Computer-aided design (CAD) uses software to create two-dimensional and three-dimensional graphical representations of physical objects, often referred to as model renderings or drawings. CAD is heavily used throughout the product lifecycle from conceptual design and layout to analysis, documentation and manufacture.
CAD software with capabilities beyond simple electronic drafting first emerged in the 1970s, and included the ability to perform engineering calculations and analyses. Since then CAD functionality has increased exponentially, giving designers the freedom and fine control necessary to create detailed artistic industrial designs and visualize components from any angle as they work.
Due to the fact that CAD can be used to perform dynamic analysis of variants and assemblies, the software reduces the need to produce prototypes. When prototypes are necessary, CAD can be used to quickly 3D print parts while the user waits, reducing the time required to produce a physical model.
CAD software provides many other benefits to the design and manufacturing process as well, including better visualization of the final product, increased accuracy in producing and analyzing constituent parts, and more detailed documentation. All of these advantages lower product development costs, improve product quality and decrease the time-to-market.
The CAD revolution continues to pick up speed, fueled by the decreasing cost of software and increasingly innovative functionality. Some industry experts predict that eventually we will see CAD transition to a full-immersion 3D environment.
In the near future we can expect to see increasingly robust analytical abilities and associative applications, further integrating the design, analysis and production process. The incorporation of cloud technology is making it even easier for teams to collaborate across time zones and geography, further streamlining the product development process.
The combination of more accessible software and comprehensive functionality has made CAD the backbone of the entire product development and manufacturing industries, where it is used to create devices from zippers to houses to jet engines. The increasing demand for CAD products has created a strong job market for CAD users at all levels, including engineers, designers and drafting technicians.
The manufacturing industry’s reliance on CAD software ensures that this skill set will be in demand for the foreseeable future.