In the 1980s engineering was wowed by line drawings produced using computer aided design software packages. Come the 1990s, more sophisticated and intelligent objects emerged.
Enter the noughties and CAD has moved on to encompass GIS mapping and 3D civil engineering design.
The versatility of today's software can be seen with Autodesk's Civil 3D, launched earlier this year, which can take survey points measured in the eld to build up accurate drawings onto which other trades can add information.
In the simple example of a new road project this means engineers on site can feed real co-ordinates into a drawing and designers can use them to develop prospective routes while utilities engineers can map out drainage underground services.
The package also includes a project management tool to help facilitate this.
'The main benet is that if one line is changed, everything moves with it, ' explains Civil 3D technical sales manager Jack Strongitharm.
Alternatively, technicians can trace over existing maps or import survey drawings complete with contours. 'It means that very quickly, you can start producing cross sections and start calculating volumes, ' adds Strongitharm.
The software has most recently been used by consultant Duffy chartered engineers in Ireland for the Carlingford Four Seasons Hotel development, which required the construction of surface water run-off storage ponds. Using Autodesk Civil 3D it was possible to demonstrate clearly to the architect and client how modications to the overall design could achieve best value from the necessary excavation and earth moving.
'Client satisfaction is of course paramount, ' says Duffy senior civil and trafc engineer Gary Barron. 'Being able to show attractive 3D models helps to rule out any misconceptions.
'That can contribute in many respects to the ability to achieve the ever-tight turnaround times that are being required of contracts today. In fact, visualisation can make a contribution to progress on a project that is just as signicant as speeding up or automating the engineering design work.' He adds that the software's ability to carry through design changes across all layers in the model is particularly useful. 'It enables professional skills to be deployed more usefully than by change tracking and error correction.'