The Interoperability of Civil 3D

Issue10 - Interoperability with Civil 3D

At the Autodesk Civil 3D Gunslinger event in Manchester, NH, as in so many others around the world, one of the hot topics that came up was interoperability. What is Civil 3D interoperable with? What is InfraWorks 360 interoperable with? Why can’t these programs work smoothly and in sync with other Autodesk programs?

In reality, Civil 3D is interoperable with several Autodesk programs. Since Civil 3D is built on top of AutoCAD and AutoCAD Map 3D, it is seamlessly interoperable with both. Civil 3D also has Vehicle Tracking as a fully interoperable Add-On program.

Conversely, when you need to work in AutoCAD or Map 3D with drawings created in Civil 3D, you may need an object enabler to see objects created by Civil 3D. For those that don’t know, object enablers—free and provided by Autodesk—are necessary to view objects created by some other Autodesk programs.

Other programs that Civil 3D objects and drawings can be viewed in are Navisworks, InfraWorks 360, 3ds Max and Revit, to name a few. In most of these programs, you can view a .dwg file created by Civil 3D without any issues. In InfraWorks 360, you can edit objects that are made by Civil 3D. On the other hand, in Civil 3D, you can edit objects made by InfraWorks 360, as long as you import the SQLite file into your drawing and not an IMX file from InfraWorks 360. Of all the programs made by Autodesk, InfraWorks 360 maintains the live, dynamic data link between Civil 3D and InfraWorks.

Let’s walk through a quick example of how Civil 3D is interoperable with three other Autodesk programs: Navisworks, Map 3D and InfraWorks 360.

First, you can import an .fbx file that may contain bridges or buildings from an InfraWorks 360 model into Civil 3D. Then you’ll need to double-check the location of where the buildings land in Civil 3D. In Map 3D or in the Planning and Analysis workspace of Civil 3D, you can use Data Connect to import the actual SQLite file from InfraWorks 360 that the .fbx file came from. This will bring in a 2D flat representation of the buildings or bridge.

Now, to apply the materials to the structures in Civil 3D, you’ll need to use Navisworks Manage. Append and open the .fbx file that was used in Civil 3D in Navisworks. Confirm that all the geometry is the correct size by measuring some known areas. Once you confirm the measurements are correct, then right-click in the model and set the Units and Transform settings to Feet. Double-check the coordinates in Navisworks. Then hide any surfaces by selecting the surface and choosing Visibility > Hide. Finally, export the updated .fbx file, making sure to include and embed all the textures. Save the file as a new .fbx file.

Back in Civil 3D, import the updated .fbx file that was configured with materials in Navisworks Manage at a scale of 1:1. If you view the buildings and bridges in Civil 3D with the object viewer or 3D display, they are now in 3D with rendered materials applied to them.

Civil 3D is also interoperable with 3Ds Max and Civil View. From here, you can save the file and then import it into 3Ds Max in order to apply rendering to the structures.

So is it fair to say that Civil 3D is not interoperable with other programs? I believe the answer is no. It’s just a matter of knowing how the programs are interoperable with one another and what file formats you need.

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