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Adding 3D Objects to Your Project: Using Voxler with TurboCAD

About a month or so ago, I started working with a user trying to find an easy solution for adding 3D objects, such as buildings and storage tanks, to his Voxler models. The customer was using Voxler to create graphics for a soil contamination report and wanted to give the stakeholders for this project a good frame of reference for where the contamination plume extended under the existing structures. Adding the buildings and storage tanks to the Voxler model paints a clear picture of the subsurface contamination extent. Voxler does not currently offer 3D drawing functionality, so I took a look at some 3rd party applications to find the best solution for the user.

Searching for the Right 3D Drawing Application

Voxler started supporting 3D DXF in version 4, so finding an application that exports 3D DXF in the correct coordinate space was the main requirement. The user also wanted the solution to be cost effective, so I kept this in mind during my search.

I started with SketchUp, which was free, and quickly found that it was easy to create the desired 3D objects. The only drawback with SketchUp is that it’s difficult to export the 3D objects in the desired coordinate space. Since this is a requirement, SketchUp didn’t make the cut. I then took a look at AutoCAD, which definitely is an attractive application as it will do what I need it to do; however, the price is a lot higher than the user wanted to pay. My next option was to try TurboCAD. I downloaded the demo version to see if creating 3D objects was easy and to verify that they exported in the correct coordinate space. TurboCAD was easy enough to learn, I was able to create objects in the desired 3D coordinate space, and the price was inexpensive. My decision was made; I recommended using TurboCAD for the user’s 3D drawing needs. The rest of today’s blog post discusses creating 3D structures in urboCAD, exporting them in 3D DXF, and adding them to an existing Voxler project.

Creating 3D Objects in TurboCAD:

In order to create objects in TurboCAD that were in the correct coordinates space, I exported a ground surface elevation grid from Voxler in 3D DXF format. I opened the DXF in TurboCAD by using the File | Open command, which gave me a nice palette to start drawing objects on. I also positioned the DXF so that I had a top-down view of it by clicking View | 3D Views | Top. Now I am ready to create some 3D objects such as some tanks and a building.

To create the building, I am going to use these steps:

  1. Zoom into the project using the mouse wheel to where the building is going to be located.
  2. Click Draw | 3D Object | 3D Primitives | Box and draw a box where the building footprint should be located.
  3. Rotate the view a little bit using the mouse so I can see a profile of the surface and box.
  4. Click Edit | Select to get the selection tool.
  5. Click on the box, when prompted click Box.
  6. Click on the top of the box and drag it up until it looks to be relatively the correct height.

TurboCAD - Box primitiveAdding a box primitive to represent a building in TurboCAD.

Now that the basic primitive has been created for the building, I turned off the 3D surface so I could see the box better which allowed me to add a roof. There are a few ways to do this in TurboCAD, but since I’m new to TurboCAD I decided to add 2 wedges to create the roof:

  1. Click Draw | 3D Object | 3D Primitives | Wedge.
  2. With the mouse click on one corner of the box where the wedge should start and then click an opposite corner to make the base of the wedge.
  3. Drag the mouse up so that the wedge takes on the necessary height for the roof.
  4. Repeat these steps for the next wedge and to complete the roof.

TurboCAD - Wedge primitivesRepresenting a roof in TurboCAD with Wedge primitives.

Now that the building looks good, it’s time to add a few subsurface storage tanks. This can be done by using the following steps:

  1. Turn the display of the 3D surface back on by clicking the eye icon under Layer.
  2. Rotate the display so that the underneath portion of the 3D surface is exposed.
  3. Start drawing the cylinder by clicking Draw | 3D Object | 3D Primitives | Cylinder.
  4. Rotate the view a little bit and extend the cylinder to an appropriate length.
  5. Click Edit | Select, and select the cylinder.
  6. Rotate the cylinder so that it’s in the correct orientation to the 3D surface and building.
  7. If necessary, move the cylinder down by adjusting the Pos Z value at the bottom of the TurboCAD interface.TurboCAD - updating Z positionAdjusting the Z position for a storage tank by changing the Pos Z parameter In TurboCAD.

