Jump Kit

The Framework for Civil 3D
Get More

Templates Only

See The Framework Work
Get More

Become a Member

Master Civil 3D
Get More

Autodesk Civil Videos

Free Civil 3D Training
Get More

Framework Videos

Free Civil 3D Videos
Get More

The Autodesk Civil 3D Alignment Feature alters, and continues to alter, how civil engineers and survey professionals and their organizations employ Civil 3D in production. Autodesk invests heavily in the technology surrounding the many Alignment-based tools in Civil 3D. The many capabilities and properties of the Alignment make the Alignment the core Feature in Civil 3D’s somewhat overwhelming arsenal of production Features.

“What about Surfaces? Aren’t Surfaces an equally important part of what we do?”

Yes and no.

Is That the Most Important Question?

Some organizations and users certainly struggle with the subtle differences in Civil 3D Surface mechanics, tools and skills. The ability to build, edit, and manage Surfaces well is a key survey and civil design production issue.
The Framework for Civil 3D Templates and Civil 3D Style collections help with that.

“Is grading design in Civil 3D a separate discipline, task, and set of workflows or not?”

If we perceive that it is and stick to the historical man-hour intensive approaches and workflows that we employed in the past, we are then forced to work around Civil 3D’s all too apparent grading shortcomings.

If we accept that Civil 3D seeks to attack the challenges of grading design differently, we can creatively learn to employ what we learn to know differently as well.

This post remains a work in progress.

Civil 3D Features are Tools – No More No Less

We must recognize that software useage is about humans employing Tools.
A more productive workflow is about better managed tool employment and control.

Therefore, I tend to forget about what tools are called by vendors and focus on what the specific tools can actually do to reduce the time to get from a start point to a suitable end point.

We Are What We Eat

On the civil engineering and survey blue plate special the Civil 3D Alignment is the meat and the Civil 3D Surface the potatoes.

Let’s consider the typical, almost circular, madness that is Civil 3D in action:

Civil 3D Parcel segments (like Civil 3D Feature Lines) may be employed as breaklines in a Surface?
This is a Civil 3D nuance that is easy to miss.
The newer Grading Optimization (GO) tool extensively employs classified Zones as important grading criteria tools.

Zones in GO must resolve to a closed polyline and the elevations of the same are ignored.
A resolved Civil 3D Parcel is a collection of segments that must also resolve a closed polyline.
Where and how in our Civil 3D project should we store our Zones?

Site Parcel Alignment segments can also be members of a collection of segments in a Parcel.
Therefore, intersecting Alignments in the same Site Parcel can and do create Parcels.
Where and how in our Civil 3D project should we store and resolve our GO Zone geometries?

We can employ raw AutoCAD primitives to create, store, and manage a lot of things in Civil 3D.
As the example above points out – Civil 3D Alignments are significantly more project-based than AutoCAD primitives and/or most other Civil 3D Features. This is baked into the Civil 3D cake.

The Alignment is a Civil 3D Design Control Manager

The Alignment in Civil 3D is all about Managed Design Control.

This mission critical and Civil 3D user management responsibility takes a bit more time and effort to execute. That work increases the overall complexity the user must learn manage in both drawing and project-based contexts. These separate in drawing and in project contexts are not the same thing.

“Is this increased managed control and complexity worth the effort?”

If we develop the requisite Civil 3D skills, yes.
If not, best run away.
Flight or Fight remains a valuable human instinct. Sometimes survival matters.

What is a Civil 3D Alignment?

This significant question deserves some most important Civil 3D Alignment facts before an answer. If we can functionally get over the following, we make the awkward first step to full recovery from CAD think.

  • What you Name an Alignment is the most important thing you will ever do with that Alignment.
    If we name without a project and purposed-based management plan, we will suffer for it.
    Remember - we name a collector of many data properties and not a street or a pipe run.
  • The Alignment is first and foremost a data collector.
    Metaphorically, the Alignment is a bucket. Technically and thankfully, the Alignment is a bucket of buckets or a collector of collectors.
    Yes, the Alignment holds the math and the many potential properties of horizontal control in classic civil engineering speak.
    The Alignment in Civil 3D, is much more than simple horizontal control. Isn’t it?
  • The Alignment is NOT what we see on the screen or what we publish.
    Those are Style representations. Representation is what Civil 3D Style is all about.
    Case in point – Invisible Alignments may be more useful in a design than visible ones.
  • Each Alignment is a Parent Feature with many Children whether we like that or not.
    By definition, Profile Features and other significant Civil 3D Features are Alignment children.
  • Data shortcut (DREF) Alignments allow the Alignment bucket of data buckets to become a project-based data resource.
    Those many Alignment data definitions may be replaced in any project drawing at any time with the Data Shortcut Manger (DSM) tool.
    DREF Alignments and their many children are easiest to employ and maintain in drawings without custom Styles.
  • A specific Alignment bucket may be contained in a “higher” Site Parcel bucket or not.
    Ignore that potential capability or complication, if you prefer, but do so at your peril.
    Best to remember the example and the Flight or Fight comment above.

The Alignment in the Civil 3D Interface

The Civil 3D Toolspace displays the grosser parts of the many Alignment buckets; provides ways to get at them; and methods and tools to manage them all.

If we create or select an existing Alignment, the Alignment Ribbon interface opens in response.

In the Alignment Ribbon, the Alignment Properties tool displays the Alignment Type specific data behind details – these core Alignment properties are accessed in the smaller buckets via tabs in the Alignment Properties tool.

The Geometry Editor tool opens the Alignment Layout Tools toolbar and provides a host of create and edit geometry tools for the selected Alignment Feature. The Alignment Grid View and the simultaneously available Sub Entity Editor provide access to the deeper and current Alignment data behind.

The newer Civil 3D interface - Project Explorer (PE) allows us to create, see, edit, manage, and report on the Alignment and its most significant children and relatives in a more productive and interactive way. The PE is particularly good at displaying and editing the intimate relationship between Civil 3D Alignment, the child Profiles, and the full data behind contained within in these Civil 3D Features in one place.

What Buckets Does the Toolspace Alignment Branch Collect?

Inside the Toolspace, Alignments are obviously classed and collected into various specialized Alignment Types.

The Civil 3D Types of Alignments initially appear to look like and be directly related to a design purpose.
Are they?
Yes and no.

Alignment Types are about specific forms of Managed Design Control - a somewhat subtle but significant difference in perspective from the purpose of any specific Alignment.

It pays to align our thinking with the Civil 3D realities.

Make Civil 3D Work Better
Get the Framework for Civil 3D Release 8


Book of Alignments Posts

Updates, additions, and fixes to the posts in this series are on-going.