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The Technology Benchmark

September 1, 2006
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In addition to selling software to the civil engineering market, Carlson Software of Maysville, Ky., has long filled a niche in the surveying and construction markets with its Autodesk-based SurvCADD software.

As of June 2006, Carlson retired the well-known SurvCADD product line after an 18-year run and released a new set of tools called Carlson Survey 2007 and Carlson Civil 2007. The new offerings provide surveyors and engineers with a considerable number of new tools and enhancements that are specifically customized for these two businesses. Carlson Software is positioning these offerings as complete solutions for those who have AutoCAD as well as augmenting solutions for those using Autodesk's Land Desktop or Civil 3D.

Figure 1. The RoadNet design panel.

Since the name SurvCADD tended to imply surveying-only solutions, the product was retired and Carlson Survey and Carlson Civil were born. According to Jim Carlson, vice president of Carlson Software, the company's new releases focus on two types of customers. "The first is the traditional Carlson customer [who] installs our software on top of AutoCAD and the second customer type is the one who already owns Land Desktop or Civil 3D," Carlson explains. "We don't want to switch those users away from those products; rather, we would like to sell Civil or Survey to them to augment their installations of Land Desktop or Civil 3D. Our software provides many functions that those products don't have and they will likely find production improvements if they have both tool sets."

Since Carlson's software has been around for a long time and has been routinely used for terrain modeling, point creation, alignment and profile design and road design, I will focus solely on the new enhancements in this column.

New Features in Carlson's 2007 Releases

The following new commands for project management and drafting have been added to both Carlson Survey 2007 and Civil 2007:
  • Project Setup allows the user to associate drawings with data and drawing folders.
  • A dialog-driven layer inspector command helps manage and identify layers.
  • New commands assist with drafting functions, including the following abilities:
    • Variably offset polylines segment by segment and copy user-selected portions of polylines that might aid in developing variable curb sections for road layouts.
    • Move text parallel or perpendicular to its current rotation.
    • Slide contour elevation labels along the contours.
    • Insert and modify symbols with new routines.
    • Merge a primary 3D polyline with a secondary 3D polyline where they intersect and allow for vertical curve transitions.
    The following new features have been added to Carlson Survey 2007:
    • SurvNET, a network least squares program, features a new interface as a separate command with an option for graphics view.
    • A 3D face coding function is included for building faces.
    • A "Coordinate History" feature rolls back to previous values of points that were edited.
    • A field-to-finish inspector highlights symbols and linework, and updates them as they are edited.
    • New point attribute capabilities allow users to avoid attribute overlapping and add point leaders.
    • Automatic surface updating occurs when points or breaklines are modified.
    • A "Deed Reader" function creates legal descriptions from drawings as well as drawn property linework generated from the text of legal descriptions.
    • Many new data conversions are included to/from Topcon, Trimble, Leica and Geopak file formats.
    Also, although it is not contained within the survey package, I think it's important for surveyors to note that Carlson has released a new offering called Carlson Point Cloud Software for 3D laser scanners.

    And, finally, Carlson Civil 2007 provides the following features:
    • For 3D grading, a new dialog-driven feature allows users to apply changes to 3D grading objects while still in command, which will aid in producing earthwork balances and allow for object modification on-the-fly. These objects maintain their parameters and remain "alive" while they are being edited.
    • The newest and most heavily touted enhancement is the RoadNet function. This command, which was in development for a couple of years, allows for processing multiple road designs with intersections and cul-de-sacs.
    • The Input-Edit road profile command has been radically improved for dynamic design and editing of profiles. It assists designers by simultaneously showing profile, centerline and section views, and provides editing tools for points of vertical intersection (PVIs). Also related to this command, the enhanced "Draw Profile" and "Draw Section" routines streamline profile and section creation.
    • New mass haul features for calculating optimal earth movement include options to develop borrow pits and stockpiles.
    • In the hydrology package, Carlson now offers SewerNet. In SewerNet, the storm sewer network routines combine hydraulic flow analysis with structure layout and surface watershed modeling to compute drainage areas along with the weighted runoff coefficient and time of concentration.


    Figure 2. Street intersections can be reviewed by the designer using multiple windows.

