CAD KNOWLEDGE BASE – ALL ABOUT CAD
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1. What is CAD?
If you are an engineer or an inventor or a businessman, you must have heard about CAD. But what is CAD?
Well! It is a combined use of computer software and hardware to aid engineers in the design process for developing models of objects.
In the majority of CAD systems, a virtual model of any object is defined by geometric parameters such as length, height and depth. These models are visualised on a computer screen in three dimensions, which can be altered quickly. Properties such as mass, density, strength and others can be assigned, and the models can be tested under real-life scenarios prior to manufacturing.
CAD can be used to suggest, modify, analyse, qualify or improve a design. The CAD output is often in electronic/digital format (discussed in ‘What are CAD formats?’ section).
2. What’s CAD history?
2.1. Birth of CAD
The early ancestors of CAD can be traced back to 1940s, when the servomotors were controlled by basic numeric controlled systems and the digital machine tools were used to form different shapes.
In 1953, Douglas T Ross and his fellow researchers developed a simple utility program capable of debugging. They used flowcharts on a display scope to perform the debugging operations. However, the term “computer-aided design (CAD)” was suggested six years after this development ie in 1959 by Ross.
But it was Patrick Hanratty who introduced the first commercially available numerical control programming system named PRONTO in 1957. Although it did not possess any fancy display interface, it was considered as one of the biggest breakthroughs of the time.
2.2. User interface & 2D age
In 1962, an MIT student Ivan Sutherland developed SketchPad as a part of his PhD thesis. This software had the first graphic user interface (GUI). The interface was comparatively user friendly and allowed the user to draw in the X-Y plane with a special pointer.
The software is considered as the father of all modern CAD software. SketchPad ran on Lincoln TX-2 computing system, which had 64k of 36-bit words. Both the software and hardware had extremely limited capabilities.
The software was able to draw only in the X-Y plane, also, the hardware was able to offer only 36 bits out of which only 20 were reserved for coordinates. In this decade, most of the efforts were directed towards 2D CAD only. Nonetheless, Sutherland’s efforts were acknowledged later, and he received two awards: Turning Award in 1988 and Kyoto Prize in 2012.
By 1970, the researchers moved from 2D to 3D with the introduction of 3D curves, surface modelling and solid modelling. These efforts are pioneered by Ken Versprille who invented NURBS as a part of his PhD thesis. Some other contributors of this era were Alan Grayer, Charles Lang and Ian Braid.
ADAM was built by Patrick Hanratty in 1971. This was a first drafting and manufacturing system developed in Fortran and was designed with much flexibility. Later, ADAM was updated to operate on 16 and 32 bit systems.
2.3. Three dimension age
In the 1980s, CAD software paved their way in commercial industries such as aerospace and automobile. CATIA and AutoCAD were among the first commercial 3D CAD software to appear in the market.
In 1987, Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC) introduced Pro|Engineer. This was the first CAD program that depicted parametric solid geometries and feature-based modelling techniques. Additionally, unlike previous software developed in Fortron and Assembler, this revolutionary program was written in UNIX’s Windows.
This adaptation made Pro|Engineer, faster reliable and user friendly compared to its counterparts. In the late 1980s, several 3D modelling systems were introduced such as ACIS and Parasolid. The systems developed in this era laid the foundations of all parametric CAD systems to follow.
The first half of the 1990s focused on the development and improvement of the existing technology; among new arrivals were Autodesk AutoCAD R13 3D programme, STEP and Solidworks by Dassault Systems. These software offered better user experience compared to the ones developed before.
2.4. Advancement in 3D
In 1995, Siemens launched Solid Edge. Solid Edge was a complete product development lifecycle management (PLM) solution, which marked the next CAD evolution stage. This worked on Windows and offered solid and assembly modelling with 2D orthographic views.
In early 2000 most of the CAD software were fast and allowed to create complex assemblies and parts. From 2000 to 2020 (recent times) the CAD programs focused on improved user experience and creation of complex features with ease and accuracy.
Meanwhile, free and open-source software were introduced such as Fusion 360 and Blender. These are very powerful programme with CAM and animation capabilities. Blender is unique as this is being developed by the community. Further details in the section “What’s CAD Software”.
Currently (2020), the engineers are using CREO (an ancestor of Pro|Engineer), Solidworks, NX-Siemens, CATIA, Blander and AutoCAD along with others. Also, the industry trends are moving towards industrial internet of things (IIOT), virtual reality and augmented reality, which is discussed in ‘Future of CAD’ section in details.
3. What are CAD applications?
CAD (Computer-Aided Design) applications are seen in all walks of life. First, let’s review the major industries benefiting from CAD and then discuss the general applications.
3.1. Industry-wise CAD applications
The aerospace industry requires high accuracy and efficiency when it comes to engineering design and manufacturing. Components such as engines, landing gear, fuselage and wings demand a high degree of accuracy to assure high performance.
All these requirements were achieved by adopting CAD software. For example, the existence of modern stealth marvels ie B-2 bomber, Sukhoi Su-57 fighter and F-22 raptor became possible only due to the advanced CAD systems. This stealth shape was possible due to surfacing modules of CAD systems.
Also, using traditional design approaches, even a small iteration costed several million dollars. However, modern CAD systems can solve a similar iteration issue at a fraction of the cost.
Further, the weapon industries design their weapons in a collaboration with fighter-jet companies (consumers) all done in a real time environment; thanks to the cloud systems and CAD that each stakeholder can access the designs, make alterations and analyse project status, all in real time.
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3.1.2. CAD and automotive industry
CAD has not only increased automotive productivity but also reduced the time to market. CAD has been implemented in the automotive industry in both generic and specific ways. The generic application of CAD in automotive included part modelling, engineering analysis and drafting. The specific application of CAD can be seen in rendering and kinematics.
Moreover, several dedicated software are used to optimise the shape of vehicles to improve fuel efficiency and reduce drag. All these feats improved the user experience along with high productivity and performance.
3.1.3. CAD application in Shipbuilding
Shipbuilders exploited CAD to design vessels’ interior, exterior, engine rooms and all other areas. Commercial, defence and customised yachts are optimised and improved using CAD systems. One of the important improvement is noticed in the ship engine design.
The ship engines are among the most powerful and heavy engines available in the market; these engines were not possible without the use of CAD systems. Moreover, modern underwater vehicles are designed and optimised with CAD software.
The major improvements were seen in the area of fluid analysis, structural design, augmented reality and solid modelling.
Railways applied CAD to improve both its infrastructure as well as transportation. Rail engines, passenger coaches and other transportation buggies are improved for luxury, efficiency and effectiveness. It is believed that the production time has been reduced by 300% by using CAD systems.
Experts say that the current rail demand cannot be met with traditional designing and development systems due to their low efficiency and speed compared to the automated CAD systems. Moreover, the manufacturing accuracy and precision can only be achieved using modern CAD systems.
The railway tracks are monitored for any problem using laser and other visual monitoring systems making it easy to repair and operate. By implementing current CAD techniques the railway accidents are reduced and safety is also improved.
3.1.5. Rendering for Amazon & eBay
Yes, this a stunning fact. It is true as well. More and more investors are having their products rendered for Amazon and eBay stores. Different products such as headphones, mobile holders, utensils and others are rendered using CAD software for the Amazon and eBay marketing, which means that there is a growing market with over millions of products being rendered every month.
This is driven by the users who want to see the quality images of the products prior to purchase. People running their store on Amazon and eBay said that they have increased their sales by 300 to 700% by only using the CAD-based photo-realistic rendering.
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3.1.6. Consumer goods
Consumer goods such as cooking utensils, mobiles, water bottles and gloves etc are designed and optimised for strength with the help of CAD software. Now engineers and designers develop a virtual product and can test for its functionality and operation prior to manufacturing. This helps to rectify or fix the problems before they appear in the real world.
Also, the developers can visualise the products as they look in real life using photorealistic rendering. The photorealistic rendering modules of CAD software can be manipulated for colours, textures and lighting to represent real products in a virtual environment. This has substantially reduced the time to market.
3.2. General CAD application
3.2.1. CAD application in 2D drawings
In earlier days of engineering, the drawings were created using drawing boards and other geometric equipment. This was a very complex and time-consuming process prone to discrepancies. Also, the traditional 2D drawing method often required a long time for alterations and changes.
With the invent of CAD, productivity increased tremendously. The drawings that took months to finish take less than a day. The accuracy and precision was improved, and the alteration-time decreased; as claimed by several users. AutoCAD, Solidworks, Creo and others are among the leaders in improving the 2D drawing experience for the users.
3.2.2. Solid and parametric modelling
Solid or Parametric modelling is used to develop 3D models in a virtual CAD environment by adding or subtracting different volumes. These volumes are created using CAD features ie extrude, cut, loft and others. The creation of these features is stored as a history called the model-tree. This model-tree can be modified at any time, hence, the CAD models can be edited whenever required.
Using this method, a virtual replica of a real product can be developed, rotated and all sides of the object can be seen on a computer screen. This makes the observation and designing easy because the object can virtually be seen and optimised before manufacturing.
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3.2.3. Surface modelling
A surface is a 2D shape without any volume – speaking in CAD terminology. This method is applicable to form complex shapes such as aeroplane and car bodies, plastic bottles and other intricate designs by trimming, lofting and stitching. The volume can be assigned to the final shape if required.
This made it possible to develop the products which were otherwise impossible. A well-known example is a B-2 bomber, whose shape was impossible to generate without surface modelling. This shape is vital for its stealth, performance and aerodynamic efficiency.
3.2.4. Sheet metal
Due to the vast scope of sheet metal in the industry, CAD companies developed a dedicated module called sheet metal. This is an extension of solid modelling with an exclusive virtual-toolbox for designing sheet metal components.
Often, a final shape such as a computer casing is created in CAD software and then opened to form a single flat sheet. This flat sheet has information about the required size, cut-positions and bending locations.
The module can also be used to suggest different tools for the actual manufacturing process. The sheets can be tested in a virtual environment and recommendations are given for increased production.
Contact us if you want us to optimise or develop sheet metal designs for you.
3.2.5. CAD application in piping
CAD has been successfully implemented for piping design in different process plants such as acid manufacturing and fertilizers. The main advantage of using CAD over manual systems is that the designers have more freedom over the design process.
Thanks to the shift from 2D manual drawings to 3D CAD systems, where the design is verified before the final drawings and layout are proposed.
A complete plant layout can be designed, and the amount of piping, valve numbers & position or line number can be estimated in a fraction of time compared to the traditional methods. This improved design process efficiency, enhanced quality and reduced complaints.
3.2.6. Assembly modelling
The individual parts or components produced using the above techniques can be assembled in CAD software and the interaction between these components can be studied.
This provides a great opportunity for engineers to validate each model and their assemblies for any discrepancies. The assembly modelling can also be used to demonstrate the operation and instructions for real-time assembly and manufacturing.
An example of assembly modelling can range from any product with two parts interacting with each other such as simple piston and cylinder arrangement or multi-million parts product such as aircraft jet engines.
Contact us if you like us help you in assembly design and modelling.
3.2.7. Photorealistic rendering
CAD has a unique way of creating computer-based images that are virtual but look like a real photograph. The real textures, lighting, shadows and other graphical properties can be assigned easily that are close to reality.
