Civil 3D and Layer Standard Conversion

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The Framework for Civil 3D Jump Kit product is notable and perhaps even famous for the product’s native support for multiple variations of the National CAD Standard (NCS) Layer Standards. These include the current NCS 6.0 and NCS 6.0 AIA variants. These common NCS Layer Standard variants are variously required for GSA, DOD, and US Army Corps project submittals.

People ask,

Does this mean that the Framework for Civil 3D Templates, Civil 3D Style Libraries, and other Civil 3D resources are NCS dependent?”

In a word – No.

Almost all supplied Framework for Civil 3D resources may be employed in any Layer System and with any Symbol (Block graphics) System. There is no rocket science at work here.
One of AutoCAD-based product great strengths is the fundamental power and flexibility of named Style in AutoCAD . Style practically means we can link a collection of properties to a name.
Now all we must do is manage that.

The Power of Names was built into the Framework for Civil 3D from the get go. At this point let me encourage you to read the important Civil 3D Layer Standards and Magical Thinking post.

Layer Standards Adaptive and Agnostic

The Framework is adaptive by Design. Technically, the Framework for Civil 3D Jump Kit product resources are Layer Standards agnostic. In development we pay careful attention to maintain maximum flexibility, consistency, and robust Style performance in the Framework resources.

All the many supplied Framework resources from Jump Kit can be and often are converted by our customers relatively easily and quickly to their internal Layer Standards. There are a variety of ways and means available to accomplish this.

Welcome to Options in Civil 3D Land

Any copy of any Framework Civil 3D Template or Civil 3D Style Library resource drawing (there are over a 1900 of those) can be easily and quickly converted into any known Layer Standard with the AutoCAD LAYTRANS tool.

What do you know? Back in the day I personally helped develop the original design spec for LAYTRANS. Unfortunately, I tend to expect or assume the everyone understands to power and capabilities of the tool. Past dubious glories aside, the Layer Translator tool is much improved these days. Hoorah.


Learn LAYTRANS and the AutoCAD Standards Checker

In the first 15 minutes of this video, Ryan Wunderlich does a bang up job demonstrating LAYTRANS mechanics. He gives us all many reasons to learn and master this vital Layer Standards and other AutoCAD based CAD Standards Checker maintenance tool.

In our current Layer Standards discussion context is it best that we pay attention to the LAYTRANS Settings and the tool’s ability to focus on Layers alone. The tool’s ability to load and also produce mapping DWS files can make our conversion day.

The Framework Jump Kit products supply a host of prebuilt DWS Layer Standards and Layer State resources for both STB and CTB in raw AutoCAD script and/or dwg format. These resources include many specialized subdiscipline, project type, and task type Layer resources to augment many forms of projects.

All Jump Kit products provide:

  • All the DOD, GSA, and US Army Corps formal NCS Discipline layer definitions for: Architectural, Geotechnical, Civil, Electrical, Fire, General, Hazardous Materials, Interior, Landscape, Mechanical, Plumbing, Structural, Telecom, and Survey.
  • Many civil engineering Layer Standard subsets like City operations engineering, Street Lighting, Traffic Control, Airport, Beach, Flood Control, etc.
  • An additional 45 civil and survey specific Adaptive Building Blocks to add specific project task-based systems quickly to any Civil 3D project drawing or template resource.

Copies of these resources may be easily converted into any different Layer scheme with LAYTRANS. The process can quickly create a new set of Layer Standards to manage and maintain our new customized set of resources.

Any internal Layer States - these may contain Layer name references - are converted by LAYTRANS and/or the AutoCAD RENAME command. Nice.

See the famous InstantOn Layer Standards Magic video for a demo.

The AutoCAD Layer States Bug

All recent releases of AutoCAD and Civil 3D (2020-2023) contain a nasty, sneaky, and annoying little bug.

The Layer States Manager (LM) tool always contained the ability to export external LAS files.
Exported and then imported external LAS files currently appear to leave the Layer State table in the DWG in a broken state.
This may cause the LAS imported Layer State to fail  when employed in XREFs. Arrrgh.

The simple workaround is to always remember to import Layer States directly. The INSERT/Explode and new Insert Block palette tool methods continue to work.

Our ability to create, edit, and maintain consistent and functional DWS or DWG Layer Standards and Layer State resources remains mission critical to the Civil 3D production deliverables process.

To Clarify Civil 3D Layer Standards Conversion Matters

There are three key places that LAYTRANS, RENAME, and scripts that employ the RENAME command cannot reach when converting an Autodesk Civil 3D project drawing, template, or Style resource drawing with these raw AutoCAD tools.

The Framework supplies a powerful collection of Spreadsheet Tools to help us resolve the problematic standards issues.

