This came up in the discussion groups today, a user has a set of points that he needs to create a surface from but the points also have a depth value. He wants to create an additional surface below the original surface but at the depth below as recorded in the point (the depth is not constant, it changes for each point). For example, point 1 is at elevation 100 and has a depth of .55′, point 2 is at elevation 101 and has a depth of .48. The elevations of the first surface would be 100 at point 1 and 101 at point 2. The elevations of the second surface would be 99.45 at point 1 and 100.52 at point 2.

To do this, we’ll need to import the points twice (I would recommend doing this in two separate drawings and then data referencing the surfaces together), once at the original elevation and once at the adjusted elevation. Importing the original points is not a big deal and you can find all sorts of information on how to do this online so I’ll skip it here.

To do the elevation adjustment, we’ll need to know something about the point file. In the example I’m using here, I have a .txt file that is comma delimited and looks like the following:
1,5000, 5000,100,GND,-.55

The format of this is very common, PNEZD (Point, Northing, Easting, Elevation, Description) but it has the added value of depth to it. We need to create a new Point File Format to import this data. On the settings tab of the prospector, expand out Points, right click on Point File Formats, and choose New. The format type you want is User Point File.


New Point File Format

After you choose In the new point file format, you’ll need to name the format, set up the columns to match the data that you have, and indicate how the file is delimited (a comma in this example). The PNEZD part is pretty straight forward (if you aren’t sure about it, check out one of the other point file formats that come with Civil 3D) but we need to add a column for the depth. The depth will depend on the how the data was collected. In my example, I have a negative sign indicating that the value is to go down so I’ll use the Z+ value. If the value is listed positive and you want it to go down, you’ll need to choose the Z- value.



Point File Format Settings

Now that we’ve done this, we can import the points. In order for the point elevations to be adjusted, we need to tell Civil 3D to actually adjust the elevations. On the Import Points dialog box, down towards the bottom in the advanced options section, there is an option to do elevation adjustments if possible. Makes sure this is toggled on and your points will come in at the adjusted elevations.


Import Points Settings

The following image shows the results of bringing in the same point file once using the elevation adjustment (on the right) and a second time bringing it in without the elevation adjustment (on the left):

Imported Points.png

With (right) and Without (left) Elevations Adjustments

Hope this helps out and let me know how you are using this. I would really like to know what you’re doing with it!


So, you want to bring a surface from Civil 3D into Revit? It’s pretty easy, provided you have both Civil 3D and Revit Structure. What? You don’t have them both? You only have Civil 3D? Are you sure? Recently, anyone that had Civil 3D on subscription was automatically upgraded to the Infrastructure Design Suite Premium and, guess what, it has Revit Structure! So most likely, unless you specifically opted out of the upgrade, you have access to Revit Structure.

Please read this entire post as there is some very important information near the end. First, I’ll tell you how to Import the Surface and then I’ll tell you about the Limitations and Issues.

Import the Surface

The Bridge Modeling Tools have been around for a while now. If you haven’t installed them yet, go to the subscription website and download them. You’ll need both of them, one for Revit Structure and one for Civil 3D.

After you have installed them, simply open the drawing that has the surface in Civil 3D and then open the file in Revit Structure you want to bring the surface into. In Revit, there is a little bit of setup you need to do (if you’re a Revit person, you probably already know this stuff). Go to your “default 3D view” (that’s the “doghouse” on the quick access toolbar) and edit the Visibility/Graphic Overrides.

Setting Up Revit

Setting Up Revit

In the Visibility/Graphics Overrides, turn on the display of the Topography.

Topography Options

Topography Options

This will allow you to see the surface when you bring it in. Once Revit is set up (I’m sure there are some settings I’m not aware of and I’m sure a Revit Guru will correct me on this), go to the Extensions tab, expand out the Civil Structures tool and choose “Integration with AutoCAD Civil 3D”.

Integrate with Civil 3D

Integration with Civil 3D

If you have more than one drawing open in Civil 3D, you’ll need to choose the drawing with the surface in it, the surface(s) in the drawing you want to import, and then have it import the surface into Revit.

Import Settings

Import Settings

After hitting OK, you then have some options when importing the surface, such as the material that will be assigned to the surface and the limits of the surface (if you don’t want the entire thing).

Terrain Definition

Terrain Definition

Once done, you’ll have a surface in Revit that you can do whatever you want to with it.

Surface in Revit

Surface in Revit

Limitations and Issues

This tool is really, I mean REALLY cool! A few years ago, one of my coworkers (Brian Mackey) and I worked up a technique to do this very thing and believe me, it wasn’t this easy. This is easy but, you need to know what it does. If I take this surface in Revit and I compare it to the surface in Civil 3D (I’ve stylized it in C3D to be similar to what we see in Revit) you’ll see they are quite different.

