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CAD Drawings and their applications

Updated on June 17, 2012

Computer Aided Design (CAD) drawings are very important in the designing and manufacturing of a product. They are used to give a visual insight of what the product will look like when it is finished and assembled, they are used as lists of what component parts the product will consist of, and it communicates what dimensions the product will be.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Before computers were invented, designs had to be drawn manually. A technical drawing could take anything from a couple of hours to a few months to finish manually, depending on how complicated the drawing is. Nowadays however, a technical drawing can be completed within a much shorter period using CAD. They are also a lot more accurate. If you think how difficult it can be to get exactly 112mm on a ruler, and even more so to get 112.5mm, the probability of getting exactly the correct measurement is very low. With CAD however, you can simply type in the measurement required and it will be the exact measurement. It’s also easy to modify the drawing, correct mistakes, and make copies, and since it is on the computer the drawings can be emailed to other people.

Storing CAD drawings doesn’t take up any physical room, only a small amount of space on your computer. They can also be backed up onto a pen drive or CD-ROM in case the file is lost, which is much easier than photocopying files and finding somewhere to store these files. The drawings can also be imported into other simulation and graphics software for testing properties such as the stress and strain of the product, or render the product to see what it looks like in different materials, which can be very cost effective. Moreover, the technical data of the CAD drawing can be sent to a 3D printer for rapid prototyping, which gives a physical model to be tested and evaluated.

The main problem with CAD is the cost. CAD software packages are very expensive to purchase, not to mention the cost for any hardware required such as memory cards, drawing tablets and CNC machines. There would also have to be training available for employees on how to use the new software and hardware. These employees would then have to be paid more since they would be more skilled than before.

Another disadvantage would be the fact that fewer employees would be needed in the design department of a company. Although this is an advantage for the employer since they wouldn’t have as much money being spent on wages for employees, it would mean more people are out of a job, therefore worsening the economy.

Types of Software

There is a wide range of different software packages that are used in industries. Software packages can allow users to do things that were impractical ten years ago. For example, system software is designed to operate the computer hardware (monitor, hard disk, keyboard, etc) and to provide a platform for running high-level system software andapplication software. Operating systems such as z/OS,Microsoft Windows andLinux allow parts of the computer to perform tasks like transferring data from memory to a disk, or rendering text onto a display device (specific kinds include assemblers, compilers and debuggers). And application software includesenterprise software,accounting software,office suites,graphics software andmedia players – software designed to help the user to perform specific tasks.

Probably the most popular software package used is the Microsoft Office suite. The majority of people use this software package, whether their work occupation is related to Engineering, Accountancy and Finance, or Administration. This is due to the fact that Microsoft Office is compatible with near enough anything. There is Microsoft Access which allows the user to keep databases and single out different pieces of data with ease; Microsoft Outlook includes emails, a calendar, task and contact managers, and a journal so that the user can keep up to date with – and organise – events; Microsoft PowerPoint is used for creating presentations for projects or meetings of any subject; Microsoft Excel is for creating and using spreadsheets, graphs and charts; Microsoft Publisher is for designing posters, leaflets and business cards; and Microsoft Word is used for writing letters and other documents. Microsoft Office programs are also very simple to learn from, for people with and without experience in such applications.

Communication software can include email and Skype, and is used to provide remote access to systems and exchange files and messages in text and video formats between different users. It is therefore possible for companies to have conference meetings with other members or businesses who are elsewhere in the world without having to meet physically face-to-face. These options are much cheaper than by phone call, and are easier for use in group meetings and communicating with more than one person at a time.

Linking CAD to other software/hardware

CAD software packages are now used a lot in industries to make the designing of products an easier and more accurate task. What’s even better about CAD is that it can be linked to other software and hardware to increase accuracy and quality in products manufactured as well as in the drawings produced.

  • Simulation Software – Running simulation software before actually cutting or purchasing materials is a very cost effective way of making sure that a product will meet expectations suggested in the technical specification. It can be used for both mechanical products and electrical circuits to make sure that everything works properly, and to find out the highest level of stress, strain, temperature, etc the product can withstand. This saves manufacturing the product only to realise that it doesn’t work as expected, and therefore reduces the amount of material put to waste.
  • Computer Aided Manufacture (CAM) software – CAM is the use ofcomputer software to controlmachine tools and related machinery when manufacturing a product. Drawings generated in CAD can be imported into CAM software, which then controls a machine such as a CNC or 3D printer.
  • CNC Machines – Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines can be used continuously 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and only need to be switched off for occasional maintenance. They use a computer converts the design produced by CAD software into a numerical code that controls the movement of the cutter, and therefore the cutting and shaping of the material.
  • Rapid Prototyping Machines (3D printer) – Rapid Prototyping is a very common way of quickly producing realistic models of products being designed or developed. A model can be shown around a table at a conference meeting, or given to members of the general public so that they can make suggestions as to how it can be improved, both of which is not possible with a 3D drawing of a product.

Linking CAD to hardware and software such as these has a lot of beneficial purposes.One of the greatest benefits of using computer aided design and drafting software is the ease of manufacturing. By using CAD systems, many processes becomes faster, reducing the lead times as a result. Producing the drawings, preparing reports of assembly, making specifications, preparinga budget for the materials and machines used – these are all much easier and faster by using the CAD systems.

Machines such as the CNC and 3D printer only need one employee to operate them, saving the company money on hiring staff. Because it is a fairly easy process, this employee wouldn’t require much training, and wouldn’t be paid as much as for manual labour. The machines are also a lot more precise and accurate in production than a human, therefore improving the quality of the products manufactured.


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    • cmiller0161 profile image

      Claire Miller 5 years ago

      Thank you :)

    • Johnathan L Groom profile image

      Johnathan L Groom 5 years ago from Bristol, CT