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Civil 3D Survey: What Is Behind the Curtain?

Seth Cohen
CAD Management Resources Inc.
CAD Applications Specialist
Autodesk Civil 3D Implementation Expert,
Level 5 Geospatial Applications Engineer

2011 Autodesk

About Me

Worked for a consulting engineering firm in New Hampshire

Surveying Topo, boundary, as-built, landfill closure, GPS, etc. In field and in office.
Design Technician Worked on STP, bridge (roadway approach work), highway design and Bypass study projects for
VTrans, MDOT (Maine) and NHDOT (New Hampshire)
CAD Manager Managed, trained and supported users in 3 offices, on company and DOT workflows.
Software used - AutoCAD, Softdesk, LDT, MicroStation and InRoads

Work for CADmanage

CAD Applications Specialist

Provide Training, Consulting, Support, and courseware development for Civil 3D, AutoCAD, Map 3D,
MicroStation, InRoads.
Train engineers at Ford Motor Company with their use of AutoCAD.
Developed CAD and Design standards for ITD (Idaho DOT), and ALDOT (Alabama DOT).
Worked extensively with FDOT (Florida DOT) in helping them develop an AutoCAD drawing template for utility
companies to use for better coordination of CAD files.
Work with FDOT, providing documentation related to their implementation of Civil 3D.


National AUGI CAD Camps, Presented at AU

2011 Autodesk

Class Summary

In this class, we will discuss the required setup to automate survey functionality in
Civil 3D, and how it can help reduce the amount of time needed to bring in points,
automate linework graphics, and create surfaces. We will look at the critical
importance of styles and settings. We will also examine some of the methods that
can be used to create stakeout points for construction, and direct export for
automatic machine guidance (AMG).

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Learning Objectives
At the end of this class, you will be able to:
Start using Civil 3D survey functionality
Understand whats behind the scenes for styles and settings
Create surfaces from survey data
Get the data out of Civil 3D and into real world construction

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Civil 3D Interface (As It Relates To Survey Data)
Civil 3D Setup
Collecting Field Data
Survey Database
Survey Database and Drawing Interaction
Survey Toolspace Revisited
Creating a Surface from Survey Data
Getting Data for Construction

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Survey functionality introduced in Civil 3D 2007

Some LDT survey concepts have been incorporated

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2011 Autodesk

Prospector Tab

Civil 3D objects (points, figures, etc.) are listed in the Prospector tab

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Settings Tab

Styles will need to be developed for survey related data

Styles include:

Description key sets

Settings tab is where some of the setup is done related to survey functionality
There are several other locations as well (learn about these later)

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Toolbox Tab (Reports Manager)

Used for reporting

Example reports

Radially staking out points

Point List

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Survey Tab

Main user-interface for survey functionality

All survey related data is managed in the Survey tab
All of the collections in the Survey tab are accessed external to the
Civil 3D drawing from the survey database

Opening and Closing the Survey Tab

Enter OST or CST

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Setting up Points

First step, development of point related styles and settings

Point styles automate the placement of symbols (e.g. manholes, trees, hydrants, etc.)
Must create a point style for every type of point data you display on a topo map
Label styles control the display of point information such as the northing, easting, elevation and

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Description Key Sets

Means by which raw points will be created in the drawing

Maps any and all point parameters including point style, full description, label style, layer, scale,
and rotate parameters.
Can import LDT description keys (but.)
Two methods to creating description keys

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Linear Features (old way)

There are methods that a surveyor can adopt that automate linework creation (e.g. EP, Tree line,
TBC, etc.) when the survey data is brought into Civil 3D

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Linear Features (new way)

No longer need to use old survey

command syntax

Field Book File

LandXML File
Point File
Civil 3D points

Creates figures automatically using

active linework code set and figure
prefix database

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Linework Code Sets

Civil 3D 2010 included additional functionality to automate linework creation

Interprets field codes entered from surveyors into figures in the survey database
Linework Code sets are displayed in the Toolspace under the Survey tab.

The linework code sets are

stored in a separate file that has
an F2f_Xdef extension.

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A figure is a linear object (breakline, parcel line, graphical line)

Figure Styles

Figure style controls the display, layers, and 3D geometry of a figure

Displayed under the Survey collection in the Settings tab.

