So, Civil 3D 2013 is just around the corner and I wanted to let you all know a few of my favorite things in this release.


Well, I can’t really comment on the performance yet as I haven’t had much chance to push the software around but, if you listen to those in the know, they’ve made some serious improvements to the performance.


There are some major improvements to the survey tools in this release. In fact, there is an entire new tab on the ribbon for your survey tools. What’s the big thing? Querying your survey database. One of the things I’ve always found awkward about the survey database is the disconnect between it and the drawing. With this release you can query your survey database and add the results of the query directly to a surface. If you add additional data to the survey database that matches the query, when you rebuild your surface, it will update (in my testing, the surfaces wasn’t marked as out of data if the survey database changed).

Survey Query

Survey Query Ribbon Tab

Now that’s pretty cool and really useful for surveyors but, there is also the ability to create a line label, WITHOUT A LINE! How many times have I been asked if you can do this? I’ve lost count and now I’ll be able to say, YES!

Line Between Two Points Label

Basically this tool creates a phantom line that is labeled. Grab the label and you can adjust the points it’s labeling between.


I’m an engineer. Why did I get into engineering? I wanted to drive trains. Three years into college and I realize that I won’t be driving any trains (I was wondering what statics had to do with trains) but now with Civil 3D 2013, I can design rail lines. There are new alignment types and settings (I’ve seen many times on the discussion groups people asking about Degree of Curvature and now we have it). Honestly, I’ve not done much with the rail tools in 2013 so I’ll leave that for someone else to write up (at least for now).

Rail Cant

The corridor creation has a new dialog box that makes it a bit easier. It’s a small improvement but hey, I’ll take anything they’ll give me. The assemblies have had some very nice improvements. When you add a subassembly to another subassembly, it will detect the correct side that it’s on for you so you don’t have to constantly change the sides as you are creating the assembly. Additionally, you can replace an existing subassembly in an assembly as well as insert a subassembly between two subassemblies.

Insert Subassemblies


The Volume Dashboard Extension is now a part of the program. If you have checked out this great tool, check out the write up I did on it earlier HERE.

One thing that I always struggled with is when you need to cut out one surface at the limit of another surface. Not a difficult task but if you change these surfaces, the process for adding the boundary again is very manual in nature. Now you can simply add one surface as a hide boundary to another surface (be careful not to get into a circular reference issue).

Surface as Hide Boundary

Pressure Networks

Yup, you heard me. You can now model pressure networks in Civil 3D 2013. There is a brand new type of object, a Pressure Network. It has it’s own parts lists and everything. Bends, tees, crosses, valves, etc are all available for you to add to your network. This is a pretty big addition to Civil 3D and I haven’t had a lot of time to get down and dirty with this yet so stay tuned for more posts on this topic as I learn the ins and outs of this.

Hopefully you’ve seen something here that makes you go, “Oooh! I can use that!”

Just today I learned that there is a new tool up on Autodesk Labs called, “Project Silverstar”. The name means nothing to me but what this tool does is it will optimize your profile for you. Basically, you upload your existing ground profile and a series of offset profiles to the Autodesk Cloud, put in a few parameters, it chugs away in the “Cloud” and it returns to you the optimum profile for your alignment.

This is the first tool that I’m aware of that uses cloud computing to assist you in your design specifically for the Civil Engineering market from Autodesk. If you were at AU2011, I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about “The Cloud”, well, Civil 3D now has the power of the Cloud.

As I just heard about this tonight, I haven’t had a chance yet to really try it out. Look for a post next week to see my take on how well this tool works.

So, Rick over at Simply Civil 3D just posted about calculating volumes between two profiles. Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the method he offered, I’m just going to offer a different solution.

Now, first off, you can’t calculate the volume between two profiles, Rick’s solution was to calculate the volume between two surfaces along an alignment and the two profiles are surface profiles of these two surfaces. You can calculate the area between two profiles but if all you have is profiles, you can’t calculate a volume. That being said, here is an alternative method to the problem.

Here’s the situation. I have an alignment and two surfaces and I want to know the volume between the two surfaces within 25′ of the alignment. Simply offset the alignment left and right 25′. When you offset an alignment, you’ll get a polyline. Draw line segments that close off the polyline and join it all into one closed polyline.

