AutoCAD Linework into InfraWorks

So, you have some linework in AutoCAD that you would just LOVE to show in InfraWorks! Great! What do you do?

Well, unfortunately, InfraWorks does not display lines, doesn’t have any line objects, and it just can’t. If you think about it, InfraWorks is modeling the actual site and if there was a line on the site, you wouldn’t see it because it doesn’t have a width. Besides, your linework, what does it represent? Does it represent a roadway? Bring it in as a road! Does it represent the area of a water feature? Bring it in as water!

Nope, no lines

Nope, no lines!

But what if it is actually a line? Like, say, striping in a parking lot? Once again, that’s not really a line, it’s an area that is covered in paint so, bring it in as a coverage area!

It's an area, not a line!

It’s an area, not a line!

I’ll list the steps you need to follow here:

Export the linework as a .sdf file

So, the linework in AutoCAD won’t come into InfraWorks as linework so, we have to convert it to something that InfraWorks can use and that is a .sdf file. You can think of a .sdf file as the Autodesk equivalent to the ESRI Shapefile.

OH NO! Not the GIS Donut!

OH NO! Not the GIS Donut!

The command you’ll want to run, unfortunately, isn’t in AutoCAD, it’s in Map 3D (which is also a part of Civil 3D). The command is MAPDWGTOSDF. I’m sure this command is up there on the Ribbon in the Planning and Analysis workspace somewhere but, I’ve never found it. Run the command and grab the linework you want to use in InfraWorks. But what about parking lot striping? It doesn’t have an area in AutoCAD? Yep, you can export that as a .sdf file too!

A couple caveats though, if you want to use the linework as a coverage area (parking lot, grass area, water area, etc.), make sure you toggle on the option, “Treat closed polylines as polygons”. This will make sure you have an area data source and not a linear one.

Import Options

Import Options

Another caveat, when you import the .sdf files into InfraWorks, there is no way to control the display order (and coverages can’t have holes in them). What this means is you’ll likely have to repeat the export process several times in order to be able to control the final display.

Import the .sdf file into InfraWorks

This part is easy and if you don’t know how to do this, go search for the instructions. What I typically do is simply drag the .sdf file into the model area and it creates the connection for you. You’ll then need to configure it appropriately. If you aren’t sure how to import data into InfraWorks, click HERE.

Configuring the data

This is where it can get a little tricky. If you are bringing in data that’s already an area (parking lot, grassy area, etc.) just do it the same way you have always done it but, make sure you do it in the correct order. What I typically do is work my way from the outside to the inside. For example, if I’m trying to show the grass, then the sidewalk then curb and gutter then parking and then the islands (which have curb and gutter and grass), start outside and work inside. When you bring a coverage in, it will completely cover what’s already there. In the following image, I brought in a simply design and it had three coverages, one for the entire site, one for the road and one for the interior grass, you can see the progression as they came in and how one overlays the other.

First Import

First Import

Second Import

Second Import

Third Import

Third Import

And now, I’m FINALLY getting to importing the lines! As mentioned previously, InfraWorks doesn’t handle lines so we need to bring them in as coverage areas. “But Brian! They don’t have any area!!!” You’re right, they don’t, at least, not yet.

Bring in the .sdf file for your lines the same way you did for your coverage areas but prior to completing the configuration, add a buffer width to the “coverage area”. THIS is what gives your lines a width!

Buffer Width

Buffer Width

InfraWorks Striping

InfraWorks Striping

Once I figured out that little “buffer width” trick, bringing linework into InfraWorks became so much easier!

Now get out there and do something amazing!!!!


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