This process creates real-life images of the products or concepts that do not even exist at the time, which are very useful for industrial-design applications and stakeholders satisfaction.
The advancements in the technology have reduced the time of photorealistic rendering in CAD, however, this is still an area where CAD software requires higher computing resources and time compared to the other CAD processes such as solid modelling and drawing creation.
Nevertheless, this is one of the favourite CAD application of investors. Check out our YouTube playlist for photo-realistic CAD rendering and animations.
3.2.8. CAD animations
CAD animations are one of the most effective ways to create video-based documentation of a process or a method. These processes can range from assembly instruction of a furniture product to the engine replacement of a jet-aircraft. CAD has made assemblies easy for the user, therefore, more & more companies are moving from paper-based instruction to video ones.
The videos are created in CAD software and a complete animation can be saved on a computer or video search engines like YouTube. The user can easily access the animation and completes the desired operation – improving the user experience by multi-folds. Check out our YouTube playlist for photorealistic CAD rendering and animations.
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3.2.9. CAD and reverse engineering
This is a reverse process of actual product development. In the straight process, the products are first designed in CAD systems and then manufactured following the product development procedures.
Here, the actual products are first converted into CAD models using CAD scans and other techniques; second, tested for inaccuracies and strength; lastly, they are reproduced by selecting the manufacturing methods and processes.
Over the past couple of decades, CAD has revolutionised the reverse engineering. Different processes and equipment such as laser scanners, CMMs and others are used in combination with the software (which was not possible before) to reverse engineer a component. The virtual models are then modified, tested and optimised for manufacturing.
The well-known example of traditional reverse engineering is the design of gasoline cans. In World War II, the Americans discovered that their can-design was substandard compared to the Germans.
Hence, Americans reverse-engineered German cans to improve the life of their gasoline cans. This was a very complicated and time-consuming process.
However, the process is highly simplified nowadays by adopting the methods mentioned above and the same process can be completed much faster using modern CAD techniques of reverse engineering.
Contact us for help in reverse engineering.
4. WHAT ARE CAD SOFTWARE?
CAD software is a special type of software which uses either vector-based or raster graphics to represent an object in 2D or 3D or make drawings. The software is developed using computer languages such as C++ & Java, and an integrated development environment (IDE) software such as a visual studio.
The programming languages are used to compute the algorithms, whereas the IDE beautifies the graphical user interface (GUI). Both the language and GUI improve user experience (UX/UI) and software functionality.
This niche of software is used to develop virtual models or products, buildings, and objects before manufacturing or real-life development. When you want to create precision drawings, 3D models or technical illustrations, you will need CAD software.
The software has today permeated almost all industries from aerospace, manufacturing to electronics, basically in all industry verticals. This has seen the CAD training gain more importance since it has been recognized as an essential tool of visualization that encourages creativity and speeding up productivity. 2D CAD, 3D CAD, 3D Wireframe, and surface Modelling and Solid Modelling are some of the types of CAD software.
CAD exists in multiple types for different applications, from engineering to drawing, to construction architecture as well as for other diverse purposes. Here at CAD FM, we have classified the various types of CAD available today as follows:
Two-Dimensional CAD (2D CAD)
2D CAD drafting entails the creation of accurate representations of objects relying on basic geometric shapes like lines, circles, ovals, slots, rectangles, and curves to produce flat drawings of products as well as structures. 2D CAD software is an advancement of traditional manual hand drafting with an aim to do away with the complicated process of scale and placement on the drawing sheet.
However, one of the disadvantages of 2D drawings is that the final product does not have mass properties, and features such as holes cannot be added directly to the final drawing. It is important to note that one of the pioneering companies that have played a remarkable role in developing CAD software is AutoDesk’s AutoCAD. Other popular 2D CAD software includes CADDS 5, CADkey, Medusa, and CATIA v4.
2.5-D CAD creates prismatic models; that is, they represent the depth of the objects. In the machining world, only X & Y movements are possible in 2.5-D, also you can move up and down independent of the other axis in Z. So in CAD, you could relate that to only being able to extrude your 2D sketch.
Earlier versions of AutoCAD were termed as 2.5-D because their 3D capabilities were limited. You could view 3D models, but creating them was difficult due to the lack of 3D tools and capabilities.
3Dimensional CAD (3D CAD)
3D CAD is an advancement of first 2D CAD software, which has become an increasingly popular design tool as the computer’s processing power, and the graphic display capabilities improve. 3D CAD models are a graphical representation of realistic models that can be viewed and rotated in whatever direction and show you how the final component will look.
This helps designers and engineers identify and solve problems early, thus saving on cost, energy, and time that would have been lost redoing the actual product. Using 3D CAD, you can also display views such as isometrics or perspectives from any angles of a 3D model.
CAD software could be classified further in terms of its operating parameters. You will need some training to understand these parameters so that you can optimise the CAD software accordingly.
Single File Mode System
One of them is the Single file mode system, which allows only one user to work on one file at a go. The other classification is the Referenced-file-mode systems in which users are able to work on their own files using the file of another user as the background.
Through this mode, users are able to leverage other peoples’ work as their background data. Collaborative-mode systems are CAD systems that enable users to work collaboratively with one another’s data, where one can see the changes others make to the data as they go.
The wire-frame model is considered among the oldest ways of representing solids. Wire-frames consist of two tables; the vertex and the edge table, with each entry of the vertex table recording a vertex and its coordinate values. On the other hand, each edge table entry has two components giving the two incident vertices of that edge.
Wire-frame models create a skeleton-like inner structure of the product being modelled. These structures are made with lines and arcs that appear to be made of wires with everything on the background being visible hence the name wire-frame models.
Practically, these models do not have face information. These models, however, are no longer popular since they are difficult to translate into other CAD programs. As much as wire-frame uses simple data structures, it is ambiguous, making its uses becomes limited due to its ambiguous nature, wire-frame model is famous for its efficiency.
FREE AND PAID CAD SOFTWARE
More and more companies, if not all, are turning to CAD software to achieve efficiency, accuracy and reduce time-to-market their products, thus creating a growing demand for CAD software. Both free and paid CAD software are available in the market.
Depending on your needs, you may get away with free CAD software or require a paid one. CAD FM has provided a detailed list of these software and their limitations to help you shortlist the one that best suits your needs.
4.1. Free CAD software
Designing 3D parts can be tough, and for this reason, every designer or engineer has their favourite tool to make it easier. CAD FM has outlined some of the most popular CAD software, and if you have a quick fix to make or prototyping on a budget, there are many great free tools out there for creating and editing 3D models.
A table of free CAD software is presented below;
The software provider Autodesk is no more offering this; however, the obsolete yet usable free versions can still be downloaded from other websites. This was a free, powerful, yet simple 3D creation and editing tool filed under 3D design made available for Windows by AutoDesk.
This suite of CAD software was mainly geared for beginning users, which was composed of relatively simple tools that enable beginner users to produce compelling models.
It consisted of tools for sculpting, modelling, creating circuit projects, drawing, and 3D file manipulation. This CAD software was designed as a user-friendly 3D modelling application, and it may be launched live on the web or downloaded to computers or mobile devices.
123D was a simple design and responsive tool that enables the production of quality 3D models by users of skill level. While this software wa not as powerful as most paid programs, it covered the vast majority of 3D printing, making it one of the most straightforward 3D designing tools.
When you look up in the sky, you are likely to see CAD software. Yes, On shape is a CAD software established five years ago and exists exclusively in the cloud. This CAD software is the first and the only full-cloud 3D CAD program running in a web browser, as well as in mobile devices like phones and tablets.
The fact that it is cloud-based enables each person on a design team to work together simultaneously using either a web browser or their mobile gadgets without affecting each other’s work. Due to its collaborative nature, products and drawings can be shared instantly with the suppliers or the manufacturing team, thus getting the product to the market before your competitors.
The idea of cloud might seem far-fetched, but trust me, it is not. I am sure you are using cloud technology or have used cloud technology in the past. If you have checked a social media account using your mobile device or your desktop, whether you have signed in to your yahoo mail or Gmail, if you have watched a movie on Netflix, you are a cloud user.
All these exist on the software of the owners’ server, including your little pieces like your Facebook account or yahoo email address. The fact that this is a software as a service (SaaS) does not require any downloads, installation, or license codes.
You can access On shape using any of your mobile devices or web browser anywhere as long as you are connected to the internet. This frees you from software upgrades and licensing, maintenance, the hustle of dealing with software issues, locked files as well as incompatible files.
Onshape’s setup eliminates security risks such as unauthorized duplication, accidental sharing, or even data breaches that are more popular with traditional-based CAD. This is attributed to the fact that Onshape does not have files to copy or manage since designs are stored and tracked in strict role-based access control, which helps keep your design data secure always.
Every person involved in the design lifecycle, from designer, engineer, contractor, or supplier is given specific rights and permissions. When the project is complete, or one of the team members leaves the company or changes roles, you can immediately revoke their access to the project.
Onshape CAD software has a free Education Plan for academic settings with similar CAD functionality as that of the Onshape Standard Plan, such as simultaneous sheet metal tools, configurations, and multi-part design. Onshape is also free for hobbyists and other makers who would wish to create and share private plans.
This is a free, libre, and open-source 2D and 3D CAD program that was started in 2008 by GPLv3 license and is now further developed at M-Labs. SolveSpace uses a NURBS geometric kernel that allows it to represent curved surfaces correctly.
This software is primarily used for mechanical design, vacuum chambers as well as custom fixtures and fittings. It goes further in focusing on accomplishing various tasks like modelling 2D and 3D products as well as preparing models that can be exported as STEP, DXF, SVG, or PDF for 3D printing.
Unlike most CAD programs, on its website, SolveSpace provides a sheer volume of information and tutorials that are refreshingly extensive, clear, and easy to understand.
Its design process is also fairly straightforward as it has an exciting yet very logical modelling process that revolves around using constraints that ensures accuracy. While creating a model, you first draw 2D plans before you can extrude them into a 3D model.
This program is a powerful open-source CAD system that is based on constructive solid geometry (CSG) modelling. For more than 20 years, BRL-CAD has been the primary choice of the US military for solid modelling of their weapons systems for lethality and vulnerability analyses.
This CAD software is also frequently used in a wide range of industrial applications, such as designing and analyzing vehicles, mechanical parts, and the architectural industry.
BRL-CAD solid modelling system includes high-performance ray-tracing for rendering and geometric analysis, interactive geometry editing, geometry libraries for application developers, a system performance analysis benchmark suite, and more than three decades of active development.
This software allows users to distribute the ray-tracing process over a network of computers. To ensure that your models always have the correct proportions as compared to real-life physical objects, when starting a new model, you must always determine an actual unit of measurement.
Working with Constructive Solid Geometry is impressive as it allows you to build rough 3D models that can be finalized later expeditiously. Another benefit of BRL-CAD is that it is a free and open-source CAD system, which means that you can get the software free of cost without any future charges for update and support, and you can customize the software according to your needs.
This free CAD software is a product of Nanosoft Company that can be used for any purpose. However, if you wish to use it for any other purpose other than education and evaluation, you will be required to register and activate the software otherwise you will only have access to the demo version which means that you will have a watermark “demo version” appearing on your final product.