Next, we need to have something to calculate the volume from. Create a volume surface that uses the two surfaces that were used to create the profiles.  If you aren’t sure how to create a volume surface, click HERE. Once you have the volume surface created, you can calculate Bounded Volumes (Analyze Tab, Volumes and Materials Panel). It will ask you to select the volume surface and the bounding polyline and then will report the results at the command line. You can then copy and paste this as text into your drawing. The advantage to this method is it’s quick and easy to do. The advantage to Ricks method is the table that is created will dynamically update if the surfaces change and it will allow for the creation of a Mass Haul diagram.

Yes, I know Civil 3D 2012 is coming out soon and yes, I’ll probably post about the tools that I think will be the most beneficial (I’ll let everyone else post the “Hey! Civil 3D 2012 is coming out!” posts) but sometimes things slip through the cracks and you find out there are cool new things available for what you already have.

Now, my question is; How did I miss this? Did this just come out? I did a search online and I can only find one reference to this outside of the Autodesk website so I’m assuming this is something really new (please correct me if I’m wrong). I probably missed it because of all of the focus on the announcements of the new AutoCAD Civil 3D 2012 that will be coming out soon.

One of the fine folks I follow on Twitter just posted a link to the Transportation Extension for AutoCAD Civil 3D 2011. I had never heard of such a thing so I went investigating and I found some really cool tools are available to everyone that has Civil 3D 2011. It’s not on the subscription site so I’m pretty sure it’s for everyone. Go to the home page for Civil 3D ( and click on the Support link, and then the Utilities and Drivers link (a direct link to the page can be found HERE). Under AutoCAD Civil 3D 2011, you’ll see something called, “AutoCAD Civil 3D Transportation Extension”.

“What is this?” you may ask yourself, well, let me tell you what I’ve found out so far. It seems to be a bunch of additional tools that will run on top of Civil 3D 2011, and there looks to be some great tools in here. Allow me to list them for you and then later I will get into greater detail about them (at least the ones I’ve figured out so far):
1) Check Alignment Geometry
2) Quick Cross Section
3) Surface High/Low Points
4) Import Raw Data
5) Create Surface from Photogrammetric Data
6) Export Civil Data
7) Show/Hide Labels
8) Export Layout to DGN
9) Eleven New Reports (according to the readme)

Transportation Extension Tools

That’s a lot of cool stuff they’ve given away for free (remember, this isn’t on the subscription website). So, let’s take a peek at what these tools will do.

1) Check Alignment Geometry

Have you ever created an alignment from existing entities and later found that those lines and curves that you received from the planner or surveyor or whoever weren’t tangent? Well, worry no more. This is a great little tool. In testing it, I created a polyline with a line segment, a tangent curve off the end of it, and then a line from the end of the curve that I drew so it looked tangent to the curve, but wasn’t actually tangent. I created an alignment from this polyline and then ran this tool on the newly created alignment. After running the command, it prompts you to select the alignment and then asks you to “Enter gap tolerance”. I’m not exactly sure what the gap tolerance is but probably has something to do with gaps in the alignment. There is no help so I can’t do any research on it and the little bit of testing I’ve done has helped me figure it out either. Next, it’s going to ask you to “Enter angle tolerance”. Again, I’m not exactly sure what the angle tolerance means but every time I’ve run it, I’ve used the default setting and it does something. So, what does it do to our example of a non-tangent line connected to an arc? Well, it makes them tangent. In addition to that, it place a PI at the point of intersection of the two lines (very convenient).

Alignment Check

2) Quick Cross Section

This is an interesting one and I’m not sure how useful it will be but, I’ll explain what I know about it. The Quick Cross Section command works very similarly to the Quick Profile command. I want to see what my cross sections will look like (real quickly) created from a line between here and there. Well, run the command and it will create them for you, all you need is a drawing with a surface in it. Once the command is run, it will prompt you for the surfaces you want to display in the sections and then it will prompt you for “Enter an option [3p/Multi]”. I haven’t tested the 3p option yet but Multi will allow you to pick points on the screen that will basically define the alignment you want to create the sections for. It will then prompt you for the sampling interval, the left and then the right swath width and where you want the sections to be displayed in the drawing. After you have entered that, a dialog box will be displayed that will ask you for the appropriate styles, Section Style, Section View Style, and Band Style Set (apparently there is no option for labels). Once you hit OK, the sections will be displayed in your drawing. Like a Quick Profile, the Quick Cross Sections are temporary. Unlike the Quick Profile, the Quick Cross Sections will immediately disappear when you end the command, rendering it (in my opinion) fairly useless.