Now that the first storage tank has been created, I am going to copy it and paste another tank into the project. To do so I used the following steps:

  1. Click Edit | Select, and select the cylinder.
  2. Right-click on the cylinder, and choose the Rubber Stamp command.
  3. Position the tank in the appropriate location and click the mouse to insert the new cylinder.
  4. Check the elevation of the tank to make sure it’s good by checking the Pos Z value; adjust as needed. Both of the tanks should be at the same Pos Z.

The building and subsurface storage tanks have been added to the project; now they need to be rendered as solids in draft mode before they are exported for use in Voxler. To do so, right-click on the model in TurboCAD and choose the Draft Rendering option. The buildings also look nice if some additional color is added to them. Please note this is important to do in TurboCAD prior to export as Voxler will not allow you to change the colors of the DXF after it has been imported. Select one of the objects like the cylinder, then right-click and choose Properties. In the Properties dialog, select Pen and then change the drop-down menu under Color to change the color of the selected object. I changed the tanks to grey and the building to red and brown. TurboCAD - Building and tanksThe building and storage tanks rendered as solids with colors in TurboCAD.

Exporting the 3D Objects

Finally, I can export the building and tanks so I can use them in Voxler. Before I do so, I am going to delete the 3D surface so it is not included in the export. To do so, click Edit | Select and select the 3D surface and press the DELETE key. To export, click File | Save As. In the Save As dialog, name the file and make sure that the Save as type is set to DXF – Drawing eXchange Format and click Save. The DXF can be imported into Voxler and will locate in the correct coordinate space as shown in the image below. Voxler - 3D well model with 3D CAD structuresThe final project in Voxler that contains the 3D buildings and storage tanks created in TurboCAD.

TurboCAD ended up being a very easy-to-use tool and satisfied the user’s need for adding 3D objects, such as storage tanks and buildings, to Voxler projects. This low-cost solution gives Voxler users the ability to add any 3D object that can be drawn inside of TurboCAD to Voxler, increasing the effectiveness of any Voxler model to all involved stakeholders. New copies of Voxler and upgrades from previous versions are available for purchase from our shopping page. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any suggestions or questions you may have!

 

 

Comments 4

Guest - Norman Taylor on Wednesday, 20 July 2016 13:49

Drew -
I tried doing a similar import of 3DSOLID cylinders in DXF format. The exports were from AutoCAD 2016 (2007 and 2010 formats) and from DraftSight 2016 (2007 and 2010 formats). All four attempted imports generated error messages in Voxler 4. For Acad in 2007 format, the message was "Unable to match input file format." For the other three, the partial message was "... contains embedded data in unsupported '3DSOLID' format. ...". Major bummer.
Cheers...
Norman

Drew - I tried doing a similar import of 3DSOLID cylinders in DXF format. The exports were from AutoCAD 2016 (2007 and 2010 formats) and from DraftSight 2016 (2007 and 2010 formats). All four attempted imports generated error messages in Voxler 4. For Acad in 2007 format, the message was "Unable to match input file format." For the other three, the partial message was "... contains embedded data in unsupported '3DSOLID' format. ...". Major bummer. Cheers... Norman
Jennifer Woodson on Wednesday, 20 July 2016 15:42

Hi Norman,

You're correct that 3DSOLID entities are not supported at this time. This is a proprietary format we hope to support in the future. I've added your vote for this functionality to our suggestion list. We appreciate your interest in Voxler!

Thanks,
Jennifer Woodson
Technical Support

Hi Norman, You're correct that 3DSOLID entities are not supported at this time. This is a proprietary format we hope to support in the future. I've added your vote for this functionality to our suggestion list. We appreciate your interest in Voxler! Thanks, Jennifer Woodson Technical Support
Guest - Travis Fleenor on Wednesday, 08 June 2016 10:52

Glad I could help out with this! Thanks so much for using our product and recommending it to our users!

