Computer-Aided Design (CAD)

Last Updated: January 4, 2017

Definition - What does Computer-Aided Design (CAD) mean?

Computer-aided design (CAD) is a computer technology that designs a product and documents the design's process. CAD may facilitate the manufacturing process by transferring detailed diagrams of a product’s materials, processes, tolerances and dimensions with specific conventions for the product in question. It can be used to produce either two-dimensional or three-dimensional diagrams, which can then when rotated to be viewed from any angle, even from the inside looking out. A special printer or plotter is usually required for printing professional design renderings.

The concept of designing geometric shapes for objects is very similar to CAD. It is called computer-aided geometric design (CAGD).

CAD is also known as computer-aided design and drafting (CADD).

Techopedia explains Computer-Aided Design (CAD)

CAD is used as follows:

  1. To produce detailed engineering designs through 3-D and 2-D drawings of the physical components of manufactured products.
  2. To create conceptual design, product layout, strength and dynamic analysis of assembly and the manufacturing processes themselves.
  3. To prepare environmental impact reports, in which computer-aided designs are used in photographs to produce a rendering of the appearance when the new structures are built.

CAD systems exist today for all of the major computer platforms, including Windows, Linux, Unix and Mac OS X. The user interface generally centers around a computer mouse, but a pen and digitizing graphic tablet can also be used. View manipulation can be accomplished with a spacemouse (or spaceball). Some systems allow stereoscopic glasses for viewing 3-D models.

Most U.S. universities no longer require classes for producing hand drawings using protractors and compasses. Instead, there are many classes on different types of CAD software. Because hardware and software costs are decreasing, universities and manufacturers now train students how to use these high-level tools. These tools have also modified design work flows to make them more efficient, lowering these training costs even further.

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