Trust me on this one, you need clean CAD

Just like mechanics or doctors, there are good ones and bad ones. The same goes for CAD designers and engineers. And it makes a big difference every step of the way.

The 3D CAD model is the backbone of the entire product development process.  

Every tool, prototype, rendering, drawing, etc. is a direct descendent of that CAD model. And if that model is done in a haphazard manner, every one of those pieces is affected.  

We have had the pleasure of accepting many jobs in the past that have been started by other firms or individuals. If the original CAD data is sloppy or wrong, the best approach is to start over. This is not because we are CAD snobs, believe me!

When we get well thought out models and clean databases, it makes the entire transition process go extremely smooth.  

However, more often than not, the databases are a mess, in so many ways. 


3D CAD is capable of generating very intricate complex surfaces.  

Clean CAD image 1Have you ever used a product that just seemed to fit? Maybe it fit perfectly in your hands, or you look at the contours of a product and think, “That is gorgeous!”

That product was created with complex surfaces. Those surfaces are not easy to build, and making them fit perfectly or look beautiful – much harder yet.  

If the designer or engineer in charge of your product is not an expert in creating and manipulating surfaces, they will look wavy or have strange undulations in them. Or they may just look ‘off’. This is a perfect example of CAD gone wrong. And every part created with this CAD model will have those same, often glaring, imperfections.  

Fit and Finish

When you look at some products, you can often tell how well they are designed.

Sometimes you will see gaps between the parts, or lines on parts that are supposed to be straight that aren’t quite straight. You guessed it, this is BAD CAD! The truth is, you hardly see that any more in products these days.

We see that, sometimes, when we get files from other design firms. We have seen that a few times this year, and it is almost sickening. Our new customer paid someone, usually a fair amount of money, to design their product – and they did it very poorly.

Probably the best example of well designed products is Apple. Their fit and finish is nearly perfect. Unfortunately, this is also very expensive. They set up almost all of their manufacturing in-house so they can control every surface, finish and mating interface.

Don’t worry, there are other very good manufacturers out there as well, and we know some great ones.

Attention to Detail

This is probably the most important part of product design and CAD.  

As we have discussed, CAD is made up of many features, and products are made up of many parts, and manufacturing process are governed by many rules. All of these factors require an acute attention to detail. And with CAD, you can see every detail.  

Clean CAD image 2We have the ability to zoom into any part of the product and see much more closely than you ever can with your eyes or even with magnification.

Attention to detail is not an experience thing, or expertise in using the CAD tools, this is pure passion for the process and the result. This is the desire to make the best product we possibly can within the cost and schedule constraints.

How do you find decent CAD professionals  

In this case, historical success is the best predictor of future success. If you can get a recommendation from someone in the business, that is key.  

We have testimonials on our website from past and current customers. We talk to our suppliers and molders to make sure they have everything they need when we send them our databases.  If the whole product development team can work seamlessly for the customer, the entire process is so much more efficient.

As a result, we get many new customers from recommendations by our suppliers. Call a plastic molder in your area, or a prototype shop and ask them who they get good clean files from. They will likely know a few good companies and be happy to recommend them.  

Good clean 3D CAD data is one of the major keys to success of your product. They come from experienced engineers and designers who pay attention to details. There are great Product Development consultants out there, with a little homework up front, you will find them and have a successful experience.

Daniel TagtowDaniel Tagtow – Partner

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.


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