Autodesk readies civil engineering upgrades

30 Mar, 2006 By: Sara Ferris

Civil 3D 2007, Map 3D 2007 and Raster Design 2007 due out this spring

Chris Bradshaw, vice-president of Autodesk's infrastructure solutions division, spoke with us earlier this month about trends in the civil engineering market and Autodesk's upcoming 2007 releases. Autodesk plans to ship Civil 3D 2007, Map 3D 2007 and Raster Design 2007 later this spring.

Bradshaw said the division is coming off a "really great year." In fact, the infrastructure solutions division has had three straight years of 20%+ growth in revenue. He sees no reason for this rate to slow, given that there's no shortage of infrastructure projects. There is, however, a shortage of civil engineers and allied professionals such as urban planners, and this shortage will get worse as baby boomers retire. Bradshaw expects this shortage to lead to increased outsourcing, both from government to private contractors and from private contractors to private subcontractors. He also notes a trend toward industry consolidation as engineering firms merge to expand their markets and reach. Engineering firms are also moving beyond infrastructure construction into operations and management. All of this points toward the need for solutions that span the vertical disciplines involved in civil design, construction and operation. Autodesk, he believes, is well-positioned to serve this need.

Civil 3D 2007
Civil 3D is Autodesk's newest civil product and one of the fastest selling products in Autodesk history, according to Bradshaw. It incorporates intelligent objects and a single, database-driven model so that all team members work from the same synchronized model. Civil 3D is suited to transportation, site, sewer, storm drain and subdivision projects.

Civil 3D 2007 provides full support for survey data through downloadable plug-ins that support data collectors from Leica, Carlson, Trimble, TDS and others.

Civil 3D now comes with Vault, the data management application developed on the mechanical side of the Autodesk family. It provides version control, restore and archiving creation tools.

Also new are road design capabilities such as corridor modeling and assemblies that represent real-world components such as ditches, curbs and sidewalks. Civil 3D 2007 create pipe networks for applications such as drainage and sanitary sewers and detect and highlight interferences. Production drawings such as section sheets, grading plans and profiles can be generated automatically from the Civil 3D model.

Civil 3D 2007's corridor design capabilities handle all types of road, rail, and channel design projects.

Civil 3D 2007 imports and exports Land Desktop project data, including points, surfaces, parcels, alignments, profiles and pipe runs. It also can export data, including points, parcels, alignments and pipes, into SDF files for use in creating maps in MapGuide and Map 3D. Also new is support for LandXML 1.1, an open industry standard for exchange of land development data, and MicroStation DGN format.

Bradshaw also notes that Civil 3D features increased efficiency and speed to counter the perception that its stability isn't very good.

System requirements for Civil 3D include a 3GHz Pentium 4 processor or better, 2GB RAM, 5GB free hard-drive space and Windows 2000/XP.

Both Civil 3D and Map 3D are built on AutoCAD, so they will provide all the new features contained therein. Note that you may need an object enabler to open Civil 3D drawings in plain old AutoCAD.

Civil 3D 2007 includes Map 3D functionality, but not all Map commands work with the Civil 3D model. Autodesk cites as an example the Map 3D Query command, which can't use Civil 3D data such as alignment name or parcel number. Civil 3D objects can't be exported directly into Oracle Spatial—they must be exploded first.

Map 3D 2007
Map 3D 2007 provides tools for creating and editing maps as well as GIS analysis tools. New features include new tools for creating maps such as dynamic labeling, transparency and draping support. Data management capabilities are improved by the Vault technology mentioned above. Graphics performance for geospatial-scale data is improved, and Map can now import design data from Civil 3D. Users can directly access data in databases such as Oracle, ArcSDE, SQL and MySQL as well as in file formats such as ESRI SHP and MapGuide SDF.

Map 3D 2007 adds tools such as the Display Manager for map creation.

Raster Design 2007
Autodesk's raster-to-vector conversion program adds support for ESRI GRID files and read support for DTED format elevation data. It also includes a new JPEG2000 library.

What About All Those Other Products?
As of April 17, Autodesk will discontinue its Civil 3D Professional bundle, which combines Civil 3D and Civil Design companion as a route for Civil Design users to transition to Civil 3D.

Survey and Land Desktop are still available but appear to suffer from the same fate as Autodesk's other desktops, with new functionality limited to that found in the AutoCAD 2007 foundation.

MapGuide, for publishing maps on the Internet, is available in an open-source version (download here). Autodesk plans to offer a commercial version called MapGuide Enterprise later this year. Also in the works is MapGuide Studio, a proprietary authoring environment for collecting, preparing and publishing maps and geospatial data for MapGuide.

The c-plan acquisition gives Autodesk topo-based technology to use as a foundation for development of higher-end GIS solutions. TOPOBASE is a topology database, built on Oracle, that creates a data management layer that can be tailored to vertical applications such as utilities and governments.