An engineer begins an ambitious project to develop new machinery. A construction site manager begins brainstorming the best way to construct a new power plant. An architect sits down to sketch their city’s next large skyscraper. All of these professionals likely use computer-aided design (CAD) to accomplish their tasks.
What is Computer-Aided Design (CAD)?
Originating in the 1960s, CAD is a method of mocking up designs in 2D and 3D simulations. The 1990s gave rise to tools like CATIA and AutoCAD, making computer-aided design accessible to a variety of sectors. The most common professionals who leverage CAD include engineers, architects and construction workers.
CAD allows experts to create more accurate design representations. CAD replaced manual design drafting, allowing design development, alteration and optimization. CAD enables engineers to craft more precise designs and manipulate them virtually. CAD software calculates how multiple materials relate. This feature is particularly crucial as more specs are added by contractors.
CAD programs boast many features and have become foundational in construction, architecture and engineering sectors. CAD’s advancement has changed these industries and all processes involved in implementing complex project phases.
How is CAD Implemented?
CAD often assumes electronic forms for print, machining and manufacturing. CAD is leveraged in several processes throughout a design’s lifecycle. Here are few ways in which CAD is integrated into different professions:
- Architecture - Architecture is among the most complex disciplines when it comes to CAD. Many steps of architectural project design require software support. More established firms typically incorporate building information modeling (BIM) software such as Revit to improve productivity. Smaller companies may chain varying tools to serve a similar purpose.
- Product design - Industrial designers leverage CAD programs like Fusion 360, Inventor, or SolidWorks to visualize components and predict and confirm their functionalities.
- Graphic design – Graphic designers also utilize 2D or 3D CAD software to visualize mockups. Graphic CAD software allows users to toggle effects, typography, shapes and backgrounds to facilitate artwork.
- Engineering – CAD programs used by engineers serve a wide array of purposes. Many common elements drafted using CAD include buildings, infrastructure components, circuits, telecommunications networks, mechanical items, medical devices, utilities and manufacturing parts.
Overall, professionals leverage CAD to design products, sketch blueprints, develop graphics and imagine new machinery.
CAD software enables developers to work more quickly, cut production costs and, ultimately, complete projects more quickly. Before, all developer sketches and designs were completed by hand. This process could easily take days to complete. Computer software empowers designers to seamlessly experiment with concepts and save drafts digitally.
Since CAD allows for more efficient designing, companies can maintain smaller teams. This benefit enables entities to create premium, affordable products and accelerate production while making product improvement more flexible.
With manual design, errors typically arise while drafting bills of materials. One of the advantages of CAD is that this risk is nearly averted, as zero manual input is required once a drawing is made. Repetitive tasks like symbol placement and drawing storage are automated with CAD software. Also, these programs are typically designed to forecast and prevent common design mistakes.
A few ways CAD helps prevent mistakes include:
- Preventing Human Error – When professionals use CAD, the chance of human error is mitigated significantly. If someone inputs erroneous parameters, the software alerts them of these mistakes.
- Direct Design Transfer - After designing a product using CAD software, the user can transfer the computer model directly to manufacturing equipment. Since errors were averted while developing the component, the machinery can craft an item seamlessly, avoiding resource waste.
- Quick Prototyping – Prior to the invention of CAD, manual design was a slow process. After a design was drawn manually, a demo product needed to be tested. However, CAD gets ride of the need for physical prototyping, instead allowing the designer to simulate all necessary testing virtually in the program.
- Easy Alterations – Adjustments are often needed during production. Implementing manual changes typically yields some human error since product variable requires independent input. With CAD, engineers can change various views simultaneously corresponding to the first alteration.
CAD software allows designers to return to the drawing board in case of errors. Saved drafts and designs can be referenced easily to address any potential mistakes. Designers can predict errors before construction, allowing teams to prevent costly mistakes before they occur. This factor improves the quality of the design.
Additionally, CAD programs offer professionals a slew of design tools that allow the consideration of a variety of calculations. Low-risk, virtual investigating allows organizations to improve manufacturing speeds and reduce resource waste due to flawed designs.
Enables Information Sharing
CAD programs catalogue changes and design histories. CAD files can be shared with partners and reviewed with teams to double-check details. Cloud-based CAD systems allow remote workers to collaborate on projects and complete projects more quickly.
Overall, CAD fosters better communication by improving:
- Internal Information Sharing - 3D designs provide improved information on features to company leaders or managers, allowing better internal understandings of the vision and work required by the engineers. This variable helps supervisors establish achievable goals as they can accurately gauge the time and production required to execute a project.
- B2B Interfacing – CAD allows supply chain vendors to better communicate their requirements as 3D designs can be easily visualized, mitigating fit and tolerance issues.
- Assembly Line Interaction – As designs can be visualized and tested before manufacturing, team members on the ground are allotted information about vital design features like fillets, chambers or holes. 3D modeling accelerates development while reducing assembly errors.
- Customer Feedback - 3D models and visualizations also improve the customer experience, showcasing the product design more effectively.
- Marketing – Virtual designs may facilitate marketing a product, as a promotional team can visualize the design and useable functions, enabling advertising departments to better showcase product features to customers.
CAD Has Changed Design Forever
Whether CAD is applied to architecture, engineering or construction, it has changed design processes forever. Experimenting with situational data virtually can help professionals forecast errors and improve quality. Enhanced quality helps reduce waste and render systems more productive.