AutoCAD Civil 3D: A Few of My Favorite Things

With AutoCAD Civil 3D 2011 now out and available I wanted to get into some of the new enhancements that you have to look forward to and let you in on some testing that I have completed. As with any new release of product you can expect to see LOTS of change, but as a beta tester of the software and a user of Civil 3D from its inception in 2005, I am happy to say that we are now at the point of "fine tuning" and are noticing a drop in dramatic changes from version 2010 to 2011. What I mean by that is since the product was first released in 2005 each version was extremely "meaty," with huge changes from year to year as the software needed to mature. We would see things such as the ability to do pipe design in a release, adding a survey package, the ability to share data via data shortcuts or vault and the contextual ribbon interface.

These were huge advances in the technology and we are finally at a point of using a mature product so the enhancements made this year are on a much smaller scale. Now I am not trying to detour you from upgrading to AutoCAD Civil 3D 2011, but what I am trying to do is take out some of the frustration that users and companies feel each year when the new products are released. My customers frequently ask me questions such as:

  1. Why does Autodesk release a new product every year?
  2. Do I have to upgrade every year?
  3. How come the technology changes so much from year to year?

To try and answer some of these questions Autodesk will continue to release a new version of each piece of software every year. That’s just the way it is. Now, the answer to the question of whether to upgrade every year is up to you, but I will give you my two cents. This answer varies based on what version of the software you are currently using. If you are using AutoCAD Civil 3D 2005-2008 upgrade now, you will experience HUGE productivity gains because of stability, data sharing, and ease of use. If you are on Civil 3D 2009, I highly recommend upgrading. If you are on 2010, there is one huge advancement that will compel you to upgrade.

The biggest change in AutoCAD Civil 3D 2011 is… (drum roll please)… a 64bit version. I recently upgraded my computer to a Windows 7 64bit and am extremely satisfied with the performance. This is the biggest reason to move from 2010 to 2011. Here is a list of all the areas that have enhancements in 2011 and I will break down just a few that I think are the most useful.

AutoCAD Civil 3D 2011 contains many new features and enhancements. Below are areas where features have been added or enhanced.

  • Alignments
  • API
  • Corridors
  • Data shortcut
  • Database and project migration
  • Labels
  • Pipe Network
  • Points
  • Point cloud
  • Quantity takeoff
  • Reporting
  • Sections
  • Superelevation
  • Surfaces
  • Toolspace
  • Enhanced DGN data support
  • Subscription features
  • Changes to drawing templates

I will elaborate on three of the above items: Pipe Networks, Sections, and Superelevation. For Pipes you now have the ability to merge two networks together. This is a huge enhancement because for years there was no way to combine two lines into one network - you could only add onto an already existing pipe run.

Split Network The new Split Network command enables you to split a pipe network into two pipe networks. The selected pipe network parts do not move; however, they are associated with a new pipe network name.
Merge Networks The new Merge Networks command enables you to merge two pipe networks into a single pipe network.
Vertex Elevation Reference Now when you create a pipe network from an object, you can specify the location on the part to use as a Vertex Elevation Reference. Instead of automatically assigning the elevation of the object to the centerline of the pipe, you can now specify which part of the pipe (Outside Top, Crown, Centerline, Invert, or Outside Bottom) is used to specify the elevation of the part.

The new section tools are a great enhancement due to the fact that that you can produce plan production sheets from your section.

Additional volumetric methods The existing Compute Materials command and the Sample Line Group Properties (Material List tab) have been enhanced to allow the selection of the volume computation method: Average End Area, Prismoidal, or Composite Volume. Previously, section volumes were calculated using only the Average End Area method.
Gap definitions A new gap definition capability has been added to the Sample Line Group Properties (Material List tab). You can define gaps in materials based on station ranges. In addition, you can define Run Out Distance and Run In Distance properties for the gaps to allow for better volume calculations in those areas.
Create layouts from section views The new Create Section Sheets command enables you to generate layouts for plotting cross sections. Enhancements have been made to the Create Multiple Views command to support the Create Section Sheets command. To generate sheets, you must first generate multiple cross section views using the new Production option and select a DWT with a Section type viewport.
Project objects to multiple cross sections in a single operation The new Project Objects To Multiple Section Views command enables you to project objects to multiple section views based on their proximity to the sample line.

Superelevation features have gone "visual." Now there is a visual creator and editor for adding superelevation to your alignments and corridors. This is extremely useful for design!

Calculate/Edit Superelevation command The new Calculate/Edit Superelevation command replaces the Superelevation tab on the Alignment Properties dialog box and enables you to use a wizard and an editor:
  • The Calculate Superelevation wizard walks you through the calculation of superelevation for all curves or any given curves in an alignment. The wizard also provides some new options such as the ability to resolve overlap conditions.
  • Prior to calculating superelevation, the Superelevation Curve Manager displays the details for each curve in the alignment and the status of the superelevation. When you calculate the superelevation, the Superelevation Curve Manager displays details of each curve as well as the design criteria information that was used to calculate superelevation. Criteria information includes the criteria file used, the superelevation rate table, attainment table, and so on. The Superelevation Curve Manager does not display the actual superelevation data, just the criteria used for the calculations. Temporary graphics in the drawing provide visual feedback when you select a curve.
Superelevation Tabular Editor The new Superelevation Tabular Editor provides a tabular interface where you can edit superelevation data after creation and also add or delete critical stations in each region. The editor displays all of the critical stations and calculated superelevation data including the cross slopes for each lane.
Superelevation views The new Superelevation View command provides the ability to create superelevation views, which show a graphical representation of the superelevation along the curves of an alignment.

The superelevation views provide grips for graphical editing. You can use Ctrl + click to select a single station. Superelevation Views collections are provided in Toolspace.

Superelevation bands on profile views New options are provided to control the superelevation band height and to specify a vertical exaggeration.

My closing statements on moving forward to the next release of AutoCAD Civil 3D are if you are not on 2009 and above, make the move as soon as possible to take advantage of stability, productivity, and efficiency.

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