You can enjoy more of this software if you register and activate it. You will need to provide your name and your email address then a download link will be forwarded to you. Once all this is done, you will receive a one-year renewable license that will enable you to use this CAD software for whichever purpose, whether commercial or non-profit.
After you are done with the download and the installation, you will be able to import files, create new projects as well as export and share files with others without the “demo version” watermark.
This CAD software is particularly suitable for users who are not advanced CAD users since it is a free and fully functional CAD software compared to other CAD programs such as AutoCAD.
4.1.6. 3D Slash
3D Slash is regarded as the easiest 3D CAD software on the market as it lets you create models using a simple building block concept. This CAD program seems to have been inspired by Minecraft video game that entails placing and breaking blocks.
When you hear of 3D modelling, the chances are that you think it is a challenging course to learn, probably close to rocket science. Well, this could be true, but not until you clap your eyes on the 3D Slash software which is a fun and easy to use CAD software that provides usable results after just a few hours of use.
For a novice, using this software is quite easy, especially if you follow the instructions given on the 3D Slash website. However, if you are a pro in 3D modelling you will probably miss some of the standard features like extrusion, revolution, sweeps, patterns, and text editing & formatting, which are found in other CAD software such as Blender, and SketchUp.
This is a free open source 2D CAD application that enables you to create technical drawings such as mechanical parts, plans for structures and buildings or diagrams, and schematics. With an intuitive interface, QCAD is powerful and easy to use 2D CAD software that suits everyone as you do not need to have had previous knowledge working with CAD software. QCAD also provides precision CAD conversions for Commercial and residential projects.
QCad uses DXF as its standard file format, but it offers support for other formats such as HPGL. One of the unique features that come with QCad is its library of over 5000 parts. These parts include nuts, symbols, screws, among others, and they help in your drawings.
It also supports various projections such as the planimetric, dimetric, cabinet, and cavalier, even though the most commonly used is the isometric view. Another fascinating feature of QCad is its dark theme. You can always switch from light to dark theme, especially when working at night to save your eyes.
Whether you are a hobbyist looking for affordable or free drawing CAD software to create your small design project or you are a professional who creates intricate industrial designs, LibreCAD is your go-to free, open-source, and extensive two-dimensional computer-aided design software.
Written in C++11 using the Qt framework, LibreCAD is a cross-platform 2D CAD program that can read DXF and DWG files and can write DXF, PDF, and SVG files. Its user interface is highly customizable and has dozens of translations.
LibreCAD features multi-languages, thus enabling a wide range of designers from different walks of the world to understand how the tool works. Since this is a community-driven cross-platform program, in case you encounter hitches while using the program, you can get resources and expert support for free from its active global community.
Some of the benefits of LibreCAD that make it stand out as one of the best 2D CAD programs is the fact that it is free. Budget limited designers can enjoy a wide variety of features that come with LibreCAD.
It is available as a General Public License, which allows the public to copy the program without being subject to a copyright breach. Users are free to download, deploy, or distribute the software freely.
LibreCAD also offers an all in one graphics solution for commercial or industrial designers. They are looking for a tool to create high-quality CAD projects but do not have money to purchase top-level CAD software. This free CAD program allows designers to create complex models, edit previous models as well as create lots of layers.
The software is also easy to use as it presents you with a simple window with the main working area and layers. Users can also customize the program’s interface so that you can easily drag any of your chosen elements into the working area.
This is yet another great free and open-source 3D animation program. The 3D processes supported by this program include; modelling, animation, rendering, rigging, compositing, simulation, motion tracking, video editing, and video game creation. Frequent changes and updates to the source code are released since the entire project is free.
The frequent updates and changes give Blender more responsiveness than some tightly controlled and more extensive programs. Blender can be overwhelming due to its many incredible features, and as it is with significant design programs, you will need a lot of practice for you to get it down.
OpenSCAD is yet another freeware for creating solid 3D CAD models. This software mainly focuses on the mechanical dimensions and properties of CAD models, unlike Blender, which focuses on their artistic properties.
OpenSCAD is ideal for creating machine parts and detailed mechanical models, but it is not useful in producing animated movies or graphical renderings. OpenSCAD is more of a 3D-compiler than an interactive modeller.
This is a CAD software created by Autodesk. This online collection of software tools enables hobbyists, and complete beginners to create complex 3D models by combining simpler objects. This software is an excellent alternative to other 3D modelling programs, especially to anyone who does not need the more advanced options of these solutions.
Since Tinkercad is free and user friendly, it is currently enjoying a wide range of popularity, especially among teachers, children, hobbyists, and designers. Its main advantage is that Tinkercad offers more modelling freedom than most software, as well as the fact that it is free.
However, as it is with other free Software, Tinkercad lacks the robust features and sophisticated assembly features that come with the premium programs. Yet, if you are more experienced with 3D modelling, you can always make your model more sophisticated by adding more shapes.
FreeCAD is the last on our list of freeware CAD design software. As the name suggests, FreeCAD is a free 3D modelling software known for being open-source, and it is one of the most popular modelling software on the market. This software is capable of designing objects of any imaginable size, and it is a popular choice, especially in the 3D printing sector.
FreeCAD is considered versatile software because it allows a high degree of freedom to users by enabling them to extend the software’s capabilities with various ranges of plugins. FreeCAD is particularly popular in the industrial and the product design sectors as well as for personal use. This CAD design software is suitable for beginners and advanced users since it is particularly user-friendly.
4.2. PAID CAD software
Below is a table of PAID CAD SOFTWARE, who can use it on trial, trial period, main features and price.
4.2.1. 3D Studio Max (3DS Max)
3D Studio Max (3DS Max) is one of the most popular CAD design software for creating 3D models, digital images, and animations. 3D Studio Max (3DS Max) is favourite among game developers and architects due to its robust toolset.
3DS Max is a product of Autodesk, the same company that created AutoCAD and Maya. This CAD design program is perfect for character modelling and animation with unmatched speed and simplicity.
3DS Max is one of the most widely used CAD design programs, making it an integral part of many professional studios and games, movies, engineering, manufacturing, educational, and medical industries. Its powerful modelling tools and an efficient workflow saves designers a significant amount of time.
The retail price for 3D Studio Max (3DS Max) licenses is $1,545 per year or $195 per month as an ongoing subscription while Indie licenses go for $250 per year. For you to qualify for an Indie license, you have to fulfil specific requirements.
For instance, your annual gross revenue should not exceed $100,000 per year, one license per user, and the licenses are limited to the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Computer-Aided Three dimensional Interactive Application (CATIA) is a unique 2D and 3D design software from Dassault Systèmes with the ability to model any product in its real-life behaviour. CATIA is suitable for both experienced and hobbyists with exceptional 3D modelling and simulation capabilities that optimize every user’s effectiveness.
Further, this software enables multiple disciplines to leverage powerful and integrated specialist applications across all phases of the product development process since it allows for easy integration with existing processes and tools.
Through CATIA, engineers, architects, designers, construction professionals, and all contributors can conceive, develop, and realize new products. When it comes to pricing, CATIA has flexible pricing to meet your unique needs.
Its prices vary based on specific configurations, and licenses can be acquired for either a one-time charge (with annual maintenance) or on a quarterly or yearly lease. You can purchase a fully functional base license at a one-time fee of $11,200 with a $2,000 annual maintenance cost.
A quarterly lease goes for $1,700, while a yearly lease is $4,500. CATIA is behind among the most advanced engineering projects in the world; thus, the high cost is justified.
Maya is another highly professional solution from Autodesk created for 3D animation, modelling, rendering, simulation, and composting in one complete and robust package. This CAD design software offers a combination of openness and 3D visual effects, computer graphics, and character animation tools, which ideally suit game development, television, professional film, and design projects.
Autodesk Maya interface is, however, quite complex and is, for this reason, not suitable for beginners. For the experts whose projects involve large data sets, you are assured to enjoy Maya’s ability to handle complex geometry with ease due to the massive technical innovations that have been engineered into the software.
Autodesk Maya license retails at $285 per month, but you can purchase a one year license at $2,280 or even a three-year license at $6,155.
This is a 3D CAD design software geared towards the modelling of industrial objects. Due to its broad and robust feature perfect for 3D CAD, simulation, technical communication as well as electrical design, SOLIDWORKS is used in nearly every industry, including aerospace, construction, automotive, medical and high-tech electronics.
Unlike other CAD design program which entirely relies on flat surfaces giving the impression of curves, SOLIDWORKS relies on a system of NURBS which takes advantage of the edges for a truly smooth surface.
These NURBS allow SOLIDWORKS users for a higher level of precision as compared to other CAD design software. Since this is a paid program designed for professionals, a license subscription is needed.
A license can be obtained through SolidWorks creators, Dassault Systemes, where one license retails at $3,995, and the annual subscription for a standard license is $1,295. You can, however, download a student edition at a reduced price with your student ID.
4.2.5. PTC CREO
PTC Creo is a set of product design applications that offers you the newest and most innovative 3D CAD capabilities for your detailed design process. PTC Creo Parametric is the go-to part of the suite for 3D CAD modelling. For those familiar with engineering-focused 3D modelling software, such as SOLIDWORKS and CATIA, this program’s interface will be so familiar to you.
PTC Creo Parametric has unlimited scalability such that it enables you to add new modules or features at any time. This CAD design software comes with add-on packages consisting of industrial design tools such as production machining and advanced surfacing, increasing productivity with greater efficiency and flexibility in 3D detailed design capabilities.
This enables it to offer value to organizations that develop 2D and 3D products and innovative technologies.
This software is only available through a license subscription where a single seat of PTC Creo can be as low as $2,200 for a basic license. However, it is essential to note that this price may increase when the software is configured depending on your organization’s features and functions.
TurboCAD is a professional high performance 2D/3D CAD software that offers professional mechanical and architectural features for drafting, detailing and 3D modelling. TurboCAD also provides CAD designers with an impressive collection of tools to modify and present a product.
Further, this CAD program allows users to perform parametric constraints, surface, solid modelling, as well as realistic rendering.
TurboCAD has an interface like that of AutoCAD 2D drafting with a dynamic input cursor that helps designers get up to speed. This program is programmable and as an appeal to professionals and CAD experts across the disciplines.
TurboCAD allows you to open up to 35 different file formats and support many more file formats. TurboCAD also offers a collection of tools that enables users to create and modify design projects, making it an economical option for CAD designers.
TurboCAD’s architecture and mechanical design extensions offer a short learning curve. Architectures particularly enjoy a complete menu of useful geometry such as doors, wall, windows, stairs, and slabs that comes with this program.
TurboCAD comes in pre-assembled packages such as TurboCAD platinum and TurboCAD deluxe, among others with price ranging from $130 to $1,500 depending on your preferred module.
ActCAD is a native DWG & DXF 2D drafting and 3D modelling software offering three specific types of CAD software; ActCAD Standard meant for 2D drafting power users, ActCAD professional for 2D drafting and 3D modelling and ActCAD Building Information Modeling (BIM) with all the ActCAD Professional features.
This software is suitable for a variety of applications covering primary domains such as architecture, construction, and engineering.
ActCAD’s interface is perfectly designed for the natural selection of commands. Its interface and controls are also very familiar, especially to a CAD user who is migrating from another CAD program.