Quick Cross Sections

3) Surface High/Low Points

This command looks pretty cool. It will analyze a surface and place points at the high points and at the low points. You can then use the Low Point points as the starting point for the Catchment Area command. Basically, just run the command, and then select the area of the surface you want to be analyzed (if you want it to analyze the entire surface, just hit enter). It will also create two point groups, one for the high point points and one for the low point points (pretty convenient, huh?). You can then use these point groups to control the display (as well as the description) of the points.

High/Low Points

High/Low Points

4) Import Raw Data

I wasn’t able to test this one out as I didn’t have any file types that would be needed for this command to work but, here is what I THINK it will do. It will take a Star*Net .dat file and convert it into a fieldbook file (for more information on Star*Net click HERE). From the import dialog box, there seem to be quite a few options.

Import Raw Data

5) Create Surface from Photogrammetric Data

This one looks cool. I haven’t tested it out completely yet but, basically run the command and it will ask you what layer your data is on. Select the layers for both the linework and the point data (you have to give them names), select the surface you want to add them to (or have it create a new surface for you) and you’re done. I tested it with a bunch of contours and it didn’t give me the option to minimize flat faces (apparently they didn’t think that you could use this for contour data).

Create Surface from Photogrammetric Data

It appears there seems to be a slight issue with the dialog box. The bottom of it is cut off and no matter how you re-size the dialog, it doesn’t seem to fix it. If you are familiar with creating surfaces in Civil 3D, you shouldn’t have any trouble figuring out what is being cut off.

6) Export Civil Data

This is another one that I haven’t been able to test out as I don’t have any survey equipment. According to the readme file that comes with the extension, “Export Civil Data (to survey formats – RD5 and TP5) – enables users to export Civil 3D alignments, profiles, and corridors to a TDS .rd5 roadway file and/or .tp5 template file.” The dialog box asks you to select the Alignment, Profile, and (or?) the Corridor and it will create the .rd5 and the .tp5 files for you.

Export Civil Data

7) Show Hide Labels

This is another one of those tools that looks pretty cool. Have you ever been looking at a drawing and though to yourself, “Man, I wish I could just get rid of those labels temporarily. It sure would make it easier to see what was going on!”  Well, now you can. Simply run this command and the select the label types you want to hide and the ones you want to no longer be hidden. There’s even an option at the top to hide all labels or show all labels. Pretty slick in my opinion.

Show/Hide Labels

8) Export Layout to DGN

Pretty self explanatory here I would assume. It allows you to export a layout tab to a .dgn file. Again, I can’t truly test this one as I don’t have Microstation installed and I don’t have a “seed file”. It seems straight forward though. It will export each sheet (or just the ones you select) from a Sheet Set Manager file (.dst) to a .dgn file

Export Layout to DGN

9) New Reports

According to the read-me, there are 11 new reports. Well, I have no reason to doubt that but, when you install it, there is a new report category and it only shows one new report so the other new reports must be included in the other report categories somewhere (I don’t have a list of them or of the originals that come with C3D to compare my current list to). The one that does show up (Corridor->Slope Stake Report) is pretty slick as it will actually display the cross sections in the report for a visual confirmation of the data.

Slope Stake Report

Wrap Up

As I said, there are some pretty cool new tools here so go out and try it for yourself. Let me know what you think, what reports you like that are new with this, etc. Also note that when you download it, you can also download the CalTrans Content Kit after you install these tools. Looks like I may have another post to write up about that.

Had a great call this afternoon, someone was trying to take a surface profile and get the station and elevation data from that profile into an excel file. At first I thought, “Easy! Just use the toolbox and create a report!” but, do you think I would be writing this post if it was that easy? Nope, don’t think so.

