Ok, this has absolutely nothing to do with Civil 3D, civil engineering, and just a little bit about AutoCAD.

Anyways, I watched this cool video by Numberphile (it’s a YouTube channel that deals with numbers and math – or “maths” if your from outside the U.S.).

If you enjoyed it, go subscribe, it’s a great channel!

Anyways, I decided to try this out in AutoCAD and created a parametric drawing that shows this capability. If you would like to try it out yourself, you can download it HERE.

The white lines represent the triangle, the red lines are the medicenter, the yellow lines are the circumcenter, the green lines are the orthocenter, and the blue line goes from the orthocenter to the circumcenter passing through the medicenter.

Euler Line in Blue

Euler Line in Blue

In PART 1 of this series of posts, I showed you how to create a surface in Civil 3D from a shapefile that contained contour data. I also showed you some of the issues with using that command. In this post, I’ll show you how an alternative method for creating a surface from a shapefile. There are pros and cons to this method compared with the previous method:

  • Pros
    • Allows you to use all the data in the shapefile as needed.
    • Gives you control over the weeding and suplementing factors for the surface creation.
    • Allows you to use the correct options for minimizing flat areas.
  • Cons
    • There are a lot of steps to this process.
    • It potentially creates a much larger surface (data wise)

There are a lot of steps to this process so rather then detailing each step like I normally do, I’m going to summarize the steps here and then, if you need more detailed information, you can watch the included video.

  1. Import the shapefile into a drawing as AutoCAD entities (create object data from the shapefile data).
  2. Save the file as a new drawing and close it.
  3. Create a new drawing and attach the drawing with the contours to it via the Map Explorer in the Map Task Pane.
  4. Query the contours from the old drawing into the new drawing altering the elevations of the polylines to the elevation from the shapefile.
  5. Create a new surface.
  6. Add a dataclip boundary to the surface.
  7. Add the contours to the surface as contour data (make sure you toggle on all four minimize flat area options).

And that’s it! This will create a much better surface from your data but it definitely takes a lot longer to do.

So, you have an ESRI Shapfile with contour data in it and you want to create a surface from it. How is this done? Well, honestly, it really isn’t too terribly hard. There are, however, some gotchas you have to be aware of when using the easy method. Part 2 in this series will cover a more involved way of accomplishing this but will give you a much better surface.

Creating Surface

First off, displaying the contours in your drawing, this part is super easy. Simply drag your .shp file from Windows Explorer into you drawing area and it will connect to the .shp file and display it’s contents.

Importing a Shapefile

Importing a Shapefile

This part isn’t necessary but it is a nice way to compare the surface you get from the data you have.

Now, let’s actually create the surface. On the home tab of the Civil 3D Workspace on the ribbon, expand out the Surfaces pulldown and choose “Create Surface from GIS Data”.

Create Surface from GIS Data

Create Surface from GIS Data

This will open up another of the famous Civil 3D Wizards. The first tab allows you to set the properties of your new surface, such as the name, description, style, etc. I recommend not using a style that displays a lot of data. Typically, GIS files have a TON of data in them! You don’t want to unnecessarily overtax your system.

Object Options

Object Options

On the next tab, Connect to Data, you’ll choose the type of data you want to connect to and then the actual data source. Depending on the data type, options within the dialog will become available. In this example, I’m connecting to a shapefile so I choose that option and then browse to the file. Don’t forget to click on the Login button at the bottom (not sure why you need to login to a shapefile but you do).

Connect to Data

Connect to Data

the Schema and Coordinates section simply allows you to choose the data you want to bring in and assign it a coordinate system (if it doesn’t already have one). In this case, I simply toggled on the only data that was available. If you are using something other then a shapefile, you might have additional options here.

Schema and Coordinates

Schema and Coordinates

The Geospatial Query section allows you to choose the area of the data source that you want to create the surface from. In most cases, you don’t want to create a surface from the entire shapefile as that is just overkill. Choose the method you want to select the area and then define the area (it’s pretty straight forward). At the bottom of the dialog, you’ll see two options, Inside and Crossing. In most cases, I’ve found the Crossing option to work better. If you choose Inside, it will only select the objects that are completely inside the area of interest and ignore any that extend beyond it. Since most contours are very long, they’ll extend beyond your boundary and they won’t be selected so make sure to choose the Crossing option.

Geospatial Query

Geospatial Query

Finally, the Data Mapping section. This if one of the most important parts of the dialog. A shapefile is 2d file. This means the lines within the shapefile only have X,Y values, no Z values. The elevation of the contours are then assigned to the objects as a data field. You’ll need to tell Civil 3D which field within the shapefile represents the elevations of the contours.

Data Mapping

Data Mapping

Clicking Finish, Civil 3D then creates the surface, adds the data to it, and displays it in your drawing.

Surface Created

Surface Created

Surface Issues

Now that the surface is created, you should be aware of some issues with creating a surface using this method. First thing, not all the points from your contours are used in creating the surface. There is an automatic weeding being applied to the data that you have no ability to control.

Data Points Weeded Out

Data Points Weeded Out

Whenever you have a surface created from contour data, there is the possibility that flat areas can be created. Civil 3D has the ability to minimize these flat areas. When creating a surface from a shapefile, Civil 3D automatically applies the Minimize Flat Areas edit to your surface but, you can change the settings in this command. Add the problem, you can’t go back and change the settings later, remove the edit to add it back in, or do anything with it. You are stuck with it the way it is. See THIS post for information about the flat areas and what you settings you should use. When creating a surface from a shapefile, the “Swap Edges” option is not used and therefore, creates a less then desirable surface.

