Autodesk Civil 3D objects in ArcGIS Pro 2.7

01-29-2021 05:26 AM
Esri Contributor
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The new release of ArcGIS Pro 2.7 supports direct-read of Autodesk Civil 3D objects. It generates CAD features that are included in a Civil 3D file, it also adds feature classes that are derived from the same content in a different representation. To present an overview of how Civil 3D data is read and structured in ArcGIS Pro, this blog will compare the data (objects) in Civil 3D and ArcGIS Pro. To examine the difference, a Civil 3D file that contains a pipe network and 3D objects will be used. The comparison considers two workflows:

  1. Using CADToGeodatabase GP tool,
  2. Direct-read of Civil 3D in ArcGIS Pro 2.7. 

To do so, the following questions will be addressed:

  • When importing Civil 3D data, what do we see in ArcGIS Pro?
  • What are the geometry types of the data imported in ArcGIS Pro? And can the resulting feature classes be published into ArcGIS Online?
  • How good can ArcGIS Pro handle Civil 3D data? 
  • Could data from two different sources be combined in ArcGIS Pro and published to WebGIS?


What do we see in ArcGIS Pro when importing Civil 3D data, and what does direct-read show?

Both approaches show exactly the same data structure and layers imported have the same feature classes that behave the same in ArcGIS Pro. The direct-read in the file I used showed an extra feature layer which is Polygon. This layer shows up in the direct-read of ArcGIS Pro despite being empty, whereas CADtoGeodatabase tool excluded the empty feature layer (see figures below). 

Direct-read structureDirect-read structureCadToGeodatabase tool structureCadToGeodatabase tool structure

Direct-read also shows some sort of costume symbology of the layer, for example, the figure below shows a standardized symbology of elements that try to mimic the data structure in Civil 3D. Even though these layers are actually empty. 

Symbology structure of the the feature-layer StructureSymbology structure of the the feature-layer Structure


Now, let's compare the feature layer attributes of ArcGIS Pro vs Civil 3D. In the snippets below, it is shown that both attributes of the layer are exactly the same in ArcGIS pro for both direct-read and CadToGeodatabase methods. Hence, all data and attributes are well transferred. It's noted that there are some extra attributes that show in ArcGIS Pro which are information regarding the importing process of the file read. 

Attributes in ArcGIS ProAttributes in ArcGIS ProAttributes in Civil 3DAttributes in Civil 3D


What are the geometry types that we see in ArcGIS Pro? Can the resulting feature classes be used in ArcGIS Online?

In ArcGIS Pro documentation you can find the supported geometry type of Civil 3D objects in ArcGIS Pro. For instance, pipes and Structure points types in Civil 3D are polyline and points types in ArcGIS Pro respectively. Moreover, In ArcGIS Pro, there are two 3D feature layers: Multipatch and Gravity work which represent Civil 3D data in 3D. However, the Multipatch feature class doesn't contain the attributes of the Civil 3D objects. Therefore, if you were to use the Multipatch feature, you need to populate the required attributes to it from the required feature layer such as pipes. This can be done using the Add Join tool using Handle as Input Join Table Field.  In this way, you can have a 3D multipatch layer that contains all attributes and can be used in ArcGIS Online. Note that this might be not the case if you have a 3D Solid object in Civil 3D. The Multipatch feature class can be uploaded and share across ArcGIS Online as a 3D scene layer. However, attention should be paid to the reference system. If you would like to share Multipatch layer in ArcGIS Online, you should have a file with a defined spatial reference system if it is directly read by ArcGIS Pro. Otherwise, you must use CadToGeodatabase GD tool to define the desired reference system. 

How good can ArcGIS Pro handle Civil 3D data? And can Civil 3D data be combined from different sources?

To answer this question I compared the functionality export FGDB in Civil 3D Software, with direct-read/CadToGeodatabase performance in ArcGIS Pro. Both approaches have similar results for 2D data (In the figures below, you see a comparison of the results). ArcGIS Pro results maintain the original attributes and add attributes related to the conversion process. Also, as mentioned before, it creates a 3D multipatch representation of the same objects, which is used for visualization and sharing across ArcGIS Online platforms. It is, of course, possible to combine the Multipatch feature layer with data from different sources in ArcGIS Pro and by default publish them to ArcGIS Online for sharing and conducting analysis. 
 Export FGDB functionality results - Civil 3DExport FGDB functionality results - Civil 3D


CadToGeodatabase functionality results - ArcGIS ProCadToGeodatabase functionality results - ArcGIS Pro


CadToGeodatabase functionality results-2 - ArcGIS ProCadToGeodatabase functionality results-2 - ArcGIS Pro

It is safe to say that ArcGIS Pro handles the complex setup of Civil 3D data well. However, for leveraging its power, the Civil 3D file at hand should be clean, well-designed, and does not contain noise. Engineers and designers that work with Civil 3D or other designing software tend to put all drawings and information in one file. This causes ArcGIS Pro to produce undesired results when trying to create a 3D representation of Civil 3D data. ArcGIS can be optimally used by first understanding how Civil 3D data are organized within a file; secondly understanding how ArcGIS Pro read and structure the data imported from Civil 3D. This will allow you to structure the data in a way that guarantees best practice. 


Civil 3D data is an important component of AEC world, and it is expected for such data to be used more and more across GIS platforms. Therefore, more research and enhancement on the tooling that handles this kind of data is required in ArcGIS platforms in the future. 


The following blog shows you how to export Autodesk Civil 3D Extended Data and Property Sets attributes to ArcGIS Pro/Online with your 2D/3D objects

Contact info:
Khaled Alhoz
GIS-BIM intern at Esri Nederland