How to Create a Surface in Autodesk Civil 3D from a LiDAR Point Cloud

In this article you will learn how to create a 3D surface in Autodesk Civil 3D.

To follow along you will need to use: Equator, Autodesk ReCap Pro and Autodesk Civil 3D.

Civil3D TIN Surface


Watch the video tutorial below or follow along with the written tutorial.

Step 1: Generate a Point Cloud in Equator

In Equator, locate a site where you would like to generate your 3D surface. Once you’ve located the area, click + New Site in the bottom left (shown below in red).

Vista Verde Site in Equator

Next, make sure the site box is over the area you would like to export data from and click Okay (shown below in red).

Vista Verde Declare Site in Equator

In the Data menu that appears on the left, scroll down until you see ‘Point Cloud’ (shown below in red). Click on it.

Vista Verde Generate Point Cloud


In the next menu that appears, click Generate.

Generate Point Cloud in Equator


After your point cloud has loaded in, open the Layers menu on the left. Then, click the download button on your point cloud (shown below in red). This will open another menu. In this menu, ensure the format is ‘LAZ (Ground)’ and click Process. After a short period, your point cloud will be downloaded to your computer.

Download Pointcloud in Equator

Step 2: Converting the LAZ file in Autodesk ReCap Pro

Next we are going to bring the LAZ file we generated in Equator over to Autodesk ReCap Pro to convert it into a file type that can be used in Civil 3D. First, open ReCap Pro. Then, create a new project (shown below).

Create Project in Recap Pro

Then, click Import.

Import Data in Recap Pro

After naming your new project and clicking Proceed, click ‘select files to import’ (shown below). Select the .laz file that we export from Equator in the previous step.

Select Files to Import


Then, click import files (shown below). This could take a few minutes.

Import Files in Recap Pro


Once the point cloud has loaded into ReCap Pro, all that’s left to do is export it. To do this, locate the button (shown below) or use the hotkey Ctrl + E. Your data should export in a .rcs file.

Export from Recap Pro

Step 3: Creating a 3D surface in Autodesk Civil 3D

In Civil 3D, open the Insert menu and click Attach (shown below). Navigate to your .rcs file and click Open.

Attach Point Cloud in Civil 3D

In the top left, you can drag the ‘Level of Detail’ slider to increase the level of detail. This will make the point cloud appear on your screen.

Level of Detail in Civil 3D

Once you can see the point cloud, click Create Surface from Point Cloud (shown below).

Create Surface from Point Cloud in Civil 3D

In the following menu, navigate to ‘on-Ground Point Filtering’ on the left and ensure ‘no filter’ is selected. Then, click Create Surface at the bottom.

No Filter in Civil 3D

Finally, once the surface has been created (this can take a few minutes), you will be able to zoom in and see the contours in Civil 3D.

Contours in Civil 3D

Congratulations! You have created a surface for use in Civil 3D using Equator!

For this tutorial we use high-quality LiDAR data from Equator

Click here to get free LiDAR point clouds for your projects