Missing Contours

Missing Contours

Ok, so the contours aren’t really missing, they should just follow the data better. In other words, there should be contours in the areas that I’ve pointed out in the image.

For an alternative method of creating the surface from a shapefile, stay tuned for Part 2.

Apparently, this won’t come as a surprise to those that know AutoCAD Architecture but, we can add any property we want to any object in our drawing!

Example Properties on a Featureline

Example Properties on a Featureline

Turns out, it’s a lot easier then you would think.

First thing to do is run the command PROPERTYDATA and go into the “Sets” command line option. This will open up the “Style Manager” dialog box (no, not Civil 3D styles…).

Style Manager

Style Manager

Once in here, simply right click on Property Set Definition, choose New, and name the new style (I named mine “Featureline Curbs”). On the “Applies To” tab on the right, simply select the type of object you want to create a custom property for (I chose a featureline for this example).

Object Type to Add Properties To

Object Type to Add Properties To

Finally, go to the Definition tab and add your new properties. Click the top button on the right side to create the new property, and then simply fill in the data. I created a new property for a featureline that represents a curb so I know what type of curb it is (defaults to “vertical”).

Create New Property

Create New Property

Settings for the new property

Settings for the new property

When you select a featureline now and go into the AutoCAD Properties, you’ll be able to see these new properties and edit them independently for each object. There is a trick, however, to be able to see them. On the Extended Data tab of your properties, you’ll need to select the object (or objects) you want these properties to be assigned to and then click on the button at the bottom of the properties, “Add Property Sets”.

Add Property Sets

Add Property Sets

This will then bring up a dialog box that will allow you to choose the property sets for this (these) object(s). In this example, I only have one but you aren’t limited to just one.

Select Property Sets

Select Property Sets

Now, when you select that line again, and go to the extended properties in your AutoCAD properties, you’ll see those properties.

Property Sets Dislayed

Property Sets Dislayed

Now, comes the fun part, figuring out what we can do with this! If you have any ideas, leave a comment below. Keep in mind, I just found out about these and I haven’t really had much time at all to play around with them yet but they’re there so go start using them!

This question came up the other day in Civil Chat, “Is there any way I can add custom properties to a pressure part in the catalog in such a way that I can add that property to a label?”

The short answer is, “YES”.

To do this, you’ll simply need to edit the catalog in the Content Catalog Editor.

Open the Catalog

To open the catalog, you’ll need to use the Content Catalog Editor. This can be found in the same location in the start menu as whatever version of Civil 3D you are using (provided it’s version 2013 or newer).

Content Catalog Editor in Start Menu

Content Catalog Editor in Start Menu

I always recommend to leave the default files that come with Civil 3D alone when possible. In other words, make a copy of the catalog and then edit the copy. To do this, simply open the catalog and save it as a new catalog. The default catalogs that come with Civil 3D are found at “C:\ProgramData\Autodesk\C3D 2016\enu\Pressure Pipes Catalog\Imperial” (adjust for your version and unit use).

Edit a copy

Edit a copy

Now that you have the catalog open and saved, simply choose the part you want to add the custom properties to. On the right hand side, choose a property that you aren’t using and add the data to that. In this example, I chose the 10″x10″ Tee and I added the custom property to the “Model Name” field.

Custom Property Added to the Part

Custom Property Added to the Part

Once you are done modifying the properties in your catalog, simply save the catalog.

Back in Civil 3D, make sure your drawing is referencing the catalog you just edited. To choose the catalog, go to the Home Tab, expand out the Create Design panel and run the “Set Pressure Network Catalog” command.

Set Pressure Network Catalog

Set Pressure Network Catalog

Once a part from your catalog is created in the drawing, the custom property you set in the catalog can be added to a label, simply edit the label style and add that field to your label. Don’t forget to hit the stupid, little, unlabeled, white arrow (I hate that stupid, little, unlabeled, white arrow)!

Add Field to Label

Add Field to Label

Now that property will show up in your drawing when you label your pressure network!

Finished Label

Finished Label

I’ve always complained about the highlighting of objects in the QTO Manager, they just aren’t obvious enough! Ok, to be honest, I’ve never actually complained about it to anyone but myself and that’s probably why I just found this out.

So, what’s the problem? Well, if you have objects in your drawing that have a pay item assigned to them, you can have the QTO manager highlight them for you. Problem is, they highlighting isn’t very obvious…

Which objects are highlighted?

Which objects are highlighted?

Well, it turns out that you can control how much the objects that aren’t highlighted are faded back. This setting is found in the AutoCAD options on the Display tab in the Fade control section. The variable you want to adjust is the “In-place edit and annotative representations”. I know, duh! Of course that’s where you should look for this!

AutoCAD Options

AutoCAD Options

Change that variable, say to 3o, and this is what your drawing will look like:

Ah! Much better!

Ah! Much better!

Thanks to Cody with ECS in Wyoming for sharing this with me. I love learning things from my students!!!!

 

I need to file this under, “I can’t believe I didn’t know about this one!”

So, here’s the problem: When you go edit a corridor model graphically from the contextual ribbon tab (such as Edit Targets), it’s very difficult to determine which region your cursor is in because the corridor is highlighted and a big blue mess.

How Annoying is This?

How Annoying is This?

What to do? Well, simply change the system variable SELECTIONEFFECT to 0. That’s it!

Much Better!

Much Better!

Yes, this have been around for over a year. Yes, I’ve been complaining about it for over a year. Yes, I feel like a jerk for criticizing Autodesk for making this change and hurting my workflow when they allowed me to change it back.

I found this out thanks to Lynn Allen’s new “2016 Tips and Tricks” booklet. What else is new that you didn’t know about?