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Is Autodesk Civil 3D a chimera?  

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Bow Tie Surveyor
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I am a County Surveyor that works within a county public works department with various engineers and engineer techs. Over the past year and a half I have been working on providing Civil3D deliverables it what I believe to be the way that I think Autodesk intends. All the points have symbology defined by my survey template (that I ripped off from the Florida Department of Transportation), most all of my survey location linework consists of full 3D Civil 3D Survey Figures defined by my points as inserted into the Civil3D Survey Database. My surfaces are created from the Civil 3D points in the drawing and the Civil 3D Survey Figures contained within the Civil 3D Survey Database. I'm sure I could do some things better, but I think I'm providing a proper deliverable.

So anyway, I have been asking the engineering techs who work with my drawings if they are able to use all of these smart dynamic 3D entities that I am creating to their advantage. The answer that I'm getting back often time is no. They use the surface alright, but having a surface entity for surfaces really isn't all that new to Civil 3D. We had them in Land Desktop and Carlson. The don't seem to really interact with my points all that much and actually they complain about the symbols dynamically scaling up and down when they change the scale on their drawings. They would rather them stay just they way they show on the survey. I had a similar issue when I would use annotative text in my drawings. They didn't like my text scaling up and down when they would change scales. So I had to stop using it. It does not appear that they interact with the 3D Survey Figures at all. And sometimes they complain about them because they are difficult for them to use at all. They end up having to trace either  2D or 3D polylines over them to work with them.

When I look at things on my end, I find Civil 3D difficult to work with. It seems to make things a lot more complicated than they need to be. Early on, I discovered that it has virtually no useful survey data processing capability. I like most people use a 3rd party survey data processor (Star*Net in my case) to go from raw survey observations to coordinates that I import into the Survey Database. I find the Survey Database constraining in that I have difficulty making post-import edits to the points and it not having the COGO functionality that I am used to having with other software. I have had issues with the survey database being in one coordinate system and the drawing being in another slightly different coordinate system and Civil 3D "helping" me by doing a coordinate transformation without any warnings that it is doing so (been burned by that more than a few times). I would set all of my settings to no datum and unitless if I could, but it wont let you do that. I find it odd that feature styles for my points are defined by my drawing template, but the styles for the Survey Figures are defined by a separate file on my local hard drive (kind to hard to keep everybody in the office on the same page when an edit to the feature table needs to be made). I find Survey Figures hard to work with in general. If they weren't used for the automatic linework function and needed for the surface, I don't think I would use them at all. Also, the overall performance of the program seems poor. It seems like I am constantly waiting on it to complete one function before going to the next. I that can be something as simple as editing a piece of text.

So, what is the takeaway? Why should my survey department go though the pain of using a program that is difficult to use and does not appear to give much benefit to the engineers down the line? Has anyone out there seen the promised Civil 3D utopia where everything just works in either a survey or engineering department? Seems like everybody just keeps trying to work toward the perfect template that will do everything they want it to do. Is it a chimera? Has anybody got there yet? Right now, I am seriously considering transitioning over to something like Carlson Survey and just deliver an AutoCAD deliverable with LandXML file. Thoughts?

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LcBookout
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Sounds like both you and your clients need Survey Technicians and Cad operators. Where I work, we have been building workflows that utilizes a great deal of C3D objects and techniques for surveying and civil engineering, even accommodating outside offices that only use vanilla AutoCad. As immense and complex as C3D is, no one is ever going to be using 100% of its capabilities, yet in competent hands, it can configured to perform for almost anyone's discipline. That's why dedicated Cad operators and draftsmen are a thing.

Barring that... Carlson is a good program, so is Bricscad, if you want to stay with the dwg format and keep it simple without all the bells and whistles.

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dgm-pls
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Yes it is a chimera.  I know people that use it a lot, love it.  People that don't struggle with it.  I like some parts of it but find other software is a lot more efficient at completing the project.  Land XML seems to handle getting the surface into other people's software well.

