Computer-aided design

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Example: 2D CAD drawing Schneckengetriebe.png
Example: 2D CAD drawing
Example: 3D CAD model Cad crank.jpg
Example: 3D CAD model

Computer-aided design (CAD) is the use of computers (or workstations ) to aid in the creation, modification, analysis, or optimization of a design. [1] CAD software is used to increase the productivity of the designer, improve the quality of design, improve communications through documentation, and to create a database for manufacturing. [2] CAD output is often in the form of electronic files for print, machining, or other manufacturing operations. The term CADD (for Computer Aided Design and Drafting) is also used. [3]

A computer is a device that can be instructed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically via computer programming. Modern computers have the ability to follow generalized sets of operations, called programs. These programs enable computers to perform an extremely wide range of tasks. A "complete" computer including the hardware, the operating system, and peripheral equipment required and used for "full" operation can be referred to as a computer system. This term may as well be used for a group of computers that are connected and work together, in particular a computer network or computer cluster.

Workstation high-end computer designed for technical or scientific applications

A workstation is a special computer designed for technical or scientific applications. Intended primarily to be used by one person at a time, they are commonly connected to a local area network and run multi-user operating systems. The term workstation has also been used loosely to refer to everything from a mainframe computer terminal to a PC connected to a network, but the most common form refers to the group of hardware offered by several current and defunct companies such as Sun Microsystems, Silicon Graphics, Apollo Computer, DEC, HP, NeXT and IBM which opened the door for the 3D graphics animation revolution of the late 1990s.

Design can have different connotations in different fields of application, but there are two basic meanings of design: as a verb and as a noun.


Its use in designing electronic systems is known as electronic design automation (EDA). In mechanical design it is known as mechanical design automation (MDA) or computer-aided drafting (CAD), which includes the process of creating a technical drawing with the use of computer software. [4]

Electronic design automation (EDA), also referred to as electronic computer-aided design (ECAD), is a category of software tools for designing electronic systems such as integrated circuits and printed circuit boards. The tools work together in a design flow that chip designers use to design and analyze entire semiconductor chips. Since a modern semiconductor chip can have billions of components, EDA tools are essential for their design.

Technical drawing creation of standards and the technical drawings

Technical drawing, drafting or drawing, is the act and discipline of composing drawings that visually communicate how something functions or is constructed.

CAD software for mechanical design uses either vector-based graphics to depict the objects of traditional drafting, or may also produce raster graphics showing the overall appearance of designed objects. However, it involves more than just shapes. As in the manual drafting of technical and engineering drawings, the output of CAD must convey information, such as materials, processes, dimensions, and tolerances, according to application-specific conventions.

Raster graphics dot matrix data structure, representing a generally rectangular grid of pixels, or points of color, viewable via a monitor, paper, or other display medium

In computer graphics, a raster graphics or bitmap image is a dot matrix data structure that represents a generally rectangular grid of pixels, viewable via a monitor, paper, or other display medium. Raster images are stored in image files with varying formats.

An engineering drawing, a type of technical drawing, is used to fully and clearly define requirements for engineered items.

A material is a chemical substance or mixture of substances that constitute an object. Materials can be pure or impure, a singular composite or a complex mix, living or non-living matter, whether natural or man-made, either concrete or abstract. Materials can be classified based on different properties such as physical and chemical properties, geological, biological, choreographical, or philosophical properties. In the physical sense, materials are studied in the field of materials science.

CAD may be used to design curves and figures in two-dimensional (2D) space; or curves, surfaces, and solids in three-dimensional (3D) space. [5]

2D computer graphics graphics that use a two-dimensional representation of geometric data

2D computer graphics is the computer-based generation of digital images—mostly from two-dimensional models and by techniques specific to them.The word may stand for the branch of computer science that comprises such techniques or for the models themselves.

3D computer graphics graphics that use a three-dimensional representation of geometric data

3D computer graphics or three-dimensional computer graphics, are graphics that use a three-dimensional representation of geometric data that is stored in the computer for the purposes of performing calculations and rendering 2D images. Such images may be stored for viewing later or displayed in real-time.

