Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Invisible Band-It

This one had me scratching my head for a few hours today.  I was trying to plot several sheets of cross sections but no matter what I did, Civil 3D put huge spaces between the section views enabling only a handful of sections on each sheet.

I monkeyed with the group plot style over and over until I was just about ready to give up.  Turns out, I had a band that was taking up a lot of space due to the band height and text box width settings (highlighted to the right).

Once I set these values to something reasonable, all of my section sheet problems went away.

File this one in the back of your mind somewhere in case you ever run into something similar.  This can come in handy, by the way, when you need to make space above or below a section view.  For example, when using Plan Production (this works for profiles too) you might need to create some space above or below the view so that the viewport is large enough to fit labels and doesn't cut them off.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I'm Expecting!!

June 7, 2011...this is the due date of my baby...at least that's what the Amazon.com listing says.  Of course I'm not talking about a baby-baby, I'm talking about AutoCAD Civil 3D 2012 Essentials, the book I've been working on since October of last year.
The official press release for the whole series from Wiley/Sybex can be found here.  And Wiley's listing on the book can be found here.  As you can guess I'm very excited about the book since it's my first work that is publicly available.
My hope is that this book will see its way onto thousands of desks around the world, whether they be in training centers, home offices, high schools, colleges, or the workplace.  If you're familiar with my work, either through AU, consulting work that I may have done for your company, blogs that I've written for, or some other way, please check out the book and consider it for anyone you know who might need some basic training or a brush-up on Civil 3D.
Which leads me to the book itself.  As the "Essentials" part of the title implies, this book is for Civil 3D basics.  It is designed for anyone who wants to begin learning Civil 3D or brush up on the fundamentals.  It is a multi-purpose book designed to work in a classroom environment (whether a training center, high school, or college), or for learning on one's own.  It contains hands-on exercises and is accompanied by downloadable drawings, etc. to be used in completing those exercises.
While writing the book, I wanted it to mean something more than just the nuts and bolts of Civil 3D.  Wherever I could, I included information about how the different Civil 3D procedures relate to the real-world.  For example, here's one of my favorite sidebars to explain K values:

They're not all this colorful, but this one makes me chuckle every time I read it.  If you're a veteran, remember learning about design concepts like this when you were young?  Imagine how nice it would have been to have sidebars explaining this type of thing in your Softdesk or Land Desktop manual?  I wish I had them!
Anyway, I just wanted to share my excitement about the book with anyone who might want to listen.  I hope some of you who read this post will be able to comment on the book someday!

Much Ado About Northing

A few posts ago I admitted not knowing a seemingly easy solution to assigning a different alignment to a structure label.  Something just reminded me of another forehead-slapper that I had awhile back and I thought...well, if it happened to me, its probably happening to someone else somewhere in the world.  So here goes...
Need a northing and easting label?  Don't do what I did:  create a point label style and make your users create points in the drawing just to make a label.  Instead, use a Note label.  These guys have northing and easting capabilities built right into the label style.

Works like a charm and there aren't any pesky points to deal with in the drawing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Civil 3D 2012 Unveiled

Be sure to check out the Autodesk Website to see a brief listing of the new features in Civil 3D 2012.  The list includes:

  • Corridor Enhancements
    • Plan-profile-section interaction
    • Sections from multiple baselines
    • Skewed sections
  • Enhanced Alignment Layout
    • Better constraint control - even with LandXML imports
  • Styles Management (can I get an AMEN!)
    • Import styles
    • Purge styles
    • Replace styles
  • Data Import Enhancements
    • Improved point data import
    • Pipe network from GIS

Monday, March 21, 2011

Swapping Parts Isn't Always Done With Style

One great feature of the parts list is when you swap parts, Civil 3D automatically re-assigns a style based on what you've assigned to that part.  FYI - Don't get too spoiled with this feature because it doesn't work in cases where the pipe or structure is a data reference.  The part swap will come across just fine when you synchronize, but the style change will not.  You'll have to manually assign a new style through Pipe/Structure Properties.
I have only verified this behavior in r2010 so if you have r2011 handy, try it out and let us know if it works differently.

