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InfraWorks: Accelerate Design

In my previous Tips & Tricks article (AUGIWorld, March 2017) I showed you a way to adjust the height of buildings imported using Model Builder. In this article, I’ll show you a more accurate way of adjusting building heights using aerial images from a drone as well as a few other tips to speed up the design process.

What’s the Point?

If you have an FAA Part 107 drone pilot on staff, why not take advantage and gather aerial imagery for your InfraWorks model? Using an autonomous flight application (I personally like Drone Deploy for this, but there are plenty of other apps that can do this such as Pix4D, Litchi, and more) capture the images, upload them into Autodesk Recap Photo, set the desired coordinate system, and let the power of the cloud do all the processing work for you.

After the photos are processed, download the resulting Recap file and import it into your InfraWorks® model. You can then use the point cloud as a reference to sketch the existing buildings and set their roof heights accordingly. And because the captured photos are geotagged with coordinates from the location of the drone at the time of the flight and you set the appropriate coordinate system, the point cloud will fall right into position within your InfraWorks model (Figure 1).

Figure 1

Component Roads for All Models

So, you’ve created a detailed component road with multiple lanes, striping, shoulders, curbs, sidewalks, decorations… THE WORKS! But now you need to use the same component road style in a new model. What do you do? You have two options in this scenario: 1) export the component road style to a JSON file that you can import into another model; or 2) copy the component road source files to InfraWorks’ ProgramData directory and make them available to all models without having to export to a JSON file first.

Option 1

On the Style palette click on the Component tab and navigate to the Custom folder (this is where any component roads that you’ve created in the current model are stored).  Click the Save icon to export the current catalog to a JSON file that you can import into another model or share with another InfraWorks user (see Figure 2).

Figure 2

Option 2

If you don’t want to import a JSON file every time you create a new model, you can copy the component road source files to InfraWorks’ ProgramData folder and they’ll be available for every new model as well as every existing model you have. When you save a custom component road assembly, its definition and preview image are saved to the project directory in a folder labeled “Custom” (similar to the Custom catalog folder in Option 1). Within that folder will be two files associated with your custom roadway style—a .PNG (the thumbnail preview of the road) and a .ACITEM file (this is the actual roadway definition and tells InfraWorks which components to use). To find these files, browse to the following location:

C:\Users\\Documents\Autodesk InfraWorks Models\Autodesk 360\\.files\unver\Content\Styles\Component\Custom

Then copy them to C:\ProgramData\Autodesk\InfraWorks\LocalLibrary\Styles\Component\Assembly

Every project (new and existing) will now be able to use your custom roadway style. No need to export/import JSON files. Your custom component road style will not appear in the Custom folder, but will instead be located with the other default styles that install with InfraWorks.

Barriers for Steps

A custom barrier style makes quick work of creating steps in InfraWorks (Figure 3). Simply duplicate an existing barrier style, modify the materials and dimensions, and you have dynamic steps that you can manually adjust as needed. When modifying a “steps” barrier style, be aware of the following parameters when adjusting the dimensions.

Length = depth of steps

Height = thickness of steps

Thickness = width of steps

Figure 3: Image courtesy of Wolverine Engineers & Surveyors, Inc. and Red Transit Consultants, LLC

Create Your Own Content

Now this one might not sound like much of a “tip” but… create your own content! Learn the basics of a new application, whether it’s by watching YouTube videos, LinkedIn Learning videos, viewing past Autodesk University presentations, or posting questions on the AUGI forums. When you create your own content, you can quickly make edits to existing objects, creating different versions (like the MUTCD – Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Design – signs in Figures 4 and 5, for example) and you get the added benefit of learning a software application. These signs were created using Formit and since I have the source files, I can quickly modify the size, shape, and materials to make additional signs.

Figure 4

Figure 5

Interactive Tours

360-panoramic photos are a great way to show clients and stakeholders existing job site conditions, construction progress, or post-construction/occupancy and marketing, and can be easily embedded into your InfraWorks model. Using a drone, you can quickly capture the photos and stitch them together into a seamless 360ᵒ degree spherical image. In Figure 6, I used a DJI Mavic Pro and its automated Sphere photo capture function to capture the necessary images.

Figure 6

Once the photos have been stitched together, upload it to an online service such as Kuula.co, copy the unique URL, and paste it into the Tooltip field of any object (I prefer POIs) within your InfraWorks model. By adding the URL to the tooltip, it will automatically show the 360-panoramic directly within your model when you hover your mouse over that object. Here’s the direct link to the 360-panoramic image I used in this example so you can play around with it yourself: https://kuula.co/post/7Y7Bn. See Figure 7.

 

Figure 7

And the recent integration of BIM 360™ makes it easier than ever to share your design model (and 360-panoramic images) with others. Publish your model and share with stakeholders and clients that the tooltip hyperlink will be available for viewing (Figure 8).

Figure 8

Shortcuts

Shortcuts are a great way to speed up the creative process and eliminate a few clicks at the same time. A few of my favorites are:

SHIFT+Left Mouse Click: Remove a vertex from any object

ALT+Left Mouse Click: Add a vertex to any object

CTRL+D: Duplicate a selected object or group of objects. This comes in handy when you need to manually place trees, cars, and city furniture to add content to your model quickly.

For a complete list of keyboard shortcuts for InfraWorks, check out this Autodesk Knowledge Network article: https://tinyurl.com/ybmus26u

I’d like to hear from you. What are some of your favorite InfraWorks tips and tricks?

Matt Wunch is the Digital Content Creator for ARCAT.com in Fairfield, Connecticut. He is an Autodesk Expert Elite member, Revit Certified Professional in Structure, Architecture, MEP – Mechanical and MEP – Electrical, a member of the planning committee of the Construction Institute's BIM Council, board member at AUGI, and owner and FAA licensed sUAS pilot at SkyViz.io. He can be reached for comments or questions at matt.wunch@gmail.com, on Twitter @MattWunch, or LinkedIn.

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