CAD is an important industrial art extensively used in many applications, including automotive, shipbuilding, and aerospace industries, industrial and architectural design, prosthetics, and many more. CAD is also widely used to produce computer animation for special effects in movies, advertising and technical manuals, often called DCC digital content creation. The modern ubiquity and power of computers means that even perfume bottles and shampoo dispensers are designed using techniques unheard of by engineers of the 1960s. Because of its enormous economic importance, CAD has been a major driving force for research in computational geometry, computer graphics (both hardware and software), and discrete differential geometry. [6]

Industrial arts is an educational program which features fabrication of objects in wood or metal using a variety of hand, power, or machine tools. It may include small engine repair and automobile maintenance, and all programs usually cover technical drawing as part of the curricula. As an educational term, industrial arts dates from 1904 when Charles R. Richards of Teachers College, Columbia University, New York suggested it to replace manual training.

Shipbuilding construction of ships and floating vessels

Shipbuilding is the construction of ships and other floating vessels. It normally takes place in a specialized facility known as a shipyard. Shipbuilders, also called shipwrights, follow a specialized occupation that traces its roots to before recorded history.

Aerospace engineering effort to fly in the atmosphere of Earth (aeronautics) and surrounding space (astronautics)

Aerospace is the human effort in science, engineering and business to fly in the atmosphere of Earth (aeronautics) and surrounding space (astronautics). Aerospace organizations research, design, manufacture, operate, or maintain aircraft or spacecraft. Aerospace activity is very diverse, with a multitude of commercial, industrial and military applications.

The design of geometric models for object shapes, in particular, is occasionally called computer-aided geometric design (CAGD). [7]


Overview of CAD software

Starting around the mid 1960s, with the IBM Drafting System, computer-aided design systems began to provide more capability than just an ability to reproduce manual drafting with electronic drafting, the cost-benefit for companies to switch to CAD became apparent. The benefits of CAD systems over manual drafting are the capabilities one often takes for granted from computer systems today; automated generation of Bill of Material, auto layout in integrated circuits, interference checking, and many others. Eventually, CAD provided the designer with the ability to perform engineering calculations. During this transition, calculations were still performed either by hand or by those individuals who could run computer programs. CAD was a revolutionary change in the engineering industry, where draftsmen, designers and engineering roles begin to merge. It did not eliminate departments, as much as it merged departments and empowered draftsman, designers and engineers. CAD is an example of the pervasive effect computers were beginning to have on industry. Current computer-aided design software packages range from 2D vector-based drafting systems to 3D solid and surface modelers. Modern CAD packages can also frequently allow rotations in three dimensions, allowing viewing of a designed object from any desired angle, even from the inside looking out. Some CAD software is capable of dynamic mathematical modeling.

CAD technology is used in the design of tools and machinery and in the drafting and design of all types of buildings, from small residential types (houses) to the largest commercial and industrial structures (hospitals and factories). [8]

CAD is mainly used for detailed engineering of 3D models or 2D drawings of physical components, but it is also used throughout the engineering process from conceptual design and layout of products, through strength and dynamic analysis of assemblies to definition of manufacturing methods of components. It can also be used to design objects such as jewelry, furniture, appliances, etc. Furthermore, many CAD applications now offer advanced rendering and animation capabilities so engineers can better visualize their product designs. 4D BIM is a type of virtual construction engineering simulation incorporating time or schedule related information for project management.

CAD has become an especially important technology within the scope of computer-aided technologies, with benefits such as lower product development costs and a greatly shortened design cycle. CAD enables designers to layout and develop work on screen, print it out and save it for future editing, saving time on their drawings.


Computer-aided design is one of the many tools used by engineers and designers and is used in many ways depending on the profession of the user and the type of software in question.

CAD is one part of the whole digital product development (DPD) activity within the product lifecycle management (PLM) processes, and as such is used together with other tools, which are either integrated modules or stand-alone products, such as:

CAD is also used for the accurate creation of photo simulations that are often required in the preparation of environmental impact reports, in which computer-aided designs of intended buildings are superimposed into photographs of existing environments to represent what that locale will be like, where the proposed facilities are allowed to be built. Potential blockage of view corridors and shadow studies are also frequently analyzed through the use of CAD.

CAD has been proven to be useful to engineers as well. Using four properties which are history, features, parametrization, and high-level constraints. The construction history can be used to look back into the model's personal features and work on the single area rather than the whole model. Parameters and constraints can be used to determine the size, shape, and other properties of the different modeling elements. The features in the CAD system can be used for the variety of tools for measurement such as tensile strength, yield strength, electrical or electromagnetic properties. Also its stress, strain, timing or how the element gets affected in certain temperatures, etc.


