Export Civil 3D to DWG and DGN

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On the face of it the nuts and bolts of Export from AutoCAD Civil 3D isn’t all that trilling. If you do this all the time, you’ve got it down pat. If you only do it occasionally, it is easy to forget and overlook some of the nuance. If you’re starting out, Civil 3D Export can seem like a dark art. Ok. Lots of Civil 3D things may seem that way in the beginning.

Deep down could Export from Civil 3D reveal significant reasons why Civil 3D behaves differently than we expect?

AutoCAD Civil 3D Export Cheat Sheet

More than a few customers have asked me for a Civil 3D Export Cheat Sheet. Oh. Yuck. But that does makes sense to me. The Civil 3D dumb down to DWG, DGN, or something else remains a challenge. We often need to work together after all. Clean editable digital export from Civil 3D has been a target in motion for most of the product’s development timeline. Things are definitely better these days particularly since the Bentley Autodesk technology agreement began. Yes. There is one of those.

Be happy. Some big DOT customers make Autodesk get their act together albeit with some bias. Speaking of compromising situations…

Is Export a Bit Like Friends with Benefits?

What is easy to miss is that the same structures and methods you employ for clean exports also can produce better and faster prints and plots out of Civil 3D. I like say that Intelligent Publish on Demand matters to everyone.
What do they say?
“Plan, prepare, and practice for the worst…”

A cross-platform, editable, and digital deliverable is the worst case publication. Execute this well and all your other Civil 3D publication processes get lots easer.
You also might get more potential happy customers too.

An Export from Civil 3D Cheat Sheet requires the usual informed caveats and conditions. I hope this collection of tips wrestled from real projects and Framework for Civil 3D customers helps…

There is No Magic Button

There are posts, most with videos, already available that cover in detail most of the Civil 3D Features. The easy way to find them is to Register as a site member. When you visit and login, it’s now all encrypted. The Members>>Documentation and Help page has a whole special Export from Civil 3D section. Imagine that.

Civil 3D Survey at Jump Speed page has lots of videos and posts on the subject. Check it out.
I cannot make you read the Ask That Other Civil 3D Question post but if you don’t, all the rest of this post won’t really matter all that much.

Are you really, really sure you have to do this?
Next question…
You are going to export from publication copies, aren’t you?
‘Nuff said.

Set Published Styles

All exported dumb-downs of Civil 3D data rely on the current state of the Feature and Feature Label Styles and Sets you choose.

Let’s assume you’ve validated the current Styles against some standard Style resource with the Style Import Tool. I’m not saying you have to do the smack down on anything, just that you should at least review the results in the Style Import Tool. So now you know why lots of folks want a report format in some text format from the tool. Please. Tell Autodesk.

To those of you who’ve successfully implemented 2017+ Reference Templates - smack yourself on the back for being way ahead of everyone else. The others are still wasting time and live in a form of perpetual doubt of the known good. Here’s the post series on Reference Templates. They take a bit of thought, careful decisions, and work. Publication performance is the big Why for Reference Templates.

Styles that Float

You should read and understand the difference between Civil 3D Styles that employ assigned Layers and Civil 3D Styles that employ Layer 0 to produce layer assignment by the Current layer. See the post Floaties for Civil 3D Point Labels.

Remember to check drawings you want to export for Features with assigned Invisible or NoDisplay styles. Remember that removal of Invisible (and often DREF) features may require that you change View Data properties to Static from Dynamic. A published set of Pages of Sections with multiple data sources is the classic example.

Export to AutoCAD

If you can get to out to raw AutoCAD (DWG) format, you can pretty much go anywhere else. Always get to raw DWG first. Why? This published result you can test. This publish result you have the skills to clean up, fix, and/or otherwise post process.

Both AutoCAD and Microstation have methods and detailed match list setups to manage the DWG SaveAS process and results into DGN. Currently, the DGN tools are a bit easier to manage externally because they are Excel based and stored as CSV files.

Good Separation of Civil 3D Features is Essential

We all find out pretty quickly and painfully that a well-managed project model is a must for Civil 3D production use.

The better your project model carefully separates Civil 3D Features, the better the publish results.
Many Civil 3D plotting performance issues are caused by poor project Feature separation and structures in your project’s dynamic model.

An optimized collection of DREF Features and XREF dwg content takes both planning and in project Civil 3D user discipline. Simply put: you want Civil 3D to resolve as little as possible to produce the results you need.

Export and the Plan Production Tool

Nowhere in Civil 3D does the previous statement either raise it’s angelic or demonic head higher than with Plan Production Tools results. The automated publication of Civil 3D Viewer Features can be fraught with publication performance challenges that may also explode into export nightmares.

Most of the time the negative results seems to be a Civil 3D user perception problem of what Civil 3D really cares about when inside the Plan Production Tool wizard process. Background reference stuff must be separated from the required Civil 3D data sources for your exports (and plots) to perform well. If you export to only to Autodesk software Land, preprint as much as possible to DWF.

I believe it is best to consider that every export (or publication) is a one off throw away copy of the current state of the project model. That doesn’t mean you start from scratch every time. That does mean you continuously improve the start publication or export drawings and/or templates during the project timeline.
Does your Civil 3D Template improve or not?

The Two Key Forms of Export in Civil 3D

  • If you obey the Separation of Powers rules, the File menu Export command is works fine for most Civil 3D Feature project output.
    For example: Export the surface separately - Never the surface and the parcels together.
  • EXPORTTOAUTOCAD command employed for Civil 3D point Symbol and point Label export.

You can always INSERT\EXPLODE the raw AutoCAD drawings back together to collect things after a bit of AutoCAD cleanup. DWF vector references and most other image references get passed along during the export process.

Standard AutoCAD Cleanup

Typically, you want the exported AutoCAD primitives in modelspace to all have By Layer properties.
Employ Quick Select and change the properties all at once.

  • Do you want to change the Layer properties of some of the results?
    Sometimes you can adjust these with select and Property box changes.
    You can automate Layer renames with a simple AutoCAD script.
    The AutoCAD Layer Translator allows you to create and reuse a set standard layer translation operations and those con contain combining objects from multiple layers into one.
    See LAYERTRANS command help.
  • AutoCAD Map Queries provide a powerful way to automate changes provided you know and track carefully the specifics of the what, where, and how of your planned changes.
  • The Framework includes niffty AddOns like the Symbol Exchange Tool which can really deliver faster and more flexible changes to detailed backend graphics if you must go that far.

Real soon now we’ll cover the export details of mission critical Civil 3D Toolspace Features in detail.

Get the Freedom to Export in Civil 3D

Export from Civil 3D Cheat Sheet Posts