Do More with AEC Collection: An Improved 3-Step Civil Workflow

Originally published in the August 2017 issue of AUGIWorld. The article has been condensed for this blog.

Autodesk InfraWorks: Preliminary Design

After having worked with drafters and designers in the Civil Infrastructure industry, I’ve noticed that not enough people are taking full advantage of the power of their Autodesk AEC Collection. Designers who only use AutoCAD or Civil 3D from their AEC Collection are missing out on tools that could provide them with better speed of process and quality of output. In particular, the combination of Autodesk Recap Pro, Autodesk Infraworks, and AutoCAD Civil 3D together could help move your project further along and more efficiently than relying on Civil 3D as your one stop shop.

In this blog post, I will take you through a typical workflow of some preliminary design work in roadways, grading, and underground utilities. This example workflow will show you how to take advantage of tools—like Autodesk Recap Pro, Autodesk Infraworks, and of course, AutoCAD Civil 3D—that are available to you in the AEC Collection.

Workflow Overview

The project that we are going to work on consists of a proposed subdivision and roadways. We will be working with point cloud information and Geo-Rectified Aerial Photography produced from a drone flight over our site.

First, Autodesk ReCap Pro

For our first step of data processing, there are several great options within the Autodesk world, like ReCap Pro, and outside the Autodesk world, like Pix4D. Both options produce great results. Regardless of what you use for data processing, ReCap Pro is still an important tool to use for cleaning up the data and getting it ready for other Autodesk software.

ReCap Pro takes the point clouds and creates a scalable 3D point cloud RCP file in minutes; this allows seamless importing to other Autodesk products, like Civil 3D and Infraworks. It is also capable of trimming out unwanted data or noise in the point cloud data.

Autodesk InfraWorks: Terrain

Second, Autodesk InfraWorks

For the next step in producing a topo, we will be using InfraWorks. I know some of you may be thinking, “Isn’t this more of a marketing or fancy planning tool?” Actually, InfraWorks is applicable to infrastructure users and can help improve the quality of your deliverables and make your projects more profitable. InfraWorks offers the capability to take data from your project’s existing environment and model, design, analyze, and collaborate with the data provided.

Autodesk InfraWorks: Working with RCP Files

We will be starting a new project in InfraWorks with Model Builder. With Model Builder, we can drop in our sharp aerial imagery and Point Cloud, and have an instantly-noticeable better quality. The great thing about using InfraWorks is that it will process the point cloud and create surface data terrain from it. InfraWorks will automatically clean up your Point Cloud and trim out things that don’t belong in the terrain. In the photo to the right, you can see the Point Cloud data wrapped into the model terrain and the additional 3D cars and tractors that were modeled.

Autodesk InfraWorks: Point Cloud Terrain Data

With our existing conditions taken care of, we will use InfraWorks to do some conceptual design like layout design roadways, grade areas like basins, pads, etc. Once you’ve completed some roadways like the ones in the proposed subdivision to the left, you can also use InfraWorks to quickly design the drainage networks. You can simply select your road, right-click, go to Drainage, and choose Add Drainage Network. The dialogue box that pops up will allow you to enter values into the drainage network. Now that we’ve set up both our existing conditions and conceptual designs, we will bring our data into Civil 3D.

Autodesk InfraWorks: Create Design Roads

Looking for more of my civil infrastructure tips and tricks? Then check out these quick reads.

Lastly, Autodesk AutoCAD Civil 3D

Before starting up in Civil 3D, I recommend shutting down InfraWorks, as you will be connecting your InfraWorks model to Civil 3D. This is different because you won’t need to export anything from InfraWorks, and you’ll see why in just a moment.

Once InfraWorks is closed, create a new drawing in Civil 3D. In Civil 3D 2018, there is a new ribbon tab dedicated to collaboration with InfraWorks, as shown below.

Open InfraWorks Model in Civil 3D

Find the Import panel in the ribbon, click Open Model, and you will have the option to Open InfraWorks Model. The system will ask you to open an .sqlite file, which is the coordinate system where you can specify to use model coordinates, DWG file coordinates, or other elements you want to bring in. Once those have been chosen, click Open Model to start importing.

After it is complete, take a look at your results! You’ll find that the roads you have chosen will all have alignment and profile data. Major roads will come with their actual street name because of their Open Street properties. Your drainage networks on your design roads will even be imported as a Civil 3D pipe network! With your newly imported objects in Civil 3D, you can now take your project even further.

Autodesk AutoCAD Civil 3D: Import from InfraWorks

Hopefully, through this example workflow, I have shed some light on the capabilities and use cases for the civil infrastructure tools in the AEC Collection. If you are on the fence about whether the AEC Collection is for you, this workflow should help make your decision a more informed decision. As always, if you have any questions regarding this workflow or the software I discussed, please feel free to reach out in the comments or send me a message through our Contact Us page.

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