CAD Tip 1023: Use rays to speed up alignment tasks

I believe the choice to be excellent begins with aligning your thoughts and words with the intention to require more from yourself.     –Oprah Winfrey

Using the Ray tool in CAD to create or check alignments between views has many advantages over using normal lines.  One is the speed with which you can create the rays.  Another is the ease of erasing the rays after you’re done.

Alignments, perfectly accurate alignments, are key to many CAD tasks.  When we draw an elevation, it should align perfectly with the relevant part of the plan.  When we create a section, we most likely are placing its points by aligning them with an elevation placed over to one side and to a plan down below.

In another situation, you may need to align several text objects in order to make the drawing look neat, orderly, and professional.

When placing views on a sheet, you try to get the alignment between the views to be as consistent as possible.

When the inevitable changes occur in the plan, the associated elevations need to be checked and adjusted for alignment.

This happens all the time in CAD.  It’s a constant challenge to keep various views in alignment with each other.  Without alignment, you get the dreaded . . .  discrepancy.  🙁

When you consider the number of points that need to be in perfect alignment to successfully make an elevation or section, or to create an orderly drawing or a well-composed sheet, you begin to appreciate the value of any tool that saves you time and increases your accuracy in carrying out the alignment tasks.  Here is one of my favorite tools for creating and verifying alignments:  the RAY tool.

Using rays to align a plan and elevation

Using rays (magenta colored) to verify alignments between a plan and elevation

A ray is a special type of line that has a definite beginning point, but extends to infinity in some direction that you choose, going away from that point.  You choose the ray’s direction by placing a second point that the ray will pass through as it extends from the first point.

Initiate the command by typing RAY in the command line, or in the ribbon go Home tab, Draw panel, Ray button.

I use the Ray tool so often that I created a custom alias (or hotkey), which is raa, which I can type with my left hand without stretching or moving my hand out of position in the left part of my keyboard.  I use the spacebar rather than the enter key to complete the command, for the same reason.

Every microsecond counts in CAD.

Here’s an image of a plan with an elevation below, using magenta-colored rays to verify the alignment of the various parts of the two drawings.

To place the ray, click on a crucial point in the plan (typically a corner of some object) to create the beginning point of the ray, then click a second point below, above, left, or right of the first point.  Be sure to have Ortho turned on.  Avoid accidentally snapping to any object when placing the second, “through” point by clicking in empty space, away from any objects that could throw off the direction of the ray.

Of course, you can just hit SPACEBAR or ENTER to repeat the RAY command on the next crucial point, progressing from left to right across the reference drawing.  Another option is to copy the ray to each crucial point— this requires fewer clicks, because you don’t need to enter every “through” point.

It’s very easy to erase the rays after you’re done— just move down below the elevation in empty space, make a right-to-left crossing window that crosses all of the rays, and hit ERASE or the DELETE key.  This is a big time saver compared to using lines.

You can quickly create a new elevation using rays.  Draw the rays on the layer you want most of the elevation lines to be on, then trim the rays at the ground line and at the top of the elevation or object.  Trimming a ray turns it into a normal line.

I also suggest that you move the two views (the plan and the elevation, in this example) far away from the clutter of the drawing using the Power of Big Round Numbers (CAD Tip 1021) before creating the rays.

Try it for a while— long enough to develop your speed and get it feeling natural— and you will see.  Rays are far better than normal lines for most alignment tasks.

Keep on CADDing!  🙂


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