AutoCAD Civil 3D 2010

Have you ever created a surface in Civil 3D and wondered how in the world can I calculate the area at a particular elevation?  Well, if the elevation falls on the contour interval, that task is rather easy.  Extract the contour line from the surface as a polyline and list it.  What if the elevation does not fall on the contour interval?  The process is similar, you just have to create a user contour.

Creating a User Contour is fairly simple.  If you can do a slope or elevation analysis in your surface, you can create User Contours.  The first thing to do is create the surface.

This surface could represent a pond or ground feature.  Let’s assume that you needed to know the area at a 52.5 elevation.  Open up the Surface Properties and go to the Analysis Tab.  On the Surface Analysis tab, change the analysis type to User-Defined Contours, set the number of ranges, or user-defined elevations that you want to create and run the analysis.  When the range is created you may have to manually adjust the elevation for the user-defined contour.

After running the analysis and changing the elevation of the contour, go back to the Information tab.  On the information tab we need to edit the surface style so that the user-defined contour is displayed in the style.

After turning on the visibility of the user contours, we can click OK and close the dialog box.  This should regenerate the surface and show the user-defined contour based on the applied surface style.

You can see in the image above that the user contour is yellow-orange and of a dashed linetype.  Now, in my opinion, the easiest way to get the area of that contour is to extract a polyline from the surface.  Click on the Modify Tab of the ribbon and then click on Surface.  This will open up the contextual surface ribbon.  On the Surface Tools panel you will see the Extract Objects command.  Click on the Icon to initiate the command.

In this case we only want the user contours, so we will deselect the other check boxes.  This will create a polyline from the user contour that we can then list to get the area.  Creating user contours can also be beneficial if you are using the stage/storage tool as it will add the elevation into the table when computing the volumes.


It has been a little over 2 weeks since upgrading my OS to Windows 7. So far I have not run into any issues when working in AutoCAD Civil 3D. The software seems to load quicker and respond quicker in most cases. I have had two crashes since installing OS. The first was a BSOD, but I was pushing the OS with Civil 3D, several Office programs, IE and a couple of Virtual Machines running. As best I could tell the crash was actually caused by a driver that I hadn’t updated. After updating the driver the only other crash was actually in Civil 3D, but could be attributed to User Error!

Ok…..I believe in living on the bleeding edge! Last night I decided to install Windows 7 and see what happened. So far, so good. The only thing that I found was something that has been going on for a while. If you prefer to use Firefox as your web browser, you will probably not be able to have the reporting feature in Civil 3D open directly in the browser. This is an old issue. I tried to set IE as the default browser and map .htm and .html files to Firefox, but I still kept getting an error. As soon as I deleted Firefox I was able to get the reports to open in a browser window. Not sure that I am happy about that. I kinda like Firefox. The other option is to create a shortcut on your desktop that maps to the CivilReport.html file so that you can run the report and then click the shortcut and have it open in Firefox. Just a couple of more clicks I guess, but I would like to be able to use whatever browser I choose.

While working on a support call today, I derived a solution for a customer that included using a Transparent Command. That got me to wondering how many people actually use the Transparent Commands in Civil 3D. I know that I did not use them very often in past employment engagements. It was not until I started teaching classes on Civil 3D that I fully understood the power of these commands and how they could help me work smarter and not harder.

For example, at one of my past jobs I worked with an older gentleman who was very close to retirement. He was fairly proficient with vanilla AutoCAD, but almost completely illiterate when it came to Civil 3D. I am not knocking the guy, because he was good at what he did. He just did not see the need to learn new software while being on the verge of retirement. A typical scenario for one of his projects was that I would take the survey data and create the surface and then hand the drawing off to him. He would complete the geometric design and give it back to me to produce profile drawings. When I created the profile drawings, I would have to plot them at an exaggerated scale and he would break out his old HP Calculator, complete with card reader, and design the profile on paper.

Then he would had the paper copies back to me and I would input the data into Civil 3D and finalize most of the design before handing it back for his review. At the time, I did not use the Transparent Commands very much because I did not understand what they were. So to input his design data, I would create a layout profile and get the PVI’s close to their desired locations and elevations. Then I would open up the profile editor and hand correct the stations and elevations.

