It seems that this discussion was not that popular... Let me try put some information.
I'm currently working in a Civil Engineering Firm that is trying to bring BIM concepts into Infrastructure design. When I was hired they already choose the Autodesk ecosystem (Civil3D, Revit, Autocad, Navisworks) and now I'm trying to put the pieces together via excel and Revit macros. I'm a Architect/building engineer and I'm learning day after day what are the requirements of Civil engineers.
So far I saw the following tasks:
- terrain surface and stratigraphy modeling (both as a series of open meshes and solids); we had little luck with Civil 3D geotechnical module (not sure what went wrong), but the idea of getting those surfaces starting from survey boreholes (CSV file with locations and depth of every strata) was great; also the need to import point clouds (XYZ,asc) to make terrain surfaces is frequent for us;
- Excavation and elevation volumes calculation (need to know how much terrain has to be excavated and how much of it will be used for elevations nearby)
- Infrastructure alignments - alignment points - profiles: usually the alignment is the track of the road/railway/tunnel drawn in 2D (starting from a given km), then the profile describes the elevation (of the track, the terrain and/or geotechnical informations); combining the two informations you can build a 3D track/terrain profile (or the other way around); points can be specified in relation to the alignment (again using the defined starting km as offset) or with coordinates (and can be extracted via a spreadsheet); We found useful to insert points with a certain offset (left or right) from the alignment, and using an import feature that reads a text file/CSV with the km on the alignment, the offset from the alignment and the elevation of the point.
- where no more accurate data are available, we would like to extrude the profiles along the normals of the alignment, just to have some surfaces/solids to work on (this is the case of a tunnel where we want to know more or less the quantity of a certain type of terrain excavated)
- In a linear infrastructure (especially tunnels) the quantity takeoff can be tied to both time and distance from starting point, resulting in a 4D information (and 5D if you add the costs). The problem we face with navisworks is that quantities and timeliner seems to be two separate worlds; we use another (non autodesk) application for the bill of quantities (starting form IFC files) that can output quantites for any given month if we feed it with a schedule (or with the time needed for a unit of work).
- If I understand correctly Civil 3D has tools to help you choose the best alignment (= with the least amount of earthwork needed) starting from a base alignment (an I suppose some other constraint).
- WBS creation: our clients gives us an Autocad 3d model and some rules to split it to generate WBS units; then we have to name them (using a defined scheme) and get out some information such as the volume of concrete or earth needed; those units are the starting point for a more detailed modeling and design, and can be used for a preliminary schedule to get 4D and 5D estimations
- All sorts of FEM analysis (still an unexplored territory for me)...
I've tried FreeCAD for some personal little works only, and I don't know if any of these things are already possible or can be done with little coding.
One of the problems we face is the ability to read the formats that clients provides us and return something that they can read/use.. Most of the time is 2D cad drawings (and unfortunately sometime they want DWGs) and a 3d model (more often a construction sequences video).