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Figure Prefix Database

Figure prefixes are the means by which linework is connected to the appropriate figure style, layer,
and whether or not the figure should be a breakline or a parcel segment
Similar to description keys
Can also be set up in two different methods
Stored in a Figure Prefix Database (FPD)

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Survey Networks

Network style controls the display of the different components of a survey network

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Equipment Database

Where survey equipment properties are defined

Only used when performing a traverse analysis (e.g. Compass Rule, Least Squares, etc.)

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Automatic linework can save time completing the final drawing

Has been around since the old DCA days (pre-LDT)

Autodesk Fieldbook Language (.FBK)

Field crews are the key to linework automation

When survey is collected properly Civil 3D will automatically draw the survey data with little
manipulation from the office technician

Automation occurs because of

specific line coding and field collection
techniques that instruct the software
to connect the dots automatically

Depending on the equipment, specific

codes are entered before or after the
raw code,

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Line Coding

The command to begin drawing a line is B or BEG. You only need to use this code once per
figure. It is also important that you place a numeric identifier at the end of the figure name to
make it unique (e.g. EP1, EP2, TOP1, TOP2)
To end the line, simply move on to the next figure number, or enter E or END at the end of the
Can also use the CONT command to continue a figure.

Some equipment have line work

commands already programmed
into them

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Line Coding (cont.)

Additional line codes that can be used are listed in the table below



Begins a curve with more than 3 points


Ends a curve with more than 3 points


Closes and ends a figure adding a final vertex


Closes and ends a figure adding 2 vertices

For a full list of available commands and their parameters, review the file cmdhelp.ref. This file
is typically stored in the C:\ProgramData\Autodesk\C3D 2012\enu\Survey folder

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Line Coding (cont.)

Some examples of codes are listed below


<three consecutive points for the curve (PC, POC, PT)>


Again, verify how data is entered into your equipment. You may want to test a small project to
determine exactly how your equipment translates the field data into drawing data

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Linework Code Set

Provides very powerful ways to create linework with minimal input from the survey upon collection

TBC H.5 V0 H.67 V-.5 H2.0 V-.47 H-5 V.02

H and V codes tell Civil 3D to create additional lines based on the horizontal and vertical offsets
defined in the description.

In Civil 3D Survey Toolspace,

additional figures appear as
<description>.n, where n is
equal to the number offset.

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Contains all survey-related data

External of AutoCAD
.SDBX extension
Data in the .SDBX are stored in Meters, angles are stored in Radians.
Survey database stores survey project settings

Projects coordinate zone

Distance unit
Angle unit
Direction type

Coordinate zones same as defined by

the Civil 3D Drawing Settings
Survey data stored in the .SDBX will be
transformed into the current drawing

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Survey User Settings

Controls how the current Civil 3D user interacts with the survey features in the drawing
Survey user settings are organized into categories and are stored in the CURRENT_USER hive
of the Windows registry
User settings can be exported (.SET file)

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Survey Database Settings

Specific to each survey database

Can modify project specific

Coordinate zone
Distance and angle units
Measurement corrections such as scale factor.

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Survey Database Collections

A survey database expands to display data hierarchy into three root collections

Import Events
Survey Points

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Survey Database Collections

Import Events Collection

Displays each of the imports a user has done, and is stored in the .SDB file
Import survey data into a survey database using the Import Survey Data wizard
Once data is imported, an import event is created in the survey database.
The import events functionality not only gives you a record of the imported survey data, it allows you to quickly
reprocess the survey data if the external survey files or Civil 3D settings/styles change.

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Survey Database Collections

Networks Collection

Displays each of the survey networks that are contained in the .SDB
Survey observation management is done at the survey network node
Each network contains the components you will use to manage it
A network contains components

Control points
Non-control points

To bring data into a survey database,

right-click on the Import Events collection.
You can have multiple networks in one
survey database. However, each network
must contain unique point numbers

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Survey Database Collections

Figures Collection

Figures are stored in the survey database

Can be inserted into any drawing from the database
Established from survey points
Will update if points are changed

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Survey Database Collections

Survey Points Collection

Displays the different point information contained in the survey

Point collection consist of the following and will display an icon that
tells you the state of the survey point

Control Point Survey points displaying this icon represent control

points in a survey network.
Non-Control Point Survey points displaying this icon represent noncontrol points in a survey network.
Setup Point Survey points displaying this icon represent setups and
have not been adjusted.
Adjusted Point Survey points displaying this icon represent points
whose coordinates are a result of an adjustment, such as a traverse or least
squares analysis.
Observation Side Shot Point Survey points displaying this icon
represents side shot observations.

