Computer Aided Design might seem like a modern innovation, but its origins are actually much older than you might think. In today’s post, we explore the history of Computer Aided Design.

The very beginning: 1950s-70s

The birth of Computer Aided Design (CAD) can be traced back to the Second World War, when there was a huge wave of development in computing. In 1957, shortly after the war, Patrick Hanratty developed the Program for Numerical Tooling Operations (PRONTO), the very first Computer Numerical Control (CNC) programming system. It is thought that approximately 70% of all 3D mechanical CAD/CAM systems that are available today can be traced back to Patrick Hanratty’s 1957 code.

Shortly after, in 1963, Ivan Sutherland was a student at MIT when he developed a system called ‘Sketchpad’. In Sketchpad, users of the program could interact with it via a screen, a series of buttons to set constraints or parameters and a light pen to create drafts. This program was considered highly complex at the time and never became available commercially, but is recognised as setting the stage for more developed CAD software later on. Throughout the rest of the 1960s, more developments were made, including DAC-1, the very first manufacturing system for interactive graphics and Auto-trol’s first digitiser.

As the 1970s began, the focus of research began to change from 2D to 3D. In 1972, a CAD software, known as ADAM, was created as a baseline for commercial CAD systems, while in 1977, CATIA (Computer-Aided Three Dimensional Interactive Application) was released and introduced software designers to the wonderful world of 3D modelling.

The CAD revolution: 1980s

The 1980s was an era in which the commercialisation of CAD came into play. UNIX workstations appeared, which allowed the software to spread into sectors like the shipbuilding, automotive and aerospace industries, signifying the beginning of large-scale adoption.

Uni-Solid and Romulus, new solid modelling packages, were released early in the decade and revolutionised CAD systems. The packages allowed users to visualise what their design would actually look like in reality.

Meanwhile, AutoCAD, the first CAD program made for the IBM PC, was a resounding commercial success, and after its release, advanced engineering functionality and drafting became less costly and more accessible. After 1986, AutoCAD set the stage for other CAD software competitors to come out of the woodwork official source. Up until this point, CAD was predominantly based in 2D, but the 1987 release of the famed program, Pro/ENGINEER, changed everything.

Pro/ENGINEER was based on parametric and solid geometry techniques for defining assemblies and parts. At this point, PCs were still not capable of running CAD programs, and so the software ran on UNIX workstations. This software revolutionised the industry, as other CAD programs were now obsolete.

After proprietary software declined and CAD software became commercialised, CAD software started being purchased by automotive and aerospace manufacturers from commercial vendors. For example, in 1988, leading aerospace company Boeing announced that they would use CATIA to draft and design their brand new 777 aircraft, which generated a revenue of $1 billion for IBM-Dassault.

Slowing innovation: 1990s-today

After the boom in innovation in the 80s, by the 90s and early 2000s, most available 3D CAD programs offered similar features. The focus was now on product data management software and the ability for users to use web browsers to view 3D CAD models.

Today, CAD is now available via web, mobile and cloud technologies, allowing engineers and members of the public to work with CAD on any device for a multitude of industries.

At Restoric Design, we use specialist steel detailing software such as Advance Steel and Tekla to create 3D CAD models for the purpose of expert steelwork fabrication.

If you’re in need of steel detailing services using 3D CAD modelling, get in touch with our expert team today.

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