Computer-aided design, or CAD, software is a modeling tool used by architects and engineers to design three-dimensional objects. This software is used to create new products or deepen the understanding of existing products. Although best known for working with shapes, this type of software has all the standard symbols required for technical drawings and schematics. There are four key features to CAD software: functionality, impact on the industry, training, and price.
There are three functions to CAD software that revolutionized the design industry: multi-dimensional images, computer animation, and computational geometry. Multi-dimensional images need curves, surfaces and solids, all of which are very difficult to create on a computer screen. The physical drawing of these shapes requires art training and the use of shading to indicate other dimensions.
CAD software allows the images to be rotated 360 degrees, providing designers with the opportunity to model the entire object much faster and without the need to physically render the item first. The computer animation aspect has impacted both the entertainment and engineering industry. In entertainment, it has allowed the development of higher quality cartoons and commercials. In engineering, both the form and function can be modeled and any designer flaws can be seen and corrected, before the creation of a physical prototype. Computational geometry and industrial art have also capitalized on the functions available in this tool to create a new type of sophisticated product that better suits their unique needs.
The adoption of CAD software resulted in the elimination of a large number of drafting and designer jobs. Entire departments could be replaced with one software package. Engineers and architects were required to learn the software and incorporate different tasks into their jobs. Over time, a new role of CAD designer has developed. This person has an advanced skill level with the software and may act as an adviser to other designers and engineers.
Training on CAD software is now incorporated into every engineering, architect, and designer education program. Specialized courses in specific software and advance functions are available on a part-time basis at a wide range of community and career colleges. It is very important to keep these skills updated, as the software is constantly upgraded and changes over time.
The price of CAD software has dropped significantly as the usage increased and the size of computer memory expanded. The software now offers complex, highly advanced features for the same price as the base version three years ago. These tools have allowed designed to test out new theories and explore options before continuing.