What Does Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Mean?
Computer aided design or CAD involves using computers to help with engineering and design for a wide range of projects in various industries. It has been important in applied computer science for decades.
Metal fabrication, carpentry, and 3D printing are some common applications for CAD that are valuable in manufacturing.
Another similar type of process to CAD is called computer-aided geometric design (CAGD). In CAGD processes, though, the computer science focuses specifically on creating geometric shapes, which is often used in applications like animation and graphic design, and perhaps less used in 3D manufacturing.
CAD is also known as computer-aided design and drafting (CADD).
Techopedia Explains Computer-Aided Design (CAD)
Today, many manufacturing processes are being automated with robots and software. Computer aided design is an essential part of this process. As a driver of refined manufacturing, CAD tools have changed over the years, and the best practices and standards have changed with them.
The AutoCAD Era
One of the earliest primary tools in computer aided design has evolved over the past few decades. It is called AutoCAD.
AutoCAD has become extremely popular in all sorts of drafting, engineering and design, from jointers and rafters in carpentry to the cutting of plastics or other materials for custom parts runs. Businesses both large and small have been integrating AutoCAD and its capabilities into their business processes since its release in 1982.
One of the biggest utilities of AutoCAD has been its ease of use. In many cases, AutoCAD is easy to integrate in traditional bare-metal environments. Instructors and students have often referred to AutoCAD as being easy to learn, and it's been a great and valuable skill for people in various types of industrial jobs and roles.
However, one of the reasons that people to look for alternatives to AutoCAD is its cost structure. Various tools like TinkerCAD and FreeCAD provide some functionality for money-minded users, but in general, there’s the user sensitivity of paying too much for vendor licensing.
Experts point out that relative to the cost of the first hardware to run AutoCAD, the software itself was not that expensive, and subscriptions tend to run in the hundreds of dollars, which will not break the bank for a larger firm.
However, AutoCAD costs can be hard for small business users to pay. Experts also point out that the capabilities of AutoCAD processes generally save companies much more money than they spend on licensing.
As Computer Aided Design evolved, tools proliferated. Now, in addition to AutoCAD, business users have all sorts of vendor-specific tools to choose from. For example, modern CNC electronic router or woodworking machines have paved the way for more specialization and capability in woodworking shops, from cabinet makers to creators of specialty commercial products. The modern CNC machine’s CNC arm is outfitted with different drills and tools, to be able to plane and otherwise work with wood in a very detailed way. Layers of software, some of which are open source, are used to control the design process and implementation.
Across the board, CAD has been a very valuable part of modern manufacturing and industrial processes.