-Travis at TurboCAD

Glad I could help out with this! Thanks so much for using our product and recommending it to our users! -Travis at TurboCAD
Guest - Drew on Wednesday, 08 June 2016 12:52

Hi Travis,

You are very welcome! I will be recommending TurboCAD to our user base for a solution for their 3D drawing needs.

~Drew

Hi Travis, You are very welcome! I will be recommending TurboCAD to our user base for a solution for their 3D drawing needs. ~Drew
Guest
Tuesday, 17 January 2017

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22 December 2015
Surfer

Rainer Albert is an experienced Surfer user and recently discovered the versatility of Voxler. Below outlines his contribution to the modeling of the Kölliken hazardous waste landfill using 3D visualizations from both Surfer and Voxler.

Kolliken Hazardous Waste Landfill

The landfill consists of a wide range of organic and inorganic wastes from the industry, commerce and public sectors. Over a 7 year span 475,000 tons of hazardous wastes were deposited in the landfill. The site’s restoration process started in 1985 and the site is currently being excavated and remediated under the large hall (as pictured above) in order to be fully restored by 2016.

Rainer uses Surfer to display the topography of the site along with the 3D rendering of buildings. The image below shows a 3D surface map with an overlaid contour map, post map and image. The building in the forefront is the Swalba and House Matter Hall.

Surfer 3D Surface Map - Topography

Topography at the end of 2011; Modeling done by ARGE Phoenix using Surfer.

Voxler is used to display the waste type and waste concentration from data collected between the surface and bottom layers. The distances between the surface and bottom can span up to 17 meters apart. In the below Voxler image, the transparent surface layer is overlaid with contour lines to display the landfill’s terrain while also displaying the chemical types and concentrations below.

Voxler Contour Lines Voxler Concentrations Map

This image, created in Voxler, details the Kölliken hazardous waste landfill’s terrain along with chemical types and concentrations.

The concentration of manganese in the site from a bird’s eye view. For the full views, click here.

For more information, visit the Surfer and Voxler webpages.

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25 January 2016
Surfer

Quite often people will ask, “What are the differences between Surfer and QGIS?” Below is a comparison of the main features and functionality of each program. Surfer, as you may know, provides 2D and 3D contouring complete with surface mapping software. QGIS has an assortment of plugins, and we haven’t been able to review them all. I encourage you review and let me know if there is any missing information. As new information comes in, I’ll be sure to update the matrix below.

