James is a Microsoft Certified application and database developer and previously worked as a Technical Engineer for a UK based manufacturer.
What Did We Do Before Cad Software?
Before the invention of very early cad software systems, the five essential tools that would have adorned a drawing office table were paper, a pencil, a ruler, a set square and a protractor. Drawing offices would have been filled with people meticulously hand sketching every design using these four basic instruments.
Every single line drawn on the paper would have to be measured and drawn by hand with painstaking attention given to every detail throughout the process. If you made a mistake there would not have been many options on the table, as you would either have to try and correct the mistake using a rubber or start the whole drawing from scratch.
After drawings were completed in their entirety they would be handed over to a senior member of the team commonly called the "Checker" to be inspected for quality. The checker would inspect every line, angle, and dimension of the drawing to ensure that nothing had been missed or drawn incorrectly.
If the checker found any mistakes in the drawing, they would be highlighted and the drawings would be issued back to the original creator to be revised. This was a crucial step in the drafting process as any mistakes not picked up at this stage would make their way into the final design and could prove to be extremely costly to rectify if at all possible.
After the drawings had been checked by the checker and all of the drawings that made up the final assembly were complete they would be ready to release to manufacturing. Before being released the drawings would be taken for review and approval to the necessary, individual departments such as Manufacturing, Purchasing and Quality Control.
Once signed off for approval, the drawings would be passed on to the document control department who would create blueprints from the original drawings. Blueprints would then be issued to all the relevant departments for use in the manufacturing process. The original, meticulously handcrafted drawings would then be safely locked away in the company's vault.
Examples of Cad Software in Use Today
Cad software packages have been tailored to suit a wide variety of individual business needs from creating two-dimensional drawings to creating much more complex three-dimensional designs. The three main manufacturing processes that cad software covers are two-dimensional drawing, three-dimensional drawing/modelling and CNC machine program creation.
Two-dimensional cad software like Draft It Architectural allows the user to draw their desired design on screen using different tools within the software. These tools vary in name but generally, there will be a tool for a line, a tool for a square, a tool for a circle and so on. Every thing drawn is an entity in its own right and can be manipulated after it has been created. If we think back to the paper drawings this provides a tremendous advantage as if we draw a line in the wrong place we no longer have to rub it out and start again we just move it or change its angle or length.
Three-dimensional cad software like Autodesk Inventor takes things to a whole new level when compared to our pencil and paper. Not only do we have basic tools such as line, circle and square, but we are now in a three-dimensional workspace so we also have tools for shaping objects. Again these tools vary in name but in Autodesk Inventor there is an extrusion tool so that we can draw a shape and extrude that shape into an object, for example, a drawn square could be extruded into a cube and a circle to a cylinder. Other tools include folding tools so that we can fold sheets of metal as if it was being bent on a break press to unprecedented levels of accuracy.
Cad software for machine program creation tends to be tailored to suit specific machinery, Radan is a cad application written specifically to create flat patterns or G-code for CNC punch machines. These types of cad applications share the same characteristics as two dimensional and three-dimensional cad software depending on the machines that they are producing the patterns or G-code for. As Radan produces flat patterns for CNC punch machines, it has a two-dimensional graphical user interface.
How Cad Software Benefits Manufacturers
Cad software packages bring a whole host of advantages to manufacturing companies that not only increase productivity but also reduce costly rework and minimise administration costs ultimately increasing turnover.
The use of two-dimensional cad software means that drawings are done many orders of magnitude quicker than with the paper and pencil techniques of old. Making an alteration to a drawing takes mere seconds where before the alteration could potentially have meant starting the whole drawing from scratch. Accuracy is improved as the tools in the software do all the calculations for us so productivity increases and rework reduces as a direct result.
Three-dimensional cad software use only improves upon the vast advantages gained from using two-dimensional cad software. Now that we have control of the three-dimensional model and all the parts that make up that design, making a change to a drawing is as simple as changing the model it's self. All of the components in the model and the entities in the drawing are linked so any drawings created from the model will automatically be updated saving us massive amounts of time. Being able to see and interact with the model rather than having to imagine the physical properties of the end result drastically minimises rework and improves productivity as a direct result.
Cad software for machine programs or G-code creation means that machines can be programmed offline (not at the machine) and programs can be generated In advance. This means that machines no longer need to sit idle while being programmed for the next run of work increasing productivity as a result. These types of applications can also be integrated with three-dimensional cad software so your three-dimensional model can go straight to machine reducing rework to an absolute minimum not to mention all the administration savings along the way.
The considerable benefits and savings that cad software brings to manufacturing companies is undeniable proof that cad software has revolutionised the manufacturing industry around the globe.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 James F Turner