Acquiring, Converting, and Using DEM Downloads in Civil 3D

imageWhile importing surface data from Google Earth is probably the easiest way to get some conceptual topographical data into your drawings, DEM’s have to be a close second.  For the uninitiated, DEM’s or Digital Elevation Models could be described as a surface whose data is organized in a grid.  This is fundamentally different than DTM’s (standard Civil 3D surface) which still stores a collection of points, but in the form of triangles not a structured grid.  The great thing about DEM’s is they’re readily available for FREE from a wonderful website named the Geo Community.  Now don’t be fooled when you visit the site as you will see all sorts of premium content; never fear as there’s ample data that can be had for free!

Mastering Civil 3D Review

Mastering Civil 3D 2008 Over the last several months I have been working my way through the ever popular Mastering AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008 book, written by the gang over at (Engineered Efficiency). As a fellow member of the blogosphere, I have had the privilege to establish a professional relationship with a good portion of the Engineered Efficiency (EE) team. For those unfamiliar with EE, they are arguably the best Civil 3D implementation team in the business!

I’ll never forget last spring when I went to the Experience the Possibilities Tour in Washington DC. During the presentation I asked a question about Civil 3D that was in fact both rather detailed, and quirky. The Autodesk representative answered the question, but with some loose ends remaining. After the session broke, Dana Probert of EE (who I had never met in person), found me in the crowd to both answer and explain the details about the feature I was questioning.

My point in sharing that story is that the EE team has many years of experience solving the real-world problems firms implementing Civil 3D. More importantly they simply know how things interconnect within Civil 3D, and can easily recommend the best approach to a given situation. To that end, the book has been structured in way such that you are learning best practices as you go. Taking that one step further for many of the complex concepts, the Mastering AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008 book expands on the why and how of many details.

Virginia Tech Prepares Civil Engineering Graduates

image Virginia Tech has naturally received a lot of media attention since the terror of April 16, 2007.  Tomorrow (Saturday) happens to be Homecoming for tech where they will play North Carolina.  As Enter Sandman finishes playing, and the clock ticks down, the Virginia Tech Hokies will hopefully be 4-1 for the season.  But why am I talking about collegiate sports and activities on this my CAD blog?

Well there is a CAD topic in all of this.  In a recent visit to the Civil 3D portion of the Autodesk website, I came across a feature story highlighting Virginia Tech.  The Civil Engineering program at Virginia Tech has long been seen as one of the best in the region.  Like many engineering programs across the country, the academic coursework generally focuses on engineering concepts and principles.

Such an academic program has more than proven itself to produce talented young engineers.  Although incredibly talented, graduates oftentimes have a limited AutoCAD knowledge.  The reason for this is because AutoCAD really more a drafting tool rather than design tool.  Enter Civil 3D.

The Virginia Tech Civil Engineering program has adopted Civil 3D into their curriculum.  Civil 3D was chosen for its ability to truly support engineering design Now professors are able to teach the concepts behind a topic such as road design, and the software reinforce such a lecture in a hands on environment.

Adopting software such as Civil 3D does a couple of things.  First, it allows students to better understand the concepts being presented to them.  Furthermore, possessing Civil 3D skills will make graduates more attractive to potential employers.  No less, if you have a few minutes, jump over to the Autodesk website and read the article "Virginia Tech Prepares Civil Engineering Graduates"


Finding the 3D in Map 3D: Surface Visualization

Flash The September / October issue of AUGIWorld is now available for download.  The cover story for this issue is "A First Good Impression".  Impression is a brand new program that Autodesk released this year which allows you to give your CAD drawings a hand sketched look.  Anyone faced with creating such exhibits and illustrations will definitely want to read this months AUGIWorld.

In addition to the "A First Good Impression" article, there are numerous other articles worth giving a read.  Of those articles is one by yours truly titled "Finding the 3D in Map 3D: Surface Visualization". AUGIWorld is available electronically by clicking HERE.

Download the September / October AUGIWorld

Composing Parcel Label Styles in Civil 3D 2008

New to Civil 3D 2008 is the ability to create composed parcel labels. Before the introduction of composed parcel label styles, one would have to configure a separate parcel label style for each labeling scenario. Or in other words, a style to show the parcels area in square feet, another to show it in acres, and another to show no area at all. It should also be mentioned that the lot number and lot area were a single object, meaning you could not move one independent to the other.

Composing Parcel Label Styles in Civil 3D 2008 082607 0128 composingpa1These shortcomings are what the new composed parcel labels set out to solve. In lieu of having a separate style for every labeling scenario you can think of, now you can simplify your style library by having a series of parcel label components. You will notice in this drawing I only have 5 parcel area label styles. My fundamental style, Lot Number, simply displays the lot number, nothing else. To display the lot's area I will add my "Lot Area" area label style to the parcel(s) whose area I need to label. There are a couple ways this can be done.

Map 3D Drawing Status Bar in Civil 3D

Civil 3D users – did you know that Map 3D has a specialized drawing status bar?

It seems the typical Civil 3D user knows little to nothing about the abilities of Map 3D. As those who do use it know, Map 3D is an incredibly powerful geospatial tool. Autodesk did publish their "GIS Skills for Engineers" document with the release of AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008 and AutoCAD Map 3D 2008. For anyone who has to use GIS data in an engineering environment, the document is a must read.

