What Is CAD? (What Industries Can Benefit From Its Use?)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 26, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Computer-aided design (CAD) allows designers, engineers, and architects to create products in a digital space, generating detailed three-dimensional depictions. By working in a digital space, designers visualize the dimensions and aesthetic appeal of the products before introducing it to the public. Understanding CAD and how professionals use it can help you improve your designing skills. In this article, we answer the question, "What is CAD?", discover its applications, discuss its advantages and disadvantages, and explore tips to set up an effective workstation to run computer-aided design software.

What is CAD?

Knowing the answer to “What is CAD?” may help you understand its importance for several industries, such as construction and design. Computer-aided design is a technology that enables designers to create 2D and 3D models of projects in a digital space. By creating a three-dimensional rendering of a product, it can provide you with the ability to view the object before you manufacture it, or before you create a prototype. This helps the creation process be more flexible, enabling you to change these projects instantly through software, rather than creating several prototypes of a product.

The time it takes to create a concept, render it in 3D, change the prototype, and share it with your team may be significantly less when compared to traditional design. What used to require days to create a 3D model might require hours with design software. Creators also can share the 3D rendering with a wide variety of team members, allowing for insights from different departments, like sales and management. This helps shape and guide the creation process by allowing colleagues to participate in it.

Related: How to Become a Product Design Engineer (With Average Salary)

Applications of CAD

Computer-aided design technology has many applications, like product design, architecture, manufacturing, and graphic design. Computer-aided designs allow for a level of creativity and artistic freedom, which has many applications for different industries. It has provided professionals the ability to create mechanical products with exact precision, making it sought-after software in many companies from different markets. Here's a list of the major industries that use computer-aided design:

Architecture

Computer software allows architects to create detailed two-dimensional or three-dimensional renderings of buildings. This software is precise, which helps architects create scale models of buildings with the reassurance that it can fit the dimensions in the real world. Architects can use software to create projects that span city blocks, providing different views of them, and allowing for resizing them to show all of their dimensions. When rendering a two-dimensional drawing of a building, architects can change the drawing with exact precision, which offers an advantage to hand-drawn drafts of buildings.

Interior design

Interior designers have the power to create 2D floor plans and 3D room mockups with design software. Interior designers can avoid hand-drawn layouts and create shareable floor plans for their clients. This can allow for collaboration with clients, promoting the client's vision for the floor plan while also allowing for informed design principles.

Read More: 16 Great Interior Design Careers with Salaries and Duties

Product design

Designers can simplify the manufacturing process with the use of computer technology to create 3D prototypes of products. New innovations in 3D printing allow designers to create prototypes of products that they're working on, and fabricate mechanical parts. Design software can allow manufacturers the ability to inspect products for quality assurance and can help them develop processes to create better quality parts quicker.

Engineering

Design software provides engineers with the ability to view the interworking mechanical parts of complex systems before creating them. Engineers can see how different parts, bearings, and gears come together to create an overall product and to assess any issues that may arise. This allows an engineer to change drawings quickly and with precision, while also identifying any changes that they have made for contractors, managers, and anyone involved in the installation process.

Visual effects

Technicians in the visual effects department of film companies can apply this software in several activities, such as storyboard development, animation, and computer graphic effects. This software allows designers and technicians to create realistic special effects through the use of shading and texturing tools. The film industry also uses computer-aided design software for motion capture purposes, allowing technicians to map realistic movement and use them to create realistic motion graphics.

Manufacturing

Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) is the practical application of computer-aided design software to automate the manufacturing process. Manufacturers use CAM software to create tool paths, which are places where CNC routers remove material. This helps manufacturers create precise products that they cannot create by hand. CNC routers, laser engraving, and 3D printing are some of the most common applications of CAM software.

Read More: 13 Best Jobs in Design (With Salaries and Job Duties)

Advantages and disadvantages of CAD

Computer-aided design software offer designers the ability to create their products in a virtual space, enabling them to visualize what they want to make. The design software can be expensive, and most CAD software companies offer the software through subscription services. If you're responsible for the purchasing of the CAD software for a company or want to purchase design software for professional use, consider the following advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages

Design software allows you to streamline the manufacturing process. Unlike paper and pencil drafting, you can shift and change your prototypes. Here are the major benefits of CAD software:

  • Visualize and create: You can visualize what you want to make and then create a 3D or 2D representation.

  • Design accurate prototypes: You can create precise 3D prototypes to fit within realistic parameters and with a minuscule margin of error.

  • Fix errors easily: You can identify errors and make changes easily with design software.

  • Access to specialized software: Because of the different industries that use design software, you can choose specialized software for your purposes.

  • Decrease error in fabrication: Both computer-aided design and manufacturing software work together to fabricate the products that your team creates, bringing the product that they visualize into the real world.

  • Stimulate manufacturing: When using design software, you can reuse the code, and this allows for more rapid production of products and reduces human error.

Disadvantages

Just like any new software, computer-aided design software requires practise to learn and become proficient in it. Software and files stored in cloud storage systems may also become corrupted and lost. Here are the major disadvantages of design software:

  • Losable files: Unlike creating drafts with paper and pencil, the company can lose files created with design software. Viruses or computer breakdowns can also corrupt or damage the files.

  • Vulnerable files: Taking proper safety precautions can limit security risks, but files stored in a company intranet may be vulnerable to hacking.

  • Time consuming: Design software requires time to learn, and even more time to acquire all the skills needed to operate it. You may invest weeks or months to master the software.

  • Expensive system: Purchasing computer-aided design software can be expensive and new versions of design software can require you to update the software regularly.

3 tips for setting up a CAD workstation

If a company wants to invest in computer-aided design software, they may also want to reconfigure their designers' workstations to fit the programming needs. By identifying their workflow and understanding what type of software they require, they can build a workstation that fits their specific needs. Here are three tips you can follow to help a company set up its workstations for computer-aided design software:

1. Invest in processors

The greatest factor for using CAD software is the hardware required to run the program. A great place to start is to check the minimum requirement for the software that the company purchased. CPUs that only meet the minimum requirement may not run the software quickly, so you can consider purchasing a new CPU. You may not require the most powerful CPU or graphics processing unit to run design software, but it may be worth it to invest in a better processor to better handle the workload.

2. Consider speed and storage

You have two options to fulfil this step, solid-state drives (SSD) and hard disk drives (HDD). SSDs cost more than HDDs, but they're also much faster, able to open applications much quicker than their predecessors. Because design software files are large, they also require more time for your computer to read them. Purchasing a computer with a SSD can help better use the company's CPUs and reduce the time it requires for designers to work with the software.

3. Have sufficient memory

Random-access memory (RAM) is one of the most important elements for the speed of a computer. The amount of RAM memory determines how many programs and applications can run simultaneously on a computer. If you're running more sophisticated software, like simulation software, then consider purchasing a CPU with at least 8GB of RAM.

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