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3d architectural rendering of a furnished house Complicated architectural renderings and engineering drawings used to be drawn by hand, using a combination of complex mathematical formulas, drawing implements, and graphs.  However, today's technology — specifically computers — have changed the way that architects and engineers are doing business.  Not only do computers save these technical professionals an enormous amount of time, they have also completely changed the way that structures, products, and systems are designed.

cad drawing of a mechanical part Regardless of whether the firm is small or large, just about every designer and drafter has access to the design hardware and software that were used only by the largest, most prestigious firms just 30 years ago.  As a matter of fact, today it is unthinkable for an architect or engineer to use anything but computer-aided design, commonly called CAD, if they expect to compete in their professional fields.

While original computer-aided design programs were incredibly complex and required hours of learning to master, today's programs are fairly easy to use right "out of the box."  Many of these programs were written by programmers who were once architects or designers, and they don't require fancy customization or additional programming in order to use them effectively.

cad designer Computer-aided design programs enable their users to draw anything that can be drawn by hand — lines, curves, circles, and three-dimensional shapes.  In addition, computer-aided design programs allow designers and drafters to create things that aren't possible by hand.  These programs not only allow for drawing, drafting, and modeling, but also allow information to be managed.  Not only does CAD allow a designer to draft and draw, it can also come up with lists of building materials, construction specifications, and cost data depending upon the renderings.

CAD programs offer many features to designers and drafters, including the following concepts:

  • Computer-aided design is object-based, meaning designers don't have to recreate every wall, doorway, column, or facade from scratch every time they use it.  Instead of redrawing the element, CAD programs allow the designer to easily add it to the drawing.  Instead of spending time redrawing something that's already been designed, it can be inserted in just a few seconds.
  • Computer-aided design allows the designer to mass reproduce elements such as lines, multiple columns, windows, walls, and lighting layouts.  This allows projects to be assembled from a few elements that are used repeatedly.
  • Computer aided-design allows you to put parts of your drawing into groups, so that you can remove them or insert them as a whole.  The designer can use these "layers" to view the same drawing in several different ways.
  • Computer-aided design allows the designer to make changes in "cycles."  For example, if the designer wants to replace square elements with round elements, he or she can replace all of them at once, instead of one by one.
  • Because they allow elements to be magnified or reduced at the touch of a button, computer-aided design programs allow the designer to work on the drawing as if it were full scale.
Other benefits of computer-aided design programs are increased efficiency, the ability to attach pertinent information to drawings, and the ability to create and view three-dimensional renderings in addition to traditional two-dimensional drawings.  For more in-depth information about computer-aided design, see the references listed below.

CAD Bibliography

  • Crosley, M. (1988).  The Architect's Guide to Computer Aided Design.  New York:  John Wiley & Sons.
  • Green, R. (2007).  Expert CAD Management:  The Complete Guide.  Indianapolis, Indiana:  Wiley Publishing.
  • Lueptow, R. (2007).  Graphic Concepts for Computer Aided Design.  Upper Saddle River, New Jersey:  Prentice Hall.

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