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Hello All,

   We are a relatively small surveying shop in between Allentown and Reading in Berks County, PA. We have been using Trimble's Terramodel software since I started working here 18 years ago right out of high school. I went to the surveyor's conference last year to check out Carlson and AutoCAD Civil 3D as we have been having many issues importing CAD files that we are getting from different design engineers when we go to prepare for construction stakeout. As it seems that Terramodel is still best suited for the work we do, we will continue to use that for now. I was told that AutoDesk was planning to invest some time and resources into improving the Civil 3D software to prevent it from crashing repeatedly. Perhaps I'll revisit the idea of switching over once they work a few more bugs out.

    Anyway, I was hoping that someone has cracked the secret to convert newer CAD files to something that can be imported into Terramodel. We have IntelliCAD 2015, which works for some instances by saving back to Acad 2000 version DWG or DXF. We have also used TrueView to save files back to 2000 version somewhat effectively. Sometimes we are still unable to make the CAD file usable in TM. Nothing seems to be a consistent fix, and I was hoping that someone somewhere may have unlocked the secret to what needs to happen to CAD files to make sure the data will import to TM properly.

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  • We have Terramodel 10.61. I used to use it quite a bit, mostly for contouring because it had really nice routines and it also handled massive point files (like LIDAR tiles) well. But in recent years I have found several other programs that do all of that and more and since Terramodel is not supported I have given it up. 

    To your question, We always used AutoCad TrueView to convert newer version ACAD files down to what TM can accept (which for us is like 2007). Just make sure you are using the latest version. As far as Carlson and ACAD are concerned, Only Carlson Civil works with the 3D files and probably a bit iffy up until the 2017 version. We had problems with 3D from the other end. We were required to send in design topo for projects in 3D. After doing so, we were told to stop and just do it in 2D and supply a point file so the engineer could run his own surface. The problem is that 3D had so many particular templates and variables that are user specific and if yours does not match, then it is more of a hassle to fix.

    So probably the real answer will be to have the engineers supply you with a 2D version of their 3D for you r staking use. Buying your own version of 3D will be costly and likely will still present problems in terms of importing someone else's 3D file into your system.

    We don't have Carlson Civil but do have a lease per use deal for 3D and primarily use Carlson Survey & PointCloud along with a few other very good pointcloud and LIDAR capable GIS programs.

    • I used to float the idea for a group of Terramodel users to get together and buy the code for Terramodel from Trimble.  However, it looks like they're starting to incorporate some of the Terramode concepts in TBC, so they may not release it.

      I liken their purchase of Terramodel to something in a box of junk from a garage sale where you buy the box to get one item.  Trimble wanted machine control (Spectra Precision) and they ended up with everything that came in the box, including Terramodel.  I don't know why they then decided to re-invent the wheel with TBC.

    • Land Surveyor

      Thanks for the feedback.

  • Land Surveyor

    Half of our work is in the Data Prep area, building 3D models of heavy highways as well as smaller site developments and subdivisions.

    We receive files developed in various programs from Autocad to Microstation and do our work in Terramodel and Trimble Business Center.

    Much of the problems we encounter have to do with not having all the reference files and I don’t mean simply Xrefs of line work.

    Many of the things we see as text and contours inside Autocad or on the PDF plans are actually styles of a surface. IF THAT SURFACE IS NOT IN THE CAD FILE THE TEXT AND OR CONTOURS WILL SIMPLY NOT BE THERE.

    Sometimes we get hundreds of cad files and maybe in one of them they will have actually left the surface which needs to be re-referenced into whichever file is supposed to have the contours and text. Sometimes they will have exported an XML of the surface which may have to be imported.

    In Autocad civil 3D 2017 there is what is called the Prospector. Often, when we open a cad file, we can go to the Prospector and see if there are any “broken references” or surfaces with flags/exclamation points/yellow triangles (yes there are even more different types of flags..go figure) that require to be rebuilt before the text and or contours will show.

    If there is a surface showing without flags, it may simply be that the surface display properties are not showing contours or text.

    Keep in mind that I am NOT an Autocad expert.

    That said, there are two commands that we have found take care of some of these issues.

    My mantra is BURST first and then EXPLODE.

    BURST seems to deal with text attributes where “smart” text may be dynamically linked to a surface or assembly of some kind. EXPLODE is what needs to happen to Proxy objects like contours.

    So I BURST until it says 0 items can be bursted and then I EXPLODE at least once, sometimes twice, after which I BURST again.