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BlitzkriegBob
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Posted by: @dgm-pls

Yes it is a chimera.  I know people that use it a lot, love it.  People that don't struggle with it.  I like some parts of it but find other software is a lot more efficient at completing the project.  Land XML seems to handle getting the surface into other people's software well.

The more I work with XML files, the less I'm impressed with their results.  We work a lot with companies that use Microstation, so almost all of our projects involve the sharing of XML files.  Here's the latest example I have of discrepancies between platforms.  This is two views of the same profile.  The white dashed line is the existing grade produced by a Microstation firm using their survey and their surface.  They provided an XML file of the surface to us.  I used that XML file to create a C3D surface.  I made no modifications to their surface.  I made an existing grade profile, which is shown in red.  Obviously the two do not match up.  In some places there is several feet of difference.  Granted, this profile is about 5900 feet long, and there are long stretches where the two profiles match up perfectly, but these two areas are not the only places where they deviate.

XML Profile 1

XML Profile 2

 

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dgm-pls
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@blitzkriegbob

Was the XML the version with the error?  If so, any ideas on what could be the cause?  We send them out all the time and I do run some QC checks on the files by bringing them back into a project to see what the results look like.  I usually do that out from carlson and then bring it back into Carlson but I might switch that up a little and bring into Civ3D.

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BlitzkriegBob
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@dgm-pls

I don't know that I would call either of the profiles an error.  I think it's just a case of different software interpreting a DTM differently.  Obviously I think the profile I created, in red, looks more pleasing than the spikes shown on the Microstation profile.  But's it's their data and their surface, so I'm not sure I can say that there's is wrong.  I bet if they imported their XML file in to Geopak that it would be a perfect result.  I usually check my XML files also, but how do we really know that another platform will get the exact same results.

This isn't the first time I've seen a discrepancy.  We do a lot of work with this firm, and this job is a little different in that they took the plans to the first submittal before passing them off to us and another subconsultant to take them to final. They gave us XML files and converted DGN files.  I recreated their profile, noticed that it was different than what their profile showed, then pasted their profile line in to my profile for verification.

What if the profile was cut 20 feet to one side or the other?  Would everything be fine?  I don't know.  I just think there's no way to be sure that a surface created in one platform will be EXACTLY the same when recreated with an XML file in another platform.  I think there's just a blind acceptance that sharing XML files is an answer to all our problems.  I only have C3D, but I'd love to hear the results if you tried doing the cross platform thing.

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BlitzkriegBob
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Didn't we have this discussion not that long ago (like 13 pages worth) on another thread you started?  It sounds like you are creating a product that I would like to use.  It also sounds like the techs you talked to could use some training.  Here are a few points:

  1. I like my symbols to size up or down with the scale the same as you. However, if you want to satisfy them, you can set your point symbols to use a fixed scale.
  2. I don't really interact much with the points or survey figures either, but isn't that what surveyors, especially on this site, would prefer?  Actually I really can't do anything with figures unless I have the survey database, which I never get.  I can't imagine what I would do with the figures.  That is your survey.  I'm not going to change it.  I may create point groups from your points, or I may make a modification to some point styles on occasion.  Almost every C3D survey I get has the Point Style Marker with an orientation reference set to WCS and I prefer View.  Even though I'm not nuzzling up with the points and figures doesn't mean I don't appreciate them, because I do.
  3. I think I mentioned this in the last thread also, but I would ditch the annotative text and instead use a Note label wherever possible.  Not because of scaling up or down, but because I can set that orientation reference to View also.
  4. I missed this in (2), but I don't draw over the top of survey figures any more than I would draw over the top of a polyline that Carlson would draw.  Why do they need to do that?
  5. Yes, adjustments and databases and survey figures can suck.  Actually editing survey figures was so difficult that it inspired me to push the field crews to new and better ways of connecting line work.  Once they got the hang of what I was asking them to do, I rarely had to touch the figures.
  6. There's no utopia. There's no perfect template.  There's no perfect style.  I don't know that I want it to exist.  I can't imagine a day where I'm not looking for a new and better way to do a task.  One of the reasons I don't work for big companies is because I don't want to sit down and follow a manual that gives me step by step instructions on how to complete a task.  My bosses have been pushing me for a couple of years to make such a manual and I've successfully dodged that bullet so far.  Utopia doesn't exist with Carlson either.  I used that for about a year, and I would take C3D over that any day of the week.