Does this sound familiar to you? Well, after a while I learned that there were commands in Civil 3D that run “inside” of other commands and allow us to input specific data in that command. Instead of having to get the PVI’s close, I could have used the Profile Station Elevation transparent command to specifically enter the station and elevation of the PVI without having to go back and edit.

Which brings me back to today’s case. The customer was working on a paving project. A contractor had constructed a leveling course and the customer had sent his crew out to collect profile elevations at an offset left and right of the center line. He then wanted to show those offsets in his profile view. I didn’t want to have to try and create another surface and extract the data from the surface when we already had the point information in the drawing.

I began looking for a Transparent Command that would let me harness that point information and apply it in the profile view. To both the customer’s satisfaction and mine I found the transparent command that would allow us to do just that. The command was Profile Station and Elevation from a Cogo Point, or ‘SPE.

To use the command we went to the Ribbon and selected Profile Creation Tools from the Create Design panel. Once we entered the profile name in the dialog box and set our styles we invoked the Create Tangents command and then invoked the ‘SPE transparent command. We selected the profile view in which to draw the profile and began to pick the point objects we wanted to see in the profile view. Then the steps were repeated for the opposite offset.

If you have not looked into using Transparent Commands, I encourage you to look into them. They can definitely help us work smarter and not harder!

The guys at Autodesk Support have released their monthly video on their YouTube channel. This time the video is on understanding the performance of Civil 3D. The video discusses RAM, Operating Systems and other performance related issues. So, if you are wondering how Civil 3D interacts with the system memory or operating resources this video may be of interest to you. You can check it out here.

I am in the process of becoming more familiar with AutoCAD Raster Design. So, in my next posts I may be discussing some of the features of Raster Design and how you can benefit from this piece of software.

Hey everyone. I spent the end of last week at the ASCE Alabama Chapter Summer Meeting. Thanks to all of those who stopped by to say “Hi,” or asked other questions. While at the conference, I missed the release of Update 1 for both Civil and Civil 3D. The updates were released on July 31st.

Anyway, for those of you who are looking for a link to the updates:

AutoCAD Civil 3D 2010: Download here.
AutoCAD Civil 2010: Download here.

Until next time!

Well, it’s Friday again and it seems that this is when I find time to update my blog. I want to start a series of posts on some of the new functionality inside of AutoCAD Civil 3D 2010. But first, a couple of weeks ago I recorded a webcast for our “What’s New in AutoCAD Civil 3D 2010″ presentation. You can find it here. Just scroll down to the archives section. The recording is offered in 2 file formats, Windows Media Player and Adobe Flash.

Now let’s move on to today’s topic. Almost everyone that I have ever worked with went about creating their alignments in the same manner; lines and curves. Well, if you have been using prior releases of Civil 3D, you have had to take the extra step of converting those lines and curves to a polyline or use the layout tools to “trace over” the original line work that you had created. The 2010 release of Civil 3D has added functionality that will allow us to select the objects from which to create our alignments. Now we can use the Layout Tools, polylines or lines and arcs. The developers even changed the name of the command. Now it is called “Create Alignment from Objects.” The command is found on the Home Tab of the Ribbon and by clicking

on the down arrow beside Alignment on the Create Design Panel.

Let’s take a look at some other new features of Civil 3D alignments. Have you ever been working on a transportation project that had multiple lanes and transition regions all over the place? It has been a while since I was in that situation, but I do remember those days. We created our center line alignment and then used offset to create the edge of pavement and then created another offset for the transition region and applied fillets and tangents to tie them together. Alas, the boss comes in after a meeting with the powers that be and says that the center line is shifting and we have to have the changes by 9:00 am tomorrow morning. Time to hit the panic button, right?

The 2010 release of Civil 3D has several tools to help in these situations. Let’s take a look at the Prospector Tab in Toolspace. As seen below, Alignments now have more categories or classifications. So, what does this do for us? Notice the second classification is Offset Alignments.

Now we can create offset alignments from our center line alignment and the offsets will stay dynamically linked to the center line. Can you think of any useful applications for this?

Another new feature for alignments is Widening. Using the widening functionality the designer or engineer can easily create a widened section in his 2D layout. widening works by creating regions along the offset alignment where the user can specify a different offset for one region to create a turn lane, for instance. On top of creating the widened section, the user can specify the geometry to use in transition between the two regions.

There is other new functionality associated with alignments. We will take a look at those next time.

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