AU2016 has come and gone and I’m really excited about point clouds right now. I sat in a lab with Ramesh from Autodesk (using point clouds in InfraWorks) and he gave me the data set he was using as a sample. In the class, he imported the data set into ReCap, trimmed out the unneeded bits, and then brought that into InfraWorks which worked just fine.

Point Cloud Comparison.png

Same Clipped Point Cloud in InfraWorks and Civil 3D

The problem is, if you bring that same clipped point cloud into AutoCAD Civil 3D (or any other AutoCAD based program), the point cloud is not clipped. According to the Autodesk Knowledge Network, this is a known problem and they are working on fixing it however, the only solution currently listed there is, “For InfraWorks the point cloud functionality has been corrected with release 2016”. That’s not much of a solution if you ask me but, I did happen to discover one.

after clipping the point cloud in ReCap, export the project out. This will create a new point cloud that can then be inserted just fine. To export the point cloud, mouse over the House icon, the Down Arrow icon, and then click the Up Arrow icon.

Export.png

Export the Clipped Project

ReCap will then ask you if you want to unify the scans. I’m not exactly sure what this does but I think it combines all the scan files into one file. When I did this, I simply used the default settings and clicked the “space ship” icon.

Unified.png

Huh? A space ship? Really?

Once the project has been exported, simply import that into Civil 3D (or any other AutoCAD based program) and the point cloud will be clipped.

Exported_vs._Original.png

Comparison between original file and exported file in Civil 3D

Hopefully this will help someone out that’s struggling with point clouds in AutoCAD. If you have time, I would love to hear how you are using point clouds in either InfraWorks or Civil 3D. Leave a comment and let us all know!

Advertisements

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.

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.

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?

As I’m sure most of my readers are aware, with the 2013 release, the ability to import images from Google Earth was not included. The fine folks at Autodesk have been working on getting us a replacement and this is it (at least for imaging). When you are in a drawing that is georeferenced (the tutorial file “Intro-1.dwg” works if you want to test it out) all you have to do is turn on the image.

In the drawing (with the assigned coordinate system), simply go to the Geolocation tab on the ribbon and choose the Online Map type you want.

Map Type

Map Type

You’ll need to log in to your Autodesk account (if you don’t have one, they’re free) and agree to the terms, etc. etc. Once you’ve done this, your image just shows up (provided you have a decent internet connection). Nothing too new here, we’ve been able to do this for a while (see my other posts HERE and HERE).

So, what’s new in 2015, THEY PLOT!!!!!

Ok, so there’s another step you have to take before they’ll plot but it’s not difficult, you have to capture an area. Once the imagery has been displayed in your drawing, go back to the Geolocation tab and choose “Capture Area”.

Capture Area

Capture Area

After you have captured the area, a new object type will be created, a GEOMAPIMAGE or “Map Image” as it’s displayed on the ribbon when selected. This object will plot as you can see in this plot preview:

Plot Preview

Plot Preview

Another really cool thing about the GEOMAPIMAGE is, if you edit the image extents, the image will update. Simply select the image frame, adjust a grip, and the image updates. Additionally, if you need a better resolution or less resolution, when you select the image, you’ll have those options on the Ribbon.

Image Options

Image Options

Oh, and by the way, this isn’t really a Civil 3D feature, this is a core AutoCAD feature!

Note from Brian: Something new in the 2015 release. The images plot. HERE

So AutoCAD 2014 has this cool new feature called Live Maps and Geographic Location (basically, AutoCAD now owns the coordinate systems for Civil 3D and Map 3D). When a coordinate system is assigned to the drawing, you get a new tab on the ribbon allowing you to display an aerial map, a road map, and do some cool stuff.

The problem is, this isn’t in Civil 3D 2014 at all. Here are the steps to add this ribbon tab to Civil 3D 2014.