Civil 3D vs. Revit

Civil 3D vs. Revit

As you can see, the limits of the surface from Civil 3D aren’t honored in Revit. In fact, the only thing that comes through in Revit is the surface points. If you have added any breaklines or boundaries to the surface in Civil 3D, Revit doesn’t recognize those. For you civil folks, to get a feel for what Revit is doing, basically extract the surface points from a surface and then add them to a new surface and that’s what you will have in Revit. This is still better than what we had though so it’s definitely an improvement. If this is important to you, file a support request with Autodesk so they know and perhaps they will adjust the way the tool works (the method Brian Mackey and I developed has the same issue by the way).

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!

There are a lot of different ways to add data to a surface. If someone gives you data that represents the triangles of a surface created in a different program (such as Eagle Point or one of the Bentley programs), it can be a bit difficult, if you don’t know how. If you’ve ever done this, you may have noticed that the surface you created from this data doesn’t match the original data. Find out how to make your new surface and the data match up!

So, what kind of data am I referring to? Well, if you ever get drawing data that represent the triangles of a surface, they probably come in one of two forms, 3D faces or simple lines. You can add either of these to a surface. You can’t add them as breaklines, contours, points, or any of the other methods, you need to add them as drawing objects.

Adding 3D Faces to a surface

In this example I’m adding 3D Faces because that’s what I got when I extracted the triangles from the C3D surface. Let me go ahead and show you the surface I end up with after doing this. The green triangles in the following image are the 3D Faces I’ve added to the surface and the gray triangles are the new surface.

Wrong Triangulation

If the new surface exactly mimics the old surface, then I wouldn’t be able to see any of the green triangles. I suppose an explanation of why this happens is in order. When you add drawing data to the surface (lines, 3D faces, or polyface), the ends of the lines or vertices of the faces are added to the surface as point data. The surface then goes through the Delaunay triangulation process and creates the triangles.

Obviously, this is not what I wanted so what do I do to correct it? Well, when you add the drawing data to the surface, there is a little check box, “Maintain edges from objects”. If you toggle this on, the surface will add the lines or edges of the face as breaklines. According to the help file:

Maintain Edges From Objects

Specifies whether to define the AutoCAD Civil 3D triangle edges based on the edges defined in the original AutoCAD object. If selected, AutoCAD Civil 3D maintains the edges and does not attempt to optimize the edges. Available when importing points from lines, 3D faces, and polyfaces.

In my example, the area of the surface that doesn’t match the triangles is in an area that breaklines where added to the surface. If I redo the process and this time toggle the “Maintain edges from objects” option, you’ll see I get much better results.

Correct Triangulation

Note, the green triangles are still turned on and visible in this image, they are all simply behind the gray triangles created from the surface.

e the AutoCAD Civil 3D triangle edges based on the edges defined in the original AutoCAD object. If selected, AutoCAD Civil 3D maintains the edges and does not attempt to optimize the edges. Available when importing points from lines, 3D faces, and polyfaces.

In class I often like to show off how ridiculous the as composed setting is for the dragged state of labels but, I just discovered something pretty cool.  You can drag a point label, have it stay As Composed, and be left or right justified.  More after the jump.


I’m not exactly sure why anyone would need to do this but I’ve seen it asked a couple of times in the last few weeks so I figured I would address it.  Perhaps some other pieces of software can only accept point files.  Whatever the reason, how do you extract the points from a surface to a point file?  Well, it turns out that it’s a four step process.  Display the points, extract the points, convert the points, export the points.

First, the surface needs to display points.  A c0ouple options, create a new style that displays the points or edit the style the surface is using to display the points then, when you are done, change it back.  In this example, I’m going to edit the style the surface is currently using.  Select the surface, on the ribbon, expand out the surface properties pulldown, and choose Edit Surface Style.  On the display tab of the surface style, toggle on the display of the points.  It doesn’t really matter how they are displayed, just as long as they are displayed.

Next step is to extract the points from the surface.  Again, use the ribbon.  Select the surface and then on the ribbon, choose Extract Objects.  Uncheck everything except the points and hit ok.  This will create an AutoCAD point at every surface point.  After you do this, you can change the style back to not displaying points if you want.

Now that there are AutoCAD points in the drawing, it’s time to convert them to Civil 3D points.  Before you do this, make sure you point settings are set appropriately so you don’t have to hit enter for a description or name after each point is created.  To speed things up, make sure your settings are as follows:  Point Names – None, Point Description – Automatic or Automatic Object, Elevation – Automatic.  On the Home tab, choose the points pulldown and then Convert AutoCAD Points.  You now have Civil 3D Points in your drawing.

The final step is to export the points out to a file.  If these are the only points in your file, you can export the All Points point group.  If you have other points in the drawing, create a point group for just these points.  Right click on the point group in the prospector and choose Export Points.  In the export points dialog box, choose the point format and the file name and you’re done.

Hopefully someone will find this helpful.