Buyer's Guide to CAD Software

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Transitioning from Manual Drafting to 3D CAD

Manual drafting, although it has had a long and illustrious run, is almost history now. Design engineers in different fields are increasingly using CAD, CAM, FEA, and other computerized design tools. Although individual software is still available for these different design activities, the current trend is moving towards integrating all of them together.

These improvements did not happen overnight. It started with 2D CAD and packages like AutoCAD, MicroStation, and few others. Then 3D CAD modeling came. This was a paradigm shift, and the concepts of parametric, associativity, and the top down and bottom up modeling approach came into the picture. 3D CAD packages further developed towards using the CAD files for tasks like CAM, FEA, tolerance stack-up, and other design activities.

The following articles will give you some detailed explanations about these concepts:

Comparisons of Different Mechanical CAD Packages

Although 3D CAD has gained industry wide recognition, at the same time 2D CAD has not become obsolete and there is no real chance of it happening in near future. Instead 2D and 3D CAD packages are used together for most design activities. Typically the conceptual design is done using the 3D package. After the design is finalized, the 3D CAD geometry is further used for FEA and CAM. The 2D drawing is then generated from the finalized 3D model and stored and circulated as and when required. The CAD databases also store 3D geometry and metadata. 2D cad files are easier for sharing and getting the part or device manufactured from small scale vendors who don’t have the capability to afford elaborate 3D CAD systems.

So there are huge numbers of options available in selecting the right CAD package for your application. The following articles will help you to find out what are they and how they are competitive with each other.

CAD Programs for Architectural and Civil Engineering Applications

Architectural and civil industries use lots of CAD packages nowadays. As in other design fields, the recent trend is toward using 3D packages, but again 2D packages are also used simultaneously. Popular packages are developing towards integrating the tools like building energy management tool, renovation tools, etc. Though the kind of design is different here compared to that of the mechanical design, the basic concepts of 2D drawing creation and storage of the finalized design remain the same. However, the difference lies in kind of auxiliary tools integrated with the main CAD packages. For example, you will not find the CAM tools with the architectural CAD packages; instead you may find seismic-related tools.

Find the different popular architectural and landscape design CAD packages and their comparisons below:

CAD Software for Boat Design

Boat design is a job requiring skill. Gone are the days when only hand sketches are used for designing the boat. Many CAD software packages are there now to help the boat designer. The article below will discuss one such CAD application. I will try to add some more articles here to cover few other boat design software in future:

Freeware and Open source CAD Packages

Quite a number of CAD packages are available as freely downloadable and open source software. These packages may not be able to compete with the full blown commercial packages, but sometimes the numbers of features offered by the commercial packages are just too overwhelming for your application and you may actually find all the required features in a free CAD package.

You should feel free to explore the most popular downloadable CAD packages:

The CAD software industry is developing rapidly by incorporating newer features aimed towards easing the life of the designer and reducing the design cycle time and thus design costs. Advanced features like coaborative design tools, PDM, and data redundancy are becoming common. I will continuously update this guide in order to update you about the newer developments, so feel free to bookmark it.


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