  Surfer version 13 QGIS version 2.12.3
Price 1-3 licenses $849/license
4-10 licenses $805/license
11+ licenses $765/license
Free
Development Model Commercial Open source
Plug-ins
Red X
Green Check
Free Resources
Website
Green Check
Green Check
Live technical support
Phones
Green Check
Red X
Email
Green Check
Red X
Live chat
Green Check
Red X
Knowledge Base
Green Check
Red X
Forums
Green Check
Green Check
User Groups
Red X
Green Check
Documentation
In-program help
Green Check
Red X
Training manual
Green Check
Green Check
Paid for Resources
Full PDF user guide
Green Check
Red X
Live training
Green Check
Provided by
Golden Software &
authorized resellers
Green Check
Provided by 3rd party
contributors
Map Types
Base map
Green Check
Green Check
Contour map
Green Check
Green Check
Image map
Green Check
Green Check
Post map
Green Check
Green Check
Classed post map
Green Check
Red X
Shaded relief map
Green Check
Green Check
Vector map (1-grid)
Green Check
Red X
Vector map (2-grid)
Green Check
Red X
Watershed map
Green Check
Green Check
Viewshed map
Green Check
Green Check
3D surface map
Green Check
Green Check
3D wireframe map
Green Check
Red X
Pie chart thematic map
Red X
Green Check
Histogram thematic map
Red X
Green Check
Map Features
Axes
Green Check
Red X
Profiles
Green Check
Green Check
Scale bar
Green Check
Green Check
Color scale
Green Check
Green Check
Coordinate systems
Green Check
Green Check
Import/edit/export attributes
Green Check
Green Check
Measure distance
Green Check
Green Check
Measure angles
Red X
Green Check
Digitize XYZ points
Green Check
Green Check
Overlay maps
Green Check
Green Check
Stack maps
Green Check
Red X
Log contours
Green Check
Red X
Save/load contour levels
Green Check
Red X
Edit contours
Red X
Green Check
Inline contour labels
Green Check
Green Check
Map transparency
Green Check
Green Check
Gridding/Interpolation/Rasterizing
Inverse distance
Green Check
Green Check
Kriging
Green Check
Red X
Minimum curvature
Green Check
Red X
Modified Shepard's method
Green Check
Red X
Natural neighbor
Green Check
Red X
Nearest neighbor
Green Check
Green Check
Polynomial regression
Green Check
Red X
Radial basis function
Green Check
Red X
Triangulation with linear interpolation
Green Check
Green Check
Moving average
Green Check
Green Check
Data metrics
Green Check
Green Check
Local polynomial
Green Check
Red X
Function grid
Green Check
Red X
Variogram modeling
Green Check
Red X
Grid date/time data
Green Check
Red X
Grid reports with statistics
Green Check
Red X
Faults
Green Check
Green Check
Breaklines
Green Check
Green Check
Anisotropy
Green Check
Red X
TIN support
Red X
Green Check
Grid Functions
Math
Green Check
Green Check
Calculus
Green Check
Green Check
Filter
Green Check
Green Check
Spline smooth
Green Check
Red X
Blank/null
Green Check
Green Check
Convert
Green Check
Green Check
Extract
Green Check
Green Check
Transform
Green Check
Red X
Mosaic
Green Check
Green Check
Volume
Green Check
Green Check
Slice
Green Check
Red X
Residuals
Green Check
Red X
Grid info
Green Check
Green Check
Grid node editor
Green Check
Red X
Assign coordinate system
Green Check
Green Check
Regrid
Red X
Green Check
Grid metadata
Red X
Green Check
Grid transpose
Green Check
Red X
3D File Viewer
Red X
Green Check
Worksheet
Green Check
Red X
Automation
Green Check
Green Check
Import/Export
Import options
33
22
Export options
27
28
Open grid
47
64
Save grid
24
64

Beyond the actual functionality, another difference between Surfer and QGIS is the development models. Surfer is a commercially developed program whereas QGIS is open source and is developed by a community of contributors. While it’s difficult to quantify, I believe it’s worth mentioning the pros and cons, according to me, associated with our commercial software model and QGIS’s open source model.

As a commercially developed product, Surfer comes with a price tag. Since people are spending their hard earned dollars, it is our duty to develop a high quality product. Our developers adhere to rigorous developmental principles, all code is reviewed by another developer, and Surfer undergoes extensive internal and external testing periods. We put a great focus on the usability of Surfer to ensure feature are easy to access. Beyond the quality of the product, we take great pride in the support we provide Surfer customers. All technical support is free for any version of the product (yes, even back to MS-DOS). This includes live phone, email, and chat along with our 24x7 web resources including the open forums and knowledge base. We also have a dedicated documentation writer who ensures all aspects of Surfer is documented.

Another point worth mentioning is longevity. Golden Software has been around since 1983, and we’ve sold licenses in 185 countries and on all seven continents.

Alternatively, as an open source product, QGIS is completely free and is developed through the good intentions of anyone wishing to contribute to its feature set. As such, anyone from a hobby developer to a senior developer can contribute, but there are minimal quality controls around code quality and program usability. QGIS does seem to have a strong community of followers which is important because it is to this community you will turn for technical support. Paid-for commercial support is also offered through 3rd party contractors. Like the development of QGIS, documentation is handled through the good intentions of volunteers which results in a wide range of poorly documented features to well documented features.

Let me know your thoughts on Surfer vs. QGIS. What do you like and what do you dislike about each program?

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