I love this time of year. The leaves are changing or already gone, I’m getting geared up for Autodesk University, and there are new tools being released for the software I know and love. On October 28th, Autodesk released a new tool for AutoCAD Civil 3D 2012 for their subscription customers called, “Volumes Dashboard Extension for Civil 3D 2012″. To get it, log onto the subscription site and choose “Access Your Subscription Benefits” then click on the Download link for your “Subscription Advantage Packs and other Autodesk product enhancements”.

I just downloaded it today and after playing around with it for a few minutes I can’t help but think to myself, this tool is great! I’ve often complained about the volume tools in Civil 3D how they aren’t permanent when you run them, they don’t create reports (you have to copy paste), and what’s up with that net graph thing at the end?

Current Volume Tools

To access the new tools (once you have installed them), go to the Toolbox on your Toolspace and expand out “Subscription Extension Manager”.  Double click on the tool and the new volume dashboard opens up in the same window (the Panorama) but it is new and cool and totally awesome!

New Volumes Dashboard

One of the nice things about this tool, is it allows you to work off volume surfaces so it’s permanent. In the old tools, once you calculated the volume and closed the tool, you lost your numbers. In this new tool, it’s simply pointing to your volume surfaces.

If you already have a volume surface in your drawing, you can add it to the list by using the first button along the top.

Add Volume Surface

If you haven’t created the volume surface yet, you can use this tool to create one for you. The second button on the list is where you will go for this.

Create a Volume Surface

Once the surfaces have been created and added to your dashboard, you will start to see the simple beauty of this tool. In this example I’ve added four different volume surfaces to the dashboard and it is revealing to me the total balance of the site (as you can see, I have a bit of cut going on here so far).

Surfaces Added to Dashboard

Now the fun begins. You can toggle on and off the different surfaces to be used in the calculation. In this case, I’m doing a bunch of excavating for the pond but, what about the roads? I need to know how much dirt I’m moving for them. Simply toggle off the surface for the pond and you’ll see the difference (I’m much closer to a balance point when you don’t take into consideration the pond).

Select only necessary surfaces

Now that we have the surfaces in the dashboard, perhaps you are only interested in the volume of a certain part of the project. In this case, I only want the west half of one of the roads. The third icon along the top will allow you make a bounded volume calculation. You need to have a polyline already in the drawing for this to work.

Adding a Bounded Volume

Have you ever had a site that had different cut and fill factors? A good example is structural back fill areas vs. landscaped areas. Well, you’ll love this tool because you can apply different factors to the different regions and it will total the volume up for you.

With a little bit of playing around, you can also add parcels as the boundary object. Select the area label of the parcel and it will add it. Honestly, I’m not sure I would use this option as parcels tend to be fleeting objects. Editing parcel segments has a tendency to remove and recreate parcels through the process. If a parcel is removed and then recreated, it will no longer act as a boundary to the surface. I’m not saying don’t use them, I’m just not sure yet. It’ll take a bit more investigation on my part.

Now that you have the volumes calculated, you can simply create a report for it. The sixth button along the top after the delete and recalculate buttons (those are pretty self explanatory) creates your report.

Generate Report

One of the nice things about this tool, it will only report on the surfaces or the bounded areas of the surfaces that you have selected. I created a report for the surfaces I’ve been using and I simply copied it from Internet Explorer and pasted it here:

Volume Summary
Name Type Cut Factor Fill Factor 2d Area(Sq. Ft.) Cut(Cu. Yd.) Fill(Cu. Yd.) Net(Cu. Yd.)
 Pond Volumes  full  1.000  1.000  235554.12  149245.67  898.02  +148347.66
 West Region of North Roadway  bounded  1.000  1.150  58491.59  1689.66  1407.99*  +281.67*
 East Region of North Roadway  bounded  1.000  1.230  93401.53  1203.19  3006.66*  -1803.47*
 Intersection  full  1.000  1.000  12031.25  0.00  4149.63  -4149.63
 Totals
2d Area(Sq. Ft.) Cut(Cu. Yd.) Fill(Cu. Yd.) Net(Cu. Yd.)
 Total  399478.50  152138.52  9462.30*  +142676.23*
* Value adjusted by cut or fill factor other than 1.0

For my money, it doesn’t get much better than this. It’s super simple but amazingly powerful.

Note: After creating this post, I noticed the table is getting cut off due to width limitations in the blog. Here is a screen capture of the raw data of the report:

Report Output

Last, and certainly least (yes, you read that right, this is the least), you can place a summary of the volume calculations into your drawing.

Insert Volume Summary into Drawing

This will place a summary of the volumes into your drawing. Don’t get too excited, it doesn’t come in as a dynamic object like what we have all gotten used to in Civil 3D. In fact, it doesn’t even come in as an AutoCAD Table or even MTEXT. It comes in as an unnamed block. Explode the block and you get individual lines and pieces of text.

Cut/Fill Summary Exploded and Selected

I guess they thought they got away with this sort of thing with the QTO tools they could get away with it here. I’m really hoping this is just a temporary thing. Anyways, I’m glad they didn’t hold the tool back because they didn’t have a dynamic drawing label.

I hope you learned something new here and I hope this has encouraged you to go download this cool new tool. Have fun!