Civil Engineering

Autodesk Introduces Cloud-Powered Version of Infrastructure Modeling Solution

7 Aug, 2013 By: Cadalyst Staff

Flexible quarterly purchase plan makes InfraWorks 360 Pro suitable for short-term and budget-constrained projects.

Today, Autodesk expanded its desktop InfraWorks software — which provides 3D modeling and visualization for civil intrastructure design — to encompass mobile platforms. The new cloud-based Autodesk InfraWorks 360 Pro promotes building information modeling [BIM] within the infrastructure industry, providing civil engineers and other AEC professionals with tools to collaborate and communicate with project stakeholders from various disciplines and geographic areas.

Richard Humphrey, Autodesk's senior director of infrastructure product strategy, explained that the company is seeking to tranform a civil engineering industry that's facing an "infrastructure cliff" — a mismatch of more than $30 trillion between the infrastructure projects needed to maintain global GDP growth through 2030 and the funding available to put them in place.

Getting the Point Across

One obstacle to effectively addressing this tremendous demand, Humphrey explained, is that modern professionals are still relying on compartmentalized data and static, 2D representations of data, much as they did a half-century ago: "This is still the way we communicate, design, and build [projects] — not much has changed." We need to break down data silos, he continued, and make it accessible to all stakeholders on a project, regardless of their discipline or level of expertise. One aspect of accessibility is mobility: "[InfraWorks 360 Pro] delivers BIM into the field — you're no longer bound to the desktop."

Communicating among various disciplines on the job site is a big task, but in many cases, project proposals must be clearly communicated to the general public as well.

Autodesk InfraWorks 360 Pro gives users the option to create presentation material in the form of still images, slideshows, or animations. Image courtesy of Autodesk.

"There is a huge market demand for just being able to communicate design intent," said Humphrey, noting that the ability to quickly create a basemap, go though multiple design options, and take customers through a live model is revolutionary. "You're able to explore the actual 3D environment ... if you want to change [the model] on the fly, you can do that."

Autodesk InfraWorks 360 Pro enables users to see designs as they would appear in the real world and to perform lighting studies using realistic, dynamic sun and shadow models. Image courtesy of Autodesk.

In addition to giving stakeholders a realistic view of a project, visualizing designs within InfraWorks 360 Pro also allows for the evaluation of more options in the same amount of time. "You're now in a much richer environment to explore that data, to be able to create new plans, for example," Humphrey said. "In the past, you might have had time to do [only] two or three different options," he observed, discussing an example involving the comparison of seven different bridge types with the same data model. "Now, you're making much better decisions earlier on."


Aggregating Real-World Data

Data management is another challenge, as models measured in terabytes become the norm. With InfraWorks 360 Pro, users can store large models in the cloud, manage them via desktop computers or mobile devices (such as tablet computers), and produce realistic 3D visualizations of their projects that are viewable within the InfraWorks environment.

By importing a variety of existing conditions data — including geographic information system (GIS) data, satellite imagery, and point clouds — Autodesk InfraWorks 360 Pro helps users design within the context of real site conditions from the start of a project lifecycle. "It's not just sets of data, it's the actual 3D environment itself," said Humphrey. Aggregating information from multiple sources and viewing it in a 3D context, he continued, enables users to "start designing more rapidly in the context of what's real."

Users can aggregate 2D and 3D CAD, GIS, and raster data in more than 50 formats to create or enhance Autodesk InfraWorks 360 Pro models. Click image to enlarge. Image courtesy of Autodesk.

Autodesk InfraWorks 360 Pro includes a link for direct access to a curated portal, enabling customers to access free and for-purchase geospatial data to help them build site-specific models. This is helpful, said Humphrey, because "customers don't always know where to get the data."

Newly released capabilities for the desktop software include enhanced terrain grading and shaping to help users create level sites and pads for buildings, and near-photorealistic rendering that allows users to apply high-quality graphics or choose faster rendering to more quickly navigate large models.

In the future, Autodesk will release more design and engineering modules, said Humphrey. "Very shortly you'll see the [road and highway design] module ... and we also have plans to do other discipline-specific modules," he noted. "Stay tuned for a lot of capabilities delivered as part of InfoWorks 360 Pro."

Pricing and Availability

Autodesk InfraWorks 360 Pro does not require customers to commit to a long-term purchase or subscription. Instead, it's available for purchase on a quarterly basis, with the option to renew at the end of each quarter. "It's a lot more flexible ... [customers] can buy what they need," Humphrey said, noting that the "rental model" allows users to tie their software expenses to particular projects.

The quarterly purchase includes 150 cloud credits; credit use varies depending on the task being performed, such as a vertical optimization for a road design in InfraWorks 360 Pro or a simulation in Autodesk 360.

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

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