    Delving into the New Commands

    According to Carlson, "The SewerNet software in the hydrology package produces hydraulic grade lines and assists in pipe sizing. And the survey solution provides a very powerful least squares analysis with automatic cutsheets for construction purposes." He also explains that RoadNet "is an easy-to-use tool that allows for one-command editing of entire intersection regions, roundabouts, and a variety of standard and teardrop cul-de-sacs."

    The data for RoadNet systems are stored in an external .RDN file that contains horizontal and vertical alignments, cross-sectional templates, widening information, and intersection and cul-de-sac design information. All of the output is standard AutoCAD objects such as polylines with elevations for contours, 3D polylines for road features and 3D faces for TIN models. All of the output data is drawn in 3D links with a data collector (such as the Carlson SurvCE) for stakeout work. It can also be sent directly to 3D/GPS machine control equipment.

    The RoadNet design panel allows for identifying the components of the subdivision. Figure 1 on page 58 shows the design panel and that entire subdivisions can be designed as a single processing task. Figure 2 above shows that street intersections can be reviewed by the designer using the multiple windows. Points of intersection (PIs) can be created or modified with vertical curves on-the-fly allowing efficient redesign of street intersections or cul-de-sacs. Figure 3 on page 61 shows a post-processed 3D design.

    Figure 3. A post-processed 3D design.

    Additional Advantages

    In addition to the new commands, Carlson discussed a few more advantages and benefits of the 2007 releases. "Even though we have named these products Civil 2007 and Survey 2007, they will actually work on AutoCAD versions back to 2000," he says. "I recently installed Civil 2007 on a customer's AutoCAD 2000 and it worked very well. Our single installation CD will allow users to install the software on AutoCAD 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 as well as the various versions of Land Desktop and Civil 3D."

    This software can be networked, which includes a 10 percent premium, but Carlson says that users will save money when purchasing these new packages. "We reduced the price of these solutions while simultaneously adding powerful new functionality," he says. "For instance, we have a suite price for all our new Carlson 2007 office software [that] includes Carlson Survey 2007, Carlson Civil 2007, Carlson Hydrology and Carlson GIS for $3,500, so the customer's costs actually went down."

    Overall, the most significant aspect of Survey 2007 and Civil 2007 that Carlson wishes to stress is that its customers will not lose any functionality with the new releases. "In fact," Carlson says, "they are gaining significant new tools and abilities. We want to assure our existing surveying SurvCADD user base that these two new products contain everything they had from the SurvCADD modules. Plus, the Carlson Survey 2007 now includes the new SurvNET Networked Least Squares [program] from the C&G "˜Muddy Boots' guys. And Carlson Civil includes the new and very powerful RoadNET program for the civil engineers."

    Because of the increasing sophistication of these new releases, Carlson Software has expanded training offerings. In addition to manufacturer- and dealer-offered training, Carlson has authorized OutSource Inc. as a Carlson Training Center. OutSource Inc. provides a complete mobile classroom that can be shipped nationwide to provide onsite training at customer locations. For more information, E-mail Info@Cyberneers.com.

    Sidebar: Conversation with a Customer

    In addition to the manufacturer's position, I also wanted to share insight from a Carlson software user. Since the 2007 releases were just shipping as I was writing this article, I couldn't interview users of these new products. However, I did talk to Ned Marshall, LS, a long-time user of Carlson software who is planning to upgrade shortly to the new release. Marshall is vice president of The Engineering Groupe, a 150-person firm located in Virginia that offers planning, surveying and engineering services on residential, commercial and public projects.

    Currently, The Engineering Groupe uses SurvCADD for all of the company's disciplines. "SurvCADD allows us to use a single program with one interface and a consistent data set throughout the company and in all facets of operations from field to planning to design and back to field again," Marshall says. "Because we use consistent software throughout the process, with a single set of code libraries, our staff can be more productive on any given day." The Engineering Groupe's clients are increasingly working in three dimensions, so all staff are currently being trained to use SurvCADD tools for layout and design in 3D.

    "We have been using Carlson software for [more than] 10 years and plan on upgrading to the Carlson Civil and Survey within the next six months," Marshall says. "We look forward to the new features in the software such as RoadNet and SurvNet. Being able to generate lot files from interior points is a function that saves steps over our current process. And the auto updating of surfaces is a feature that we expect will save time in production." Marshall strongly believes that his firm's use of Carlson software from field to finish has aided its productivity.

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