Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Getting EXTENTsive Performance Improvements from AIM

Sorry about the title, I can't resist a corny play on words.  Years of submitting AU classes with catchy titles has ruined me.

Anyway, as my journey through the world of Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler continues, I learned another lesson that I thought would be important to share.  I was compiling data from various sources (shp, dwg, sid, xml) and I found myself really grumbling about the software performance, specifically when I had to regenerate the model.  Regen times were becoming unbearable (3-5 minutes) and I began to think that this product just wasn't usable with real data.
Then I remembered that there was some kind of Model Extents thingy that might be important so I went digging for it. I found it by clicking the File menu, then Model Properties.  In the Model Properties dialog box I found the Extent setting shown below:
After several minutes of looking around for a pick button, I gave in to the notion that I was going to have to manually type these coordinates in...what!?  Yep, unless I'm missing something, I had to go back to the model, position my cursor at the lower left corner of the area covered by my terrain, and write down (yes you read it right, write....down....) the coordinates.  Not sure what the Load Extent From File button does...it was looking for a file format that I wasn't familiar with.

Anyway, after the grueling exercise of writing down the coordinates and typing them back into the software (I was tempted to borrow an iPhone and have Siri do it for me) I found that regen times were significantly reduced.  Setting the Model Extent was worth it!
To prove it, I regenerated the model with and without model extents for the data I was working with.

Without model extents, the regen took 4:56.  With model extents it took 1:39.  What I'm guessing is that AIM uses model extents a lot like Civil 3D uses a data clip boundary.  Data on the outside is ignored completely, greatly speeding up processing time.  Hope that saves you some time someday!

Friday, January 20, 2012

You're Not A Failure No Matter What AIM Says

Came across this today and thought I'd share.  I was trying to add a raster image in Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler and it was giving me a complex by throwing up this "Data Source Failure" error:
At first, I assumed that there was something wrong with the file.  I tried a few other random files but still got the same result.  Then I dug a little deeper and discovered the Clip To Model Extent setting.
You can get to this setting by right-clicking the image data source, then selecting Configure.
Then, on the Raster tab you'll find it in the top left corner.
Once I unchecked this box, AIM allowed the image to come in without any errors but I couldn't see it.  Why?  Because my assumption about what coordinate system the image was configured to was incorrect.  I was trying to clip the image to a model extent that was not within the image...hence the error.  I would like to see this error be a little more descriptive in the future.  Like maybe "The image does not overlap the model", or "You've got the wrong coordinate system, Dillweed".  Maybe we'll see that improvement in a new release?

I'd like to show you a successful result with the image in place, but now that I've gotten past the error, I'm trying to get to a point where I can actually get the image in and see it.  Maybe I'll blog about that later??

Monday, January 16, 2012

Civil 3D 2012 Essentials: Extra Stuff For Instructors

It dawned on me today that instructors may be unaware that there is extra material available for Civil 3D 2012 Essentials that can be downloaded.
How do I get to this stuff? you ask.  Well, start by going to Wiley's page for the book: www.sybex.com/go/civil2012essentials.  Then click the Downloads tab and on the right click the link that says Companion Sites under Instructors.  This will expand to reveal another link that says Instructor Companion Site - Click on that.
On the next page, click Login/Register to create an account (or log in if you created one awhile ago and forgot about it).
If I recall correctly, you have to wait a bit for your instructor account to be approved.  Once it has, you can log in and get to the material.  The material includes:
  • Introduction - Explains how to use the material and what it's for
  • ATC Syllabus - If you're teaching this as a 3-day class, this is the syllabus to use.  You should know, however, that three days is a very aggressive schedule.  I like to teach it in 4 1/2 days.
  • Higher Ed Syllabus - If you're teaching this over a semester, this syllabus breaks the course down into thirty 90-minute sessions.  I haven't tested this syllabus out yet.  If you have, please comment.
  • Test Questions - great for quizzes and tests whether you grade them or not.  10 questions per chapter that are a mixture of multiple choice, T/F, and fill-in-the-blank.
  • Powerpoint Slides - Great way to keep yourself on track and provide visuals to go with the class.  I like to alternate between slides and hands-on exercises when I'm teaching this material.
So if you're an instructor, either within a college, high school, ATC, or just the one who volunteered to teach the Civil 3D class for your company, these materials are available to you.  You paid for 'em when you bought the book, so use them!  I hope they add value to the teaching experience for you.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Searching for Commands in Civil 3D

In case you weren't aware, you can search for commands from within the Application Menu (the "Big Red C").  I've been using this lately when I have a command or even the concept of a command on the tip of my tongue but don't want to click blindly through the UI to find it.  This is especially true of AutoCAD commands since most of the AutoCAD UI in Civil 3D has been bumped out by Civil 3D commands.  Try it out for yourself if you're not using it already.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Magical Way To Calculate Volumes

Important Note:  All credit for this idea goes to Creg Dieziger of Morrison-Maierle, Inc.

Back in December, I had the honor of spending a week in Manchester with some awesome Autodesk and non-Autodesk folks.  We of course spent a lot of time talking about Civil 3D and out of that came one of the most ingenious ideas I've heard in quite some time.  Creg Dieziger of Morrison-Maierle came up with a really nifty way of including material depths when doing your volume calculations.  It goes something like this:

  1. Create polylines that enclose each type of material that you have.  In the example below, I have light duty pavement in yellow, heavy duty pavement in green, and building basement in red.
  2. Offset each closed shape inward just a little bit (I used 0.01).
  3. Set the elevation of each polyline equal to the depth of that material.  For example, heavy duty pavement that has a depth of 1 foot will be a polyline at elevation = 1.00.  Sound weird?  Stay with me, this is like the part where Mr. Miyagi wants Daniel to wax the car.
  4. Create a surface for each type of material that you have using the polyline as both the breakline and the boundary.  I used a supplementing factor of 10 and a mid-ordinate distance of 0.1 when I did this.
  5. Paste all of the individual material surfaces into one common surface.  I named mine "Material Depths".Step 2 is necessary because of the abrupt elevation change where two materials meet.  Without the offset, they will just blend together at the edges.
  6. Create a TIN volume surface (I called mine FG-Materials) using your "Material Depths" surface as the base surface and your Finished Ground surface as the comparison surface.  The elevations of the resulting surface will be material depth subtracted from FG - Get it!?
  7. Next, create a new surface (I called mine "Adjusted FG") and paste the TIN Volume Surface into it.  Again, weird...this is the part where Daniel has to paint the fence.
  8. Now you can perform a volume comparison between Adjusted FG and EG and you'll get a result that automatically subtracts out the material depths! (this is the part where Daniel sees how it all works.)  The reason for step 7 is that you cannot do a volume comparison with a volume surface - it has to be a "regular" surface.
If you have to read through this more than once, don't feel bad.  I had to read through it about 10 times to make sure it made sense to me.  But...once you get it, it works!  And the beauty of it is that once you create the "Material Depths" surface, you're done...you don't have to create it or adjust it again unless there's a specific design change that warrants it.  You are free to play with the FG elevations to achieve the slope, drainage, and/or volume targets you're trying to achieve.  Just remember to set everything to "Rebuild Automatic".

Try it out and comment on how it worked for you.