In order for you to create high-quality renderings, ActCAD offers you an Artisan Render at no extra cost. You can either operate this CAD program on modern Ribbon Style Interface or the Classic Drop Down menu Styles.
ActCAD is available at $299, which comes with a permanent validity of licenses, which means that you will not need to pay annual subscriptions. Upon purchasing the ActCAD License, you are entitled to an unlimited transfer of the same from one computer to another.
Another advantage of ActCAD is that it offers free technical support on all its products to all its users, thus saving you from buying Support packs. You simply submit support tickets directly from ActCAD or on Support Page and all your queries will be replied as soon as possible, generally within a day.
5. What Is A CAD File?
A CAD file is a file in digital format, generated by, and using CAD software. CAD files are important as they determine which CAD software you can use to open or view a document, which is later saved as a specific type of file format.
Both mathematically and structurally, every CAD system uses its own method of describing and interpreting geometry, as well as drafting information. For example, in a 2-dimensional file format, a designer will work with two axes only, and the resulting file is a draft of the object being designed.
On the other hand, 3-dimensional file formats have an additional axis, thus making it more visually accurate. The model appears more realistic, with all the curvatures, textures, and complex surfaces easily visible.
CAD FM will now breakdown some of the jargon behind the most popular 3D CAD file formats. We will connect each format with its functions. We will also provide an idea of how widely each of the formats is used, so you’ll know where to start, especially if you are a complete novice or are newer to CAD.
CAD file formats are of two main types: native and neutral. Native formats are the copyrighted intellectual property of the system for which they are used. In contrast, neutral formats are open and are not copyrighted by any specific CAD program.
5.1. Native CAD formats
These are the most popular 3D CAD file formats as they allow the greatest possible access to information about your 3D CAD file. In addition, several of these formats are compatible with other CAD programs, which also contributes to their popularity.
5.1.1. AutoCAD (.dwg)
The original 3D CAD file format is also the most popular one in CAD design. It is the native file format used for the first popular CAD software, AutoCAD, which is an Autodesk program. The extension .dwg is a short form of ‘drawing’ and is a compact binary format. Although .dwg files are designed to be used in AutoCAD, users can view and edit .dwg files with other CAD design programs.
5.1.2. SolidWorks (.sldprt and .sldasm)
These two file extensions are derived from SolidWorks and are abbreviations for ‘SolidWorks Part’ and ‘SolidWorks Assembly,’ respectively. Details on specific parts within an entire system are provided by .sldprt, which helps protect intellectual property.
This allows you to share only the necessary parts of a system with collaborators. On the other hand, .sldasm is a 3D CAD file format that combines your parts into one file to see how they all mesh. The two files work best together for a holistic picture of your 3D CAD file.
5.1.3. Blender (.blend).
This is a scene description format from the CAD modelling and animation software Blender. The files are considered ‘special beasts’ since they make themselves compatible with other programs by loading their Struct DNA metadata code. Blender is mainly used for design drawing, model creation and is a master format for creating renderings in 2D and 3D.
5.1.4. SketchUp (.skp).
SketchUp and its file format .skp were originally developed by @Last Software, who sold it to Google in 2006. SketchUp was bought by Trimble in 2012, and since then has continued to develop into a bigger and more user-friendly way to create and share 3D CAD files.
The .skp file format offers backup options, which are essential, especially when working on multiple projects at the same time or building on details from previous versions. With .skp, 3D CAD files can be saved as single components that can then be re-used in other drawings.
5.1.5. Parasolid files (.x_t).
Also known as a Modeller Transmit file, the .x_t file is a Parasolid Model Part file. These files are text-based, and different CAD software can easily be exported to or imported from the .x_t file format. .x_t files are composed essentially of numbers which most CAD software can read to establish the 3D model’s geometry and colour as well as topology from drawings.
Its default file format is .prt but NX file conversion tools support other standard and neutral file exchange formats such as BMP, CGM, JPEG, IGES, STEP AP203/AP214 and STL.
Native CAD file formats are shown below
|CAD Software||File format|
|SolidWorks||.sldprt, .sldasm, .slddrw|
|PtcCreo||.asm and .prt|
5.2. Neutral CAD File Formats
These are great for collaborative work since they can be shared between different CAD programs. However, there is a significant loss of detail when using these file formats. Unlike native file format, neutral CAD file formats do not collect as much metadata.
Below is a CAD FM overview of some neutral 3D CAD file formats that will help you share your work with collaborators.
5.2.1. Stereolithography or “Standard Tessellation Language” (.stl).
This file format uses triangles to approximate the surface shape and area of a robust model. The .stl format has rapidly become the prototyping industry’s standard data transmission format since it describes raw data without specific units such as colour, texture, or other common model attributes.
With .stl file format, information can be stored in plain text, or in its binary form, to become more compact. The binary form is used more frequently since it is more efficient storage, and it works with a wide range of other CAD programs.
5.2.2. Additive Manufacturing (.amf).
This file format is commonly used in 3D printing and is an open standard for describing objects within additive manufacturing. It allows any CAD software to describe any 3D object to build on any 3D printer. It works by representing objects in a constellation.
Each of these objects is described as a set of non-overlapping volumes, which are described by a triangular mesh with a set of reference vertices. Unlike other 3D CAD file formats such as STEP, .amf file format specifies the colour and the material of each volume.
5.2.3. D Manufacturing Format (.3mf).
Recently developed by the 3MF Consortium, this is another open-source neutral CAD file format aiming to become a standard in the additive manufacturing world. Among its benefits is the provision of an ideal parameter for manufacturing and accessible communication between several platforms.
The numerous industries and varied types of projects that rely on 3D CAD design are creating an ever-increasing demand for new 3D CAD file formats capable of viewing and manipulating unique data. To ensure creations remain accessible, there are numerous specialized 3D CAD file formats, including Collada (.dae), X3D, and Autodesk (.3ds).
That concludes CAD FM’s overview of some of today’s leading 3D CAD file formats in the world of CAD design.
You are, however, likely to encounter many other formats that are not discussed above since there are hundreds of 3D CAD file formats to choose from.
Neutral CAD file formats are shown below
|Neutral CAD File Formats|
|Stereolithography or “Standard Tessellation Language”||.stl|
|Initial Graphics Exchange Specification (.iges)||.igs, .iges|
|Standard for the Exchange of Product Data (STEP) format||.stp|
|3D Manufacturing Format||.3mf|
6. HOW To Choose a CAD Software
How do I choose the best CAD software for my 3D design project? This is one of the most common questions that we get here at CAD FM from our clients. 3D CAD software has become the medium of choice for product design, and for this reason, CAD software is increasingly employed in the design of plant and production systems.
The recent explosion of 3D printing technology has brought an increased number of new designers into the CAD software market. There’s a need for CAD software that can meet a wide range of product development needs.
However, for the non-specialist, the 3D CAD software selection process can be a daunting task. There’s the danger of wasting valuable time trying to decide which of the many options is most suitable for your needs. The time which could be better
spent actually working on your designs and models.
6.1. Ten Step Guide: Choosing a CAD Software
Following are 10 main suggestions by CAD FM to become a CAD expert.
STEP #01 The Cost of 3D CAD Software
Advanced design tools enable products to be designed faster and at a lower cost. Solving problems through simulation during the design process helps to reduce and even avoid fees that could be incurred during the actual prototyping and testing phases.
No matter how many new features CAD software has, or how useful it may seem, if it doesn’t fit your budget, it’s probably not for you at this time. While an advanced program may, over the long-term, be a good investment, saving time and cost in other areas, it’s important to consider whether the total cost of ownership, including the annual maintenance fee, maybe too high.
For any 3D CAD software to represent good value, it has to combine outstanding technical capabilities with a competitive price point.
STEP #02 Efficient 3D Design Software
Efficiency is essential when designing 3D models that must precisely represent every component of your company’s product. Every designer wants to maximize productivity by developing products with as few steps as possible, while at the same time maintaining design quality.
While assessing any CAD program, you should check how efficient the package is at producing the type of products you wish to create.
Since design changes are inevitable, you should also evaluate how hard or easy it is to modify parts and assemblies, such as fasteners and electrical components, from a library.
Your manufacturing team and suppliers will need designs in the form of drawings, so ensure that any CAD software you choose is capable of making drawings to your standards in terms of dimensions, lettering, tolerance, and part lists.
Also ensure that your designs can be exported in common formats such as DXF, DWG, and PDF.
STEP #03 Tools That Meets Your Needs Today and the Future
While you may be creating products with 3D CAD, it’s likely that your clients may need drawings as well. This could be because a sketch is more precise when it comes to critical dimensions and tolerances, as well as in terms of material and surface finish specifications.
While evaluating CAD design software, ensure that the program is able to make drawings to your current standards and that the drawings created can be exported in popular CAD file formats such as PDF, DXF, and DWG.
STEP #04 Easy Flow of Information
In today’s design world, most manufacturers depend on various global communities, whether for parts, tools, production equipment, or design. This interdependence means that businesses can benefit from sharing 3D CAD models with others. For this reason, you should ensure that you choose a well-known and popular CAD software that is widely used in your industry and supplier community.
By choosing popular CAD software, you eliminate the need to translate files from one system to another, This is an important point, as translation is likely to introduce errors and require a lot of your precious time to correct.
In the event that your company does have to translate files from various CAD brands, find out which direct translators are available with each CAD system.
Another critical consideration is the availability of tools for fixing any damage to imported shapes, how easy they are to use, and their effectiveness.
STEP #05 Stability and Reliability
Although there are many different types of systems and machinery, unfortunately, there are no real standards of reliability for CAD programs. However, reports on software bugs and instabilities can be found on customer and designer forums. You can also ask other business that own and use 3D CAD software for feedback on how often the program crashes or locks up.
Before you buy, check that the CAD software can handle the volume of work you’ll need it to, especially if your business makes large assemblies. Certain software slows down to a crawl when handling sophisticated designs with a high number of parts.
If your product contains complex free form shapes, arrays of holes, or other special features, ensure that you pay particular attention to assembly performance.
STEP #06 Good Data Management
A company with more than one designer can reap immense benefits from the integration of their CAD tools with project data management (PDM) software. An automated system for storing and organizing the complex 3D system files is essential.
Without PDM, designers are likely to underwrite each other’s work unknowingly or even send incorrect projects to manufacturers. These errors are likely to waste a lot of time, as well as having a financial and reputational impact due to defective parts.
When choosing CAD software, ensure that their PDM system is capable of doing more than just storing and organizing files. Instead of re-investing in parts, PDM should help you find existing ones. It is also vital that your PDM system generates materials lists for cost estimation and feeds data to manufacturing resource planning systems.
You should also consider advanced PDM software that is capable of automating change control processes, ensuring that out of date information is not sent to the factories or suppliers.
STEP #07 No Hidden Extras
Just as airlines really know how to annoy their clients by levying extra hidden charges for drinks, checked baggage, and blankets, some CAD software companies adopt the same approach.
They levy additional hidden charges for the software and services that the client will definitely need to use the package successfully.
To avoid aggravation and unnecessary friction, look for straightforward suppliers of software packages which include everything that you need to use the product successfully.
