Pros and Cons of CAD Software
Pros and Cons of CAD Software
CAD or computer aided design is increasingly popular in almost every area of design, thanks to its ability to allow engineers, prototypers, and manufacturers to quickly create, edit, and re-design initial drafts. Most computer aided design is done on a standard computer using CAD programs like SolidWorks, Catia, or Fusion 360, but there are free and hobby/amateur level CAD programs available as well.
If you are looking into machine manufacture, prototyping, or 3D design, CAD presents a number of advantages that are difficult to ignore.
Pros of CAD
CAD is almost universally an improvement over manual design for a number of reasons. This means that for the most part, the pros of CAD far outweigh the cons, and it’s almost always a good solution for any application.
Design Speed – CAD allows you to create a modelling space, set parameters, and then use a computer to create all of your pieces quickly and accurately. You can copy and paste objects to ensure exact duplication, use predefined objects to instantly insert them, and build to scale by simply redefining the parameters of your digital design. This makes any type of design faster and more efficient.
Design Accuracy – Computers allow you to set line weights, draft to scale, create inside of a specific scale, and use parameters for line size and length. This makes it much easier to ensure exact accuracy, whether creating simple or very complex designs. This is also important when switching from CAD to computer aided manufacture with CNC or other tools, because the accuracy transfers over to the CAM.
Layout – CAD allows you to create both a model space and a paper space, so that you can easily organize and label your entire design with plans, details, and labels, that won’t interfere with your model space. The ability to separate paper and design makes it easier to update, see the actual design, and make as many notations as you want without interfering with the design itself.
Design Layers – Most CAD allows you to create a model using layers, so that most of your work can be created on individual layers, allowing you to easily delete, update, or change one part without changing the whole thing. This is especially useful for multi-piece CAD designs, which must be milled or printed separately, because you can design the entire piece, and then print them layer by layer. CAD layers are most often used to quickly go through and make revisions or edits, because each piece is on its own layer and is therefore easier to update.
Editing – Manual revisions are difficult to impossible without redrafting the entire piece, but CAD makes a revision or update very simple. Most updates simply require that you remove an object, edit one, or add a new one, which can be achieved in a matter of minutes, not hours. This is especially convenient for beginning CAD designers who frequently make mistakes, or design things that aren’t able to be easily manufactured.
Drafting Standards – Set line weights, object parameters, pre-defined areas, and other details all save a significant amount of time over hand-drafting.
3D & Multi dimensional Drafting – The ability to create and rotate multi-dimensional designs makes it significantly easier to create and edit real objects to be milled or printed, to design multi-dimensional buildings, and to polish all sides of a design.
Cons of CAD
While CAD is largely beneficial to designers, there are a few cons that you should consider.
High Price – Most CAD programs can be very expensive and well out of the budget of amateur or beginning designers. However, there are free progrmas that offer limited or open source functionality that work just as well for most designers. Popular programs like SolidWorks are expensive, but there are solutions.
Steep Learning Curve – Almost all CAD programs have a significant learning curve, which means that it will take some time to master the use of the tools, even if you are already a designer. This process will repeat each time your program updates or you switch to a new program. However, if you are not already a designer, engineer, or mechanical engineer, you will have to learn those skills as well. There is a significant difference between design and designing for manufacture of any kind, and you will have to learn how manufacture works, or many of your designs will not work. This is crucial because CAD opens design up to amateur designers who don’t have years of training with mechanical engineering, which can result in designs that simply do not work.
CAD is overall a huge improvement over manual design, and if you want to get started, there are plenty of options that will allow you to do so for free. Click through to page 2 for for a look at some of the best free CAD programs.