A simple procedure CAD Modeling.gif
A simple procedure

There are several different types of CAD, [9] each requiring the operator to think differently about how to use them and design their virtual components in a different manner for each.

There are many producers of the lower-end 2D systems, including a number of free and open-source programs. These provide an approach to the drawing process without all the fuss over scale and placement on the drawing sheet that accompanied hand drafting since these can be adjusted as required during the creation of the final draft.

3D wireframe is basically an extension of 2D drafting (not often used today). Each line has to be manually inserted into the drawing. The final product has no mass properties associated with it and cannot have features directly added to it, such as holes. The operator approaches these in a similar fashion to the 2D systems, although many 3D systems allow using the wireframe model to make the final engineering drawing views.

3D "dumb" solids are created in a way analogous to manipulations of real-world objects (not often used today). Basic three-dimensional geometric forms (prisms, cylinders, spheres, and so on) have solid volumes added or subtracted from them as if assembling or cutting real-world objects. Two-dimensional projected views can easily be generated from the models. Basic 3D solids don't usually include tools to easily allow motion of components, set limits to their motion, or identify interference between components.

There are two types of 3D solid modeling

Top end systems offer the capabilities to incorporate more organic, aesthetics and ergonomic features into designs. Freeform surface modeling is often combined with solids to allow the designer to create products that fit the human form and visual requirements as well as they interface with the machine.


A CAD model of a computer mouse Cad mouse 1.svg
A CAD model of a computer mouse

Originally software for CAD systems was developed with computer languages such as Fortran, ALGOL but with the advancement of object-oriented programming methods this has radically changed. Typical modern parametric feature-based modeler and freeform surface systems are built around a number of key C modules with their own APIs. A CAD system can be seen as built up from the interaction of a graphical user interface (GUI) with NURBS geometry or boundary representation (B-rep) data via a geometric modeling kernel. A geometry constraint engine may also be employed to manage the associative relationships between geometry, such as wireframe geometry in a sketch or components in an assembly.

Unexpected capabilities of these associative relationships have led to a new form of prototyping called digital prototyping. In contrast to physical prototypes, which entail manufacturing time in the design. That said, CAD models can be generated by a computer after the physical prototype has been scanned using an industrial CT scanning machine. Depending on the nature of the business, digital or physical prototypes can be initially chosen according to specific needs.

Today, CAD systems exist for all the major platforms (Windows, Linux, UNIX and Mac OS X); some packages support multiple platforms.

Currently, no special hardware is required for most CAD software. However, some CAD systems can do graphically and computationally intensive tasks, so a modern graphics card, high speed (and possibly multiple) CPUs and large amounts of RAM may be recommended.

The human-machine interface is generally via a computer mouse but can also be via a pen and digitizing graphics tablet. Manipulation of the view of the model on the screen is also sometimes done with the use of a Spacemouse/SpaceBall. Some systems also support stereoscopic glasses for viewing the 3D model.Technologies which in the past were limited to larger installations or specialist applications have become available to a wide group of users. These include the CAVE or HMDs and interactive devices like motion-sensing technology


CAD software enables engineers and architects to design, inspect and manage engineering projects within an integrated graphical user interface (GUI) on a personal computer system. Most applications support solid modeling with boundary representation (B-Rep) and NURBS geometry, and enable the same to be published in a variety of formats. A geometric modeling kernel is a software component that provides solid modeling and surface modeling features to CAD applications.

Based on market statistics, commercial software from Autodesk, Dassault Systems, Siemens PLM Software, and PTC dominate the CAD industry. [10] [11] The following is a list of major CAD applications, grouped by usage statistics. [12]


Freeware and open source

CAD kernels

See also

Related Research Articles

Wire-frame model

A wire-frame model is a visual presentation of a 3-dimensional (3D) or physical object used in 3D computer graphics. It is created by specifying each edge of the physical object where two mathematically continuous smooth surfaces meet, or by connecting an object's constituent vertices using straight lines or curves. The object is projected into screen space by drawing lines at the location of each edge. The term wire frame comes from designers using metal wire to represent the three-dimensional shape of solid objects. 3D wire frame allows the construction and manipulation of solids and solid surfaces. The 3D solid modeling technique efficiently draws higher quality representations of solids than the conventional line drawing.

