Canadian Consulting Engineer

Map 3D

By Bronwen Parsons

June 1, 2011   Canadian Consulting Engineer

By Bronwen Parsons

Map 3D

Mapping software becomes intelligent

utodesk unrolled its 2012 suite of products in Toronto on May 12 with an event “Make Your Most Amazing Ideas Happen,” held near Pearson International airport.

The first session in the infrastructure stream was on AutoCAD Map 3D, which is a program for modeling infrastructure and gives access to CAD and GIS data.

Neal Niemec, a GIS professional based in Minnesota with Autodesk, gave a hands-on presentation. He started off by explaining that the Map 3D program, like the Civil 3D program of which it is a part, are “BIM for Infrastructure.” In other words, civil engineering design software has evolved in a similar way to building CAD programs to become “intelligent.” That means the design has ancillary information of many different types (for example, materials lists) attached to it, and the ancillary information changes and modifies along with the evolution of the design.

The 2012 version of Map3D has integrated within it an Autodesk program called Topobase that adds intelligent functions. According to Niemec. Topobase on its own used to sell for $8,000, so this is a bonus.

To demonstrate, Niemec created a utility model on Map3D by clicking on Industry Model Explorer. “It is an intelligent rules-based data model,” he said. “It means that if I’m adding information into this data model, such as a new water pipe, the program is smart enough to say, O.K., you’ve got a pipe going from a house to the existing network, so you need a valve here, and you need a house connector here.”

One of the key technologies in Map3D is FDO, Feature Data Object, which helps the users to work more efficiently. “What FDO allows me to do is to connect to data “natively,” Niemec explained. “Normally you would have to import a shape file, convert it to, say, AutoCad Object, make changes to it and then export it, converting it back to its original file. That’s the way it’s been done for a very long time. But with FDO capability, I can connect to different types of databases — Raster files, file formats like DGN and SHP. And I can connect to Web services.”

Importantly, thanks to FDO technology, new files and data are not imported into the core file, but are linked to it by what Niemec referred to as a “string.”

“I’ve got customers who are using imagery that is 500 MB to a GB,” he said. “If I do an image insert in my drawing, it balloons up. In contrast, with FDO technology the image isn’t being stored in my drawing file any more, so it is not going to affect that drawing file size.” Therefore the program won’t be slowed down.

The software’s new capabilities also give more accuracy, Niemec suggested. “The fidelity of your data, of the information in your design, is intact as it moves through the process.”

Other new features in the 2012 Map3D are a user interface for managing its library of 4,000 coordinate systems. The new version also has connectivity to all the ESRI geo-databases.

Niemec stressed the importance of the DWF format for publishing mapping files. Standing for Design Web Format, DWF is similar to a PDF file, he said, except where PDFs have around 7,000 dpi resolution, DWF has around 10 million dpi resolution and is “engineering grade information.”

To view a DWF file a user needs the Design Review application from Autodesk, which is free. The Design Review tool allows changes to a DWF in the field and the DWF carries embedded information, Niemec explained. “So even though it’s a GIS model, or a data model, or an AutoCAD drawing file, I have the capability to store the intelligence behind it within the DWF.” cce


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