By now, everyone has heard of CAD or 3D CAD, 3 Dimensional Computer Aided Design. It’s not that new but it was pretty revolutionary when it first came on the scene and it keeps evolving even today.
In a nutshell, it is drawing parts and assemblies of your product on the computer. Simple as that. Really.
Enter Real-World Complexities
Where things start to get complex is, each part is made up of many features, sometimes hundreds or thousands. Each assembly is made of many parts, sometimes hundreds or thousands.
Each part has to be manufactured and each assembly has to be put together. Every material, process and assembly step has rules for its design.
It’s astonishing the amount of decisions and details that go into even the simplest product.
CAD Provides Insight into Crucial Product Details
In the design process, CAD allows the designer, the engineer and even the customer see the design in much greater detail; how it will function, where it will move, and how it will go together.
- You can move parts in ways similar to how they will move in actual assemblies.
- You can see the interaction of the parts, you can cut through the assembly and see the inside in ways you can’t in physical parts.
- You can make parts clear and see through them to understand part relationships.
- You can create complex shapes using surfaces never before even imagined.
The speed and accuracy of CAD compared to paper drawings is light years more advanced allowing much reduced time to market.
CAD allows you to analyze the part and detect issues before any actual part is produced.
- You can see the high stress areas and design stronger and lighter parts as a result.
- You can simulate the molding process and see where plastic may have difficulty flowing, or where there may be molding stresses.
- Fabricated parts and molds are much more accurate since there is no human intervention.
- Features are fabricated directly from the 3D data leaving only tolerances in the fabrication process alone.
With CAD, you can assign a material to the part and tell how much the part or even the assembly is going to weigh.
- You will know the exact center of gravity; for our customers for whom we design golf clubs, this information is critical.
- You can tell how much material will be used for accurate cost estimates.
You can also use CAD data to help visualize how the end user will interact with your product.
For instance, we designed a product a few years ago that had transducers that focused on a specific area of the brain to break up blood clots. We used the transducer beam in CAD to accurately position the components and aimed them to the exact location.
The devil is in the details, and the format!
With CAD data, once the design is finalized and all required analysis is complete, the engineer can output the CAD data to many different formats depending on the need.
- Photo realistic renderings can be created of your product that can hardly be distinguished from photographs.
- Animations can be generated to show how the product is used, how it is assembled, or even animations for sales and marketing presentations.
When it comes time to actually manufacture your parts, again CAD comes to the rescue.
- The engineer can flatten sheet metal parts so they are easily read into their fabrication equipment.
- 3D data can be used to cut steel for injection molds.
- Using the same CAD data, drawings are created that are needed with critical information like material, critical dimension and tolerance specifications.
So, What’s Next for CAD?
Right now, the military and CAD companies are working on a drawingless process. All of the necessary information in drawings like critical dimensions, tolerances, and material specifications will be embedded into the 3D CAD model.
This is still a few years off from being totally integrated into the manufacturing system but it’s coming soon.
3D printing is becoming commonplace in our daily lexicon. However, what people overlook is, 3D printers need CAD models to generate parts.
Once people become familiar and proficient at CAD, they can create models that can be used with 3D printers, CNC sewing machines, even molding your own parts in your garage.
It’s pretty exciting to see how CAD has evolved and is continuing to change. Every one of us uses products that has utilized the benefit of CAD and we are much better for it.
Dan has been with Innovate for more than 15 years and in Product Development for 25+.
He is passionate about product design with a background in both Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering. Dan enjoys pushing SolidWorks’ and its surfacing tools to their limit to give his clients the very best possible product.
Have a question or comment for him? Dan is pretty easy to find over on LinkedIn.