Terrain modeling plays a critical role in site planning, site grading, earthwork, quantity estimates, and more. It gives engineers a more accurate understanding of the earth’s bare surface which allows them to design better-performing structures and be more cost-efficient.
Plex-Earth offers a feature to easily generate 3D Terrain Models in a blink of an eye, directly into an AutoCAD or BricsCAD drawing.
This tutorial will guide users on how to import terrain using Plex-Earth.
Importing a Terrain
Before importing a terrain, make sure that the drawing is always georeferenced.
Step 1. Select the Terrain Provider
Go to the Plex-Earth ribbon and on the Terrain panel, click on Import Terrain.
Plex-Earth will then prompt you to specify the terrain cover area.
Before proceeding to do that, choose the preferred terrain data provider by clicking on the provider located in the bottom left corner of the window.
After clicking on the provider, the Terrain Source window will appear. Click on the highlighted part below to select the preferred terrain data source.
The available terrain data providers will be displayed in the following window. Choose the preferred one then click OK afterward.
Click OK on the previous window and proceed to the next step.
Click here to see how to enable Google Earth as a terrain provider.
Step 2. Specify Terrain Cover Area
After selecting the terrain data source, proceed with specifying the terrain cover area via the two options presented: in drawing and in Google Earth.
- In drawing - Select this option to specify the area in the drawing by either defining the area's two opposite corners or by selecting an existing polyline that bounds the area of interest.
- In Google Earth - Select this option to specify the terrain cover area by selecting a Google Earth element that defines the project area located in Google Earth.
Method 1. Specify in Drawing
Click on the “Specify in drawing” button. Plex-Earth will then prompt one to select the area of interest. This can be done by either defining the area's two opposite corners or by selecting an existing polyline that bounds the area of interest.
Note: If you select the polyline option, make sure that the polyline has at least three corner points for successful grid mesh calculation. Or else, Plex-Earth will not be able to import the terrain.
After defining the area of the terrain to import, Plex-Earth will start downloading the terrain.
Method 2. Select in Google Earth
To opt for this method, click ''Select in Google Earth''. Once done, a pop-up window will be displayed explaining the procedure that needs to be followed in order to specify the desired coverage area in Google Earth.
Open Google Earth and create an element (placemark, path, polygon) that specifies the area of interest. Right-click on the Google Earth element and choose “Copy”.
Once the element has been copied, Plex-Earth will commence the terrain download.
The terrain should be downloaded within a few seconds and it will be displayed as contours.
Step 3. Convert the Dynamic Plex-Earth Terrain into a Static CAD Object
The terrain imported is a dynamic object unique to Plex-Earth. For the object to remain in the drawing even out of a Plex-Earth session, insert a static CAD object. This can be done by clicking the Insert button from the Terrain Editor and choosing the preferred CAD object to insert.
What is a Dynamic Terrain in Plex-Earth?
The terrains initially imported through Plex-Earth are dynamic in the sense that they are imported in the drawing as Plex-Earth elements and can be constantly modified when certain parameters (such as contour settings) are changed through the software. These changes are, of course, applied instantly. As such, when a drawing file is saved, these imports are automatically re-imported into the drawing through Plex-Earth.
By inserting an AutoCAD or BricsCAD object placed as a block, the base data can not be changed. The block can be edited as any CAD object (such as changing layer properties, etc.). As such, when a drawing file is saved, these terrain data are not re-loaded from Plex-Earth, as they are stored within the drawing as CAD elements, thus the user can work with them offline or outside a Plex-Earth session.
When a dynamic terrain is imported, the Terrain Editor palette will show up in the CAD workspace. This will let the user customize the dynamic terrain even further to better suit his needs.
Parts of the Terrain Editor:
- Terrain Name (red) - Displays the name of the terrain. Double-clicking on it lets you rename the terrain by typing the new name in CAD’s command line
- Hide (black) - This button hides/shows the dynamic terrain
- Inquiry (blue) - This button will show the elevation, slope, and direction of a position specified in the drawing
- Labels (orange) - This button will show different options for labels for elevation contours.
- Contour Labels - This will let the user create new labels or edit existing labels for elevation contours
- Remove Labels - Provided that there are labels created, this will remove selected labels
- Clear Labels - Provided that there are existing labels, this will clear all labels for the terrain
- Edit (green) - This button will show options for editing the position of the dynamic terrain.