Civil 3D Object Settings

The important Civil 3D Object Settings are found in the Toolspace>>Settings tab for the drawing itself.

Individual Object Settings Layer assignments may be manually edited inside the Civil 3D interface.
The Object Settings command interface allows: sort by Layer assignment; current drawing or other open drawing Layer sources; and supports Copy Paste from Excel Spreadsheets or ASCII files.

There is a well-documented undocumented feature, hack, or trick that you can employ to update Object Settings from one Civil 3D drawing to another.

See the Civil 3D Object Layer Drawing Settings post and video.

The post also contains an important video about how to employ Civil 3D Reference Template (TREF) tools to modify a drawing’s Object Settings on load.

The Civil 3D Reference Template (TREF) tools provide us a consistent method to create, manage, and maintain Object Settings standards in separate resource drawings and in different Layer Standards.

Note that an update of the current Object Settings of a drawing does not update the previously employed on create Object Settings assignments. Layer RENAMEs can and do affect the referenced Layer names.

Description Key Sets

Description Key Sets (DescKeySets) are a collection of keys in Civil 3D. DescKeySets always have a user managed drawing Priority order. Description Key codes are searched character by character in this Priority stack. The first Key match found is resolved by Civil 3D.

A Description Key (DescKey) in Civil 3D can assign a Layer name property to the Key Code that is applied when COGO or Survey Points enter a drawing. Individual COGO or Survey points may also be reprocessed one at a time with the Apply Description Keys command available in the Right Click menus for Point collection(s) in the Toolspace.

Hint the Insert Points and Remove Points tools found in Civil 3D Survey right click menus are much quicker at DescKeySet resolution if the point data is stored in a Survey Db.

DescKeySet resources in Civil 3D must be manually imported and/or deleted.
Description Key Set imports are not supported by the Civil 3D Reference Template (TREF) tools.
The Style Drag and Drop method; the dwg INSERT/Explode method; and Block palette tool INSERT/Explode method all work to import DescKeySets.

Individual DescKey Layer assignment properties may be manually edited inside the Civil 3D interface.
The Edit Keys command interface allows: sort by Layer assignment; current drawing or other drawing Layer sources; and supports Copy Paste from Excel Spreadsheets or ASCII files.

Jump Kit ships with hundreds of well-documented Description Key Sets, XML, DWG resource files and the powerful and integrated Description Key Spreadsheet Tools that produce them.
The large file library of manufactured XML files may be easily edited with an ASCII XML editor and simple string search and replace tools.
The new XML file may then be imported into new resource drawings with the supplied IMPORTDESCKEYS tool.

Third party Civil 3D tools like Quux Software’s SincPac for Civil 3D and the CTC Software’s CAD Manager tools support DescKeySet Import/Export and external edits of Description Key Sets. Framework customers often employ the supplied Spreadsheet Tool output in these and other third party Civil 3D tools.

See the Civil 3D Point Edits post and video. The post also contains Point related links.

Sadly, Autodesk continues to ignore repeated Civil 3D Wish list requests to support a native Civil 3D DescKeySet import export tool and a consistent import and export external file format for Description Key details.

Figure Prefix Dbs

Only one Figure Prefix Db is current at a time in Civil 3D Survey. There is no Priority stack order.

Figure Prefix codes are searched by word. The first word match found is resolved by Civil 3D by the Process Linework command and creates a Figure in the current Survey Db. Whether a Figure is created in the current drawing is optional.

Individual Figure Prefix Layer assignments may be manually edited inside the Civil 3D interface. The Figure Database Manager command interface allows: sort by Layer assignment; current drawing or other drawing Layer sources; and supports Copy Paste from Excel Spreadsheets or ASCII files.

Figure Prefix Dbs are technically a linearized  XML-based external file resource.
The Figure Prefix Db file extension name is changed in Civil 3D to .fdb_xdef protect the ignorant.

Jump Kit ships with multiple Layer Standard Figure Prefix Dbs, the raw XML, and the powerful and integrated Figure Prefix Db Spreadsheet Tools that produce them. The Spreadsheet Tools produce lists of Key records to add or replace in the Figure Prefix DB XML structure.
The large file library of manufactured XML files may be easily edited with an ASCII XML editor and simple string search and replace tools.
After checking and linearization, the new XML file with the extension changed may then employed as the current Figure Prefix Db in Civil 3D Survey.

Intelligent Publish On Demand

The capability to work and/or publish in different Layer Standard systems can be a competitive advantage in the marketplace. With the right tools Autodesk Civil 3D can do that well. The Framework for Civil 3D’s implementation we call Intelligent Publish On Demand (iPOD).

How to Get Better Civil 3D Standards…
Get the Framework for Civil 3D Release 8