Every software performs well in the lab, but beta testing offers a company crucial insight into how its users interact with the product in real- world settings. In our case, putting Plex.Earth 4 in beta mode was a strategic decision we surely not regret: the invaluable suggestions and feedback we took have been an integral part of the development of the new version.
One of our beta testers, Myles Russel, Senior Civil Coordinator at Farrell's Excavating Limited, got his hands dirty testing our software. He has sent us some great feedback on how Plex.Earth 4 helps him be more productive and efficient in his role. So, we took the chance and kindly asked Myles some questions to get to know him better.
Plex.Earth: Can you tell us some things about you and your work?
Myles Russell: Yes, of course. I am a Civil Engineering Technologist in Newfoundland Canada. I’ve been in this career for 13 years, but I’ve moved into heavy civil construction for 7 years and 4 years in engineering and design. I’ve done everything from concept plans for designs on federal projects to using drones for aerial surveying and hydrologic bulk data processing on sites that were thousands of hectares. Now I’m dealing with GPS robotic machine control heavy equipment systems to help increase efficiencies within Farrell’s Excavating Limited, the company I work for.
Plex.Earth 4 is easy to use, fast, and precise. wERE IT HAVE EXISTED 13 YEARS AGO WHEN i BEGAN MY CAREER, i WOULD HAVE SAVED HUNDREDS OF HOURS OF MONOTONOUS WORK. (mYLES RUSSELL)
Plex.Earth: Being an experienced civil engineering technologist yourself, can you describe the process of bringing imagery into AutoCAD?
Myles Russell: Sure. During my career, I’ve probably imported, scaled and moved hundreds of images into concept drawings and sketches for clients and internal staff. Clients love seeing images in the background, and colleagues find images great. I’m not one to just toss in an unscaled image and match a site sketch to the image. I love having sub-decimeter located images scaled to within the tolerances of our GPS systems. It allows me to ensure layer groups are organized, plots are at the correct scales, and objects are where they are supposed to be, across all our projects. As you can imagine, this long slow process of exporting, combining images and scaling them was very time-consuming and prone to errors.
Doing this in the past involved using clever google maps scripts to extract objects much larger than the browser window, using screen imaging tools like screengrab or just simply using the clipping tool in windows ten. Either way, once I had some images, I had to stich images in photo editing software. Being pixel accurate was a tedious process. The pain didn’t stop there. I’d often have to grab a scale reference from provincial mapping or Google Earth from between two known points across the longest recognizable distance, as the scales on the images were often too inaccurate. After that, I’d have to take survey data of a known location, like a visible building corner or manhole cover, and snap the imported or x-referenced image into C3d, and use that to import the object into the correct georeferenced location in UTM or MTM cor-ordinates. Then once I’ve scaled I was in business. One more than one occasion, I never had enough imagery when plotting. This was very inefficient, but it was what the clients wanted.
Plex.Earth: Having experienced the limits and difficulties of designing with the old methods, how does Plex.Earth change that?
Myles Russel: To begin, I must say, Plex.Earth 4 is a fantastic add-on for AutoCAD Civil 3D. Were this plugin to have existed 13 years ago when I began my career, I would have saved hundreds of hours of monotonous work. Plex.Earth 4 is easy to use, fast, and precise. Bringing in images from Google, Bing (my preferred) and other sources is fast. It does all the heavy lifting and all I had to do was specify my co-ordinate system. From a civil engineering tech specializing in machine control GPS systems, that took me only about 15 seconds to do. With some quick clicks, Google Earth can be matched exactly to the location within Civil 3D and vice versa. With a few more clicks, I can select the quality and rapidly import geo-referenced images directly into my plans.
In my current work, we use aerial drone imagery and mesh imports as well in Civil 3D. Those files are cumbersome to import and reduce as they often contain millions of points per hectare. I use some simple scripts to reduce the data but it is still cumbersome. With Plex.Earth 4, the ability to take mesh files and apply them directly to imagery is a game changer for me.
Without Plex.Earth, I'd currently have to go outside Civil 3D into a 3D modeling program and import that work back into Civil 3D. It takes hours of work.
However, this is only a part of Plex.Earth 4 does amazing.
Plex.Earth: Can you elaborate more on that and tell us about your experience?
Myles Russell: After only a few hours with the software, I’ve found many more powerful functions. From importing georeferenced 3D surfaces into Civil 3D, creating 3D surface meshes with all the detail of Google Earth, rapidly exporting corridors and 3D models into Google Earth, and even importing my own surfaces to the imaged meshes. These powerful tools are a must-have for any Civil 3D user who does concept work, preliminary design work, and project close-out documents. I’m sure there are many other ways to creatively apply the powerful commands within Plex.Earth 4 and I can’t wait to find them!
Interested to find out what the brand new Plex.Earth can also do for you? Try it for free and stay tuned for more!
About Farrell’s Excavating Limited
Farrell’s Excavating Limited has been a heavy civil contractor in Newfoundland for the past twenty-two years and has recently grown into one of the largest on the island. Farrell's plays a major role in the completion of many large provincial and municipal projects that involve the building and paving of many of the provinces main highways and rural roads. (Links: Official website & projects portfolio).