For instance, it is essential to check the terms of licenses that will allow you to share your software license, enabling you and your team can use the software both at work and at home without incurring additional cost.
STEP #08 Built-in Applications
3D design and drafting can be even more productive with special tools for automation and analysis. For instance, if you need to simulate certain physical behaviours, you should look for a software package with an efficient interface or integrated analytical tools.
You should also ensure that the CAD program has a complete application programming interface (API) since good APIs allow you to write your own design-automation programs. Another well-documented advantage of APIs is that they make it cheaper for third parties to integrate niche applications with your CAD software.
STEP #09 How Helpful Is the Dealer?
Once CAD software has fulfilled all the requirements above, the last, but very important factor to consider is whether the dealer provides user training to help you gain the skills and experience needed for the successful integration of 3D design with the manufacturing process. Be sure to ask the dealer specific questions about the kind of training and support they offer.
It’s also useful to look at the product reviews to see what previous customers say about the software and technical support. Excellent support can make the difference between an expensive and time-consuming new CAD software adoption and one that really helps drive you forward to achieve your business objectives.
STEP #10 Short Learning Curve
The time it takes to become productive in CAD software is one of the key factors in making a decision about which CAD program to buy. Some CAD software requires weeks, or even months, of tedious training, while others need far less.
Since adopting 3D CAD methods will definitely require training and practice, you should always choose software that is easy to learn and master. Ensure that the program has a consistent user interface as well as design and drafting procedures that flow logically.
Another important factor to consider is whether the software comes with built-in tutorials, as the process of developing your own training materials could be costly.
You should also look for CAD program with a collection of computer-based training aids as well as a lively online community where you can ask questions and get answers.
Another approach would be to choose software that is taught in local colleges and universities. In this way, you can hire students with the skills to get down to work immediately.
Although not all the factors listed above apply to every organization, making an informed decision will require a thorough analysis of your design and engineering needs. It is advisable to consult different vendors to learn more about the capabilities of various software packages so that you can make a detailed comparison and select the best one for your needs.
Seek advice from at least three vendors about data management, to understand in-depth the strengths and drawbacks of the various software packages and the level of their customer support.
Don’t make emotional decisions based on brand preference or focus on too limited criteria. Instead, look for a CAD system that can make your company’s designs as well as one that can incorporate changes quickly.
Consider the full range of skills your company needs to bring better products to market faster, keeping in mind that by making the right choice you will be saving your precious time, money and reputation.
7. HOW TO BECOME A CAD EXPERT
A CAD expert is a specialist in computer design software, using it as a tool to develop technical drawings, blueprints, and other schematics. A CAD expert also translates technical documents into drawings and evaluates technical design parameters.
An expert should be able to work directly with engineers, architects, and associated professionals.
The skills required for one to qualify as an expert in CAD vary depending on the industry in which you wish to work. It is possible to gain CAD skills through an apprenticeship, but it is also essential to get formal education and qualification through a college or university.
You could start with a drafting program, which takes about two years, and later obtain certification for your chosen area of computer-aided design.
7.1. TWELVE SUGGESTIONS BY CAD FM TO BECOME A CAD EXPERT
Following are 12 main suggestions by CAD FM to become a CAD expert
Suggestion #01 Get Qualified
A degree and a certification in drafting will qualify you as a CAD designer, but there are other skills that you’ll need to become a CAD expert. A CAD expert should be proficient in a variety of CAD software,as well as strong analytical proficiency.
A combination of right-brain attributes is needed, including creativity and a good awareness of spatial relationships. He or she should also display such left-brain traits as analytical thinking, and mathematical ability, to help create appealing and innovative designs.
A CAD expert must also have layer management skills, expertise in library-building, be adaptable, and have good communication skills.
Suggestion #02 Do the Maths
One of the most crucial skills that a CAD expert must possess is a good understanding of mathematics. It’s involved in virtually all aspects of CAD design, from the measurement of angles to calculate precise distances, to the creation of accurate 2D and 3D models.
If you enjoy using mathematics in your everyday life, you’re well on the way to a great career as a CAD designer.
Suggestion #03 Know the Software Packages
If you want to develop as a CAD expert, you have to become proficient in various software packages. Organizations use different CAD software to draft and create their products.
As a CAD expert, you will be working with different companies who might well be using CAD software that you are not familiar with.If you only know one software package in-depth, you’ll find it difficult to complete a task with the software of their preference.
Your ability to work with different CAD software on various projects is what distinguishes you from novices, and will make you stand out as a CAD expert.
Suggestion #04 Independence
A CAD expert must have the ability to work independently. This is one of the most critical parts of CAD design because, at times, you will need to work on a project remotely. If you need constant supervision and motivation from others, then working as a CAD expert is not a great career choice for you.
Suggestion #05 Creativity
CAD is all about creating new designs. Whether you’re creating an architectural drawing or a unique 3D product, you’ll need the ability to visualize and a flair for innovation. If you are not creative, you’ll have little or no chance of ever becoming a CAD expert.
Suggestion #06 Managing Layers
Layer management plays a significant role in becoming an expert in CAD. A layer is a CAD drawing file component, in which drawings are organized by being assigned according to analytical categories. Due to complex structures.
It’s challenging to use one layer because you can add multiple objects, and it becomes harder to edit specific objectives. By assigning different purposes on a separate layer, you can collectively group them to work as a unit. You also have the freedom to alter the object precisely without changing or damaging the overall structure.
You can view or hide an object at your pleasure. When working with a standard layer, you can work on the project organization, and share it with other parties easily. It is possible to lock the layer you’re not using,which makes working more comfortable, because complexity is reduced.
Layers which are not being used can be frozen to improve the performance of a large drawing, or locked to prevent accidental changes.
Suggestion #07 Use a Library
A CAD expert should have an architectural CAD library as it is extremely helpful when it comes to drawing. The first benefit is that it includes all the objects needed while designing a project, such as doors, windows, tires, etc.
A CAD library can save valuable time as you simply need to select your desired shapes to drag and drop, using them as appropriate.
Another benefit of a CAD library is that it is designed to minimize file sizes, thus saving storage space. It is also useful after you have completed your drawing and need to send it via mail.
With access to CAD Library objects, working on new designs is faster and more effective than working on everything from scratch, so main benefit of the architectural CAD library is an increase in productivity.
With the CAD Library at your disposal, you simply choose the object you want, drag, and place it where you want it in your design. With the acceleration of the overall design process, the overall level of customer service improves.
Suggestion #08 A Problem-Solver
A CAD expert has to be adaptable and open-minded. This means working without mental barriers and being open to diverse and unexpected solutions to a project’s challenges. Adaptability implies there are no limitations on thinking and actions.
Suggestion #09 Lifelong Learning
A CAD expert must be able to navigate the unexpected and adapt to new equipment every day. It’s a never-ending process. Adaptability is an indispensable skill for a CAD expert as programs, software,and hardware continue to evolve.
With CAD programs becoming more user-integrated and with their interfaces advancing daily, adaptability means that you will never stop learning.
Suggestion #10 Adaptability
Clients are continually requesting modifications to projects and products. As a CAD expert, you need to be totally responsive, rearranging your schedules, specs, and plans accordingly. In short, a CAD expert will be able to think on his or her feet.
Suggestion #11 A Great Communicator
A CAD expert also needs excellent communication skills. To work on projects effectively and to complete them successfully, you have to interact with other stakeholders, discuss your project, and request the necessary information.
CAD design entails listening, reading, and understanding instructions. Even the tiniest detail may be critical. To complete a project without errors or time wasted on corrections, effective communication is needed. You’ll need to explain your approach and your artwork, whether in writing or speech. You’ll need to practice active listening and pay attention to details, to grasp complete information.
Suggestion #12 Give Respect, Earn Respect
A CAD expert is respectful to others may it be workmates, employers, or clients. In turn, as a CAD expert, you’ll gain the trust and respect of others via your professional demeanour and skills.
8. WHAT TO DO AFTER BECOMING A CAD EXPERT?
After learning how to navigate CAD software, you could be wondering about the specific sectors or businesses which you can work in. A CAD career is a great choice for skilled professionals since it offers a wide range of opportunities. CAD skills are transferable and can be useful in a variety of industries, including the architectural service, which employs half of all CAD technicians.
This work includes drawing and designing 3D models of every system, as well as of the buildings themselves. CAD services follow closely, with the second-highest number of CAD designers working in the manufacturing industry.
With the advent of 3D modelling, CAD has come to play a crucial role in the design and testing of 3D products in industries such as automotive, aerospace, electronics, and medical equipment production. To help you decide where you would like to use your skills, CAD FM has outlined below some of the possibilities.
8.1. TOP 6 CHOICES TO EARN MONEY AS A CAD EXPERT
Choice #01 CAD Freelancing
To certain people, the steady paycheck, a routine schedule to follow, and a set number of working hours that come with a regular nine-to-five job, is a comfort. However, certain CAD designers, who have other priorities, prefer the challenge of striking out on their own.
Freelancing is characterized by an ability to choose when to work, how much to charge and how much work to take on. This degree of freedom is likely to tempt you to abandon office life, and it is one of the main reasons freelancing is a popular choice for CAD designers.
Freelance CAD design is a career choice that allows you to earn an income without ever leaving your living room. However, there is no clear definition of the difference between freelance and employed CAD designers.
At certain times, freelance designers will earn more than employed designers. In other situations, employed designers would earn more per hour than their freelancing counterparts.
These discrepancies depend on the ability of the freelancer to access clients directly (rather than via a design company), and the ability of design firms to lock in on larger contracts and therefore provide more attractive salary packages for their employees.
CAD design is now vital for many businesses. For this reason, companies are continuously looking to hire designers to help with their projects. This makes CAD design one of the best paying freelance jobs. It is definitely a worthwhile option to consider, especially if you have yet to pick your area of specialization.
There are several platforms where CAD designers who wish to offer their CAD design skills can source freelance design jobs. CAD FM recommends that you check CadCrowd.com, PeoplePerHour.com, Freelancer.com, Craigslist.org, Guru.com, Fiverr.com, and Upwork.com. You can also find leads by joining CAD designers’ forums which have boards set aside for job listings.
Freelancing can, however, be scary. Wondering whether or not you will even get your first customers can be tough, and it may take time to reach the point where you have a steady stream of projects.
Well, unfortunately, there’s only one way to get there, and that is by trying! There are a few things you can do to increase your chances of success as a CAD freelancer.
You will need to adopt a winning attitude. All your certifications will do you no good if you are difficult to work with.
Even when you make a mistake, if you have a professional outlook coupled with a great attitude, it will help those working with you see you in a positive light. Think of how you felt when you worked with a positive professional and compare what you felt when you worked with a reluctant or grumpy person.
Well, if you are concerned about a good review, you will need to focus on your attitude.
Another important thing will be to make yourself as attractive to potential customers as possible. You will need to prove to your clients that you are a good candidate, but this can be a little difficult without reviews and references from previous happy clients that will help encourage new clients to try your services. At times, even one great sample or a glossy certificate won’t be enough.
To help potential clients see that you have a diverse range of abilities, get as many different certificates, licenses and work samples as you can. You might also want to start with competitive prices until you get your first clients. Low rates are likely to tempt someone to try your services and they might eventually become the reference you need to attract more well-paid jobs.
