Computer-aided design (CAD) isn't new. However, the ability of computers to aid humans in newer and more intuitive ways has grown in recent years and will continue to do so.
CAD software increases the overall quality of designs and allows more productivity than ever before.
The use of CAD is expected to grow from a $5.1 billion industry to an $11.2 billion industry by 2023. CAD aids in manufacturing by replacing labor-intensive modeling and other methods with computerized models.
This allows designers to try out a wide number of ideas. There are eight main ways that businesses benefit from CAD.
1. Faster Prototypes
In the past, users had to create prototypes one at a time, testing each one to see what needed adjusting and then going back to the drawing board. This was time and labor intensive and meant that the time for a product to go from concept to completion was massive.
With CAD — combined with 3D printing capabilities — designers try different ideas and create concepts on the spot. Instead of waiting months for a mold and prototype, now the designer plugs the idea into a computer, sees if it will work logistically and then prints out a 3D prototype for testing.
2. Better Work Flow
Before CAD software was as popular as it is today, students had to spend hours at a drafting table. One example of this is architectural firms and design firms.
However, with computer-aided design, students plug ideas into the software and change them easily. They need less space to layout ideas, and work flows easily from one project to the next.
Architects used CAD for many years in the process of creating designs for clients. Helman Sechrist Architects lays out their process and how computers aid them.
They sketch out a concept on paper, making changes as the client indicates. They then turn to computer generated design to bring that dream to life.
3. Better Collaboration
Multiple people can plug into a wireframed concept of a new office building design, for example, make suggestions and changes and finish the blueprints in a fraction of the time it took just ten years ago. This means designers of buildings and many other products work on more projects at a given time.
Digital designs allow teams to work on a project. Each person adds elements based on their strengths as designers. This also allows experts from around the globe to chime in and add their ideas to a design for a corporate building. Such collaboration pulls in elements from the best designs all over the world.
4. Precise Engineering
People want quality more than ever before. Designs aided by computers offer high quality and ensure that all parts fit together with precision. Even if the initial idea is very loose and perhaps even sketched on a piece of scrap paper, CAD software takes that idea and enhances and perfects it into a workable model.
Conestoga Log Cabins & Homes utilizes CAD in their log cabin designs. Because CAD is used to create log cabin kits, the finished product is extremely high quality. Using electronic data combined with drawings allows Conestoga to craft a log cabin with the exact dimensions needed.
A 3D model helps designers figure out where to place cuts and how every log in the home comes together, leading to an exact kit that allows people to put together their own log cabins or hire a contractor to do the work for them.
5. Cost of Concept
Perhaps you have a set amount of funds to create a new product. In the past, the cost of creating models and making adjustments would eat up most of that funding.
However, with CAD, you can try out minor adjustments to a design and see what works best and what doesn't work at all. This saves money because you won't waste time or materials creating models that won't work.
6. Competitive Advantage
Since many other companies utilize CAD, if you don’t, you risk falling behind competitors. On the other hand, if you feel skilled at implementing CAD into the design process, and a competitor is still drawing ideas by hand, you give your company an edge over that competitor.
Sci Chic creates unique science-themed jewelry using computer-aided design and 3D printers. They initially create a concept in plastic and then move to metal for their pieces. The company understands that those who are looking for STEM-based jewelry are also open to pieces created with the latest computer capabilities.
7. Better Documentation
There are times when you create a design, make several changes and suddenly realize one of the earlier versions — or an element from it — worked best. In those cases, going back to a hand drawing is difficult. The chicken scratches and markups on a paper document make it almost unreadable.
However, with a computer-generated design, going back to an earlier version is a simple matter of loading that particular design into the software. As a designer, keep copies of each version for future reference.
8. Comparing Costs
Different designs and materials create various cost levels for companies. In the past, you could make the best guess as to how much raw material for manufacturing, but with CAD, predictions are much more accurate. This allows you to easily compare costs between different design options and types of materials.
The Future of Computer Aided Design
As artificial intelligence (AI) advances, expect CAD to make additional adjustments. Imagine a world where a client gives a bot their vision of a new home and the initial design gets sketched by the computer rather than a designer.
Easy tweaks to the design would improve it exponentially. While designers will always need to improve what the computer comes up with and add a human element, expect designer work to become more creative and less hands-on in the future.