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What is CAD?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Computer Aided Design (CAD) is a form of design in which people work with computers to create ideas, models, and prototypes. CAD was originally developed to assist people with technical drawing and drafting, but it has expanded to include numerous other potential uses. A variety of software products designed for CAD can be found on the market, with many being targeted to a specific application or industry.

Drafting and technical drawing can be very painstaking, and they require some special skills. Using CAD for drafting still requires many of the same skills, but by working with a computer instead of on paper, people can be much more efficient. They can also play around with ideas much more easily, moving design elements around and running the design through software programs which can determine whether or not the design is structurally viable. For example, an architect working on a bridge can test the design in simulations to see if it will withstand the load it will need to carry.

CAD can be used to design structures, mechanical components, and molecules, among other things. One advantage of using CAD is that people don't have to make prototypes to demonstrate a project and its potential, as they can use a three dimensional modeling program to show people how something might look. CAD also allows for endless variations and experiments to show how the look and feel of something can be altered, and these can be done at the click of a button, rather than with painstaking drafting work.

Casual users sometimes like to play with CAD for things like deciding how to organize their furniture, or lay out a garden. They can drag and drop elements and play with the space in a variety of ways, and generate a configuration which will be suitable and aesthetically pleasing. CAD is used by professionals in a number of industries across the manufacturing sector, and it can also appear in some surprising places, like forensics labs, where researchers recreate crime scenes on a computer to explore scenarios.

Advanced CAD programs usually require extensive training from their users, as they can be very complex and challenging to work with. More casual programs can be learned in shorter periods of time, with some designed to allow people to work within the program immediately, learning as they go. Simple programs can also sometimes have their functionality increased with expansion packs which are designed to provide additional features, so that people can work within a program they are familiar with when they want to develop more complex designs.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon956808 — On Jun 16, 2014

A free cad programme I've used to design a music player is prodesktop 8. You just have to download it and its basically a more precise version of google sketchup. It's really good, but takes a few weeks to learn how to use it.

By brackenbury — On Feb 10, 2014

I have a number of sandblast designs, e.g., corner center and border that I cut with a plotter stick onto glass and sandblast the image, A lot were drawn in graphicad on a very old computer and I cannot open them on new software. Is there a way of converting them to be able to cut in flexi V8?

By anon306811 — On Dec 01, 2012

CAM basically means Computer Aided Manufacturing. It's a post process of CAD. Once the CAD model is ready, one can work on its manufacturing, taking into consideration of the material of the model and material/type of the cutters to cut it.

By anon166811 — On Apr 10, 2011

what do cad and cam have to do with each other?

By anon164327 — On Mar 31, 2011

When I needed to produce a clock design, a CAD programme called 2D design was brilliant!

By anon160247 — On Mar 15, 2011

Cad is very helpful in our school.

By anon152220 — On Feb 13, 2011

I think cad is easy to use but like freeware, where can you find a free software to use?

By leeb — On Jan 27, 2011

So, can this program be used for things like interior design? Do designers use it?

By freewer — On Jan 24, 2011

Does anyone know if there's a free CAD program anywhere out there, or one that you can use online for a small fee?

I am just starting my business, and would love to use software like this, but I don't have a whole lot of available capital to invest in things like CAD right now.

If anybody's got any tips, please let me know -- I'd love to be able to use CAD without paying through the nose!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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