HERE is a video showing the steps

  1. Open AutoCAD 2014. This can either be AutoCAD 2014 or Civil 3D 2014 as AutoCAD 2014.
  2. Go into the CUI (Customize User Interface) dialog box (type CUI at the command line).
  3. In the CUI, go to the Transfers tab and create a new CUI file.
    CUI Transfer Tab

    CUI Transfer Tab 

     

  4. Drag the Geolocation ribbon tab from the ACAD.CUIX file to your new CUI file (just drag and drop)
    Drag and Drop

    Drag and Drop

     

  5. Save the CUI file and close AutoCAD.
  6. Open Civil 3D 2014 and type CUI just like in AutoCAD (don’t go to the Transfer tab, stay on the Customize tab).
  7. Load in the CUI file you saved in AutoCAD
    Open Partial CUI File

    Open Partial CUI File

     

  8. In the just loaded CUI file, drag the Geolocation ribbon tab to the Geo Coordinate System Assigned Contextual Tab State.
    Contextual State

    Contextual State

     

  9. Save and your off and running.

Now, when you assign a coordinate system to your drawing, you can also display aerial maps or road maps in the drawing as well.

Map Display Options

Map Display Options

Let me get this out of the way upfront, I LOVE GRIPS! I don’t think I would be able to function in AutoCAD if I lost my grips. Being able to point at a grip and see the length of a line. Grab a bunch of things, grab a grip, hit the spacebar and you’re moving them. THAT’S AWESOME!

So, what is my gripe with grips? Well, in 2011, AutoCAD introduced the “Dynamic Grip Menu”. The concept itself is great, I’m just not a fan of the implementation of it. There are a couple of problems as I see it. First, I don’t need something else that pops up in my drawing every time I stop moving my mouse. I use Civil 3D so it gets even worse. I grab an object, the Quick Properties is displayed. I select a point that has more than one possible object to select, the Selection Cycling pops up. I end up leaving my crosshairs sitting on top of an object, the Rollover Tooltips pop up. I leave my crosshairs nowhere near an object and the Civil 3D Tooltips pop up. It just seem that something is always popping up where I really don’t want or need any information.

Having all that stuff pop up is just kind of an annoyance and not really worthy of a blog post. The thing that I can’t stand about the new grip editing tools is that when your crosshairs are on a grip (don’t select it, just hover over it) a menu pops up. Now, you may be asking yourself, “What’s so horrible about that?” I’m a keyboard junkie. As I like to tell my students, if I could get rid of my mouse, I would. Using the keyboard to run AutoCAD is by far the most efficient way I know of. The problem is, when that menu is displayed, YOU CAN’T TYPE ANY COMMANDS AT THE COMMAND LINE!

I’s a menu just like any other menu. Bring up any menu you want in any program you have and type. Windows will try to find the command on the menu that corresponds to the key you just typed. I use this all the time to access my Object Snap Overrides (perhaps that would be a good blog post at some point).

Here’s a perfect example: I have a group of polylines that I want to erase. I use a crossing window to select them and when I finish selecting them, my crosshairs just happen to be right on top of one of the grips. Now, because I like to type commands, I’m going to type E to erase the polyline and then hit the space bar because, as we all know, the spacebar acts as an enter.

Grip Menu

Because the menu is being displayed, when I press the E key, Windows tries to find the menu entry that has a hotkey “E” assigned to it and, in this case, there isn’t one. Hitting the space bar just does nothing. So, now what use to be a very fast way of erasing objects is no longer a fast way to erase objects. If I had, instead, typed out the entire command ERASE, the E does nothing, but the R will activate the menu for removing a vertex. Trying to erase a polyline ends up only removing one vertex. Definitely not what I wanted to happen.

What to do? Personally I like to turn off the menu for the grips so that when I hover over a grip, I don’t get a menu. “But Brian! How do you add a vertex to a polyline then?” This is where the control key comes into play. When you select a grip that has multiple functions, simply press the control key and it will cycle you through all the options that are available for that grip.

In AutoCAD 2012, and even more so in Civil 3D 2012, there are more and more of these multi-function grips. Because of this, I would recommend that you run the software for a while until you get a good grasp on the grips that have this multi-function property and then turn off the grip menus.

Let me know what you think!