In reading through the document one thing I noticed was its use of a drawing status bar I had never seen before. That got me to thinking, and in true CAD Geek fashion, on a quest for the answer for this little riddle. Finally after fiddling around for some time I was finally able to uncover the answer to unlocking this super top secret drawing status bar. I say super top secret because (to my knowledge) the Map 3D Status Bar cannot be enabled from within AutoCAD. So how does one enable it?

Isolating Individual Objects

Isolating Individual Objects 061807 1749 isolatingin1Hidden for some time now in the lower right-hand corner of AutoCAD is a little light bulb. If you are like most, you have simply let this little light bulb burn –wasting electricity. At first glance it may seem a little out of place. After all light bulbs belong in the layer manager– right?

Even still – what's up with the light bulb in the lower corner of the screen? What many seem to discount as being a status notification of some sort is in fact an actual command.

AUGI World First Look at Civil 3D 2008

AUGI World First Look at Civil 3D 2008 051607 1554 augiworldfi1The May/June issue of AUGIWorld has been released. Inside this issue is a First Look at Civil 3D 2008 (pg. 22) written by yours truly. The article takes a quick look at a number of the new features within AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008, and then dives into using the new Plan Production feature. I intend to expand on articles look at Plan Production here on The CAD Geek Blog. So stay tuned. In the meantime hop over to AUGI and download the May/June issue of AUGIWorld .

AUGIWorld can be downloaded from the following location:

Separate Annotation Scales Per Viewport

Dana Probert over at the Engineered Efficiency blog wrote about quickly changing your Civil 3D Drawing Scale with the new Annotation Scale. Using the Annotation Scale fly out on the Status Bar we can quickly change our Civil 3D Drawing Scale. Those familiar with previous versions of Civil 3D will recall having to go to the "Settings" tab from the Civil 3D Toolspace. So that tip helps us out when working in Model Space, but what about Paper Space.

Separate Annotation Scales Per Viewport 050807 0602 separateann11

AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008 is here!

AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008 is here! windowslivewriterauotcadcivil3d2008ishere 126dcirs thumb2 Just as the IRS is out to take our money, Autodesk has released AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008 which drastically streamlines the design process. A streamlined design process means working more efficiently, and working more efficiently means being more profitable. As outlined before, introduces a lot of new features. Just as Annotation Scaling is the big new thing for AutoCAD 2008; the BIG new thing for Civil 3D 2008 is Plan Production. The veterans out there likely remember a little thing called "Sheet Manager".

Autodesk Experience the Possibilities Tour Review

Autodesk Experience the Possibilities Tour Review 041307 0238

So I am back from Washington DC where I have been for the last couple days. Staying over Wednesday night, I spent the day Wednesday simply enjoying our nation's capital and paid a visit to the National Zoo. Contrary to popular belief I have hobbies other than playing with CAD. In fact I am also an avid photographer. While visiting the National Zoo I was able to shoot some photos that can be seen below:

Panda Beaver Eagle Bear Butterfly

While I could easily spend days shooting photos of Washington DC, that was not the primary purpose of my visit. Today (Thursday) was the second stop for the Autodesk Experience the Possibilities Tour. For those not familiar with the event, Autodesk is currently touring the country introducing the 2008 line of products. Regardless if you are an architect, engineer, or a general CAD user, the Experience the Possibilities tour has something to offer you. Naturally I attended the Civil Solutions breakout where Autodesk's own Pete Kelsey and Steve Gonda presented Civil 3D 2008.

If you have kept up with my blog you have likely read my Civil 3D 2008 – First Impressions post. Likely going without saying, I am rather excited about the upcoming release of Civil 3D. While I am no Nostradamus, if I had to make any predictions I'd say AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008 is going to be the release Civil 3D starts being seen as a practical design platform for the masses. The Civil 3D presentation provided a powerful overview of what the software can do. Regardless if you have been using Civil 3D since it's preview release days, or simply considering it as a possible solution, there's something in the presentation for you.

For me the true benefit in the whole day was the opportunity to have Autodesk employees at your disposal for just about any question you can think of. Autodesk's intent is of course to sell software, and consequently there were parts of the day that felt more like a sales pitch than an info session. Even still, you can't fault Autodesk for that, after all their business is to sell software. I tend to feel their true sales strategy is much like the “Field of Dreams”.  Rather than “Build it and they will come”, Autodesk seems to say “educate (users) and they will use (the software)”. Again I cannot express how helpful it was to have so many people available to ask questions.

Not an Autodesk employee, but equally helpful to talk to was Dana Probert over at Engineered Efficiency. You can catch her blog posts over at She too is an invaluable resource for just about all things Civil 3D. Just another example of the top-notch people you can expect to bump into.

Concluding the day was a presentation by Lynn Allen on AutoCAD 2008 Tips & Tricks. If you have ever had the pleasure of attending Lynn's presentations you know how dynamic of a speaker she is. We get caught up in our vertical product world, and often forget about good ole’ AutoCAD.  Lynn did a great job previewing what all is in AutoCAD 2008. She has promised her new AutoCAD 2008 Tips & Tricks booklet will be posted to her blog “very soon”.

Autodesk's "Experience the Possibilities Tour" is making its way to cities all across the US. Washington DC was just their second stop, and so there are still plenty of stops left on the tour. Making the event even better was its price – FREE. You can get details about the tour by visiting