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Innovations in 3-D modeling earn Brandon Kimble "Design Employee of the Year" honors

02/27/2014

3-d_ modeling_Final_PicPeople “see” things in different ways. For Brandon Kimble, design technician specialist in the Office of Design, that vision comes in three dimensions.


Brandon Kimball FINAL 1.6.14 DSC_1298

Kimble, named the Office of Design outstanding employee for 2013 on Jan. 27, has been working with the use of animation and three-dimensional modeling since his college days in the late 1990s. “When I came to the Iowa DOT in 1999, I worked in the section designing the upgrade to Interstate 235. I was interested in using 3-D modeling, but it wasn’t a direction the agency was going, so I just did a little work on it when I had time.”

Kimble said that over the years he kept working on projects where he would introduce 3-D modeling into the plan process. He said, “I’ve always been into 3-D. It’s just a better representation of the data. How can you engineer something when you can’t visualize it? When Mike Kennerly became our office director, he saw the value that modeling could bring to making better plans. About five years ago I started doing modeling full time.”

The change that allowed the Iowa DOT to focus on 3-D modeling came with an upgrade in software, spearheaded by Kimble as a beta tester for the manufacturer. Brian Smith, Kimble’s supervisor, said, “Initially Brandon studied documentation of the software and worked through its use by trial and error. With great diligence on his part, he was able to learn the new software inside and out.”

Once Kimble understood the use and value of 3-D, he had to sell the concept to his team in the Office of Design. Smith said, “While trying to improve the modeling of complicated areas like intersection and ramp returns and bridge berms, Brandon found holes and errors in our standard drawings. These details made modeling difficult. He worked with our methods section, which develops and maintains those standards and details, to revise existing standards and add new ones.”

Next, Kimble developed a library of standard cross section elements and procedures for using them. With the new processes and details in place, Kimble completely documented the changes and began training others. Smith said, “Brandon assisted with basic training on the technology and also gave several targeted and advanced classes to show people how to use the new tools and processes that he developed. The office is now nearly 100 percent converted to the new process, thanks in large part to Brandon’s hard work and perseverance.”

The benefits of modeling are numerous. Kimble said, “All the engineering data is presented in a visual format where it tends to make more sense to more people. On a job site, we can export the data directly to the computer in a piece of equipment instead of an operator having to input the data manually from a set of plans. This eliminates the risk of inputting errors saving time and money.”

Because the plans can be downloaded directly into a piece of equipment, the electronic plans are easier for contractors to use, too. “Many of our contractors have machine guidance for their equipment. When we gave them a paper plan, they would have to hire a consultant to translate the paper into an electronic format for the equipment. We have greatly streamlined the process for contractors’ utilization of machine guidance.”

Another use of the technology is presenting concepts to the public in a visual way. Kimble was recently tasked to come up with a visual representation of traffic movements through a J-turn intersection, a relatively new concept to Iowa. “We were able to put together a detailed video of what traffic would look like going through the J-turn,” said Kimble. “Instead of having to imagine how the intersection would work, the public was able to see exactly how traffic would move.”

Here are a couple of of Kimbles’s videos -

 

 

 

Kimble notes that the Iowa DOT is now seen as a leader in developing plans using modeling. “Other states are using modeling, but not at the scale that we are here in Iowa,” said Kimble. “The industry is really pushing this and consultants have been doing it for awhile, but we’re really one of the lead DOTs in the process.”

 


Iowa highway in the evening