    Then I just hit save and drag the cad file into Trimble Business Center where I run the Cleanup routine that works very well for basically purging the file of duplicate lines and unused layers as well as a few other things.


    As far as Autocad Object Enablers are concerned, we have found that you need the correct version of the enabler for the version of cad the file was saved in. Having all the different Object Enablers or even knowing what version you would need is simply not an answer for us. We have tried this avenue.


    We ended up purchasing AutoCAD Civil 3D 2017 because of these issues! The owner of my company and I actually went to a one week course to get familiarized with Civil 3D thinking we may end up using it for more than simply mining the information we need. After this class we were convinced that it is too cumbersome for our work as well as not user friendly when trying to work with other software. Also, we need to make Machine control files for various brands in the field which Autocad cannot do.


    It has always amazed us how Autocad instructors and users get excited about new things their software can do that Terramodel has always been able to do. We were and are very disappointed that Terramodel is no longer being developed and supported as it was.


    I hope this was helpful.

    • Land Surveyor

      great advice.. I followed it today... 

      I don't realize anyone was still able to continue using Terramodel effectively since they invoked " do not resuscitate " on it in 2008. I keep seeing Geocomp coming up on Terramodel searches and have wondered if they are writing upgrades to keep it current. not a CAD whiz by any means but I've relied on the program to create designs for SCS900 since 2004 and have been clinging to it like a capsized boater to a chunk of flotsam since about 2010 when it started to choke on AutoCAD imports. Started with downsaving in LT, then washing it through TBC but really became a challenge when CAD entities stopped coming through correctly. Been cursing Trimble for getting me hooked then leaving me stranded.. Our company has dumped Trimble and purchased all Topcon and Civil 3D but some of us dinosaurs can't made the transition easily.

      Anyway, saw this post yesterday and gave it a whirl and it got me through the task in front of me although it is a lot of mucking around to explode all the xref files and isolate the entities I want and export then import in TM..


    • Land Surveyor

      Preaching to the choir. I'll look into BURST command. That will hopefully help with some of the issues that we're having. We're going to explore some of the updates from GeoComp to see how well those work, too.


  •  thought Trimble was no longer doing up grades or support on Terramodel.

    Had used Terramodel mostly for surveying and have now moved to Carlson Survey.

    I would look into switching to Carlson Survey or if you do much design work Carlson Civil.

     You can choose either the Auto Cad or IntelliCAD engine on either one of these software's.

    I have the IntelliCAD engine and it works fine with the proxy objects that AutoCad Civil 3D is do fond of. 

  • Land Surveyor

    Coming from a Terramodel background and working with Civil 3d.  The best way I have found, is to have the Civid3d user run,  EXPORTTOAUTOCAD2000 in Civil 3d,  This will force Civil3d to Save to an Autocad 2000 Dwg, usually ACAD_(nameoffile).dwg and convert the Civil3d items to dumb Autocad items... and have them export the points out at txt., csv, etc,   If you need a surface , have the Export an LandXML file ... 

    This seems to clear up the imports in Terramodel.

    In case you want to know there is still an Australian company still doing improvements to Terramodel call GeoComp.. http://www.geocomp.com.au/terramodel/

    They have Terramodel 10.61K Geocomp Update that has some updated importing and exporting..

    Trimble Terramodel
    • Land Surveyor

      Many thanks. The biggest issue that I generally have is that the designer on the other end doesn't understand what I mean when I'm trying to explain how I need the file converted. A quick look at GeoComp modules seem like they will be very helpful. Thanks for the heads up. I'll look into this more in the next few weeks. Got deadlines for today. Thanks again.

  • Hi Robert:

    I also use Terramodel.  (I was a dealer for it in the '90's, and I've used it in business since 2000.)  I use AutoCAD LT to move data in and out of Terramodel.  There is a free extension that will let it display Civil 3D objects, but some of them have to be exploded in AutoCAD in order to convert them from Civil 3D objects to standard CAD objects.  Surfaces, alignments and some other object types will not translate directly from the "raw" DWG file.

    Send one of the drawings that you're having trouble with to me if there isn't proprietary data that can't be shared.  I'll see if I can run it through AutoCAD LT and translate it.

    AutoCAD LT is only about $300 per year for a license under the new annual licensing model.  That allows you to have the most current version so you don't have to deal with upgrades when it stops working.

    There is also a company called GeoComp out of Australia that supports Terramodel and has a lot of useful extensions.  I think their support contract is about $1500 per year for ConstructionPak.

    Good luck.


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