There was a time when engineering drawings were created manually by hand, using hand drawing instruments and an incredible amount of time. Those days are gone thanks to the advent of powerful computers and the invention of dedicated CAD software. To begin with 2D CAD provided the benefits of working in a digital environment as opposed to physical paper, doing away with the need for filing cabinets and resulting in open workspaces. For the first time, technical drawings were easily and quickly updated, were organised and retrieved quickly and distributed easily.
Over the last 15 years CAD has developed considerably, offering greater modelling power and flexibility. As computers offered greater power, 3D CAD software was born. This advancement in CAD design technology offers engineers the ability to model and visualise their designs in virtual space, often using a central coordinate system. This provides the instant advantage of being able to analyse the geometry for aesthetics and material volume as well as being able to make design changes in ‘real time’. 3D designs are also easier to explain and understand, resulting in better feedback early on in the development phase and ultimately better products on market.
Photo-realistic images can be generated from 3D models allowing designers to market their products with ease. It works by converting models within a scene into a 2D photo-like image based on environment lighting and shadows using mathematical equations, often ‘solved’ in stages gradually building up the picture. The resulting images are also invaluable when trying to secure project investment as it allows the audience to appreciate a design concept in its life-like state.
3D CAD models can also be animated to demonstrate movement and analyse performance within the same software environment. This simulation analysis is becoming increasingly accurate and today compares well with manual human calculation ability. Engineers are able to harness this technology to speed up design verification and improve designs from visual aids and reports. Component stress and pressure profiles are often derived and as we progress with time, these results are proving to be very reliable.
2D and 3D CAD software provides numerous benefits to engineers, designers and industrial professionals. It can provide considerable time and cost savings as well as significant power and flexibility.