If you’ve been involved in any form of design or manufacture over the past few decades, it’s likely you would have come across the term CAD. Allowing professionals to design and manufacture products to exact specifications while reducing costs and supporting growing businesses. But what is CAD? How is it used and why is it important to certain applications, such as mould making. This guide will look to simplify this process and explain exactly what goes into this process.

What is CAD?

CAD is an acronym for Computer-Aided Design. The name offers insight into the actual process too. CAD is the use of computers to create, modify, analyse or optimise on an existing design. In a world where computers have become so ingrained in our everyday life, it seems inevitable that they would also become a vital part of design. And the benefits of CAD are plentiful.

  • Heightened productivity – Being able to work with computers that naturally understand precision and accuracy allows a designer to be far more productive than in a normal setting.
  • Improved design quality – Designs produced by CAD are considerably better quality, owing once again to precision and accuracy on the computer’s part.
  • Improved communication – The information that a designer inputs for a specific project can be used throughout the entire system. This improves the quality of communication, ensuring all aspects of the design can be understood during manufacture.
  • Larger database – In addition, CAD machines store the information a designer uses for future reference. This speeds up repeat designs and ensures manufacturing plants are given consecutive orders in quick succession.

CAD is used throughout many different industries too, including automotive, aerospace, architectural and even for special effects in films and advertising. The flexibility of its design allows it to be programmed according to a designer’s needs. This explains why the term ‘CAD’ is so widely recognised – it’s likely that many of the products you use on a daily basis have been manufactured using this method.

How does CAD work?

There are a number of different CAD programmes that can be used and a designer will choose the one most relevant to their application. However, there is a general process that remains similar through most projects and explains how the computer-aided design process works.

  • 1. Conceptual System Design – To begin with, a designer will use CAD to draw and draft out the design in question. Normally, this won’t take into account exact dimensions but rather brings the idea to life in a visual form.
  • 2. Freezing – Once the rough design has been finalised, it will then be ‘frozen’.
  • 3. Detailed Design – The next step is for the system to recreate the design in higher detail, using the exact dimensions and tolerances required for the manufacturing process.
  • 4. Creation – From here, the system will be able to produce either a 2D vector-based model or a 3D solid and surface model – depending on the needs of the designer.
  • 5. Review – The designer now has the opportunity to review the design, deciphering whether there are flaws or alterations that need to be addressed. Equally, here is where a project can be re-designed.
  • 6. CAM (Computer Aided Manufacture) – Many designers will pair CAD with computer-aided manufacture. This programme, as the name dictates, allows them to create physical models. These can be checked against existing lines or tested before the design goes to manufacture.

There are variations on this process. But generally, a product will be designed, tweaked and tested using CAD to minimise financial loss to the business and improve the overall design.

What are the most common CAD tools?

As we’ve mentioned above, CAD refers to the process of designing a product or item with the help of computers. There are a number of CAD tools available on the market, each of which has benefits to different customers. Some of the most popular include:

  • AutoCAD.
  • DesignCAD.
  • Solidworks 3D CAD.
  • Vectorworks.
  • FreeCAD.
  • Creo Parametric 3D Modelling Software.
  • TurboCAD Deluxe 2018.
  • Shapr3D.
  • OpenSCAD.
  • SolveSpace.

How is CAD used for business?

In modern business, the need to stay ahead of the game and in-line with emerging technology makes CAD one of the most significant products on the market. With the versatility to suit many industries, it offers more convenience and cost-efficiency than traditional design/manufacture methods. Many businesses utilise it during the product development stage – giving themselves the edge over the competition when designing and testing new lines for their portfolio. The technology behind CAD allows it to create better products of a higher quality while also ensuring that information is accessible for future changes.

CAD is used to develop parts, components or entire products. The accuracy ensures pieces fit together seamlessly while the faster production time supports shorter-lines or time-sensitive releases.

How is CAD used for mould making?

CAD is essential in the way we receive and process information. Most contracts now are accompanied with a CAD package which is used by our programmers to break down component parts in order to formulate tool paths prior to posting to our CNC machines. These component parts are then machined and distributed to the mould making teams for manufacture. Not only does this help to shorten lead times, reduce waste and eliminate failed product manufacture, it also enables us to check components before they are sent to the CNC router as well as during the manufacturing stage. Within mould-making, we use CAD to produce the most accurate and precise moulds for our customers. Particularly in products that are highly detailed or need to work with other items in a specific manner, this gives our moulds a significant edge.

Our skilled CAD programmers have a wealth of knowledge working with their chosen programmes – supporting the needs of clients from a wide variety of industries. Alongside more traditional mould making methods such as those used in the creation of rubber moulds, CAD allows us to serve the widest spectrum of customers with a continued dedication to service.

Computer-Aided Design is not a new concept. But, it is something that we embrace wholeheartedly here at 3D Pattern and Mould Makers Ltd – helping us to offer a high-quality service, no matter your project. Contact us today for more information.