PTC Creo, formerly known as Pro/ENGINEER and Wildfire, is a 3D CAD, CAM, CAE, and associative solid modelling app. It is one of a suite of 10 collaborative applications that provide solid modelling, assembly modelling, 2D orthographic views, finite element analysis, direct and parametric modelling, sub-divisional and NURBS surface modelling, and NC and tooling functionality for mechanical designers. Creo Elements/Parametric compete directly with Solidworks, CATIA, and NX/Solid Edge. It was created by Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC) and was the first of its kind to market.

Solid modeling modeling of three-dimensional solids

Solid modeling is a consistent set of principles for mathematical and computer modeling of three-dimensional solids. Solid modeling is distinguished from related areas of geometric modeling and computer graphics by its emphasis on physical fidelity. Together, the principles of geometric and solid modeling form the foundation of 3D-computer-aided design and in general support the creation, exchange, visualization, animation, interrogation, and annotation of digital models of physical objects.

SolidWorks CAD software

SolidWorks is a solid modeling computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided engineering (CAE) computer program that runs on Microsoft Windows. SolidWorks is published by Dassault Systèmes.

Computer Aided Industrial Design (CAID) is a subset of computer-aided design (CAD) software that can assist in creating the look-and-feel, or industrial design aspects of a product in development.

STL (file format) file format

STL is a file format native to the stereolithography CAD software created by 3D Systems. STL has several after-the-fact backronyms such as "Standard Triangle Language" and "Standard Tessellation Language". This file format is supported by many other software packages; it is widely used for rapid prototyping, 3D printing and computer-aided manufacturing. STL files describe only the surface geometry of a three-dimensional object without any representation of color, texture or other common CAD model attributes. The STL format specifies both ASCII and binary representations. Binary files are more common, since they are more compact.

Parasolid is a geometric modeling kernel originally developed by Shape Data Limited, now owned by Siemens PLM Software, that can be licensed by other companies for use in their 3D computer graphics software products.

CAD data exchange is a modality of data exchange used to translate data between different Computer-aided design (CAD) authoring systems or between CAD and other downstream CAx systems.

Rhinoceros 3D 3D computer graphics software

Rhinoceros is a commercial 3D computer graphics and computer-aided design (CAD) application software developed by Robert McNeel & Associates, an American, privately held, employee-owned company founded in 1980. Rhinoceros geometry is based on the NURBS mathematical model, which focuses on producing mathematically precise representation of curves and freeform surfaces in computer graphics.

The term "feature" implies different meanings in different engineering disciplines. This has resulted in many ambiguous definitions for feature. A feature, in computer-aided design (CAD), usually refers to a region of a part with some interesting geometric or topological properties. These are more precisely called form features. Form features contain both shape information and parametric information of a region of interest. They are now ubiquitous in most current CAD software, where they are used as the primary means of creating 3D geometric models. Examples of form features are extruded boss, loft, etc. Form feature is not the only type of feature that is discussed in CAD literature. Sometimes a part's functional or manufacturing features of the subject of attention. Although it is quite possible to see form features and manufacturing features are called by the same name, they are not exactly the same concepts. For example, one may either use the name "pocket" to refer to a swept cut on the boundary of a part model, or to refer to a trace left on the part boundary by a specific machining operation. The former is exclusively concerned with a geometric shape whereas the latter is concerned with both the geometric shape and a manufacturing operation, needing more parameters in its definition. As such, a manufacturing feature can be minimally defined as a form feature, but not necessarily vice versa. Machining features are an important subset of manufacturing features. A machining feature can be regarded as the volume swept by a "cutting" tool, which is always a negative (subtracted) volume. Finally, there is also the concept of assembly feature, which encodes the assembly method between connected components.

Ashlar-Vellum, a dba of Ashlar Incorporated, is a developer of Computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D modeling software for both the Macintosh and Microsoft Windows platforms. Ashlar-Vellum’s interface, designed in 1988 by Dr. Martin Newell and Dan Fitzpatrick, featured an automated Drafting Assistant that found useful points in the geometry and allowed the artist to quickly connect to locations like the "midpoint" or "tangent".


T-FLEX CAD by Top Systems (T-FLEX) is a Parasolid-based parametric CAD software application for 3D solid modeling and 2D design and drafting, developed and sold by Russia-based software company Top Systems. T-FLEX CAD is written for Microsoft Windows XP, Vista, and 7 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems, and is distributed in various languages.

