January 21, 2013

January 22, 2013 by Jesse Evans, Civil Solutions Engineer:
The development of the Survey package in Civil 3D has happened over many releases, as Autodesk added additional functions. Watching this process grow from the first release, I’ve developed an understanding of why things are the way they are. When I find myself explaining these processes, I understand why so many people get confused and/or overwhelmed. In this short article, I’m going to provide my viewpoint of this development. I’ll explain how things grew and hopefully by the end, you’ll get a clear idea of what you need to get your job done.
I will give a brief history on each of the following tools:

  1. Create Points Toolbar
  2. The Survey Database
  3. Survey Data Connection Link
  4. The different file types:
    1. ASCII files
    2. FieldBook files

The Create Points Toolbar
The Simplest way to import survey data into Civil 3D is the Create Points Toolbar. Using the Import command you can Import any type of ASCII file in the typical PNEZD format and locate points in the drawing. But there’s a couple of drawbacks. First, this method didn’t allow for an external database, so any changes in the data were isolated in that drawing. Second, any CAD user (Civil 3D) had the rights to move or delete points – no security. Third, survey adjustments, such as least squares or compass rule could not be performed on this type of data. Finally, this process did not offer any automated linework functionality. So Autodesk created the Survey Database.
The Survey Database
The Survey Database solved most of the previous issues. It secured survey data so only surveyors had access, held the data in a centralized location, it allowed automated linework, and survey adjustments. The only problem is it uses an unpopular file format, the fieldbook file (.fbk). A fieldbook file is based on turned angles which allows adjustments to be completed and it also have its own set of linework commands built-in. The problem with the fieldbook file, nobody knew where to get these files. Everyone was comfortable with .RAW .RW5 or .JOB files. Fieldbook files were not typical, and were not found in a typical data collector at the time. The typical survey files had to be converted.
Survey Data Collection Link
The main tool used to convert file formats was the Survey Data Collection Link. Using this simple tool, you selected the incoming file type and then selected the correct destination file format (.fbk). The issue with this process was that you lost some of the linework code MCS and MCE (Multi-Curve Start and End) did not translate so you had to do some manual editing after converting.
Additional Linework Tools      
After realizing that the fieldbook file may never be used, in the 2010 release Autodesk added a new function to the Survey database that allowed linework to be created from a simple ASCII file (PNEZD). This was a great improvement over the fieldbook linework commands. The new linework commands are customizable and easy to understand.
Final Thoughts 
There are many different ways to import field geometry into Civil 3D. I would recommend using the Survey database as a secure centralized location. Get your crew familiar with the new automated linecodes (from the 2010 release) and you will see a big increase. Although survey adjustment still need a fieldbook file, many new survey equipment providers, such as Trimble and Leica have free tools that make this conversion painless. Check the following websites for more information.
Jesse specializes in Infrastructure (Civil/GIS) as a Synergis Solutions Engineer, and brings a spectrum of industry experience with him to Synergis. He has his associate’s degree in Architectural Design, a certification in AutoCAD Release 14 (R14), and is also a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP). First introduced to Autodesk products in 1997, he became State certified and began using R14 in the manufacturing industry to design parts for Boeing airplanes.  After returning to school and obtaining his Associates Degree in Architectural Design, Jesse was employed by a consulting engineering firm as a Technical Civil Engineering Designer. As a Civil Designer, he developed skills in Civil 3D, Land Desktop Development (LDT), Map 3D, Raster Design, and Survey. He has worked on many different levels of land development and survey projects, from hospitals to highways, rivers to residential, schools to subdivisions. With over 10 years of experience using Autodesk Products, Jesse considers learning the best way to build confidence and a brighter future. He firmly believes that understanding the Autodesk solutions can help anybody produce faster, have greater precision, and be more valuable on the market.