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This Is What You Need to Know About Computer-Aided Design


Almost everything you use from your home and your phone to your car started as a design. Have you ever wondered how architects, engineers, and designers craft these high precision items with such detail?

The answer lays with computer-aided design or CAD. As the name suggests, CAD is a software that allows designers to draft their ideas on a computer. A designer can shape these ideas into 2D or 3D designs depending on the item they’re designing.

CAD is a powerful tool found in every engineering, architecture, and manufacturing industry. CAD also allows designers and engineers to improve the quality of their designs before production. This saves businesses time and money while ensuring customers receive the best possible product.

Whether you’re familiar with CAD or are learning about for the first time, here’s what you need to know about computer-aided design.

Computer-Aided Design Beginnings

Computer-aided design’s humble roots began in 1962. Scientist Ivan Sutherland created “SketchPad” the first computer design program. The program allowed people to draw and write simple designs and objects on the screen, using a special pencil-like utensil.

During this time, CAD’s purpose was for research. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the aerospace and automotive industries started using similar programs for design. By the 1990s, AutoCAD and CATIA hit the market for use across almost all industries.

What is Computer-Aided Design or CAD?

CAD is a computer program that assists designers and engineers with the design process of products, architecture, and more. It allows for the creation of highly-detailed models. CAD uses geometric parameters on a computer rather than building a small-scale version.

Designers can change the parameters to create 2D and 3D models and view the objects under a variety of representations. CAD also allows designers to virtually test their objects to simulate real-world applications. This is a significant advantage that saves valuable time and material costs during the prototyping stage.

CAD offers several more advantages as a tool for design and analysis. Here are a few main advantages to using CAD:

  • CAD allows you to visualize 2D and 3D designs. Editing is also faster and easier compared to traditional sketching tools
  • CAD optimizes the design and testing processes. Designers can catch potential issues and fix them before creating a prototype. Advanced CAD programs allow you to run simulations to test your design digitally
  • CAD allows for the lifelike details to make designs as accurate as possible
  • CAD offers several unique features and parameters to fit any design need in any industry
  • CAD seamlessly works with fabrication technologies allowing you to bring your designs into the real world with ease

CAD is a powerful software that’s continuing to evolve for greater applications across all industries.

Computer-Aided Design Uses

What makes CAD such an important design program for so many industries? Here’s a look at the different uses of CAD and how it benefits different industries.

3D Printing

3D printing is a growing industry that relies heavily on the use of CAD for both the design and printing processes. The software allows designers to accurately sketch a 3D representation of the object before printing it.

CAD software integrates with 3D printing software such as computer-aided manufacturing or CAM. CAM software communicates the printing instructions to the 3D printer.

With both, designers have the control to print the entire object or specific parts. CAD and 3D printing allow industries to print prototypes and final products in a variety of materials.

Building Design

Architecture relies heavily on building information modeling (BIM). BIM is a specialized form of CAD. BIM is specific for the accurate design and construction of buildings.

CAD allows designers to work on specific parts of a building like doors, windows, and walls. They also view how everything fits as one unified structure.

Civil Engineering

CAD assists engineers with the 3D design of municipal buildings, structures, railways, roads, bridges, and more. There is CAD software specific for civil engineering, similar to BIM. It allows designers to breakdown the design process for improved accuracy and attention to detail.

CAD in civil engineering also gives designers and engineers a better idea of project costs.

Product Design

Besides visualizing the product, designers use CAD to understand how the product will function in the real world. Advanced forms of CAD software such as Fusion 360 and Inventor allow designers to create and test products on the computer.

Designers and engineers can use CAD to create almost any product imaginable. A few industries using CAD to design their products include carpentry, automotive, tech, furniture, and sports. Items such as insulation blankets and home fixtures use CAD to design their products.

Graphic Design

Professional graphic designers will use CAD to enhance the visuals of their designs. 3D effects are a popular design element made easier by the use of CAD. A few effects include adding and editing typography, backgrounds, and shapes to improve visuals and presentations.


Similar to 3D printing, CAD and CAM work together in other forms of manufacturing. The most popular forms of manufacturing using CAD and CAM are CNC machining, laser cutting, and engraving.

CNC or computer numerical control is code that tells a specific machine how to move to manufacture an object. This allows companies to use automation to create a virtual object into a real product.

The Benefits of CAD

There are 3 main significant benefits of CAD. They include team collaboration, better design quality, and more marketable products.

CAD is a shareable platform for multiple designers and engineers to design a product together. CAD data exchange software lets teams share their work between different CAD platforms.

CAD reduces human error during the design process as it comes with assets to improve measurements and overall accuracy. Designers, particularly architects can use CAD to professionally share their ideas with visuals. This in turn makes products, such as buildings and homes, more marketable.

CAD Is an Irreplaceable Tool

More industries are adopting computer-aided design to create the best possible products. Without CAD, we wouldn’t have many of the innovative products and buildings that surround us.

Learn more about the technology and resources we use in our latest articles!

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