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The acronym CAD stands for Computer-Aided Design. This refers to using computers or workstations to assist engineers (humans) in designing various models, mechanisms, and processes for a wide range of industries. CAD softwares help increase the productivity and accuracy of designers and improve the design quality, which creates a database for manufacturing. CAD output is most often found in the form of electronic files that can be printed hence creating a draft of the design created with CAD software. For this reason, many people refer to it as CADD (Computer-Aided Designing and Drafting).
CAD software designers can quickly build an entire model in an imaginary space that contains various tools and commands. It helps them visualize their end product with different designing parameters such as length, height, width, material, distance, and many more.
CAD applications are found in a wide range of industries starting from the Manufacturing industries to the electronics and civil sectors as well. When used for designing electronic systems, it is known as EDA or Electronic Design Automation. The acronym CAD is synonymous with MDA or Mechanical Design Automation in the manufacturing industry where mechanical designs are used.
CAD models can be both two-dimensional and/or three-dimensional in nature. 2D models include curves (sketches), whereas 3D models include surfaces and solids. CAD applications can be seen in automotive, aerospace, shipbuilding, industrial and architectural designing, prosthetics manufacturing, and many more.
Benefits as a design and analysis tool
Visualization: This is one of the most important advantages of using CAD tools as users can visualize their 2D or 3D projects in the workbenches offered by the various CAD softwares. These workbenches include a laundry list of sketch and design tools along with dimensioning and measuring tools and commands, making it easier for users to design with CAD than with a pen and paper.
Detailing: CAD representation may be digital but is very much close to seeing them in real-life. This leaves the space for intricate detailing of the models using CAD. This makes CAD models very accurate, and manufacturing becomes very easy and precise.
Optimization: While designing with pen and paper, finding out a defect in the design becomes very tough, but CAD designers can immediately spot the mistakes and optimize their models as needed. CAD softwares that are more sophisticated than the crude ones even help users to run simulations to find the failures in their designs.
Specialization: CAD softwares are found in every sector, each having their specialized versions that come with indigenous features to that sector. This includes technical tools and features.
Realization: CAD softwares have gone one stage further to fabrication technologies and CAM softwares that help realize CAD designs by giving them a physical shape.
Key Uses of CAD
CAD software is most widely used in the mechanical design and manufacturing sector. CAD softwares used in mechanical designing mainly use either raster graphics that show the overall appearance of the designed elements and model(s) or uses vector graphics that represent the objects used in traditional drafting processes. It must also be noted that CAD involves more than just shapes; the final design aims to focus on communicating with the manufacturer or layman regarding various information like materials to be used, manufacturing processes to be undertaken like surface grinding, turning operations, facing processes, parting-off processes, etc. along with various dimensions that will ultimately give the model its shape, tolerances acceptable by industry standards, etc.