January 23, 2013

Import Sketchup Model into Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler

At Ideate, we are asked about the value of purchasing the Infrastructure Design Suite. Included in Infrastructure Design Suite Premium and Ultimate is Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler; a great program for quickly visualizing your design in context for meetings with stakeholders and/or clients.

Problem – you are using Infrastructure Modeler to present your next urban development project proposal. And to make it more realistic and compelling you want to insert a 3D model of the nearby landmark giving the project stakeholders a visual perspective. You have seen 3D models of buildings in Google Earth but this is Infrastructure Modeler. Not Google Earth!

The 3D buildings you see in Google Earth are sketchup models. But can you import these 3D models in Infrastructure Modeler?

Is it possible to import any sketchup model into Infrastructure Modeler? The answer is Yes. Here’s how!

Before I raise your hopes – I am not aware of any direct way to achieve this so we will have to take a detour via Civil 3D.

So the process is to:
1. Import the model first into Civil 3D by using the Sketchup Import plug-in. This plug-in can be downloaded and installed from Autodesk Exchange which is found in the Infocenter on the top right as shown below.
2. Then export this model to an FBX file
3. And finally import and configure it in Infrastructure Modeler. Configuring includes move, scale, rotate as necessary to georeference.
You can possibly insert the sketchup model in Civil 3D project drawing that contains the georeferenced image and terrain and move, scale and rotate the model to georeference it here in Civil 3D.
Import the Model in Civil 3D
From within Civil 3D, Plug-ins tab > Sketchup Import panel > click on Get 3D Model

From Sketchup Import – Get 3D Model window, click on Download Model to download and insert the model in Civil 3D. Depending upon what’s available you will be given options – I got the 9MB model.

Here is the 3D model of Golden Gate Bridge in Civil 3D.

Export the Model to FBX
Go To Application Menu > Export and save the file as FBX format.

In the FBX Export Options dialog box, choose what you want to export appropriately – I exported everything visible – the drawing had only one model.

Import the Model in Infrastructure Modeler
From within Infrastructure Modeler, click on Data Source in the Home tab to open the Data Source palette. Click 3D Model as shown below and then pick the above FBX file. I had already imported the surface and image from Civil 3D 2012 using LandXML and Raster data sources, respectively.

Once the model is imported you need to configure it.

In the Data Source palette, double click on the row corresponding to the FBX file you just imported.

In the Data Source configuration dialog box,
Assign it a type depending upon the data, I chose Buildings, could have chosen City Furniture as well.
Assign a coordinate system to the data source (on the top), in this case I used XY-FT because the data does not have any coordinate system. Then there is a coordinate system for where the data will get placed in the model - I assigned the appropriate California State Plane coordinate system. I also had to scale the model down 12 times to convert meters to feet. You can see the scale factor of 0.083 for X, Y, Z. 
Click on Interactive Placing… and then double click in the model area to place the sketchup model in the project. Remember, it’s a double click. 
You may have to move and rotate the model to place it accurately.
That’s it, you are done. 
Here is the final result in Infrastructure Modeler. Enjoy!

Gaurav Bagga

Ideate Infrastructure Solutions Application Specialist

Gaurav is a well rounded Application Engineer and Project Manager for Infrastructure Solutions at Ideate based out of San Francisco. He has over 15 years experience in construction industry and has been helping numerous small, medium and ENR 500 firms maximize their CAD investment for the last ten years. Gaurav is an Autodesk Certified Instructor and Autodesk Civil 3D Implementation Certified Expert. He has taught at several conferences, CAD Camps and Autodesk University. He has taught AutoCAD, Civil 3D, Land Desktop and Map 3D to thousands of students and helps Ideate develop the Infrastructure Services curriculum and courses. With his extensive CAD technology background he helps Bay Area engineering and surveying firms analyze and improve their design and drawing production process thereby improving productivity and the bottom line. Follow Gaurav on Twitter: @BeGeez

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