Freelancing has its ups and downs. If you haven’t made up your mind about whether you want to work as a freelance CAD designer, here are some of the pros and cons of freelancing that might help you to make the right choice.
One of the advantages of being a freelance CAD designer is that you work flexible hours. You can choose to work only on certain days, take breaks, or you might decide to be unavailable after 4 PM so you can pick up the kids from school.
This is unlike working for a private company where such flexibility might not be allowed by an employer. Freelancing certainly gives you more freedom in terms of where and when you have to work.
Another pro of CAD freelancing is that you are free to choose who you want to work with. You can choose to work on projects that interest you and which challenge you professionally. This ensures that you will continue to grow your skills over time.
On the other hand, you can finish a project and decide never to work with a particular unbearable client again. This can be a great relief, especially if you have ever suffered bullying at the workplace.
Another relief is that you are free from having to put up with that one co-worker that you can’t stand being around in an office setting.
Still, on the pros, you decide your pay rates. You are free to increase your rates as you grow your client list, and every client who agrees to use your service is accepting your charges. This is liberating, especially if you have always felt undervalued and underpaid in your regular job.
On the cons, your guarantee of a steady paycheck no longer exists. Until you start getting steady work, not knowing whether you will be able to pay your bills can be a harrowing side of freelancing.
Another con is that some benefits such as healthcare insurance cover and paid vacations enjoyed by employed CAD designers are just not there in freelancing. You will have to build these costs into your rates.
At CAD FM we’re always ready to help you with your freelancing projects. If you need support with certain aspects of your business our experts can provide 3D rendering services and packaging design services, as well in turning your CAD designs into photorealistic images.
Choice #02 CAD Consultancy
Organizations and companies offering CAD services such as engineering and architectural support will occasionally rely on the services of consultants who can provide expertise in Computer-Aided Design and drafting. Such services may include the digital creation of blueprints for structures, machines, or devices.
CAD consultants usually possess a certificate or associate’s degree in computer-aided design, as well as years of experience in drafting and designing. Additionally, a CAD consultant should have an exceptional background in the industry and a mastery of the common CAD software design and drafting conventions.
With at least two years of formal training, a couple of years of experience and the ability to adapt to technological dynamics, you will be in a position to find CAD consultancy jobs more readily. As a CAD consultant, you should be proficient enough in CAD software to teach new learners.
You can also teach in a college or in a corporate setting that offers advanced training to professionals. You may be hired by a company to help them with the installation of a new version of their software or even to debug existing problems. Since CAD consultants are considered experts, you may be called upon to create drawings, designs, or solid models, potentially under tight deadlines.
CAD consultancies generally have a lot to bring on the table. Most specialize in specific business aspects and have topflight experts working for them. For this reason, at times it makes more sense for a company to hire in external CAD consultants to perform certain tasks.CAD consultants have a wealth of industry experience which ensures they can analyze situations and propose the best solutions, thereby creating value for their clients.
Due to their prowess, they can also help significantly especially when it comes to guiding clients through certain complex CAD software features that may not be listed elsewhere. Due to their high level of expertise in a particular area, an individual CAD consultant will place far more focus on completing a specific task than a team of agents, who tend to work on multiple aspects of the business.
CAD software purchase is just the first step in the process of ensuring a company’s maximum return on investment. Successful companies and organizations will hire CAD consultants to create and periodically evaluate a technology plan.
This is likely to cover all aspects of the software, hardware, custom add-ons, workflow, infrastructure, skills, support, and maintenance. If any of these areas are not adequately taken into account, it could result in serious holdups and lead to an inefficient design and drafting process.
Furthermore, a CAD consultants’ scope of work includes helping organizations to understand certain business-critical issues and providing strategic insight that will reduce risks. They can be contracted to offer professional CAD management as part of their support services.
Expert CAD consultants are able to enhance the performance of in-house teams by providing effective training. CAD consultancy is flexible in terms of time since services can be offered based on an agreed number of days per month, for the duration agreed by the consultant and client.
Choice #03 Government Opportunities for CAD Technicians
When looking for CAD design jobs, the private sector is not the only place to turn. Federal and Provincial governments frequently post CAD design opportunities for public sector workers with relevant skills. These include 3D modelling for construction projects and architectural drawing skills.
Some of the lucrative benefits that come with working for the public service include pension plans, health benefits, and other valuable perks, as well as competitive salaries that are not easily found in the private sector.
A further benefit of working in the public sector is that it offers job security/ stability. Unlike the private sector, which is sensitive to market shifts and economic shocks, the public sector is more likely to enjoy protection against hostile financial conditions and job losses.
CAD experts/technicians in the public sector may also have flexible working hours since the public sector is less demanding and the different circumstances of employees are likely to be taken into consideration, accommodating designers who wish to work part-time.
Designers working in the public sector are often encouraged to expand their skills through training programs or by gaining extra qualifications. One of the government organizations’ main objectives is helping employees to realize their potential and further their careers.
However, at times opportunities can arise in locations far from the original base. This would involve relocation, but it might be a price worth paying to obtain the great benefits that come with government CAD design opportunities.
Choice #04 Working With Engineering Consultants as a CAD Designer
The primary business of engineering consultants is to advise clients on the design and planning of engineering projects. Engineering consultancy firms often hire CAD designers to create 3D models, plans, and drawings.
Working with engineering consultants will expose you to varied challenges, since the specific work you do in this role changes from project to project. Our advice is that, when starting your CAD career, you should consider pursuing opportunities with engineering consultants to help you build an impressive and diverse portfolio.
Choice #05 Working with a Home Building Firm as a CAD Designer
If you are looking to put your skills to work helping with building designs, firms with large scale architectural work are the most suitable.
Homebuilding firms hire CAD designers to plan or build from instructions given to them by a designer or an architect, with 3D models being used as a more precise guideline.
Home-building firms might draw and model an entire house for one project or model the whole interior for another. You might be interested in this kind of design and wish to build your CAD career in home building if you enjoy working closely with clients to interpret their vision.
Choice #06 Designing your own products
You can also use CAD in your hobby. It is ideal for DIY, or home improvement projects. These projects can include the modelling of woodworking projects in a 3D environment, virtually prototyping ideas, developing plans and technical drawings from your designs, as well as creating digital files for 3D printing.
9.CAD Expert – Salary Expectations
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) now plays an essential and integral role in many industries including architecture, design, and engineering. Due to the increasing demand for CAD skills, there is a wide range of CAD jobs for drafters and designers in the CAD sector.
This raises the question: how much should a CAD drafter expect in terms of salary? What skills should one possess to achieve to the highest pay grades?
Basically, if you are a CAD drafter based in the United States, you can expect a salary of around $75,735, but this typically ranges between $65,845 and $86,405. However, as we shall see later in this article, important factors such as education, certifications, additional skills, and the number of years of relevant professional experience will all influence salary ranges.
Whether in designing, engineering, or drafting, CAD salaries can vary dramatically.
CAD FM’s overview, below, will tell you all you need to know about the salary you should expect, factors that will influence it, and provide some key statistics about CAD salaries.
9.1. FACTORS THAT IMPACT CAD SALARIES
Factor #01 Qualifications
Qualifications and experience, gained via degrees, licenses, and internships, are required for CAD careers. At entry-level, technicians and drafters require an associate degree, which is obtained at technical institutes.
However, to become a CAD designer or an engineer, you will need a bachelor’s degree, which can be pursued at a college or online school. This degree type can boost your earnings and is often a basic requirement of employers. For any CAD designer who wishes to reach senior or leadership positions, as well as higher salary levels, a master’s degree is probably needed.
Many CAD industries require their employees to hold a license which confirms their competence in their chosen field. In most organisations, it is one of the pre-requisites for promotion to a managerial position. Licenses include Professional Engineering (PE), Architect Registration Engineering (ARE), and American Design Drafting Association (ADDA).
In certain instances, a license could be so important that it could represent the only difference between an entry-level and a supervisory position. Therefore it’s important to know what types of licenses are required in your field.
In any career, the experience is crucial, and it is probably more critical in CAD careers than in many others. Although designers and drafters don’t need internships, these can be useful in building up a portfolio, as well as creating a track-record of your experience.
On the other hand, an internship is mandatory for architects. They are required to complete three years of paid internship before they can sit the ARE exams.
Whether or not an internship is mandatory for your chosen CAD field, you should seriously consider a one-year or even a one-month internship since it could be the thing that gives you the edge in a competitive field.
Factor #02 Experience
One of the factors with a significant impact on your CAD salary is your work experience in the relevant job. It is evident that the more time you spend working in a field, the more skills and experience you pick up.
The more experienced you are, the more appealing you are to potential employers. For instance, an entry-level employee will receive a lower salary than a mid-career of 5 to 10 years’ experience or one with 10 to 20 years of experience. Typically, the more the experience you have, the higher your salary is likely to be.
Factor #03 Industry and Location
Education and experience are not the only factors that can affect your salary. The choice of your industry, as well as your location, will also have a significant impact. Some states offer higher salaries than others, while some job sectors, such as metal ore mining, provide higher salaries.
Salaries will vary based on where the job is based, both in absolute terms and relative to the designer’s original home area. The cost of living is the main influence on the salary variance of two different locations.
A CAD designer working in Alaska, United States, is likely to earn more than one working in Entebbe, Uganda, even though their scope of work and responsibilities may be identical.
To maximize your earning potential, you will need to improve your experience and skills and stand out in the eyes of your potential employer. The best way to highlight your expertise within your chosen field is through a bachelor’s or a master’s degree.
A license relevant to your area of expertise will also be helpful in opening doors. Furthering education may seem expensive, but eventually, it is going to pay off.
Even though CAD careers differ regarding future job growth, they hold the potential for massive success. Salaries will always vary and fluctuate depending on your industry, location as well as your level of experience.
However, if you put in the time and effort, there is the potential to achieve an impressive salary. You will probably start at the lowest end of your organization’s pay scale; keep in mind that dream salaries are achieved through hard work.
9.2. CAD CAREERS AND THEIR SPECIFIC SALARIES
Below we list specific CAD careers and their salaries, a summary of each job, the projected job growth within the next ten years as well as the median annual salary and the highest paying state and industry.
9.2.1. CAD Drafters
A) Electronics/Electrical Drafters
In communication hubs, power plants, and related industries, the role of electronics/electrical drafters is to take information from engineers and create technical designs/ drawings of electrical wiring systems. They are also responsible for creating wiring drawings for manufacturing, connection, and repairing of electrical equipment.
Due to the constant need for work on electrical system designs in cars, buildings, and devices, Electronics/Electrical Drafters’ employment is projected to grow by 5%. The median annual salary of an Electronics/Electrical Drafter is $59,000.
Washington is the highest paying state, with median salaries of around $79,000. Audio and video equipment manufacturing is the highest paying segment of $80,000.
B) Mechanical Drafter
The work of a Mechanical Drafter involves the preparation of technical diagrams of mechanical devices, in manufacturing and other industries. Their drawings include information such as fastening methods and dimensions. Due to the need for perpetual modifications, this job often requires long working hours.
Mechanical Drafting jobs are projected to decline by 7% in the next decade. This is due to the evolution of CAD software that enables organizations to eliminate the need for most drafters.
