Types of CAD Software

CAD or Computer Aided Design software was introduced in the late 1960's to expedite engineering drawing process. While CAD is used mainly in engineering drawing and construction architecture, it can also used for other purposes.

There are various flavours of CAD available today and there are different methods of classifying them.

Types of CAD Software

2 Dimensional CAD (2D CAD)
2D CAD is the pioneer of CAD software, and was developed in the early 70s. At that time, major automobile, aerospace and other engineering companies developed in-house tools to automate repetitive drafting requirements.  2D CAD relies on basic geometric shapes like lines, rectangles, circles, etc. to produce flat drawings. These types of softwares have been first developed way back in 1970’s. 

AutoDesk is one of the pioneering companies that has played a significant role in developing CAD software.

3 Dimensional CAD (3D CAD)
3D CAD is a step up from the 2D CAD software of yesteryears. As the processing power of computers increased and the graphic display capabilities improved, 3D CAD has become an increasingly popular design tool. 3D CAD allows creation of 3D images that are realistic. These images are called 3D models as they can be viewed and rotated in any direction – X, Y or Z. You can also display views from a 3D model, such as isometrics or perspectives, from any angle using 3D CAD. 3D CAD tools were introduced in 1980’s by a partnership between IBM-Dassults. 3D CAD quickly became popular because of enhanced visual capability. 

The rapid advancement of 3D software today has helped quick turnaround in product design, giving birth to the concept for product lifecycle management (PLM). A few of today’s leading 3D CAD software includes SolidEdge, SolidWorks and Unigraphics NX. Of course, with the vast array of tools, professional training is needed to master these tools.

There is yet another way of classifying CAD software - in terms of their operating parameters. Once you understand these parameters, you can optimize the CAD software properly. A little training should help you go a long way!

Single-file-mode systems -  This type of CAD software allows only a single user to work on a single file at a time. 

Referenced-file-mode systems - In this type of CAD software, users can work on their own files with the files of other users attached as a background. This enables users to levergae other users' work as background data.

Collaborative-mode systems - These CAD systems take the referenced-mode system to the next level. They allow a team of users to collaboratively work with each other's data and see the changes other users make to the data as they go. And of course, the giants in this field (for example AutoCAD) can be used in different modes of a operation.

3D CAD can be further classified as:
Wire-frame models – they create skeleton like models with lines and arcs. Since they appear to be made of wires, and everything in the background is visible, they are called wire-frame models. They are not very popular anymore. 

Surface models – unlike wire frames, these models are created by joining 3D surfaces. Since nothing in the background is visible, the surface models are quite realistic. 

Solid models – they are considered to be the most useful CAD models. Although they appear to be the same as surface models, they also have additional properties like weight, volume and density, just like actual physical objects. These models are commonly used as prototypes to study engineering designs.

You may also like to read:

Introduction to CAD
CAD Training