In 1962 ‘Sketchpad’ marked the beginning of an incredible journey through to the most advanced CAD (Computer Aided Design) technology that so many of us use today. From the most basic ability to write and draw simple figures on a screen with Sketchpad, CAD has since evolved into software that has revolutionised the design process for a huge range of industries. Its most prominent use has been in engineering but other industries that have benefitted from it include architecture, product/graphic design, photographers and many others.
The software enables professionals to utilise computers in the creation, analysis, modification and optimisation of almost any product. While there is most certainly a place for the traditional drawing board in the early stages of design, CAD has allowed the manual process of drafting and re-drafting over and over again to be replaced with a slick, faster process with a whole host of other benefits to go with it.
So, what actually is CAD?
CAD software is used to create 2D drawings or 3D models on a computer screen. There now exists a huge realm of CAD software – from long-established platforms used in engineering such as CATIA, first introduced in 1986 and used to design the Boeing 777 aircraft, to adobe photoshop dominating the field of photography, to Fusion 360, a cloud-based CAD program and FreeCAD allowing you to try the basic design of real-life objects of any size for free, the list goes on.
On a small or large scale and anything between, CAD enables users to do so much to a design before putting it into production; from visualising dimensional properties, materials and colours, to simulating the movement of a part and even testing individual parts for force-bearing capabilities before it reaches production.
The software can be combined with CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing), which converts the 2D/3D models into physical objects using advanced machinery such as 3D printing, laser cutting and engraving, taking care of the entire design process.
CAD and Engineering
The field of engineering is vast. From the main strands of chemical, electrical, civil and mechanical to all the many sub-disciplines in between, the one thing that is a constant amongst almost any role will be the use of CAD. Here, we delve a little deeper into the benefits to understand more about why it is so widely used and such a vital tool for almost any engineer.
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of CAD is that it allows you to visualise almost any design, understanding not only more about the dimensions of a product but also the aesthetics. From 2D photos to 3D models. For an automotive engineer this could be an individual component of a vehicle or the entire build.
As well as visualising a model, when it comes to engineering you need to understand the functionality of each component and many CAD programs will allow you to simulate how a particular object or entire project would function in the real world. As mentioned, this may include testing the movement of a part, the force-bearing capabilities but also, CAD may allow you to test functionality in certain environments, such as extreme weather conditions – something which is difficult to control and test for in the real world.
Speed and Modifications
When you consider the time-implications involved in drafting and re-drafting a hand drawn blue-print or physical model compared to the way in which a computer allows tweaks and modifications without starting from scratch every time, you begin to appreciate the benefit of CAD for the speed in which it allows a design to progress.
While it is not to be underestimated, the cost of licensing for CAD software can be significant, however, there are many ways in which the investment is balanced out by savings during the entirety of the design process. Saving time, for example can boost productivity. Simulation can also be an incredible tool for locating flaws and problems before a product reaches production, preventing spiralling costs on flawed projects.
Precision and Quality
The detail and precision of the majority of today’s CAD software is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Each and every component can be designed with meticulous attention to detail allowing engineers to experiment with the smallest of changes that may have the biggest impacts in the overall functionality and quality of their design.
The huge range of CAD software now available means that specific programs exists for specific uses. For a field such as engineering, which encompasses such a diverse range of skills and expertise, software with the specific features and tools to match the requirements of a design is worth its weight in gold. Most, for example, will support both 2D and 3D design, but for some, one mode may have a greater range of features.
If you imagine the time and effort that goes into designing any feat of engineering and then consider the moment a paper or material prototype is damaged or worse, disappears, then you recognise the joy of being able to click the magic ‘save’ button. With CAD software, the design can be saved and stored on your computer at every step of its journey through to completion.
Collaboration and Sharing
Being able to save a design on a computer makes sharing it with others easy. This makes reviewing from other professionals and gaining their input easy. Fusion 360 for example, allows the designs to be saved onto the cloud so that it can be easily shared with others.
Learn More with BMR Solutions
Whether you are beginning your journey into the field of engineering, or perhaps you want to advance your existing skills, there are many training programmes that will help to develop your skills using CAD software. In terms of employability, any experience with CAD software, big or small, is likely to make you a more favourable candidate for an engineering role over none. Whilst most software will come at a cost, there are a number of free programs you can experiment with to learn some basics such as FreeCAD, to get you started.
Here at BMR Solutions, our small, close-knit and ambitious team have over 30 years’ experience in recruitment for engineering and manufacturing sectors. We work alongside the very best companies and finest technical employers in the South West giving you choice from some of the most exciting roles in the industry and are ready and raring to help you find your dream job.
For more information, please get in touch with a member of our friendly team today.