Computer-Aided Design (CAD)

Reviewed by: Richard Becker
Last Updated: August 14, 2020

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

Computer aided design or CAD is an important industry within the tech world. It involves utilizing computers to help with engineering and design for a wide range of projects. Common types of computer aided design include metal fabrication, carpentry, and 3D printing, as well as others that have impacted modern manufacturing and other business processes.

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)

In a very general sense, many manufacturing processes are being automated with robots and software. Computer aided design is an essential part of this process. However, the tools have changed over the years, and the best practices and standards have changed with them.

Computer aided design in general has evolved, in ways that challenge traditional business approaches.

The AutoCAD Era

One of the earliest primary tools in computer aided design in the past few decades 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 and the simplicity of installing it 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 has led 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, one enduring feature has been the claim from some users that they are 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.

Modern Computer Aided Design Tools

As Computer Aided Design evolved, tools proliferated. Now, in addition to AutoCAD, business users have all sorts of vendor-specific tools to choose from.

One prime example is in the evolution of the CNC electronic router or woodworking machine.

Unlike the wood shops of yesterday, modern facilities have these grid layout machines on site. The 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, computer aided design has been a very valuable part of modern manufacturing and industrial processes. It continues to be a mainstay for businesses producing discrete products, and a source of efficiency in any capex and opex model.

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