Autodesk Releases Two New Products in their BIM for Infrastructure Portfolio

by Matt Ball on August 9, 2011

Today, Autodesk released two highly-anticipated products in their BIM for Infrastructure portfolio with the release of Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler, and AutoCAD Utility Design. Both products address changes within the planning and design process, and bring the efficiencies of intelligent information modeling to aid much-needed transitions toward smarter design, planning and construction. Earlier this year Autodesk launched a new BIM for Infrastructure package that combines a plan, manage, build and design workflow with greater integration of their product suite. Today, the new pieces go further in the integration of an organization’s existing data for the creation of collaborative 3D city models, and accommodate the existing design rules of utility customers for more intuitive and intelligent utility design.

Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler

The Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler is a productization of the Galileo software that has been in beta in Autodesk Labs for some months. The product addresses the conceptual design workflow that has been clunky at best in the past, with seven or more software packages used at any one firm that address different aspects of sketching, analyzing and visualizing, with workflows that don’t share data readily between software. The design typically has been moved between designers and engineers, and is shared with the client where input received may take weeks before it can be visualized again and shared. Autodesk’s new conceptual design software aims to create, evaluate and communicate infrastructure design projects much more readily, adding greater flexibility and much faster speed to the process.

The product allows you to leverage data you already own and manage, as well as data that is freely available data from the Web, with support for multiple data file formats. Importing the data into the workspace allows you to quickly create a model that can be shared and enhanced over time. The import of such data as land use, road centerlines, parcel boundaries, raster imagery for surfaces and terrain, and draped aerial photography and site plans are accommodated. You can also make full use of the CAD and GIS data that you already have, connecting directly and configuring the visualization for these different data types.

Style catalogs allow you to quickly add detail and tailor your model, changing road and building types by just dragging and dropping. The style pallet also offers models for such things as tunnels and culverts, so that you can save time in creating a concept by avoiding the need to create a detailed 3D design for every element. Attributes from GIS can be combined to generate thematic maps, such as potential environmental impacts on a site.

Using sketch tools, you can design your roads, and a panel keeps track of the road segments that you’ve created as well as other data that you have added. The design environment allows you to sketch proposals, manage alternatives and reuse anything that you’ve created for these preliminary designs with Autodesk’s other design products.

This conceptual design tool also incorporates the ability to view changes over time as well as some analysis functions, such as the ability to look at buffers to understand impacts on existing infrastructure.By incorporating time, you can configure the view to only show assets valid for the timeframe of a project as well as to visualize phased project timelines.

In a briefing, an urban planning or redevelopment scenario was highlighted, where the base model was altered by removing existing dwellings, and a simple 3D block was created as a placeholder. The model was then enhanced with style palette choices such as vegetation and street furniture to enhance the model. Hyperlinks were added in the model to provide more details for individual attributes and to even link out to external web sites. We then saw how the model could be shared in an interactive session with both the design team and client.

With this new tool, timeframe for generating proposals and conceptual 3D designs in context has gone from weeks to hours. The time savings allows design firms to further enhance designs for projects rather than wasting time gathering information and jockeying their design data back and forth among multiple software packages.

AutoCAD Utility Design 2012

Autodesk’s AutoCAD Utility Design product addresses the Smart Grid revolution, and the requirement for a new way of thinking about utility design. The demand for Smart Grid technology is increasing with its increased efficiency and ability to incorporate cleaner power. The changing workforce is also a driver for this product, as it provides a more efficient and comprehensive visualization capability that allows utilities to be more consistent with design.

The new design tool allows one designer to create a design based on their own business rules and to share that with additional designers throughout the organization. The ability to set up these templates for the teams, include document properties, default conductors and poles, coordinate information, and connections to your own data store saves a great deal of time and aids consistency.

Intelligent model-based design allows for clicking on 2D or 3D views to see all attribute data, and to see any changes in either view. There is a validation tab that automatically analyzes the design to make sure the design meets with the design standards, and suggests changes on improving the design to comply better. More than 8,000 rules ship in the product, but they are fully customizable. The rules drive the analysis for checking loads and considering other factors for network analysts.

The ability to integrate with workforce management and material management systems provides a design collaboration hub. The materials editor allows you to pull off a bill of materials for each planned job to help prioritize work, and see costs per parts and per labor. The automatic generation of these bills of materials and construction documentation makes the whole planning and development workflow much more efficient. Model-based design allows you to quickly review the materials list and detailed drawings for review and correction, and with direct links to other systems.

These two new products show that Autodesk is committed to expanding their BIM for Infrastructure offering. Data and data mobility are a key to the process, and after asking a question on whether Autodesk has plans to provide their own data or offer these products as a Software as a Service offering, I was told to stay tuned, indicating that these approaches for wider product accessibility are definitely on the radar.

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