CAD programs offer a wide range of tools to their users, including free CAD software. CAD tools are used across various industries and can be used for a variety of purposes, including building design and other academic purposes.
While it has other benefits, CAD software’s main function is use as a design tool. It is intended to create curves and figures in 2D and curves, solids, and surfaces in 3D. This software can utilize either vector or raster graphics to create a design. But CAD is about more than just designing shapes, as the designs developed using this software are intended to convey some kind of information, such as materials or object dimensions. This enables users to design and develop work on a screen and then print it out and save for future editing purposes.
CAD software boasts many benefits, such as:
Increased productivity – CAD software increases productivity for its users, as it allows designers to visualize their final products. Many CAD tools come equipped with animation functionality so designers can see how the finished product would work. Users can also make modifications to their product in real time.
Improved communications – CAD tools standardize designs across the board and improve the documentation of a design, along with cutting down the number of drawing errors. This enables clearer communication across various departments in an organization.
Organization and document management – Odds are that if a business is in need of CAD software, its employees are constantly designing buildings and/or objects. CAD tools enable users to easily save and refer back to their work.
CAD software is typically used by individuals whose organizations design and/or build physical structures and objects, such as:
Engineers – Engineers are among the most common CAD users. Most CAD solutions have industry-specific functionalities for designing bridges, roads, tunnels, and other structures. CAD software also allows civil engineers to account for aspects such as the features of the landscape on which they are building. These solutions also incorporate functionalities beneficial to other kinds of engineers, such as mapping out automated processes for mechanical engineers.
Interior designers – While they may not be designing the structure of a room or house, CAD software can be beneficial to interior designers in their jobs. These solutions allow these users fully decorate their clients’ spaces. Interior designers can leverage CAD software’s ability to create layers, scale designs, insert objects, and manipulate floor plans. This enables them to present a full design concept to a potential client.
Architects – Similar to engineers, architects utilize CAD software for building large structures. These tools also have the ability to create thorough presentations and virtual models, so that clients may easily visualize the final product.
Construction crews – When a user drafts up a design within a CAD platform, that drawing contains a vast wealth of data. Construction workers can use this functionality to better visualize a building they are preparing to enter, as this informs them of even the tiniest details of that structure.
CAD software can be divided down further into a number of subcategories related to 2D and 3D design, such as:
Building design and building information modeling (BIM) – This type of CAD software is commonly used for construction and architecture purposes. BIM software offers users model-based processes for designing and managing buildings. These tools enable users to create construction drawings that can generate a digital representation of the functional properties of that structure.
Civil engineering design – These tools include functionalities specific to the civil engineering industry, such as railway modeling and highway design. These solutions enable users to perform accurate mapping generation and analysis.
Product and machine design – This subcategory of CAD software is geared toward designers and engineers in fields such as manufacturing and automotive. These tools allow users to create 3D models of parts and assemblies meant to assist in the manufacturing process.
Sketching – This software allows users to create a drawing with digital graphics. These tools have functions like pushing and pulling surfaces that enables you to convert these drawings to 3D designs. Sketching files are typically able to integrate with CAD tools.
Drawing – Drawing is a vital feature of a CAD software solution, as it is typically the first step in creating a 3D model. These modules include tools such as lines, circles, polygons and more to sketch up your initial design. These designs are intended to show how something functions or is constructed.
3D modeling – Another core feature of CAD software is its ability to create 3D models, as it allows a user to see a full vision of their design. Often, the drawing capabilities found in CAD solutions include the ability to push and pull surfaces, which helps to turn those designs into 3D models.
3D rendering – This feature allows users take 3D models and place them into a fully realized 3D environment. Users can scale, navigate, and interact with 3D models. Some 3D rendering functionalities allow users to add effects such lighting and texture or animate 3D models.
Editing – A lot of detailed, precise drawing and designing goes on within CAD software. That is why these platforms provide users with the ability to constantly edit designs and models. Erase, trim, and undo designs to ensure they are up to an organization’s or client’s standards.
File option variety – Odds are that you will need to share your designs and 3D models with colleagues and clients. CAD software provides a number of different file formats to ensure users can export their work in any format that is necessary.
CAD software also comes with a number of other features beneficial to users. The following features may not be included in all platforms, but they are commonly found.
Editing with grips – Grips allow users to reshape, move, and manipulate the objects designed using CAD tools. This applies to both 2D and 3D objects.
Data extraction – This feature allows users to extract important information from the objects designed, such as block attributes and properties of drawings. In turn, this data can be used to create things such as a schedule for building the structure a user designs.
Dimension styles – Control the appearance of a design with tools such as arrowhead style, text location, and lateral tolerances.
Internet of things (IoT) – This refers to connected devices capable of interacting with their surroundings, along with collecting data. IoT devices are becoming more and more popular, and CAD software can help with the designing process.
Virtual reality – Virtual reality (VR) is not just for games and entertainment; it has its place in business as well. VR tools have the potential to transform how CAD users create 3D models. VR completely breaks the barrier of 3D design, making it seem as if users are designing their model or object with their own two hands.
Cloud-based solutions – Often, CAD tools are implemented on premises. However, many CAD vendors are now moving to the cloud. This change could help CAD users improve cross-departmental collaboration within their businesses.
3D printing – Designs and 3D models created within CAD platforms are used as the basis to create a physical object. 3D printers can help bring these objects to life. As both of these technologies improve, 3D printers will be able to produce even stronger and larger objects than before.
CAD software is advantageous to its users in many ways. However, every type of software has its downfalls.
Cost – CAD software is a staple for those who create 3D designs. This type of software tends to be very pricey, which means it could be out of the budget for small companies or individual users. There are free options, but they tend to come with limited capabilities.
Learning curve – 3D design is a complicated field, so it should be no surprise that CAD software can be difficult for beginners to use. This type of tool is vital for 3D design, so users have no choice but to learn to conquer the learning curve.
Manual vs. digital drafting – Moving away from manual drafting has many advantages, but it also comes with its disadvantages. Moving your design to a computer, and potentially the cloud, means there is a potential for your work to be hacked. Plus, if your computer or tablet breaks down, that means you could potentially lose your work.
GIS software — GIS software allows users to visualize, analyze, and interpret geographic data to understand patterns and trends in the area. These tools often integrate with CAD software, as spatial relationships and components are vital to CAD software users.
PLM software — Product lifecycle management (PLM) software also integrates with CAD solutions. PLM platforms are used to manage data during the development of a product. Integrating a PLM tool with a CAD solution lets users design and track the progress of your new tool in conjunction with each other.