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Civil 3D Point Manipulation Basics

Tags survey, survey db, survey figure, point, point display, setup, settings

You employ the Civil 3D Import Points tool all the time. This can be a good thing employed properly or something very scary. It could be a flashback to 1984 or Animal Farm and be horribly Orwellian. You may recall that “All pigs are created equal”. Some pigs are more equal than others.

“Our company uses Civil 3D, but lots of people here still want it to work like Land Desktop. We do lots of surveys and some design.”

Do you use AutoCAD Civil 3D Survey Dbs?

“No. We don’t do that. People around here don’t trust the data being outside of drawings. Where are the points? Everyone insists the point data be kept in points in drawings.
I haven’t really had the chance to learn how Survey in Civil 3D works.
The field crews don’t even collect data to create figures and breaklines either.
That’s what they hire CAD operators for. You know - to connect the dots and build surfaces.”

Ouch. Ok. Did you tell them the external point data is probably about as safe a storage medium as their checking account data? Ok. Maybe you don’t want to tell them that.
Civil 3D Survey is not as flakey as LDD about your external data. It uses Microsoft SQL Server databases these days for the Survey databases. It is good at data storage, retrieval, and even point data manipulations in Civil 3D. Sorry. You do have to learn a bit of SQL syntax.

At this point you should read on Description Keys Sets and Format. Maybe a light will go on.

Meanwhile here are a few approaches to your daily problems that will help. You don’t even have to tell them that you cheat and use tools that others don’t understand. People all over the country employ our Production Solutions (sometimes in larger organizations on the down low) to produce work in Civil 3D faster and easier.
Why? Because the Production Solutions work.
You can do all of this with your own Styles, Sets, and resources too. Odds are it will be a bit of a pain but possible.

Point Data Manipulations

You need to start out right…There is a famous Civil 3D Setup Checklist.

Watch the Civil 3D Setup video so you don’t stumble over where all the Survey stuff is coming from. Survey in Civil 3D effectively has it’s own profile stored as User Settings separate from Civil 3D AutoCAD profile settings. That’s confusing; maybe a bit dumb; but true. The Working Folder in Survey has nothing to do with a project’s data shortcuts Working Folder either.

You have some form of Survey Codes and a Description Key Set, and basic Point Groups to match.
If you can get FBK files, the Setups and Networks produced will help you find problems even with simple Survey Styles. The ability to see how the job was collected has benefits.
If you only get reduced point files, it’s not as nice. The SurveyDb results are still very useful.

A Raw SurveyDb

You’ll Import the cleaned reduced file field job dailies into named Networks into a Raw Survey Db. You will never change anything here. This is the raw backup of what you got. Note that the Import will force you to deal with duplicate point numbers. Have a plan.

Remember to manually create regular backups of this RawSurveyDb. A simple copy of the folder to another location works fine.

Obviously, this means you have another updated|corrected|published SurveyDb too. You’ll need another one too.

Preprocess all field jobs into a Test Db

I would check all the inputs to make sure the Survey codes all match something. You can do this in a simple template and test drawings you make from that. Your Description Key Set should assign a basic point style to every Key. Your Point Groups should grab all matches and dump the remainder into a NoMatch group – does not match the list of all codes.

  • Fix the missing codes and look for obvious miscodes too.
  • I’d also build a simple points surface and check for gross elevation busts. Maybe you compare to what’s gone on before too.
    Surface data references come in handy here.
  • Nothing keeps you for peeking into the RawSurveyDb to compare. I would.
  • Remember you can edit the values in the TestDb and then just
  • Points Export the corrected and fixed points to a new and clean external file for input into the Raw SurveyDb.
  • The external file can be edited in Excel to renumber and rename if you employ named points.
  • You already learned how easy it is to create dated backups of these TestDbs.
    Anyone can copy and rename a folder.

A Faster Manual

Yes. You can connect the dots manually faster in Survey too. This process is only slightly different than the old AutoCAD methods you use now. You end up with Figures that remain attached to the point data. Standardized Survey Queries can make sorting through the piles of points a lot quicker too. There are videos for all this.

Look and Plan for the Future

This process also gives you a chance to find suitable alignments in the point data to base future left and right figure assignments on. Depending on the nature and scope of the survey this alignment identification can be easy or complex.

The goal will be to eventually employ the Format column in special Description Key Sets to change the raw point data codes of specific groups of exported points to produce systematic left and right Figures from the point data automatically. Your special Description Key Set’s Format column will append appropriate numbers to identified Figure Prefix codes. I could suggest child Figures, but that might scare you.

Up Your Game

Time to read the Alignment Based Point Groups post. You’ll like this. The Offset Report method is ingenious. I wouldn’t blame Autodesk for making a tool to automate this. Don’t hold your breath.

Register as a Member and watch the Deliverables videos to get good visuals on how this works.

“Whoa. I could just connect the dots and skip all this stuff.”

You could. But then you wouldn’t really have managed data just the same old AutoCAD drawings with all the same performance, lack of audit, and annotative update problems you already have.
It is an investment in time to learn how to do this.
The payoff is in the repetitions. It sounds like you have the opportunity.

Safer, Flexible and Higher Performance

In any case, I’d still employ a SurveyDb to store the points and to store the figures I created from them.
If you do only that, you end up with survey data you can pour into drawings in any form you need.
You’ll also figure out pretty quickly that point performance in Civil 3D definitely favors the use of SurveyDbs. Anyone can test Insert and Remove Survey points against Import Points and Delete.

Ok. You probably need some more resources to pull this off. It’s hard to build for what you don’t use. We solve the problem. A better Survey in Civil 3D is already out there. It’s affordable too.

Get InstantOn Survey

People have to ask, "What makes Survey in Civil 3D different from Land Desktop?"

Survey Fun Da Mental Questions
The fundamentals of Survey in AutoCAD Civil 3D