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Three types of objects represent data inserted from a survey database


Each survey object has an object style to manage its visibility properties
When survey data is inserted into the current drawing, the Prospector tab is used to manage and
will list the inserted objects

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Survey Objects

Network Objects

When a network or traverse is placed into the drawing,

a survey network object is created. If a network or
traverse is inserted into the drawing, a network or
traverse icon respectively is displayed next to the
object in the Prospector tab

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Survey Objects

Figure Objects

When a figure is inserted into a drawing from the survey database, a Civil 3D Figure object is created

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Survey Objects

Point Objects

When a survey point is inserted into a drawing from the survey database, a Civil 3D COGO Point is created
Points will have a special attribute that indicates that is was created from the survey database
Survey points cannot have their locations and raw descriptions changed in the drawing because they are
locked and set by the survey database (kind of )

You can still change the point style,

rotation, or layer
Points can be controlled by the
description key set defined in the active

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Inserting and Removing Data from the Drawing

Survey tab provides convenient methods to insert and remove survey data into the drawing
Insert/Remove options at each of the collection nodes

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Inserting and Removing Data from the Drawing

Inserting Survey Data into the Drawing

Two ways to insert survey data

Right-click on collection node

In some cases, drag-and-drop operation
Just right-click anywhere

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Inserting and Removing Data from the Drawing

Removing Survey Data into the Drawing

Two ways to remove survey data

Simply erase the object in the drawing

Use the Survey tab and issue Remove from drawing command

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Zooming and Panning to Survey Data

All survey data can be zoomed or panned to by a right-click menu

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Browsing to Survey Data

Survey data in the drawing can browse back to the data in the survey database
Select survey objects in the drawing and then right-click in the drawing, or look in the ribbon.

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Updating Survey Data in the Drawing from the .SDBX

To update survey data in the drawing, use the same methods mentioned before
When updated data is inserted, the old data in the drawing will get deleted

Updating the .SDBX from Survey Data in the Drawing

Survey objects in the drawing can update the survey database

Select and right-click the object, and select Update survey data from drawing

If a backup of revisions is necessary,

you can export the entire network to
another fieldbook file and rename it
with an appropriate revision naming

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Properties List

Properties list displays when a survey item is selected

When changes are made, the items will display in bold indicating that you have made a modification. You will
need to Save the data to update the survey database.
Properties are available for the following items

Control points
Non-control points

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Items List View

Item collections list data within a selected collection

Very useful for editing multiple items

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Editors can be opened from most collections

To open an editor, right-click the collection, and then choose Edit from the context menu that appears. The
editor is then displayed as a tab in the Panorama window

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Surface creation can be automated and take minutes when Civil 3D is setup properly
The following procedure is used to create a surface from survey data:


Insert the survey points into the drawing from the survey database.
Create a point group that will only contain the existing points that should be used for surface
Create an existing surface with the appropriate surface style associated to it.
In the Surfaces definition node, right-click on the Point Group category, and then add the
point group created in step 2.
Right-click on the Figures collection in the Survey Toolspace, and then choose Create
Breaklines from the context menu that appears. Toggle the breaklines you want to add to
the existing surface on or off.
Add an outer boundary to the surface.
(NOTE: Only breaklines that are toggled on will be available to be added to the surface)

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Staking Out the Corridor

Select the Corridor, and use the Points from Corridor command to stakeout points from a corridor object
Export the points to a point group, and then export to a .CSV file

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Reports Manager

Station Offset to Points

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Export LandXML

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Third Party Apps and Plug-Ins

The Trimble plug-in can be downloaded free of charge

The extension allows you to communicate directly with data collectors from within Civil 3D

Trimble Link Website


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Sincpac - Extensions for Civil3D

Extends the functionality of Civil 3D

For a complete list of available tools, you can download them at the link below


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CI3704: Civil 3D Survey: What Is Behind the Curtain?

Thank You!

Seth Cohen

2011 Autodesk