VSP and Dynamite SIM

Over the last several years we’ve seen Autodesk feature renderings created using Autodesk 3D Studio Max Design and a third-party product from 3AM Solutions named Dynamite VSP. For the uninitiated, Dynamite VSP is a product designed specifically for the civil engineering industry. No pun intended, but it helps bridge the gap between AutoCAD Civil 3D and Autodesk 3D Studio Max Design, making the civil visualization process more accessible.

image

Undocumented Civil 3D Commands for Sites

image A couple weeks ago, I had what some would call the perfect storm; a major deadline, crashing grading drawings, and managerial pressure to get it fixed yesterday. Trouble was, regardless of the series of commands I threw at the troublesome drawings, the errors remained, and the drawings continued to crash.  In fact, there was a time in the troubleshooting process that I questioned if the AUDIT command actually did anything, or if it was simply a random number generator.  Sometimes the number of errors went down, sometimes it went up, apparently the AUDIT command had become a mood indicator for Civil 3D.  Long story short, this problem had The CAD Geek stumped (it happens from time-to-time).

Pressures mounting, I called some friends from both Autodesk and my reseller Avatech.  I really have to give it to the folks at Avatech and Autodesk Subscription Support.  Their combined insight and expertise made this a support ticket with a happy ending.  Just how did we end up solving this problem?