Apparently, the reporting tools only work on layout profiles and don’t work on surface profiles, even if the update mode for the profile is set to static. You could probably find some way of converting a surface profile to a layout profile. The solution we came up with is a two step process.

1) Create points along the alignment from the profile. We did this using the Points->Create Points – Alignment->Profile Geometry Points command from the Home tab on the ribbon:

Select the alignment and the surface profile.

2) Create a report of the points. This is done through the Toolbox tab of the Toolspace. The report we ran was under the Points->Station Offset to Points.

This report will ask you for the points and the alignment that the station value will be calculated from. The report created will have both the station and elevation in it, simply copy the data out of the report and paste it into Excel, removing the columns you don’t need once in Excel.

Thanks to Bryan and the rest of the people in the Tetra Tech office in Lognmont for always coming up with decent challenges for me!

So, I was reading The Swamp and came across a post about getting an alignment station/offset label to draw a line over to the alignment. There were a few options  but I came up with my own solution and I would like to share it here with all of you.

So, This is what the user wants the labels to look like (I drew this up myself so if you think it looks sloppy, the blame lies solely on me):

You can do this with a station label and just have it add the line and then the text but, what if you need to adjust the labels so they are farther from the alignment? Or on the other side? Well, this is what you get:

(select the image to see the animation)

So, what did I do? To start off with, I used a station/offset label with a line component. In this post, I’m going to focus on the line itself and not necessarily the text. Create a new label style, delete everything (I like to start out fresh) and add in a line component. The line will attach middle center of the feature as there is nothing else to attach to at this point. The end of the line will be calculated so don’t specify an ending point.

Now, to control the length and the rotation of the line, we have to create a couple expressions. The length of the line is determined by the offset value of the label location but, the length of the line is also dependent on the drawing scale. If the scale changes, the length of the line changes. I’m going to use a technique I wrote about in an earlier blog post HERE to avoid the length of the line changing when the drawing scale changes. Basically, I’m going to take the offset value and divide it by the drawing scale factor:

We also need to create an expression for the rotation of the line. I used the Instantaneous Direction of the line. The problem with that is  if I just use that for the rotation, it rotates the line the wrong direction. To overcome this, simply multiple the direction by a negative 1. Also, the line is going the wrong direction so we need to add a rotation of 180 degrees to the line so add in pi to the direction (remember it’s in radians).

Now, use these two expressions in the label style for the length of the line and it’s rotation:

Add some text components, some more line components, and perhaps a reference text component and you are good to go! Hope this helps everyone!

Please please please stop thinking of a Site in Civil 3D as a site! It’s not!

In my C3D fundamental classes, I ask my students, “As a group of civil engineering professionals, what do you think of when I say the word ‘site’?” Answers vary but the typical ones are something like, “The project location”, “Project Limits”, “Area where work is to be done”, etc. When I first started to use Civil 3D, that’s what I thought of a site as well. I have some bad news for you, a Site in Civil 3D has absolutely NOTHING to do with location. I don’t think they could have chosen a worse word for this particular concept. I would much rather have it called what it is, a Topology.

“Topology? What is a topology?” That’s exactly why I think it would be better to have that name then “Site”. When someone new to Civil 3D sees the word “Site” they assume they know what it is because, well, about once a week they do a “Site visit” and at the start of any project, they get a “Site survey” done. If they had used the word “Topology” instead, a new user would look at that and, since they don’t know what a topology is, would not make the dumb mistakes I made as I was learning.

So, what is a topology? Well, basically it’s a set of rules that govern how lines (in the case of Civil 3D) behave as other lines change. When alignments and parcels are in the same site, the alignment will subdivide the parcels. When parcels and feature lines are in the same site, the parcels will alter the feature line elevations.

Here it is, my rule of thumb when it comes to sites, “The only time you should put ANYTHING in the same site as anything else is when YOU intentionally want them to interact.” In other words, unless you want these two things to react to each other, they shouldn’t be in the same site.

So, whenever you see the word “Site” in Civil 3D, just scratch it out in your mind and replace it with “Topology”.

p.s. White out doesn’t work so well…