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Computer Aided Design (CAD)
CAD is the use of computer software and hardware to create functioning models for the use in the design process and manufacturing. Individuals in this field will learn to take schematics and replicate them in a three dimensional space in order to determine if the model will function upon manufacture or construction. Models are often made for architecture, engineering, chip design or other similar areas where it is important to be able to view and test a schematic before production begins.
What is Computer Aided Design (CAD)?
Computer-aided design (CAD) or computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) is an area of study utilizing computer technology and applications for design and design documentation. CAD has effectively replaced manual drafting by digitizing and automating the process for designers. A variety of trades and associated disciplines work with CAD programs and designers including: architects, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, plumbers, structural engineers, and civil engineers.
What is CAD Used For?
Computer-aided design is used to help design and create photorealistic renderings of a building, concept, or structure. Architects and MEP professionals across a variety of industries use 2D and 3D CAD programs to visualize concepts and back-test its applicability in the real world through myriad simulations. The 2D programs provide designers and drafters vector-based graphics of a structure or concept while the 3D programs provide modeling of solid surfaces. The 3D application will also provide designers the ability to rotate objects, render from multiple angles, and illuminate with multiple light sources.
What is AutoCAD?
AutoCAD is the original computer-aided design program and still the most widely used application in the field. It is the software application used to help drafters and designers bring a concept to life. The AutoCAD application can be used to create blueprints for such things as wafer boards, bridges, high-rise buildings, computer chips, and museums. Professionals from constructing superintendents to structural engineers use these blue prints to bring inanimate concepts to fruition.
What is CADTools?
CADTools (ToolBox) is a surface utility and 3D application add-on to the AutoCAD program. The CADTools program was designed for civil engineers to help break down the design process of railways, roads, and bridges into separate commands. With the ability to create surface models and import triangles from other software applications, CADTools is a widely used application used in conjuction with AutoCAD.
What is a CAD file?
A CAD file is simply an image file format for users of the AutoCAD program. The images, triangles, renderings, concepts, and structures created with the AutoCAD software application can be saved as an image file in a .CAD format. These files can be imported, exported, transferred, and modified by authorized users within the project’s ecosystem.
Why is CAD so important?
Since Autodesk invented and released the AutoCAD program in 1999, the ability to automate the design and drafting process was nothing short of an engineering revolution. Automating engineering and design of products is a substantive leap in efficiency, sharing, and integration. Drafters and designers using CAD software applications can quickly create and iterate in a fraction of the time compared to a manual process. Once these files are created, they can be shared among stakeholders to elicit feedback quickly and efficiently and even provides a platform for virtual networking through open libraries. The CAD revolution allows team members a common platform to dig into granular details of a project and flesh out problems in advance. As a result of these factors, CAD software has made the design process easier and safer using less resources to bring products to the market quickly.
How Do I Become a CAD Designer and Drafter?
In order to become a CAD Designer and Drafter you will need to invest time and energy into your education. CAD programs can be found at community colleges, trade schools, and vocation schools around the country as a certificate or associate degree program. Larger colleges and universities may roll CAD design into a degree track such as engineering, drafting, or construction management. A key feature of a quality degree or certificate program is the hands-on utilization of AutoCAD and associated programs to link classroom lectures with practical application. See the list of accredited schools below for your go-to resource for schools offering CAD certificate programs and degrees.
Accredited Colleges Offering CAD Degrees
Individuals may pursue two year courses for CAD training, typically offered by community colleges or technical institutions. Such educations tend to focus specifically on the training and use of software for the purposes of drafting and design. Such education provides an understanding of various engineering and artistic principles that allows for the completion of such work. Four year degrees are generally unavailable, but CAD training is generally offered through engineering or related programs.
A curriculum may include:
- Engineering Design
- Technical Design
- Composition and Development
- Design in a Three Dimensional Space
- Manufacturing and Production
Individuals seeking out a school for CAD training should make sure the school maintains a high standard, particularly for its computers and software. Such updates demonstrate competency, dedication, understanding and relevancy in regards to the training offered.
Employment Opportunities in CAD
Job growth is expected to remain steady over the next decade. Individuals pursuing this field should find no shortage of employment due to the demand for professionals who are up to date on the most recent improvements and techniques used in the field. Individuals will seek employment in any of the fields where the use of three dimensional models are necessary in order to realize projects and move to production. Individuals will generally work alongside engineers, mechanical designers or architects in order to properly implement design schematics within the software, creating a working model for examination and review.
How Much Does a CAD Designer Make a Year?
The annual median wage for a CAD drafter is $53,480 which equates to $25.71 per hour with the highest ten percent making in excess of $83,000 per year and the lowest ten percent making $33,910 per year.
States with the Most CAD Drafters
- California 14,570
- Texas 11,700
- New York 6,210
- Florida 6,160
- Pennsylvania 4,910
Highest Paying States for CAD Drafters
- Connecticut $61,400
- Alaska $61,250
- Maryland $60,080
- California $59,610
- Louisiana $59,000
Common Career Paths for CAD Designers and Drafters
The career path for a computer-aided designer, mechanical drafter, AutoCAD designer, computer-aided drafter provides a variety of options to consider. While there is no straight-line path for upward mobility, the profession provides a number of tracks. With the right industry, timing, focus, and training, a CAD professional can put themselves in situations to upskill and grow in their careers. Common career paths for a computer-aided drafter can include any of the following jobs after proficiency has been attained in their current position:
- Computer-Aided Design Manager
- Senior Drafter
- Project Engineer
- Design Architect
- Property Engineer
- Mechanical Designer
- Building Information Modeling Manager
- Mechanical Engineer
- Electrical Engineer
- Senior Computer-Aided Designer
- Project Manager
- Drafting Supervisor
Organizations such as ACADIA and ADDA may provide students important tools and resources after graduation. Associations bring together like-minded professionals and provide education, resources, and networking that may prove to be beneficial to new and seasoned designers.