Infrastructure Modeler: Autodesk’s Visual Model Management Tool
When Autodesk first released their conceptual design tool for infrastructure as a technical preview through Autodesk Labs, the need for the software was quickly validated when more than 5,000 customers downloaded it and immediately began working with it. The tool offered something new by providing a means to combine civil, geospatial and architectural data along with analysis and simulation in order to evaluate various aspects of a project. Now, Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler has been a product for nearly a year, and the product team continues to evolve and build upon its capabilities.
The tool addresses an urgent need to simplify, speed up, and reduce costs in the planning phase of projects, where no tools previously spanned the diverse disciplines involved in this phase. With its sketching and interactive model manipulation abilities, infrastructure-scale projects can be quickly communicated. The ability to incorporate CAD, GIS and BIM (Revit and Civil 3D models) data, brings in existing work without having to recreate it, offering a quick means to visualize projects in a 3D view that is critical for non-technical stakeholders.
BIM for Infrastructure
The product is a nice fit in the civil infrastructure industry segment that includes transportation, land development, and water infrastructure. Here, Autodesk’s strategy is to lead an evolution into model-based design for the full lifecycle of projects from planning, designing, building and managing. An additional benefit for project-based work is the ability to accurately model construction sequencing.
The tools help extend the building information modeling (BIM) for Infrastructure segment that a recent McGraw Hill SmartMarket Report affirmed is a rapidly growing market. In this study and report, McGraw Hill found that 46% are using BIM for infrastructure now, and they predict that it will reach 80% in the next five years.
The tool is ideal for presenting different concepts in front of public and other collaborators, with the ability to offer both a macro view and different design perspectives. This interactivity provides a means to show design intent, present alternatives, and tell the story to get public buy-in.
The 2013 version of Infrastructure Modeler that is included in the Autodesk Infrastructure Design Suite 2013 and Autodesk Building Design Suite 2013 Ultimate edition, integrates with the other tools in order to automate workflows and also extends to the cloud for storage and rendering within the Autodesk 360 platform.
“We’ve added some enhanced workflows for sharing data back and forth between AutoCAD Civil 3D 2013 as well as 3ds Max Design,” according to Dana Probert, technical marketing manager. “With Raster Design the workflow also can easily incorporate scanned sketches, transforming the not so intelligent piece of paper by applying georeferencing so it becomes a usable and intelligent raster. Users can then overlay this image in Infrastructure Modeler, and begin to take advantage of the sketching tools to breathe a little bit of life into it.”
In addition to the project-based work, the ability to view large areas provides a means to bring in as-built drawing and documents to become part of the geospatial intelligence of a region. The visualization tool also incorporates intelligent objects such as railway sketches that know how to interact with terrain and road crossings, greatly speeding model creation.
Visual and Time Analysis
The latest iteration has shading, slope and aspect viewing to improve terrain visualization. There are Wizards to improve update terrain and parcel data and give a good visual understanding of your surface. Aerial imagery can be overlaid with transparencies, and Lidar data can be leveraged in either AutoCAD Civil 3D or AutoCAD Map 3D and passed to Infrastructure Modeler to be used for the topography. topology.
The 3D view includes sun shadow analysis, as well as the ability to view obstructions and simulate the shadows on any day of the year. For site details, there are volume and distance measurements and range finding that include real details from the model.
Since its inception, the software has given users the ability to use time stamps within the model. You can put together details of say ten years ago and look at previous conditions as well as the way they are now, and then can incorporate the model of how it will look in the future.
Among other enhancements are performance improvements to speed model creation. A lot of effort has also gone into the user interface, with attention to specific workflows that make it much quicker to do things. Interfaces with AutoCAD Civil 3D now provides both a back and forth ability, where it was just an import into Infrastructure Modeler in the past, adding the ability to incrementally build the model. Export in FBX and IMX data formats into 3ds Max Design provides the ability to create even better looking models that can be used as a basis for realistic rendering. You can also create and build your own styles, to drag and drop them onto the same design, to view different scenarios seamlessly.
Added to the technology preview currently on Autodesk Labs, is the ability to view and navigate Infrastructure Modeler models using an iPad. This new capability gives users great flexibility in how the model is presented to the public and enablesindividuals to experience the model on their own terms.
The visualization capability is building forward from here with the ability to view the same data in many different ways from different perspectives from planners with parcels to overlays of different conceptual designs that pull in all the urban layers and analysis. These tools, and others like them, will soon replace drawings in meetings, where an interactive and living model that follows along through the process and lives on in a larger city-scale model will be expected.