That's my 0.38 pesos.

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Jaccen
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Posted by: @blitzkriegbob

I think I mentioned this in the last thread also, but I would ditch the annotative text and instead use a Note label wherever possible.  Not because of scaling up or down, but because I can set that orientation reference to View also.

 

Does setting annotative text to "Match orientation to layout -> yes" not accomplish what you want?

I use that for text/mtext I want to match the layout.  I use torient for other text I want to align to a, well, line.  Middle centre insertion point and it's good for just about any scale.

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BlitzkriegBob
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@jaccen

I rarely use annotative text any more, but yes, I believe that you are correct.  My counterpoint would be that using a label gives you a ton more flexibility.  For example, what if you needed a leader with your text?  You can't match the layout orientation with a multileader.  Yes there are multiple ways to have them align with other objects, but all that includes more steps to get to the same place as using a note label.

Do you type up the same text callouts for each project?  I can have a label that I use over and over for every project.  You can set up different multileader styles that have predefined text, but you lose your orientation again unless you spend the time to make them match an orientation.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you still have to assign different scales to your annotative text.  Do you do that in anticipation of the needs of someone else?  Leave it up to them?  I know it's not a big deal to do that, but it's not anything you have to do with a label.

Also, if you set up parent/child relationships, if someone comes to you and says they want all the survey labels to have a text height of 0.06 instead of 0.08, or to use a different arrowhead, you would only have to modify the parent label and all the child labels will take on the new properties.

The one thing that is missing from a note label that I would like to see would be the inclusion of multiple leaders.  Right now we are limited to one leader.

Again, I just like the flexibility that a label provides, and IMO, it makes for less work.

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Jaccen
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@blitzkriegbob

All very valid points.  I think I'll try out notes for a few of my designs going forward.  Thanks!

 

Side note: a hack, but this seems to be a multiple leader solution for notes:

https://forums.autodesk.com/t5/civil-3d-forum/note-labels-multiple-leader-arrows/td-p/6539429

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Jaccen
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@blitzkriegbob

Do you place fields in your notes?  I use them quite a bit for their equation ability.

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BlitzkriegBob
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@jaccen

To the best of my knowledge, fields are not available for use within any C3D labels.  If you're looking to use equations, have you tried using expressions?

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Jaccen
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@blitzkriegbob

I use expressions for a bunch of things, but I don't think it would work for the other situations.  I extensively use fields for things like site plans.

For example, I'll have a block reference comprised of MTEXT that has the following:

-name

-area of the building (closed polyline)

-conversion of m2 to sqft (rounded to nearest 25 or 50 sqft)

 

Then for the data matrix, I'll use MTEXT for the following:

-lot area

-equation expression that auto adds all the building areas

-equation expression that auto adds all the asphalt areas

-subtraction of the building and asphalt to get my landscape areas

-%'s throughout the chart referenced from those values

-an auto tally of parking stall numbers with conversion to % based bicycle parking

 

I'll have MLEADERS that do similar things (ie. max ponding limits on a 100 year storm).  If I could do it through expressions, I believe I'd have to make a new one and name it each time.  It seems like the note idea is awesome for existing features; not so much for proposed "math based" ones.  Though, that's likely me being unfamiliar with how to make expressions target individual objects.

Ie. Surface ponding example:

Volume = (area of ponding * (OFR spill height - Lid elev))/3

I can select the area, spill height, and lid elev using fields.  I don't know how to do that with expressions.

Thanks for the reply!

