Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Project Silverstar - Profile Optimization

A new Civil 3D Labs project became available recently with the enchanting name of Project Silverstar.  The idea behind this tool is to provide profile optimization via cloud computing.  Reminds me of the concept of SiteOps where you let the cloud do the computational heavy lifting for a complex, multi-iteration solution.

I decided to download it and give it a try and then give you all an account of my experience so you can decide for yourself whether you want to spend the 15 minutes required to test it out on your own computer.  Whatever you think of it, I think this project is significant because its Autodesk's first stab at having Civil 3D go to the cloud to perform an operation.  What's next?  Cloud-based corridor optimization? Parcel layout solutions?  Grading solutions?  Could be exciting!

The Project Silverstar Labs Page gives you a nice overview of the project as well as a link to a rather extensive 31-page Users Manual and some sample drawings.  I just perused it, but the manual seems to have lots of good background theory information that explains the "why" and the "how" of  what's going on.

The download and installation process took less than a minute.  After that, I opened Civil 3D 2012 and Profile Optimization was visible within the Toolbox tab.

To get started I drew an alignment and sampled an existing ground profile.  Then I executed the tool which launched a login dialog where I entered my usual Autodesk credentials that I use for signing into the Subscription center, AU, etc.  What followed was a series of dialog boxes, the first being a General dialog for selecting the alignment, etc.
Next was a Borrow/Waste dialog which I'll research some other day...as for now, I'm not real sure what this is supposed to do.

After that I was given the ability to set some limits for solution.

The final dialog box appears to deal with the accuracy of the solution, another thing I'll read up on a bit more another day.
After about 30 minutes, I received the official e-mail from Autodesk.


I was surprised that it took that long but the results were pretty impressive.  The e-mail came with four attachments: A PDF report (excerpt shown below), a LandXML file and ASCII file of the profile, and a Log file.

I imported the LandXML file into Civil 3D and my cloud-optimized profile appeared!
Try it out for yourself and share some comments about what you find.  And of course, share your thoughts with Autodesk Labs as well.  Labs needs feedback to remain a success.

Happy Profile Optimizing!

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