“If only Civil 3D could do X.” How many of us catch ourselves saying this on a regular basis? Whether it be a feature we believe should be in the software or something else, everyone has a wish list for Civil 3D.
This can cause you to spend a lot of time in the software creating custom content, like developing precise structures in Part Builder, only to have them show up as a generic box outline after a lot of effort. This can be frustrating and can cost you a lot of time and money, which is why it can be very rewarding to find tools built by others that help you use “Civil 3D to do X.”
This blog is NOT a typical post about a great new feature with CTC Tools. While the tools help Civil 3D work better, there is already a lot of content out there to help you. What makes this post different is my personal perspective – I have been through the fire of learning, teaching, and demonstrating the software.
Typically, with this much interaction with any software, working with it can and often does become mundane. However, it’s something I wish I had it in my toolbox when I was in the industry.
While other third-party applications focus on a single area for development like drainage, grading, site layout, etc. CTC has taken a broader approach – with feedback from real users, CTC has created an intuitive set of tools. Let’s break down some of the common, most frustrating Civil 3D Problems along with the Solutions that the CTC Tools provide.
General Tools – CIM Project Suite
Problem: How many times have you, the user, tried to get rid of a layer, only to have Civil 3D tell you it cannot be done? Every person that has worked with layers should have raised their hand.
Solution: The Layer Trace tool allows you to select a layer in your drawing and show the Civil 3D Styles associated with it. From this same interface, you can select those Styles and move them to another layer, allowing you to easily delete the layer!
Problem: In Civil 3D, wouldn’t it be nice to select a bunch of pipes to modify at once because they may have been entered wrong? Or maybe just to change the pipe sizes of a run to a larger size?
Unfortunately, no solution to select multiple pipes and make a universal change is currently in Civil 3D. You can use Part Swap, but it can be a tedious process.
Solution: The Part Swapper tool allows you to select not only multiple pipes, but also multiple structures at one time. Then you can easily make the changes across the selected parts in one fell swoop!
Problem: With the power behind Civil 3D’s Pipe Network tools, you would think that we should be able to design in a more streamlined way. For example, let’s say you want to straight grade from one invert to another that is multiple structures away.
Right now, there is no solution to do this in Civil 3D. It’s another pain-staking process of updating single structures and pipes along the run. This is something that should take only a few minutes but can end up taking hours.
Solution: The Pipe Designer tool is an amazing solution for this problem! It implements an excel-type interface to make pipe designing easy and intuitive.
If you want to interpolate from one structure to another, need the network to follow your rule set, add a drop through structures or change from invert to top of pipe design, Pipe Designer can do that and more!
Problem: You would be hard-pressed to find a commercial grading designer to think of a better solution to grading than utilizing Civil 3D Feature Lines.
The problem begins when you have a feature line that is used in your flow line design, and you need to have your top of curb, back of curb and even sidewalk to be dynamic to that flowline. There is no current way to have a dynamic or semi-dynamic link to all these feature lines.
Solution: The Autograder tool is your solution. You can make your top of curb, back of curb and sidewalk feature line dynamic to your flowline.
What if you need to grade a residential subdivision? It does that too with parallel grading! What about residential PAD grading? Not only does it do these things, but you can even save these grading families to be used repeatedly, even in drawings not started with the tool!
Problem: When it comes to labeling items repetitively, Civil 3D does not provide a solution. If you want to put a bunch of surface spots on your drawing, you must click and continue clicking until you get what you need.
Often, we get lost in the vortex of clicking, just to realize we have over-clicked. We have similar results if we want to label curb returns with station and offset label. Wouldn’t it be great if we could label plats efficiently without the hours, days or weeks that come with the tedious work of plat labeling?
Solution: The Label Genie tool can be used it to check your current drawing, xrefs or viewports for labeling. You can also scan multiple drawings and search their xrefs, layouts and viewports for the same items to label, like Surfaces, Profiles, Pipe Networks, Line and Curves, Alignments, and blocks, to name a few.