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Bow Tie Surveyor
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Posted by: @blitzkriegbob

I like my symbols to size up or down with the scale the same as you. However, if you want to satisfy them, you can set your point symbols to use a fixed scale.

Yes, I'm aware that I can do that, but then I loose control of the size of my symbology on my surveys which can range from 1"=10' (on details) to 1"=400' (on section breakdown sheets). Is there any way to do that globally without having to modify each individual point style.

Posted by: @blitzkriegbob

I don't really interact much with the points or survey figures either, but isn't that what surveyors, especially on this site, would prefer?  Actually I really can't do anything with figures unless I have the survey database, which I never get.  I can't imagine what I would do with the figures.  That is your survey.  I'm not going to change it.  I may create point groups from your points, or I may make a modification to some point styles on occasion.  Almost every C3D survey I get has the Point Style Marker with an orientation reference set to WCS and I prefer View.  Even though I'm not nuzzling up with the points and figures doesn't mean I don't appreciate them, because I do.

When I say interact, I mean they are of some use to the engineers other than to just look at. Do these special 3D line entities help them in any way? Oh and thank you for pointing out the orientation setting on the points. I think I will change mine to View as well.

Posted by: @blitzkriegbob

I think I mentioned this in the last thread also, but I would ditch the annotative text and instead use a Note label wherever possible.  Not because of scaling up or down, but because I can set that orientation reference to View also.

OK, I've seen Note labels, but never used them.

Posted by: @blitzkriegbob

I missed this in (2), but I don't draw over the top of survey figures any more than I would draw over the top of a polyline that Carlson would draw.  Why do they need to do that?

OK, I have seen it a couple of different times. On one occasion, they wanted to place a guardrail a certain number of feet away from the existing edge of pavement. As the edge of pavement in my survey was a survey figure, he could not just offset it apparently. So, he just traced a 2d polyline over it and offset that to accomplish what he was trying to do. On a second occasion (with a different engineering tech), he was designing a sidewalk which he wanted to design relative to the existing edge of pavement. So he wanted to target my edge of pavement for his assembly of his typical section. He said that it is possible to target a survey figure. However, when it is xrefed, he is unable to access it. There also appears to be no data shortcuts to use survey figures either. He showed me that he was able to extract feature line from objects within an xref, but he was unable to select survey figures. So, he ended up just tracing a feature line over the xrefed survey figure and used that.

Posted by: @blitzkriegbob

Yes, adjustments and databases and survey figures can suck.  Actually editing survey figures was so difficult that it inspired me to push the field crews to new and better ways of connecting line work.  Once they got the hang of what I was asking them to do, I rarely had to touch the figures.

Yes, same here. We don't have to edit very much, but when we do, its not easy.

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BlitzkriegBob
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Posted by: @bow-tie-surveyor
Posted by: @blitzkriegbob

I like my symbols to size up or down with the scale the same as you. However, if you want to satisfy them, you can set your point symbols to use a fixed scale.

Yes, I'm aware that I can do that, but then I loose control of the size of my symbology on my surveys which can range from 1"=10' (on details) to 1"=400' (on section breakdown sheets). Is there any way to do that globally without having to modify each individual point style.

I'll just tackle this right now since I'm running short on time.  I haven't had to do this, as I've never received the same request, so this is theoretical.  I would normally have numerous point groups in my template that would become populated as points were being imported.  I can envision having two sets of point groups for, as an example, a utility pole.  One point group is for your use, one for the engineers to be able to see.  Yours would have the scaled point symbol, theirs would be fixed.  I imagine you are familiar with being able to order your point groups?  What I would do, at the point that I was going to package the drawing to the engineers, would be to have the engineering point groups ordered above a No Display point group, with your point groups below the No Display.  So they will see their fixed scale symbols and not your scaled symbols.  Rearrange the ordering after that, and you're back to where you need to be.

Obviously much set up time, but once that's done you should be set.  Give it a try with just a few symbols and see how that works.

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