New P3D Features I Like – And, You Might, Too!

By Steve Cummings • March 28th, 2019
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You can have all the RGB or LiDAR point clouds you want, but if you can’t quickly and easily generate a quality surface with smooth contours, there’s no chance of creating deliverables you are proud of, or running good hydrology calculations, or anything else you might need for a surface.

I come at this not as a surveyor, engineer, or as a programmer, but as a designer. My career has been spent using 3D software to design things like roof trusses, structural panels, beams, and columns or managing factories that make this stuff. The summer I surveyed, we used a piece of graph paper and a Smoley’s Four Combined Tables booklet.

If Gramps was an engineer or surveyor, he had one of these.

I’m not a designer anymore, but I still think like one – I’ve got to get the job done.

My imaginary boss says (as bosses are sometimes wont to do): “Hey, Steve, I’ve had this point cloud for a few days but I didn’t get to it – I need the volume of this pile and a good topo for a customer – I need it in an hour.”

Uh oh.

But I’m not panicking because I have Carlson Precision 3D 2019. I open it and set my projection and import the point cloud, draw a polyline around the pile, and use the volume command. In less than six minutes, I have the volume: 97161 cubic feet.

Many software packages can do this.

But the surface and contouring look like this. This “noise” is typical and inherent of all RGB point clouds, about +/- 0.1’.

Again, no problem, I have P3D 2019 with surface manipulation tools nobody else has – Smart Smoothing.

I use the Bare Earth filtering while loading the point cloud to save some time.

Using the polyline, I make a new point cloud from the points inside the polyline, reduce “noise” (errant pixels floating around, bits of birds, etc.), then a random fill, and then a couple of planar fills. These use a bunch of high-powered statistical algorithms that deconstruct and reconstruct the cloud like a Star Trek transporter beam except that when you get there, you’re a better person than when you left.

The original:

After the magic:

But did we change the volume calculation? Yes, we did, by – 0.022%.

I can export this surface as a Carlson .tin file with a right-click and a file name. I can convert the contour lines to polylines and export them as a LandXML or a DXF file with a few more clicks and a file name and I can do it all in less than 15 minutes.

Making the classic designer mistake, I tell my boss that I’m done. He doesn’t say, “Wow, nice job, how’d you do that? Here’s a raise, take the day off.” Instead, like many bosses, he says. “I need to meet a client out by the fairgrounds tomorrow morning and I need a TOPO of the site before I leave today.”

“No problem,” I say. Because I live in Kentucky (other states coming soon), all I have to do to find the state LiDAR tiles is to type the name into the search field. Before importing, I click a switch to give me the ground classified only and I’ve got my bare ground LiDAR point cloud loaded.

Making sure I’m in the right spot, I download the Google Maps image with a click.

I cut the area out of the center that I need with the crop point cloud command and a polyline, then use the same smart smoothing tools with slightly different inputs because the pixels are much farther apart in the state LiDAR tiles.

Beautiful contours:

Is this as accurate as if I drove out and shot it with GPS? No, but for my boss’s meeting, this is all he needs for contours. He has one more request, “Can you put some detail on it, please? I’ve never been to this site.” “Sure!” I say.

You can drag and drop the Google image, or you own ortho image, onto a surface.

Or colorize the point cloud itself with a click.

But what about all those old lousy surfaces you’ve been living with?

Load the surface in P3D with one click to make a point cloud from a surface then smooth the cloud and create a new surface that works.

What else is new?

Here a customer has dropped and merged a design surface from Bentley onto a smoothed, colorized .tin created from LiDAR using LandXML. For presentation, they used the road centerline and “drove” down the roadway. Note the design surface maintains its texturing while the LiDAR surface also maintains its Google Map colors.

Below are USDA Soil Type polygons downloaded with one click.

Use these in conjunction with smart textures to quickly, automatically generate subcatchments, their areas, and their weighted average Curve Numbers or Runoff Coefficients, and Time of Concentration.

You can generate automated, dynamic ditch liner design based on your liner preferences, slope, runoff volume, and velocity.

Or just draw your own line, make it a ditch with a click, add some flow and your liner is designed.

Yes, you can dynamically design culverts too:

Or engineer entire stormwater networks:

How about automated or synced changes between Precision 3D and your DWG in your office software or with a DGN format? We call this DynamicCad.
If you’re into mining, blast hole layouts and Boretrak functionality are here.

If you’re a police officer, use for accident scenes or other terrible situations with Carlson CSI.

Maybe you’re into BIM, or Field-to-Finish or GIS, assigning a 3D object and some data to a location in your work.

Here we’ve mapped a customer’s Bentley storm water system into the customer’s designed surface. This one took a little work. First, we had to make a few inlets, then we had to match some of the customer’s nomenclature. Then, we sucked the data right out of the customer’s database. The boxes and pipes are all parametric from the data. The red lines mean I don’t like gutter spreads greater than 8 feet. Once the work is done the systems import very quickly. It looks like they could use some smoothing on their berms!

I did all this in just a couple hours. If I can do it with ease using Precision 3D 2019, I know you can.

Ask a Question

– Steve

Steve Cummings
BIM/Parametric Design Specialist
P – 606.564.5028

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