Computer-aided design (CAD) and drafting are some of the most popular engineering technologies today. As digital transformation initiatives increase, the advantages of CAD have become increasingly apparent, driving even further adoption.
While CAD has historically been the domain of architecture and construction, more than 100 industries use the technology today. Businesses across sectors can benefit from learning more about this software and how it can optimize their workflows.
What Is Computer-Aided Design?
Computer-aided design and drafting is a type of software that helps users design digital models of physical objects. These models can be either 2D or 3D, ranging from product designs to building floor plans.
Unlike robotic process automation — which takes over repetitive tasks for employees — CAD isn’t entirely automated. Instead, it provides features to let users work more efficiently — such as automatic material calculations, undo buttons and cloud support — while the users retain control over the process.
At its core, CAD is a digital alternative to pen-and-paper design processes. However, CAD today goes far beyond offering a digital way to design objects, including more practical measurement, analysis and file-sharing tools.
How Different Industries Can Use CAD
CAD is most prevalent in construction and engineering fields, where teams use it to design buildings in the place of paper blueprints. Computer-aided manufacturing is another standard use case, where manufacturers develop 3D models of products or parts to run virtual tests on or use to guide robotic equipment.
Many businesses use CAD files to direct automated machinery. Once they design a shape in the CAD software, they can send these files to laser cutters, 3D printers or other equipment, which automatically follow the designs.
CAD is also popular in dentistry, where dentists use it to design and fabricate implants like crowns or tooth replacements. These implants are less likely to fracture and take less time to create than older methods, driving CAD to become the industry standard today.
Graphic designers and video game developers frequently use CADs to create 3D art pieces or game objects. Fashion designers, automakers, interior designers, city planners and map makers all use CAD for similar purposes.
Advantages of CAD
As this widespread adoption suggests, CAD has many advantages across industries. Here are a few of the most significant benefits.
CAD’s efficiency is one of its most decisive advantages. The ability to copy and paste design sections, immediately undo mistakes and share plans via the cloud make the CAD process far more streamlined than conventional, pen-and-paper approaches.
Businesses can also make other workflows more efficient by using CAD files. Digital comparators can align parts with CAD designs in seconds, making product manufacturing and quality-checking much faster.
Another advantage of CAD is that it reduces manual errors. CAD software can highlight when a design wouldn’t work in real life, letting workers adjust it before trying to build the real thing.
Because many automated machines can work directly from CAD files, this technology can minimize production mistakes, too. Using CAD-directed machinery removes human involvement, ensuring the final product matches the original design precisely.
Computer-aided manufacturing is also more cost effective than traditional approaches. Much of these savings come through error reduction. Manufacturers spend 42% of their annual revenues on materials, making it the largest ongoing expense. By preventing errors, CAD reduces material consumption, lowering those costs.
CAD’s efficiency also reduces the impact of labor costs in comparison to revenue. Businesses in any industry can maximize their profits by producing more for the same labor costs.
Using CAD instead of paper-based design workflows makes it easy to share designs, too. Many CAD platforms include collaborative features to let multiple users access and edit designs, providing a single source of truth for everyone to work off of. Sending files through the cloud is also far faster than transferring paper documents back and forth.
The number of employees working primarily from home has tripled from 2019 to 2021, making this remote collaboration increasingly crucial. As more people work remotely, being able to share and edit designs in any location becomes a necessity.
CAD Best Practices
If businesses want to capitalize on the advantages of CAD fully, there are some things to consider. First, companies must recognize there are many CAD platforms available today, each with strengths and weaknesses. Teams should review their needs, then compare these goals to each solution’s features and pricing to find the ideal choice.
One specific thing to consider is any other programs engineering or design teams use. Organizations today already use more than 100 apps, so it’s vital to ensure any new ones work well with existing infrastructure. Teams should look for CAD solutions that can integrate with the cloud platforms and other software they regularly use to ensure they can use CAD as efficiently as possible.
Finally, it’s essential to recognize CAD is a tool for workers to use, not a replacement for employee expertise. Thorough training and hiring CAD-experienced workers are necessary to get all a business can out of this technology.
Computer-Aided Design and Drafting Has Many Applications
While computer-aided manufacturing and construction may be the most obvious use cases for CAD, they’re far from the only ones. Businesses of all sizes across many industries can benefit from this technology. Capitalizing on that potential begins with recognizing what CAD is and what advantages it can offer.