(Image courtesy of Autodesk)

Like continental drift, some fundamental shifts come gradually. The expanding use of three-dimensional, intelligent, model-based design is an example. Autodesk’s Civil 3D 2005 is its newest wrinkle.

“I can’t think of a more significant effort at Autodesk since we came out with Inventor several years ago,” says Steve Guttman, Autodesk’s Infrastructure Solutions Division’s director of product management. Civil 3D creates intelligent relationships between objects so design changes are dynamically updated whenever a related element is changed. Entire corridors can readjust with a mouse click. The software is built on AutoCAD and uses its standard menu and toolbar features.

The San Rafael, Calif.-based company is making a glacially paced release. The pre-release version was tested by hundreds of users for the last year. The “first commercial version,” was announced on Aug. 27, although the product will only be available in China until Oct. 22. But users still are taking notice.


“It deserves a real look. It deserves a real test in every engineer’s office,” says James Wedding, information technology manager at Jones & Boyd Inc., a survey and civil engineering firm in Dallas, Texas. Wedding has tested it and predicts the next generation of engineers will be all over 3D. He likens this release to a promising new baby and says it is not reasonable to compare it to older Autodesk products. “This is ready to be viewed by the public,” he says. “There are some big things missing, but it is good enough for guys to be using in production.”

One feature touted by Guttman is “round-trip data exchange” to let projects move in and out of AutoCAD and land development products. “Seamless transition” is there to help firms start bringing 3D into their workflow but let them shift to traditional tools at will. Seats start at $6,000.