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!!!!

InfraWorks 360 2015 R3 is Here!

Happy holidays to all!

All I want for Christmas is the next version of InfraWorks and guess what, I GOT IT!

InfraWorks 360 2015 R3 is now available for all to enjoy! Where do you get it? Well, if you have a prior version installed, just go check out the Autodesk Application Manager on your system and you can find it there. Don’t know where that is? Go to your Windows Start Menu and start typing “Autodesk Application Manager” and you’ll find it.

Autodesk Application Manager

Autodesk Application Manager

So, what are some of the new features?

Homepage

Well, there’s a new streamlined home page. It’s much cleaner and less cluttered then the older version. Plus, you don’t have to close your model to get back here! Want to go see something on the home screen? Just click the home icon and then click back on your model and you’re back!

New Home Page

New Home Page

Animations

Add animations to your model! Want to see that tower crane rotate? Want to see that wind turbine spinning? You can do that now! Personally, I haven’t had a chance to try this one yet but I’m definitely looking forward to getting into it!

Model Builder

Model Builder has graduated into a full fledged feature! It’s no longer in the preview state! What’s new? Well, you are no longer required to use a rectangular selection. What this means is, for example, if you have a corridor type project you are working on, you can select just the area along your corridor and not approach the data limit by selecting all that unwanted/unneeded area!

Model Builder Polygonal Selection

Model Builder Polygonal Selection

Mapped Network Drive Support

So, you want your model backed up on a network drive? Now you can do that! To keep things moving quickly when working in a shared location, InfraWorks creates a tile cache on your local drive (which you can specify the location for).

Set Local Cache for Network Models

Set Local Cache for Network Models

Drainage Design

If you haven’t taken a look at the drainage design features, they are pretty cool and getting better with each release. In this release, you’ll have more options on how to control the spacing of the structures, types of structures, and cover over your pipes when creating a drainage network for a design road.

Drainage Network Options

Drainage Network Options

Additionally, you’ll be able to create your own custom drainage content using the Autodesk Labs technology preview called Project Kameleon (yes, it’s spelled with a K). If you are interesting in trying out this new technology, click HERE for more details.

Project Kameleon

Project Kameleon

Enhanced Civil 3D Workflow

In my opinion, this is the big one for this release! You’ll be able to import a Civil 3D drawing directly into InfraWorks and you’ll be able to open an InfraWorks model in Civil 3D! For this to work, you must have the Civil 3D 2015 Service Pack 2 as well as the Productivity Pack 1 installed. Want to import that Civil 3D drawing? It shows up as a data connection. Made a change to the Civil 3D drawing and you want to see the new updates? Simply re-import the drawing and you’re done.

Want to start doing some detailed design in Civil 3D using the data from InfraWorks? Simply import the model into Civil 3D and away you go!

Open in Civil 3D and Configuration Settings

Open in Civil 3D and Configuration Settings

Oh, so you want to open your model in Civil 3D? Well, fear not for I’ve written a post on my other blog with the instructions on how to do that HERE.

And More!

I didn’t list all the new features, want to check it all out? Click HERE for the online help showing what’s new.

So, what are you most excited about? What did Autodesk do right? What did they do wrong? What’s still missing? Leave a comment for others to see!

 

Terrain Data from Shapfile Contours

Terrain Data from Shapfile Contours

So, you downloaded some terrain and you ended up with an ESRI Shapefile that contains contours and you want to add that to your model as terrain. Well, it really isn’t difficult, you just need to understand a couple things first. For this example, I’m going to use a shapefile containing contour data for the entire City of Denver. You can get your own version of it at data.denvergov.org if you want to try this too. This shape file has around 650,000 contours that range from 5,110′ to 5,754′ at 2′ increments.

Contour Data Shown in Map 3D

Contour Data Shown in Map 3D

First of all, you add the shapefile to your model exactly the way you do any other shapefile, simply drag it into your model (drag the file with the extension .shp). Once you’ve added the shapefile, you’ll need to configure it. If you did the drag and drop, the configuration should just pop up for you. first thing you’ll need to do is tell it what type of data the shapefile contains.

Configure Data Type

Configure Data Type

If we simply stop here (which is what I did the first time I tried this), we won’t get any terrain information. Shapefiles have about as much standardization between organizations as layers do. We need to tell InfraWorks what the elevations of each contour is. In this example, the elevation of the contour is found in the data property called ELEV. We now need to map that value to the contours. This is done on the Source tab.

Setting Elevations

Setting Elevations

You’ll notice that I assigned elevations to the data being brought in from the data source “ELEV”. You’ll also noticed I multiplied the elevation by 0.3048. Your InfraWorks database is ALWAYS in meters. If you bring data into your model that isn’t being converted via a coordinate system (such as elevations) you’ll need to convert that data yourself. I also toggled on the “Clip to model extents” option. This just makes the data process faster as it doesn’t do anything outside of the model extents (not really sure why you would ever want to leave this unchecked).

And here’s the result!

Terrain from Contours

Terrain from Contours

Now, if you notice, the surface looks very gridded. When I created a surface in Civil 3D from this same data, it looked much better. This is because we told it to be gridded. If you have very complex data (such as contour data from a shapefile) you can simplify the data by putting it in a grid. It will process much faster and your model will work much better but, you’ll sacrifice the detail for performance. If you need the detail, you can change the grid factor or simply turn it off. The settings can be found on the Converter tab when configuring the data. You can adjust the size of the grid to control how much detail you get or you can turn the grid off complete to maximize the detail.

Grid Options

Grid Options

To see the results, I’ve turned the imagery off so the surface can be seen better. Here it is with the grid turned on.

10 Meter Grid

10 Meter Grid

And here is that same area with the grid turned off.

Grid Turned Off

Grid Turned Off

Hope this helps understand how to add even more data to your model. Now, get out there and do something amazing!

Image as a Building Facade

Hey look! I made a new blog!

Anyways, I’ve seen it asked many times before,

I have an image that I want to use on a specific building in model. How do I do that?

Honestly, it’s pretty straight forward. All you really need is to make that image into a material and then apply that material to the building.

Step 1 – Get the Image

This might be easy or difficult depending on the building I suppose. Basically, you want an image of the facade from a straight on perspective and you want the facade to be square in the image. Crop the image so you see just the piece you want applied to the building.  Here is an example image:

Sample image to be used in a building facade

Sample image to be used in a building facade

Step 2 – Create the Material

Now, in InfraWorks, you need to create the material. Prior to creating the material, you’ll need to know the dimensions of your image, i.e. how wide and tall is your image in the real world? If you know the dimensions, use them. If not, estimate something close. The above image I estimated to be 12′ wide by 11′ tall (I’m just guessing, I didn’t really measure anything and, if you think those numbers are way off, remember, I’m a civil engineer, not an architect).

In InfraWorks, on the Styles Palette, go to the Materials tab and create a new material. If you want, you can create a new catalog for the material but you don’t have to do that part (you could put it in an existing catalog if you want).

Create the new material

Create the new material

In the Define New Material dialog box, choose Texture as the type and then browse to your image. In the Texture Settings section, set the dimensions of the image (what you measured or estimated earlier).

Define the New Material

Define the New Material

After hitting OK, you can the give the material a name.

Step 3 – Applying the Material

Now that the hard part is done, you can simply drag the material onto your building. When you drag it, it will be applied to the face that you drag it to. This way, you can have different materials applied to different parts of the building.

Facade applied to one face of building

Facade applied to one face of building

Now that you know how to create a material and apply it to your buildings, you can use materials for many other things such as your roads, coverage areas, and other places.