BricsCAD is a software application for computer-aided design (CAD), developed by Bricsys nv. The company was founded in 2002 by Erik de Keyser, a longtime CAD entrepreneur. In 2011 Bricsys acquired the intellectual property rights from Ledas for constraints-based parametric design tools, permitting the development of applications in the areas of direct modeling and assembly design. Bricsys is headquartered in Ghent, Belgium, has additional development centers in Nizhny Novgorod and Novosibirsk, Russia; Bucharest, Romania and Singapore. Bricsys is a founding member of the Open Design Alliance, and joined the BuildingSMART International consortium in December of 2016.

Geometric design branch of computational geometry

Geometric design (GD) is a branch of computational geometry. It deals with the construction and representation of free-form curves, surfaces, or volumes and is closely related to geometric modeling. Core problems are curve and surface modelling and representation. GD studies especially the construction and manipulation of curves and surfaces given by a set of points using polynomial, rational, piecewise polynomial, or piecewise rational methods. The most important instruments here are parametric curves and parametric surfaces, such as Bézier curves, spline curves and surfaces. An important non-parametric approach is the level-set method.

Cobalt (CAD program)

Cobalt is a parametric-based computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D modeling program that runs on both Macintosh and Microsoft Windows operating systems. The program combines the direct-modeling way to create and edit objects and the highly structured, history-driven parametric way exemplified by programs like Pro/ENGINEER. A product of Ashlar-Vellum, Cobalt is Wireframe-based and history-driven with associativity and 2D equation-driven parametrics and constraints. It offers surfacing tools, mold design tools, detailing, and engineering features. Cobalt includes a library of 149,000 mechanical parts.

NX, formerly known as "UG". In 2000 Unigraphics purchased SDRC I-DEAS and began an effort to integrate aspects of both software packages into a single product which became Unigraphics NX or NX. NX is an advanced high-end CAD/CAM/CAE, which has been owned since 2007 by Siemens PLM Software.

Parametric design is a process based on algorithmic thinking that enables the expression of parameters and rules that, together, define, encode and clarify the relationship between design intent and design response.

C3D Toolkit software for geometric modeling

C3D Toolkit is a geometric modeling kit originally developed by ASCON Group, now by C3D Labs, using C++ and written in Visual Studio. C3D Toolkit responsible for constructing and editing geometric models. It can be licensed by other companies for use in their 3D computer graphics software products. The most widely known software in which C3D Toolkit is typically used are computer aided design (CAD), computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), and computer-aided engineering (CAE) systems.

Designers have long used computers for their calculations. Digital computers were used in power system analysis or optimization as early as proto-"Whirlwind" in 1949. Circuit design theory, or power network methodology would be algebraic, symbolic, and often vector-based. Examples of problems being solved in the mid-1940s to 50s include: servo motors controlled by generated pulse (1949), a digital computer with built-in computer operations to automatically co-ordinate transforms to compute radar related vectors (1951) and the essentially graphic mathematical process of forming a shape with a digital machine tool (1952). These were accomplished with the use of computer software. The man credited with coining the term CAD, Douglas T. Ross, stated, "As soon as I saw the interactive display equipment," [being used by radar operators 1953] he saw it would be just what his SAGE related data reduction group needed. With the Lincoln Lab people, they were the only ones who used the big, complex display systems put in for the pre-SAGE, Cape Cod system. But "we used it for our own personal workstation.". The designers of these very early computers built utility programs so that programmers could debug programs using flowcharts on a display scope with logical switches that could be opened and closed during the debugging session. They found that they could create electronic symbols and geometric figures to be used to create simple circuit diagrams and flowcharts. And that an object once drawn could be reproduced at will, its orientation, Linkage [ flux, mechanical, lexical scoping ] or scale changed. This suggested numerous possibilities to them. It took ten years of interdisciplinary development work before SKETCHPAD sitting on evolving math libraries emerged from MIT's labs. Additional developments were carried out in the 1960s within the aircraft, automotive, industrial control and electronics industries in the area of 3D surface construction, NC programming, and design analysis, most of it independent of one another and often not publicly published until much later. Some of the mathematical description work on curves was developed in the early 1940s by Robert Issac Newton from Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Robert A. Heinlein in his 1957 novel The Door into Summer suggested the possibility of a robotic Drafting Dan. However, probably the most important work on polynomial curves and sculptured surface was done by Pierre Bézier, Paul de Casteljau (Citroen), Steven Anson Coons, James Ferguson (Boeing), Carl de Boor (GM), Birkhoff (GM) and Garibedian (GM) in the 1960s and W. Gordon (GM) and R. Riesenfeld in the 1970s.


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