Friday, March 18, 2011

KnowledgeSmart Project Update

I just completed another question set for KnowledgeSmart.  If you're a customer of theirs, be on the lookout for some new Civil 3D questions coming your way.  If you're not, you should definitely check them out!  www.knowledgesmart.net.

Equivalent Elliptical Pipes

Let's say you need a pipe to be circular (maybe for hydraulic calc reasons) but look elliptical.  This might sound a bit crazy but designers often think about elliptical pipes in their circular equivalents.  For example, the elliptical equivalent of a 42" pipe is 34x53.
So what if I want to make that 42" pipe look like a 34x53 elliptical pipe?  As with many things in Civil 3D, it's all about style.  Within the pipe style there is a User Defined option for inner and outer diameter for both plan and profile views.
If I assign my 42" pipe this style, then it will show the Plan view using a 53" dia

And the Profile view using a 34" dia
You'll notice that I also supplied the correct outer diameter based on the wall thickness.  If you don't show the outer diameter, then of course this step won't be necessary.
The result:  Both of the pipes shown below are 42" pipes.  The one on the left uses the elliptical equivalent style while the one on the right uses the true part dimensions to display the pipe.  Notice how the pipe on the left is wider in plan view and narrower in profile view than the one on the right.

Now, why in the world would you do this?  Well what if you have a custom H&H solution which does not support elliptical pipes.  To get it to work, the equivalent diameter must be used.  By using the method above, you are able to dump pipe network data from Civil 3D into the custom application without having to hack the pipe diameters on the way.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Musical Alignments

Here's the scenario...you have a sanitary sewer manhole at the junction of two trunk lines.  You'd like to show it on SAN1's profile with SAN1 stationing and SAN2's profile with SAN2 stationing.
How is this possible when you can only assign one alignment to a structure?
Maybe you already know this but I was humbled to find out that the Reference Alignment setting is a label-by-label setting rather than a structure setting!  You can click a label and change it right in the Properties window.  It turns out that the Reference Alignment property tied to the structure is more of a default that can be overridden within the properties of the label.
Until I discovered this, I had told a few people that it couldn't be done...that they'd have to manually label the station in one profile or the other...oops!  Now fess up...did you know about this or not?

What The World Needs is an Export To AutoCAD That Works

Ever tried to use Export To AutoCAD to create a drawing for a client or partner that doesn't have Civil 3D? Has this been as much of a nightmare for you as it has been for me?  For the simplest Civil 3D drawings, yes....it works.  But throw in an XREF or some locked COGO points and the export will often fail.  Here are some issues that I've run into using Export To AutoCAD:

  • Certain XREFs simply won't bind
  • Locked COGO points can't be exploded so the conversion fails
  • Contour labels become MTEXT with a black hatch behind them instead of a mask.
  • The export simply fails
  • The resulting file is missing stuff
I've seen cases where converting a few Civil 3D drawings has taken hours because the user had to manually open each drawing, explode everything, bind everything, and so on.
So...what do you do?  Have you been able to come up with a workflow that is reliable?  What kinds of problems do you consistently run into?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

There's A First Time For Everything

With all that I've always got going on, I've been reluctant to pick up blogging as another "bad" habit.  However, after embarking on a few solo projects in the last year or so, I thought that it would be a good idea to create a place where I can be Eric Chappell instead of an agent of a different company.
So what have I been doing lately?  Well, for one I've been writing a Civil 3D training book that is tentatively scheduled to be released sometime in May.  It is a basic level Civil 3D training guide that is intended for self-learning as well as classroom learning.  I'll be able to share more info about the book next week so be sure and check back!  I've also been working on a project for KnowledgeSmart which involves writing questions for Civil 3D assessment tests.
My current plan is to use this blog as a place to share information about these projects and any others that hopefully come up in the near future.  The purpose of the blog may grow from there, but how that's going to play out is anybody's guess.  I've written for other blogs like Civil3D.com and Civil3Dpedia.com but this is my first time managing my own...so bear with me!