Canadian Consulting Engineer

AutoCAD Civil 3D and AutoCAD Civil

August 1, 2008
By Mike Choquette, P. E., MSCE, IMAGINiT Technologies

For civil engineers, the 2009 release of AutoCAD Civil 3D by Autodesk offers significant improvement in design and production automation.

For civil engineers, the 2009 release of AutoCAD Civil 3D by Autodesk offers significant improvement in design and production automation.

Also, Autodesk has recently unveiled a new sister product called AutoCAD Civil (without the “3D”) which is a cost-effective alternative for those who do not need access to GIS, hydrology or hydraulics tools, and related design features. A seat of AutoCAD Civil does not include a seat of Land Desktop Companion, whereas Civil 3D 2009 does. But otherwise the two products are identical in terms of their interface and functionality.

AutoCAD Civil and AutoCAD Civil 3D are the two halves of Autodesk’s Civil Engineering and Survey solution for the future — the replacement for AutoCAD Land Desktop. Replacement? That’s right! Autodesk has announced that standalone seats of Land Desktop will no longer be available after the 2009 release. For the immediate future Land Desktop Companion, however, will be continued for customers who own Civil 3D.

What makes AutoCAD Civil and Civil 3D different from Land Desktop is the dynamic design model at its core. In Civil and Civil 3D the graphics on the screen are part of an intelligent model that can be updated as the design changes. Changing design data, such as moving or stretching a roadway horizontal alignment, can automatically cause an existing ground profile to update itself, lengthening or shortening the profile view as necessary, as well as processing through to other related graphics such as cross sections, final ground contours and all associated labels.

In terms of design tools, both Auto-CAD Civil and Civil 3D 2009 now include a criteria-based alignment and profile design system, which can help insure that designs meet local and national standards in terms of minimum radii, super-elevation lengths and K-factors. The new system includes an interactive, dialog-based design criteria editor that allows users to plug in the specific constraints that they need to adhere to as they work. Both panorama messages and special on-screen graphics notify the user of violations of the criteria.

Civil 3D 2009 also has a new selection of roadway design tools to help lay out complex curve-spiral combinations. It is also able to lay out alignment elements with best fit lines and arcs. Enhancements in grading and feature line tools allow multiple feature lines to interact more intelligently, which can greatly simplify the creation of grading plans and intersection models.

For production enhancements, the product’s new features include the ability to label Civil 3D objects in XREFs (no shortcuts or Vault required!), as well as an enhanced interface for working with data shortcuts.

In summary, if you are a Civil 3D user, you have a lot to look forward to in 2009.

Mike Choquette, P. E., MSCE is a consulting expert for IMAGINiT. He wrote the official Autodesk VIZ training courseware for Autodesk and Ascent, is the co-author of the Civil 3D CAD Clinic online column for CADALYST, and is an instructor at Autodesk University. E-mail


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