When we worked up our procedure for importing Lidar into Civil3D a couple months ago, we realized there were way too many steps and way too many hoops to jump through.  Hoops preparing the data, through Recap to prepare a RCP/RCS, through Civil3D creating a point cloud, and finally creating the surface.  Highly trained professionals have more important things to do with their time than spend it like a well trained circus animal jumping through hoops, so we did something about it.

We decided to release a small subset of our C3DTools, to allow Civil3D users the ability to go straight from Lidar data to a TinSurface.  It utilizes the Civil3D API to generate the surface, so it’s Civil3D doing the triangulation, not us.   We are reading the points, filtering out only those you want, and pumping them in.  Here are the tools we considered needed for the task.

And along comes Bricsys with their implementation of TinSurfaces (for end users and in the API) in BricsCAD v20 Platinum and lately in BricsCAD v21 Pro. This allowed us to port this popular collection of free tools to BricsCAD. As of Nov 15, 2020 the (DotSoft ZIP File) download below also includes DLL files for these BricsCAD versions! The only tool that doesn’t work in BrisCAD is LIDARPROJ (process works in our MapWorks product).

Tool Description BCD C3D
LIDARCONV Prompts for a selection of files then converts them to LAZ for maximum compression and compatibility with the tools below. For maximum speed and file integrity, this tool uses RapidLasso’s LasZip for file conversions (with permission).
LIDARLIST Creates a detailed report displayed in your default browser, ready to print. Includes point count, coordinate window, elevation min/max and optionally classifications and subcounts.
LIDARMAKE Create a LAZ file from Tin/Grid surfaces (classification 2 for ground). Includes a surface sampler that writes out points on an virtual grid (user supplies interval) draped onto the surface for reducing existing overly dense surfaces.
LIDARPLOT Plots selected lidar files as point objects in the drawing. Beware that AutoCAD tends to slow down significantly and/or become unresponsive or unstable with massive amounts of points. A separate session is highly recommended.
LIDARPROJ Prompts for a selection of LAS/LAZ files, source and target system names. Then uses AutoCAD’s projection engine to convert the points to the new system (including elevation scaling). New file (with target code appended to name) stored in LAZ format using RapidLasso’s LasZip for maximum file integrity.  
LIDARTHIN Creates a reduced point copy of a dense file with various filters. Currently includes Distance (ignore points closer than specified to other points), Interval (useful for contours) and optional elevation min/max removal. Echos percent reduction of each file at command prompt.
LIDARTILES Prompts for a file selection of LAS/LAZ files, then draws rectangles in model space representing the extents of those tiles.  Label information includes file name, min/max elevation and total number of points.  Optionally include classifications found and the number of points for each.
LIDARTIN Prompts for a file selection of LAS/LAZ files, which classes to use (separate multiples with a comma), then a rectangular window for your area of interest.  Any points in a file that fall outside the window are not included.  Any files selected that fall outside the AOI are not even scanned for points (saved time).

This means you can have a massive collection of Lidar files (smaller tile the better) and simply select them all, window off your area of interest and in a short wait, have a TinSurface object ready to work with.

LAZ, The Best Format:

We included support for LAS purely for convenience, but the best file format for your Lidar data present and future is the LAZ file format.  It typically consumes about 18% of the space the LAS (or Recap) formats would, and roughly 1.5% of the space an ascii XYZ file would! Other considerations.

  • All major lidar products support the LAZ format for read/write.
  • The file format is open, documented and free libraries exist for it.
  • There are numerous tools available to manipulate these files.

So next time you order Lidar data, tell your provider “LAZ Format” please. Also specify maximum granularity since each small LAZ tile has a bounds header, software can skip an entire file if it’s outside your current area of interest.

Video Demonstration: Voice instructions in Spanish, but screen capture text is English.

Download LidarTools:

Zip File Instructions:

  1. Extract the ZIP contents to a folder (like D:\CADSTUFF).
  2. Start Civil3D or BricsCAD (if not already running).
  3. Issue the NETLOAD command.
  4. Browse to the folder from line one above.
  5. Choose the appropriate DLL for your CAD version.
  6. Click the [Open] button.

Zip File Notes:

  • If you have problems NETLOADing, you may need to unblock the DLLs using Windows Explorer.
  • After the first manual load, the add-on will automatically load for subsequent sessions.
  • Netloading from network drives may fail, consider using a local drive/path (like D:\CADSTUFF).
  • All CAD engine sessions must be closed before DLLs can be deleted or updated.
  • You can safely delete any LidarTools20##.dll you are not using.
Revision Tool Description
20170920 LIDARTILE Added width, height, thickness in label and zoom extents (to all) after drawing.
20171011 LIDARPLOT Added initial version.
20171011 LIDARTHIN Added initial version.
20171011 LIDARMAKE Added initial version.
20171011 LIDARLIST Added initial version.
20171022 Various Now using extended point count when standard count is zero, to handle LAS 1.4 format change.
20180714 All Included new LidarTools2019.dll for Civil3D 2019 compatibility.
20190606 All Included new LidarTools2020.dll for Civil3D 2020 compatibility, support for LAS 1.4 points.
20190708 All Corrected loading problem with 2020 version, revised ZIP file.
20191003 All Added LidarTools.cuix file, use CUILOAD command to load. If not shown, right click any tab > Show Tabs > Add-Ins.
20200415 All Included new LidarTools2021.dll for Civil3D 2021 compatibility.
20201115 All Included new LidarToolsBC20.dll for BricsCAD v20 Platinum compatibility.
20201115 All Included new LidarToolsBC21.dll for BricsCAD v21 Pro compatibility.
20210724 All Included new LidarTools2022.dll for Civil3D 2022 compatibility, added new Distance thinning option.
20220718 All Included new LidarToolsBC22.dll for BricsCAD v22 Pro compatibility.
20220718 All Included new LidarTools2023.dll for Civil3D 2023 compatibility.
20220728 LIDARPROJ Revised to replace “/” with “-” on coordinate systems having that special character which caused problems with the target file name.
20230512 All Included new LidarTools2024.dll for Civil3D 2024 compatibility.

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