The median annual salary of a Mechanical Drafter is $53,500, with Washington as the highest paying state at $73,000. The highest paying industry segment is the pipeline transportation of natural gas at $77,000.
C) Architectural/ Civil Drafter
The role of an Architectural/ Civil Drafter is to create designs and drawings for construction. A Civil Drafter incorporates the landscape and the terrain of the building site, whereas an Architectural Drafter shows how the building will integrate with the environment around it.
Topographic maps, analysis of the environment, and survey documents are among the responsibilities involved in Architectural/ Civil Drafting.
These roles are projected to decline by 3%, possibly due to engineers and architects now opting to use CAD for drafting, rather than depending on Drafters. An Architectural/ Civil Drafter earns, on average, $50,700 annually, with Alaska as the highest paying state at $61,000. Scientific research &development is the highest paying industry segment at $75,300.
9.2.2. CAD Technicians
A) Electronics/ Electrical Engineering Technician
The responsibility of these technicians is to maintain and assist in the upkeep of electrical equipment, analyzing circuits, modifying electronic systems as well as wiring drawings and installation diagrams. There is a 2% decline in this post which is no surprise in traditional manufacturing industries.
The median annual salary of an electronics/ electrical engineering technician is $61,000, with Alaska as the highest paying state at $84,400.The best-paying industry segment, at $82,000, is printed media.
B) Mechanical Engineering Technician
These are technicians whose work is to develop and improve machines and products alongside engineers. They improve existing processes thus making the entire manufacturing cycle more efficient. A mechanical engineering technician analyzes schematics, machinery, and products with an aim of making them more efficient.
Most firms opt for external consultants rather than employing in-house technicians, a fact which eliminates many employment opportunities. For this reason, job growth for this position is slow and is projected to decline, especially in manufacturing industries.
The median annual salary for a mechanical engineering technician is $54,000, with Delaware as the highest paying state at $70,000. Pipeline transportation of crude oil is the highest paying industry segment at $88,000.
C) Civil Engineering Technician
These technicians assist civil engineers in construction projects. Their work includes handling jobs that engineers do not have the time for, such as surveying sites, creating plans, and inspecting projects.
There is a projection of 5% increase in this kind of employment since the need for repair, modification, and creation of the country’s infrastructure will undoubtedly continue to increase. The median annual salary for a civil engineering technician is $49,000 with Alaska as the highest paying state at $70,000. The highest paying industry segment is metal ore mining at $63,300.
D) Industrial Engineering Technician
These technicians assist industrial engineers with the implementation of designs. They analyze the cost of production and plan workflow as well as prepare layouts for machinery thus making production as effective as possible. Generally, they work in teams under the supervision of industrial engineers.
There is a projected decline in manufacturing industries which is likely to cause a 5% reduction in job growth for industrial engineering. The median annual salary of an industrial engineering technician is $53,700, with Alaska as the highest paying state at $89,000. At $77,300, oil and gas extraction is the highest paying industry.
9.2.3. CAD Designers
A) Industrial Designer
These designers are responsible for the creation and development of products and concepts such as cars, home appliances, and toys manufactured in factories. By taking into consideration the usability, functionality, and aesthetics of a product, these designers combine their art, engineering, and business skills to produce products used in everyday life.
Due to the projected continued demand for new products by consumers sustaining the demand for industrial designers, employment opportunities in this area are set to grow by 2% over the next decade. An industrial designer is likely to earn a median annual salary of up to $78,600. Nevada is the highest paying state. Support activities for mining is the highest paying industry segment at $95,200.
B) Fashion Designer
These are designers who create designs for shoes, accessories, and clothing by sketching concepts and giving instructions on how the product should be made. Strong knowledge of fabrics as well as a portfolio showing their prowess is some of the tools that a fashion designer needs to stand out from a crowded field.
Due to the decline in the apparel manufacturing industry, the growth of this employment is projected to be slower than average at 3% over ten years. However, there is still a need for fashion inspired clothing so, on average, a fashion designer can expect to take home a $63,600 salary every year.
Those in Georgia may earn up to $88,000 as this is the highest paying state. Highest paying industry segments are the motion picture and video industries at $86,300 per annum.
C) Interior Designer
The role of an interior designer is to make the living space of a home or office pleasing, functional, and safe. Their work entails choosing decorative items and colours that enhance working or living environment. In addition to being experts at choosing the best colours and decorations, they ought to have knowledge of inspection regulations and building codes.
Due to the undiminishing need for buildings, there is always a need for interior design. As a result, employment growth of about 4%.is projected. The median annual salary of an interior designer is $48,800. In the District of Columbia, the highest paying state, this rises to $86,400.
Similarly, if you are working in activities related to real estate, you can expect an annual salary of around $78,500 as this is the highest paying industry segment.
Architects are mandated with the planning and designing of all kinds of structures. They work closely with their clients in drafting designs for their desired structures from homes, offices, and factories. Their drawings are detailed and include accurate measurements and other specifications such as materials.
This employment segment is expected to grow by 7% which is not a surprise as the need for new structures is constant and undiminishing. There is also an increase in emphasis on creating sustainable structures.
CAD is a valuable tool in helping architects work more efficiently. The median annual salary is $76,000 with Lessors of real estate being the highest paying industry segment at $114,400. California is the highest paying state with an annual average of $97,800.
A) Electrical/Electronics Engineer
Electrical engineers are first and foremost designers and developers. In addition, they test and supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment. By designing new ways of using electrical power they improve existing products such as communication systems.
They also check and verify that the products they are manufacturing or installing meet specifications and codes.
Job growth is estimated to be 0%, mostly due to slow growth and decline in most manufacturing sectors. The median annual salary is estimated at $93,000, with the highest paying state being California, at $115,950.
The highest paying industry segment is oil and gas extraction at $129,630. However, with the continuous need to enhance the methods we use, the research and development sectors will continue to show growth.
B) Mechanical Engineer
Mechanical engineers are responsible for the testing of mechanical devices and analyzing problems to see how mechanical or thermal devices might help solve a particular problem. The design or redesign mechanical and thermal devices or subsystems and develop and test prototypes.
With the aim of solving practical problems, they investigate equipment failures or difficulties to diagnose faulty operation and recommend remedies on design devices and its processes.
They research designs and analyze the test results from those, making recommendations based on industry standards, regulations, and customer needs. These engineers also oversee the manufacturing process for the devices.
Employment is forecast to increase by 5%. Median annual salary is approximately $83,500, with the highest paying state being Alaska at $130,400. The highest paying industry segment is currently oil and gas extraction, at $146,740. Mechanical engineers are able to enter most sectors and work on a variety of projects, which is an advantage in terms of career development.
C) Civil Engineer
Civil engineers work both in the public and private sectors. They develop detailed designs, undertake technical and feasibility studies including site investigations, build projects that comply with legal requirements and that have a positive impact on the environment.
They also oversee construction projects and systems, liaising with clients and a variety of professionals including architects and subcontractors.
These projects can vary from the large-scale, such as airports and railways, to small-scale projects, such as road repairs and water supply routes. These engineers have the advantage of being able to work in different environments, including the structural, environmental, and transportation sectors.
Employment is estimated to increase by 8%, which is the average growth rate of all professions. The median annual salary is estimated at $82,200, with the highest paying state being Alaska at $110,000. Currently, the highest paying industry segment is oil and gas extraction at $130,700.
With regards to infrastructure, over the years it ages and requires constant modifying/rehabilitation – civil engineers are an essential part of this work.
D) Industrial engineer
Industrial engineers develop job evaluation programs. In addition, they find ways to eliminate wastefulness in the production process. They develop efficient systems that integrate workers, machines, materials, information, and energy to make a product or provide a service.
They pursue improvements and increases in efficiency by employing strategies such as employee training, scheduling changes, and servicing of existing hardware. The quality and reliability requirements of a product, in the production phase, are also drafted and determined by these engineers.
Employment rates are estimated to have little to no change. The median annual salary is estimated to be $83,470, with the highest paying state being Alaska at $117, 900. Currently, the highest paying industry segment is pipeline transportation at $128,450. The advantage that industrial engineers have is that they can work in a variety of sectors. However, this role is greatly impacted by the overall decline in many manufacturing sectors.
Expected Salaries in CAD Sector
Pros and cons of taking a career in CAD
High salaries with advancement opportunities are available, but they come with a cost. Well-paid jobs with great prospects for career growth are difficult to obtain, given the competition and amount of experience employers typically demand.
Some jobs only require a 2-year associate’s degree: these are mainly for those aiming to be drafters and technicians. However, an eventual transition from a low-level technician to an engineer is quite possible.
The downside to this is that, to advance your skills and therefore increase the opportunities available for you, further education is probably needed. A master’s degree is costly and for some, too time-consuming.
CAD also offers the possibility of freelance work, which many find convenient and flexible. It also helps to expand the range of experience by creating opportunities to work on different types of projects for different client groups.However, the downside is that these jobs can be tied to the economy. In times of recession there may be a lack of opportunities, and, even if there is work to be found, there is little or no job security.
Regardless of the ups and downs in the economy or the varying expectations of the employment curve, the CAD profession has a constant need for employees, so there is always the potential for career growth, for anyone willing to put in the work.
With the range of professional opportunities and career growth that CAD offers it’s no surprise that there is a growing number of applications for any available position. To stand out, it’s essential to stay up to date on the latest software, keep up with industry trends, and be willing to continuously sharpen your skills. Stay updated by following blogs which cover the latest development in the world of CAD.
Look for ways to improve your credentials, either by furthering your education or getting your license. Apply for internships and projects that are related to the area you wish to specialize in.
CAD is an exciting, yet competitive field. Make sure you have a portfolio of skills which will stand out from the crowd and gain the positions you want. There are so many opportunities to grow and enjoy a rewarding career in the world of CAD.
10.THE FUTURE OF CAD SOFTWARE
Until the introduction of CAD software in the 1960s, the hectic work of manually drawing highly-detailed designs was accomplished by draftsmen and drafting technicians in manufacturing, engineering, and architectural firms.
The tools they used were pencils, compasses, and protractors. CAD software arrived with innumerable benefits which completely changed the production of designs and products. Organizations use different CAD software for different purposes: rendering, simulation, 3D printing, and prototyping, each with the aim of improving their work, products, and services.
Professionals including surgeons, engineers, and designers all use CAD software, and for this reason, CAD program makers are working tirelessly to improve features as new trends emerge.
What does the future look like for CAD software? It has actually been around for decades, and has seen many advances. Recently, CAD software has become more futuristic as the technology continues to evolve rapidly.
With CAD programs becoming ever-more essential in different sectors, there are still more exciting advances on the horizon. The future is set to bring innovations which will have a revolutionize the world of product design.
CAD FM has compiled a list of significant changes that CAD software users need to know about and discusses some of the possibilities. We also highlight major trends that can already be observed, as well as the CAD software functionalities that are likely to be transformed in the future.
10.1. SEVEN FUTURE-TRENDS FOR CAD TECHNOLOGY
With the increasing use of CAD software, here are 10 trends that are likely to be seen in the near future.