- Send to Back - This will send the dynamic terrain to the back of the drawing.
- Bring to Front - This will bring the dynamic terrain to the front of the drawing.
- Move - This option gives the ability to specify displacement to correct possible misalignment by specifying the source point and destination point.
- Rotate - This option gives the ability to rotate the dynamic terrain to the correct position, by specifying an origin point or angle (in degrees).
- Insert (yellow) - This button lets users insert static CAD objects that will remain in the drawing even out of a Plex-Earth session.
- Contour polylines - This inserts a block containing contour polylines which can be exploded into single polylines.
- TIN mesh - This inserts a TIN (either polyface or mesh object) as a block which can be exploded into several mesh tiles by range
- Civil 3D surface (for AutoCAD Civil 3D only) - This inserts a Civil 3D surface for the dynamic terrain in the drawing.
- Points - This inserts a block containing point objects which can be exploded into single points.
- Analysis object - Provided that a terrain analysis has been performed, this inserts a block containing the results of the most recent analysis
- Legend table - Provided that a terrain analysis has been performed, this inserts a legend table that contains a summary/report of the information for the analysis
- Information section (pink) - This displays basic information about the terrain. This section may update when an inquiry is performed.
- Contours dropdown box (purple) - This section lets the user change the parameters of the contours
- Analysis dropdown box (brown) - This section gives the ability to set parameters for performing a terrain analysis. For more information on how to perform terrain analysis, check out this tutorial.
All the terrain objects of a drawing can be accessed from Plex-Earth's Terrain Manager. To open it, click on the "Show Terrain Manager" button on the Plex-Earth ribbon, as highlighted below:
The Terrain Manager palette will pop up and it will display a list of all the terrain objects contained in the drawing.
On the top part of the palette, there are buttons to modify the terrain objects.
- New Terrain - This imports a new terrain, surface, or volume into the drawing. It functions the same as the Import Terrain dropdown button from the Plex-Earth ribbon.
- Toggle Visibility - This will hide/show all the dynamic terrain objects in the drawing
- Sources - This will display the terrain data providers.
- Remove - This completely deletes a terrain/surface from the list
- Close (x) button - This closes the Terrain Manager palette.
When the mouse cursor is pointed on a terrain object on the list, two buttons will be visible beside the object, the Zoom to Object and "T" buttons.
- Visibility button - This will show/hide the terrain item.
- Zoom to Object - This will allow CAD to zoom to the extents of the respective terrain.
- Rename (T) - This will allow a user to rename the selected terrain object on the list.
- Edit - This will show the Terrain editor.
Temporarily Hide and Reveal the Dynamic Terrain
If there is a need to temporarily hide all the dynamic terrain imported, use the Toggle Visibility command from the Terrain panel.
To reveal the hidden dynamic terrain, simply click on the same button and the terrain should show up instantly.
Using this command prevents wasting more time on repeating the process of removing the dynamic terrain and reimporting it.
To hide an individual terrain if there are several terrains, hover the mouse on the terrain from the list and click the eye button.
NOTE: Enabling the Toggle Visibility command to hide a certain dynamic will also hide any visible dynamic terrains imported in the drawing but clicking on the same button to reveal a hidden dynamic terrain will not reveal terrains hidden individually through the terrain manager.
Now that Plex-Earth created the terrain model, an engineer can proceed to the designing process with greater confidence and analyze all the important aspects of his project site (bumps, dips, channels, etc.) with just a few clicks and from the comfort of his own office or home.
We hope that you have found this tutorial on how to import terrain, helpful. Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions you may still have.
Don't have Plex-Earth yet? Explore all the features and potential benefits of this software; install a fully functional 7-day free trial of Plex-Earth now!
AutoCAD Version: 2023, 2022 , 2021 , 2020 , 2019 , 2018 , 2017 , 2016
Civil 3D® Version: 2023, 2022 , 2021 , 2020 , 2019 , 2018 , 2017 , 2016
AutoCAD Architecture Version: 2023, 2022 , 2021 , 2020 , 2019 , 2018 , 2017 , 2016
BricsCAD Pro: V22 , V21