The countless hours of searching across a whole set of plans for consistency is eliminated with this tool. All items that you WANT will be CONSISTENT with Label Genie.
Quantities, Legends and Tables
Problem: We often have linework that lives in a base file. Quantifying those items, such as all the lines on the sewer or water main layers, can be very tedious, like adding up the hatch areas for concrete while converting it to square yards instead of square feet. We must resort to manually selecting these items or if we want it automated, we use fields or lisp routines to get Civil 3D to do the work for us.
Wouldn’t it be great if you can have a legend specific to your viewport, so you don’t have to answer those comments from the reviewing agency asking where your existing manhole is because it shows up on your generic legend?
Solution: The Data Wizard tool in the CTC suite gives you what you need. When I started using this tool, there was a bit of a learning curve. However, once it is learned, you can tool to trim time off final production drawings at high speed.
This tool will give you up-to-date quantities you can run in seconds instead of days. It will also give you legends that scan your viewports for keynotes, hatches, point styles and linetypes. There is honestly no tool I have found that is as robust as this one!
Problem: The out of the box solution for sheet creation has a lot of short comings. It’s not very flexible when changing data because it’s tied to an alignment, which means if make changes to the alignment, the whole process needs to be started over. This is not ideal!
If we have items already labeled in these drawings, those are all gone with the changes. The wizard is quite cumbersome and requires a lot of set up just to get the workflow moving.
Solution: The Sheet Generator tool is a perfect finale to end this article with. This tool is great because you don’t have to do each step in the module to finish your tasks. You can create various types of sheets, ranging from plan only to plan and profile, and everything in between. Let me break this one down:
- Plan Viewshapes: Take a block you create of your viewport area and lay it out across your alignment to create linework, which will ultimately be your viewports.
- Profile Views: Use the native Civil 3D tool to create multiple profile views of your alignment broken out in the spacing you need to line up with your Plan Viewshapes.
- Networks to Views: Add pipe networks to your profile views. Unlike the out of the box solution, this tool will only add the segments associated to that profile view, not the entire network like the Civil 3D version.
- Adjust Profiles: Allows you to adjust multiple profile views at the same time instead of having to do them one-by-one. These are huge improvement over the native solution.
- Move on Profiles: If you already have non-profile view labels associated with a profile view, they typically don’t adjust with your profile view if you make changes, so CTC created a tool that does just that. It moves your items a set distance to re-align with your profile views.
- Profile Viewshapes: Allows you to see how your profile views will look in your view port before you create the sheets. The out of the box solution surprises you when it creates these for you.
- Create Layouts: At this point in the process, you are ready to copy these items and create your sheets. This tool creates them and adds them to the sheet set manager of your choosing. You don’t have a sheet set manager yet? It can create one for you.
- Update Layout: Now this is where this tool really separates itself from the native tool. It’s extremely flexible and you can make changes to any of the solutions above. Just click the update layouts button, and presto! Your sheets are updated without having to start over at square one.
These tools provide a lot of value for them to go unnoticed across our industry – you wouldn’t believe how many potential customers are surprised by the capabilities of these tools when I demo them.
I’m glad to know I’m helping these potential users take a giant leap forward in their efficiency and plan production. If I ever find myself back in the industry designing civil projects again, I will not be doing that work without CTC tools.
This blog is written by Sr. Civil Technical Specialist Felix Cortez.
Felix has been in the Civil Engineering industry since 1999. Utilizing his technical skills and design knowledge as a CAD tech, Felix worked his way up to Project and CAD management, working on various projects ranging from single lot residential to the Airport expansion of the LAX international terminal.
Throughout his career, Felix has always enjoyed teaching and mentoring less-experienced designers and engineers. Watching them grow into their roles and use skillsets he has trained them for has been very rewarding and satisfying. He always has the drive to learn new, more advanced techniques to reach goals. He strives to stay on the cutting edge of Civil technology.