Trend #01 Artificial Intelligence and Automation in CAD
Artificial intelligence is demonstrated by machines that perform tasks given to them. AI improves the efficiency as well as eliminating human effort, both mental and physical. AI is expected to disrupt the labour market as it will lead to substantial changes in the tasks carried out by people, and those better suited for machines. We need to ask the question, how will artificial intelligence merge with CAD?
Intelligence is defined as comprehension and action working intermittently, and it can be artificially accelerated. In the CAD industry, the vision is to empower designers and engineers to solve design problems intelligently.
AI is expected to be incorporated within CAD software. It will help support a number of design goals, including the creation of more intelligent and more economical models. Some tools are already being added to CAD software such as the AI Denoiser in SOLIDWORKS.
This tool has been trained with special technology and has the ability to anticipate, pinpoint, and remove visual noise during the rendering process. Apart from noise detection and removal, it is also capable of producing finished renderings ten times faster.
AI can also help improve safety in manufacturing processes. AI will select tests and determine whether the necessary tests have been performed, notify points of failure in design, and recommend the necessary changes based on previous test outcomes.
Sensor data of all kinds is difficult for humans to sort through. With a lot of content, it becomes difficult to identify specific information, but AI will help in finding what is relevant amidst a heap of data.
Automation is yet another massive step forward in CAD, already observed in several sectors due to the development of artificial intelligence. It is expected to be more present with 3D CAD software and CAD software will become able to anticipate human actions.
This will improve the 3D modelling experience since it will allow users to anticipate design and avoid modelling problems. Thanks to artificial intelligence, new quality control features will be introduced, which will see CAD programs become progressively more intelligent. All this will help to refine and improve the work of a designer.
Trend #02 CAD Software in the Cloud
Gone are the days when product design used to proceed in a series of steps. Traditionally, each step in creating and designing a product would follow the one preceding it, in a logical order.
Today, thanks to the emergence of cloud technology, CAD design has moved beyond a single computer, with teams working simultaneously on different tasks, from different locations.
This is a game-changer since working in a browser rather than at a fixed workstation means you can work from anywhere around the world, without any installation process. With teams working concurrently, tasks can be completed efficiently within a short period. It is evident that Cloud-based programs have innumerable advantages, and they are likely to become more widely-used and more advanced in the coming years.
Trend #03 Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
One of the future developments of CAD will certainly be in the fields of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Though still in their technological infancy, VR and AR are likely to revolutionize the CAD design process in the near future. VR focuses on shutting out the real world which is then replaced by a digital alternative.
For instance, with CAD, a model will be viewed in its intended environment.
On the other hand, AR will focus on overlaying elements in the real world. With an AR headset, you will see your 3D CAD model imposed over the existing real-world environment, as well as use your hands, rather than the controllers, to manipulate the CAD models.
Through the use of life-like visualization offered by VR helmets and VR glasses, CAD design moves beyond the boundaries of the traditional screen into virtual and augmented reality.
These give a more realistic perspective of how a 3D product will look in a physical space, thus removing the guesswork as you can see the development of your product as you create it in real-time.
Most CAD programs have placed emphasis on usability and intuitive design, making the creation of a product as simple as virtually stretching, pulling, and pushing it into existence. This will enable more people to gain and use CAD skills, democratizing the industry as well as increasing the pace of innovation.
Although VR and AR headsets and technology are not yet a common feature in homes and businesses, it won’t be long until this is the norm. Companies with large technology budgets have already started utilizing VR and AR with CAD. The CAD industry has certainly come a long way and while it’s not yet mainstream it is just a matter of time. Although you might not be able to work with a VR- or AR-using CAD software at today, this will soon become an everyday reality.
Trend #04 Virtual Prototyping
In the past, products had to be tested on physical materials. Today, product life cycle management software with CAD advanced tools enables designers to test virtually.
Software developers are working towards full virtual prototyping which will go straight from a CAD model to the production line. It is not clear to what extent this will become a reality since CAD models may have undetectable flaws that only emerge after the product is exposed to real-life stresses and forces. A future
without prototypes will, however, become inevitable, as the technical capabilities of CAD software expand.
Trend #05 Additive Manufacturing
Additive manufacturing is also known as 3D printing. It is a CAD-controlled process that helps to create stronger, lighter 3D parts and systems by depositing materials in layers. This transformative approach to industrial production is one of the advances that have been made possible thanks to the technological transition from manual to digital processes.
With the help of CAD or 3D scanners, the creation of objects with precise geometric shapes is made possible via additive manufacturing. Unlike traditional manufacturing which depends on machines to remove surplus material, in additive manufacturing, objects are made layer by layer.
Below are some of the additive manufacturing trends to keep an eye on over the next few years.
Look out for more materials. More and more emphasis will be placed on material development. There will be plenty of structural materials, more flexible materials, and high-temperature materials based on the way people wish to create and use them.
With the invention of new methods such as printing objects which are suspended inside a vat of gel, the need for support materials in avoided. The invention of a 3D printed gel which when dried, mimics human cartilage, is another major breakthrough, expected to revolutionize orthopaedics
More Affordable Metal Printing. At the moment, available 3D metal printing technology is too expensive for mass production or prototyping. This is due to the complex processes that include oven-heating, and the process of metal solidification.
However, in the near future, we can expect an increase in a more affordable, as well as a widely adopted usage of manufacturing materials for metal. The reduction in prices, as well as accessibility, will mean that many companies will be able to explore their options fully.
More Vertical Applications of 3d-Printed Manufacturing: In the aerospace industry, parts such as tooling, jigs, and fixtures would traditionally be made, through a subtractive process, from a block of metal. However, we can expect more usage of 3D printed parts to facilitate the manufacturing process. This will significantly reduce overall manufacturing costs. With direct 3D printing, it is possible to manufacture parts at a lower cost compared to the traditional machining of an insert for the mould out of an aluminium hunk.
A New Demand for Designing Tools: Today, to print a 3D model you will take a digital boundary representation (B-rep), create an STL file which is a faceted representation of a digital model, and then the 3D printer will recreate the facets into the desired final product. This involves the need for some hand finishing.
However, that will no longer be necessary with tools such as Grab CAD Print, which allows you to print directly from the B-rep to the machine, thereby eliminating the step of faceting the model with STL.
More Mass Customization: the ultimate example of mass customization is that orthodontists can now get a 3D scan of a patient’s teeth, and use the digital model to customize the mouthpiece, so it adapts as the patient’s teeth move. This is a complete change from traditional orthodontics where a disgusting tray of plastic goo would be stuck in the patient’s mouth to make a model of his or her teeth.
Mass customization has become possible with the latest advanced 3D printing technologies, and it is one of the solutions for companies seeking to differentiate their products and services.
It has been predicted that within a decade, 3D printers will be a common feature in our homes, especially given the gradual decrease in their price. This will open up many possibilities in terms of customization.
It won’t be long before you are able to print lampshades, mugs, and even phone cases you have designed yourself. This technology comes with numerous benefits including the fact that it is low on waste and means that products can be made locally.
Trend #06 Design with Your Mind
Imagine CAD design software that will turn anything you imagine into reality. Sounds over-ambitious, right? A company called Thinker Thing, with the funding of the Chilean government has embarked on this ambitious project.
They are developing a method of using an Emotiv EPOC EEG reader to build 3D objects instead of using old- school design methods which need a mouse or a touchscreen. Although it may seem far-fetched right now, this project opens up fascinating prospects.
As far as CAD design programs go, several advances are expected within the next couple of years. These include improved CAD files that can be opened with different applications: this will significantly impact file sharing among CAD users. Another coming change is Multi-Touch CAD that will remove the keyboard and mouse, leaving you to design with your finger on a touchscreen.
It is beyond doubt that these are exciting times. We are privileged to witness such fantastic CAD innovations. All these advances are meant to improve the user’s work. It’s clear that, within the next few years, these features, and others, will evolve faster and become universal. Here at CAD FM, we will continue to track new CAD software breakthroughs, so keep looking out for our updates.
Trend #07 Computer-Aided Design (CAD) vs. Manual Drafting
Before the emergence of CAD in 1969, engineers, drafting technicians, and designers used pencils, T-squares, stencils, and rulers to make technical drawings and sketches for their engineering designs.
Drafting is tactile and a drafter needs to be very conscious of every fine detail from scaling, measurement, and the shape of the drawing when sketching a design manually.
For the design industry, the introduction of Computer-Aided Design was the best thing since the discovery of fire! CAD brought about a drastic change in design, drafting, and engineering by providing more precision in design, as well as increasing the pace at which designs could be created.
Drafting a drawing manually was time-consuming, and could take days or even weeks to complete. Since the consequences of errors in a hand-drafted drawing could be much more time-consuming to fix, draftsmen needed to stay focused, with intense hand-eye coordination.
Furthermore, when drafting manually, objects must be drawn to the correct size, alignment, and measurements as well as being manually verified.
There was no room for mistakes. Even a small error could cause the whole project to go ’back to the drawing board’. However, CAD changed all that. A drafter can produce a design with precision and in minimal time. With CAD, a designer doesn’t need to maintain prolonged and intense focus as the drafting is more automated.
Revisions are an important step in the creation of any kind of drawing. In manual drafting, erasing and redrawing consumes a lot of time, and is quite monotonous. Overall,manual drafting is just less forgiving and more limiting when it comes to mistakes.
The CAD revision process is simpler as it provides a lot of editing tools, so that, by just a simple click of a button, actions can be deleted, undone, and re-done.
In addition, CAD allows a designer to rotate or mirror objects or sketches in order to scale them accordingly, whereas, in manual drafting, an entire section might have to be re-drawn.
While drafting manually, the scale of a view must be determined before the process begins. Maintaining the scale is a meticulous process that may require a drafter to separate information into individual overlays in order to see the different layers within a design.
With CAD, it’s possible to preview, edit, and print layers separately or in combination. CAD also allows a drafter to draw templates that can be customized easily instead of drawing new ones.
As precise as anyone could be, manually drawing line types, line weights, and dimensions during manual drafting is a process which is prone to mistakes. CAD gives a drafter countless ways to obtain exact dimensions, such as locating points by snapping to an interval or a grid or specifying precise coordinates.
CAD also allows drafters to draw to scale more accurately, thus producing more accurate designs than could have been done manually. The size and the resolution of a manual drawing are fixed.
This is different from CAD, which enables a designer to zoom in and out, as well as to adjust the resolution of drawing. This can be valuable, especially when one is working on extensive and detailed drawings.
Zooming in and out as well as changing the resolution can help concentrate attention on a specific part of a large drawing to get a full pan of the drawing.
It is beyond a shadow of a doubt that CAD has provided a digital platform for interactive design, and has had an incredible impact on many sectors. It has also enabled a series of new computational solutions, revolutionizing the creation of many products and models.
CAD software has automated the complex and sophisticated process of manufacturing digital designs with accuracy and precision.
Of course, the traditional method of manual drafting has many benefits, including creating a more complete understanding of digital drafting tools. However, CAD software offers drafting technicians, designers, and engineers a way to create and craft projects with little or no error more quickly and even more cost-effectively.
Outsourcing your CAD projects can increase a company’s productivity while also lowering costs. Contact CAD FM today to learn how we can help with your drafting and design needs. We’ll also be happy to assist you if you’re looking for help in creating a 3-D model for your project.