Computer Aided Design (CAD)


Used for many years simply to provide manufacturing information for machine and assembly shops once a design has been decided upon, CAD is now playing an increasingly central role in design and manufacture, linking several industrial functions and making it more than just a design workshop tool. The use of CAD data is now spreading throughout the product definition and development process,
from concept generation through data management and the application of rapid prototyping techniques, and onto manufacture and inspection.

CAD applications have begun to have a significant impact on the work of designers even in the earliest stages of their work. When refining product concepts for selection, designers often produce a range of information intensive drawings, known as ‘renderings’. Renderings show the details of the design and often depict the product in use. They can be used to convey a tremendous amount of information about the product and are often used to test clients’ reception of the products proposed features and functionality. These drawing would previously have been hand generated, but the advent of 3D feature based modelling software such as CATIA and Creo Elements / ProENGINEER have revolutionised this stage of the development process.

Using contemporary CAD packages, designers can generate 3 dimensional designs on a computer screen and modify them rapidly. The visual realism of CAD can also enhance communication within the product development team and eliminate the inaccuracies of the manually generated sketches historically provided by designers.

Many CAD packages also include modelling or simulation functions, which allow alternative proposals to be evaluated prior to manufacture through the use of techniques such as kinematic modelling. This performs a powerful role in proving design proposals in terms of their function and manufacturability and can save costly and time-consuming experiments with ‘real’ materials. Furthermore, data from a CAD system can easily be transferred to engineering design and management systems to allow the entire development process to be more easily integrated.

Through the initiative, schools are able to access free computer aided design software, including

  • PTC Creo 2.0 3D solid modelling software
  • ArtCAM Pro for Education 3D art and design modelling software