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?

It’s an exciting time of year for all of us Civil Software Geeks, new software is coming out and we get to see the new and exciting things in the latest release. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out my recap of What’s New in InfraWorks 2016.1. I just downloaded the latest release of Civil 3D 2016 and there are several things that are new. Here are the things in this release and the bold ones are the ones I’ll be discussing:

  • Manage data shortcuts to repair broken shortcuts and replace DWG objects
  • Display vault project objects that exist in subfolders within object type
  • Create data references to objects that exist in different vault projects
  • Import and export IFC (Industry Foundation Class) files
  • Select alignments by layer to be used as width and targets
  • Control the direction of sections in section views
  • Subbassembly Composer loop geometry support
  • Create exclusionary catchments
  • Crossing pipe and pressure pipe profile view labels
  • Pressure pipe labels in section views
  • Import Bridges from InfraWorks into Civil 3D

Just because I’m not discussing them here doesn’t mean they aren’t great improvements, it’s just that I haven’t installed Vault 2016 yet and I haven’t had a chance to learn what an IFC file is yet.

Oh, one more thing before I get started, NO DRAWING FORMAT CHANGE! That’s right, 2016 has the same drawing format as 2013. They’ve broken the 3 year cycle on changing the drawing format.

Manage Data Shortcuts

This one is sweet! Ever have a drawing move or have IT move data to a different drive? I know what you’re thinking, “Brian! They would never do that!” Yeah right. Anyways, this command allows you to repath your data references to a new drawing or to the original drawing if it moved on you. Not only that, you can replace an object in your drawing with a data reference and all the references to that original drawing are maintained!

Manage Data References

Manage Data References

Another fantastic thing that isn’t advertised in the “What’s New”, YOU DON’T HAVE TO SAVE PRIOR TO CREATING DATA SHORTCUTS!!!!!!

Data Shortcuts Without Saving

Data Shortcuts Without Saving

Alignment Targets By Layer

If you have several alignments that a corridor region needs to target, you can now choose the targets by layer.

Alignment Targets By Layer

Alignment Targets By Layer

Section View Display Direction

Section Views have finally caught up to Profile Views, they can be drawing “Right to Left” or “Left to Right”. This should make all those hydraulic modelers happy!

Section View Direction

Section View Direction

Subassembly Composer Loop

Have you needed to put benches in your daylight or a series of walls or something else repetitive in your subassembly? New in 2016, you can now add a loop component that will continue until either a criteria is met or a maximum number of iterations has been done (this keeps it from blowing up on you).

Subassembly Loop

Subassembly Loop

Exclusionary Catchments.

I’ve always liked the idea of creating catchments (or drainage areas or drainage basins or whatever term they use in your area) in Civil 3D from a surface but the problem has always been, but what if I need to subdivide this large basin into smaller ones? For example, I have a road with inlets at a low point and so I create a catchment to that inlet but, the flow in the street is too big. What do you do? You add an inlet upstream and then define a catchment to it. Now in 2016, this new catchment area will be removed from the original catchment so you won’t have duplicate areas!

First Catchment Added

First Catchment Added

Additional Catchment Added

Additional Catchment Added

Crossing Pipe Labels

We’ve been asking for this one for a LONG time and it’s finally here! We can label the a pipe where it crosses in a profile view!

Crossing Pipe Label

Crossing Pipe Label

In the image you can also see the different crossing properties that you can place in your label.

Pressure Pipe Labels in Section Views

In addition to being able to label pressure pipes crossing in a profile view, you can also label them crossing in a section view as well.

Pressure Pipe Crossing Section

Pressure Pipe Crossing Section

Import Bridges from InfraWorks

So, you have InfraWorks 360 with the Roads and Highways and the Bridge tools and you’ve created a nice bridge in InfraWorks. When you import that model into Civil 3D 2016, the bridge comes along as well now!

Bridge from InfraWorks into Civil 3D

Bridge from InfraWorks into Civil 3D

So, what do you think of Civil 3D 2016?

So, you like to use the Bearing and Distance command while drafting in Civil 3D you say? Well, you might want to be aware of a little inconsistency in the command depending on how you run it.

Rick Ellis over at Cadapult Software Solutions (the author of the Civil 3D book we use here at CAD-1) pointed this out to me and I thought it would warrant a blog post. Thanks Rick!

So, here’s the problem, two lines drawn from the same location using the Bearing and Distance transparent command end up with different bearings depending on how you run the Bearing and Distance command.

Different Results, Same Input

Different Results, Same Input

So, what did I do differently? Well, the bottom line I drew using the Bearing and Distance command by typing ‘BD at the command line (don’t forget the apostrophe). The top line I drew it using the Bearing and Distance command from the Transparent Commands Toolbar (by default on the right side of your drawing area).

This will make more sense if I explain what it is I typed. I start the line command and snap to the center of the circle. I then invoke the Bearing and Distance transparent command using one of the methods listed above (repeat with the other method). I then type “1” for the quadrant, “45.4545” for the bearing, and “100.00” for the distance.

Same input different results

Same input different results

That’s great and all but, which one is wrong? Well, technically, they are both right, they’re just different. When ‘BD is typed at the command line, and you input 45.4545 for the bearing, it sees that as 45o45’45”. when you use the Bearing and Distance command from the toolbar, you are actually using the ‘_BD command and it returns a bearing of 45.4545o which, as you can see in the video, works out to be about 45o27’16”. Neither is wrong, they’re just different.

Here is a video with commentary that I made if you want some additional clarification:

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,095 other followers