CAD (computer-aided design) software has been around for quite a few years in one form or another and as the power of computers has increased, so has the abilities it provides for engineers and designers.
Current computer-aided design software packages allow 2D vector-based drafting, 3D solid and surface modelling and plenty in between. Modern CAD software also allows for objects to be rotated in three dimensions so it can be viewed from any angle, even from the inside out. It can also be used to specify materials, processes and tolerances.
CAD software is used widely in many industries, including car manufacture, ship building, construction, manufacturing of all kinds and even animation for special effects in films.
Whether the project or object is big or small, the power of 3D CAD software gives engineers the ability to design in great detail, test different models and create final specifications before even going to potentially expensive prototype stage and beyond.
The automotive industry makes wide use of computer-aided design software to create new models, factoring in aerodynamics and safety as well as attractive design, while the shipbuilding industry uses 3D CAD software, not only to design new ships but to test strengths and weaknesses of those designs.
The construction industry perhaps makes the widest use of the software, designing anything from giant skyscrapers through massive warehouses and offices to residential homes.
It is in this last area where the general public will likely have come into direct contact with 3D CAD software when choosing new kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms.
Often called interior design software, when it comes to choosing a new layout and look of a new room in a house, it is 3D CAD software that is used to place various fixtures and fittings until a final layout is decided upon.
Anyone visiting a kitchen showroom, for example, is likely to be guided through the design and layout using specially tailored kitchen design software. The same applies with bathroom design software and bedroom design software.
The reason this is used is that it cuts down on cost, saving time and effort previously required by a proper designer, as well as the time spent by the customer choosing different designs and having to have them drawn up to see what they would look like.
The use of CAD software in films has become more and more prevalent over recent years, culminating in the current plethora of 3D movies like Despicable Me and Megamind. It’s also used in 2D movies to create characters within live action movies, not just animated ones. If you’ve seen Lord of the Rings, for example, Golem was created using a sophisticated form of CAD software.
The general public can also use this software in a rather less sophisticated manner as there are now several free packages available online to download that can be used to create impressive 2D and 3D models.
Paid for software is also available and, of course, offers a bit more power and versatility, though nothing like the commercial packages used by big business and industry.