Planning for the Future with Civil 3D and Bentley

One way I might describe the partnership between Autodesk and Bentley is a quote from Ryunosuke Satoro, a Japanese writer during the Taisho period (1912 to 1926): “Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”  At this moment in time, Civil 3D® is the vessel we have to navigate this pending ocean.

There is immense potential as the two companies combine their talent and research. Autodesk and Bentley took very different approaches to solving many different problems, and both achieved a decent level of success.  By combining their resources, they compile decades of knowledge from fielding support and assistance to users in public, military, private, and international sectors around the world.   

Additionally, both companies had the foresight to develop API systems for private developers, CAD managers, and users to customize workflows.  As their agreement aims to give us the ability to combine workflows using their different programs along with these API systems, we should be able to combine resources and complete complex tasks more quickly.  All companies in the AEC industry will be forced to consider the possibility of increased production as Autodesk and Bentley work together to provide file compatibility between their different programs.  I imagine those working with shapefiles will be excited to treat shapefiles like dwg files (xrefing, freezing layers, etc.) or labeling entities just as we do pipes and structures. 

If one does not know which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable” – Seneca

To sail this ocean we’ll have to weather the storms we can’t avoid, and avoid the storms we can’t weather. If Civil 3D is to be our ship, then we must learn the tools we have today to understand the tools that will evolve tomorrow.  So for this article, I’d like to present a few of the features available to us as Civil 3D users working with ESRI file formats today.

Multiclass Shapefiles

The “mapexport” command allows us to export our files in a variety of formats useful with Bentley products such as ArcMap. Many users are familiar with it.  Lesser known is the multiclass shapefile export option labeled number 1 (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Mapexport

While typically restrained to exporting individual entities one at a time (such as polygons or text) with other file formats, the multiclass file format allows us to combine all our features into a single export.  See Figure 2 for an example of some of the options available to us.

Figure 2: Export options

Labeling Imported Shapefiles

Users typically rely on the “mapimport” command to import ESRI shapefiles.  Attached to these shapefiles is information stored in the database associated with it. For example, if we were to import the national highway system, then checked the properties of one of the lines representing the roadway, it would contain information such as the speed limit and road name.  Populating our CAD files with labels containing this information requires a few extra steps, though.

First, when importing shapefiles using the “mapimport” command, right-click under the Data section displayed in Figure 3 and choose the “Use Input Layer Names for Table Names” option.

Figure 3: Input options

After that, we need to define a label template by switching Civil 3D to the Planning and Analysis workspace and navigating to the Annotate ribbon. On this ribbon, we find the “Define Template” command. This opens the “Define Annotation Template” dialog box, where we choose to create a new one as displayed in Figure 4. 

Figure 4: Define Annotation Template

This will take us into the block editor.  Once in the block editor type the “mapanntext” command. This command allows us to create an attribute that will represent the data we wish to label. See Figure 5 for example. 

Figure 5: Annotation Text

Be sure to place the annotation text at or near the 0,0,0 coordinate. This will ensure that for whatever object you select to label, the text will be centered exactly on that object (just like a block’s insertion point when inserting a typical block).  Once we’ve added the annotation text representing the data we want to label, we can close the block editor (select Yes to save edits).  The last step is to simply label our objects by selecting the Annotate tab on our ribbon, the insert command, selecting the annotation template we created, and finally selecting our objects. See Figure 6 for clarification. 

Figure 6: Insert Annotation

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