CAD – The Backbone of Manufacturing
Engineering Drawings have been in use for over two millennia until French mathematician Gaspard Monge introduced orthographic projections into the world of design in the eighteenth century. As needs evolved, designs became more complex and recreating them on paper became increasingly tedious, visual representations transcended language. This is where CAD or Computer Aided Design came in.
Personnel who create technical drawings on a CAD software are referred to as draftsmen and the manufacturing industry relies heavily on their expertise. A CAD drawing communicates all technical details of a product extensively and completely. CAD drafts enable engineers to create designs on a screen, save them and edit them as and when required. CAD was originally created for the automobile industry but it’s ease of use and clarity offered made it the red herring across all industries.
CAD contributes to ease of manufacturing:
Designing Jigs, Fixtures and Tools: Every manufacturing assembly line/equipment fabrication shop requires fixtures and tools for the planned processes that each component has to go through. The design of all fixtures has to be in accordance with the respective components themselves, thereby requiring a lot of data in one place. CAD offers not only the convenience of picking up those dimensions from one file to another but also the legibility in portraying the data in an organized manner.
Programming for CNCs deployed: Every CNC machine, before being deployed for operation on a job, has to be specifically programmed in accordance with the dimensions of that component. The program must include all machining processes that the job needs to undergo as well as the sequence in which they will be carried out. CAD makes the entire process significantly easier as it allows the dimensions to be picked up straight from the file into the CAM system for developing the program.
Production Planning: In combination with the production planning software of the CAM system, CAD can unlock the existing machinery’s real potential by planning the manufacturing of the job in the shortest possible time.
Shorter Lead Times: Integrating CAD software into the CAM systems enables seamless forecasting and scheduling thus reducing the lead time on any process involved.
Speed & Accuracy of Drawing: Time is often lost between processes in waiting for revised component / assembly drawings to arrive on the shop floor. CAD enables easier, quick and accurate designing, thus minimizing this gap.
CAD also offers some intangible benefits which are in fact quite critical:
Increased Productivity for the Designer: Visualising the finished product / assembly becomes much simpler when using CAD. In fact it goes one step further and allows the designer to view an animation of the finished job. It removes any room for doubt by covering every possible angle.
Improved Design Quality: CAD offers designers and engineers a bundle of tools to carry out post-design analysis. Should there be any material failure, it gets flagged immediately and enables easy and smooth rectification. Testing the equipment / component in a variety of situations, makes the design robust and eliminates any possible structural weakness. This intense testing also saves the cost of failure and material cost in the event of an actual breakdown.
Design Documentation: Over and above offering clarity & legibility, CAD even has provisions to document component geometry, material specifications, bill of materials, sub-assemblies, etc.
Popular CAD Softwares:
- AutoCAD 2D / 3D – Architects, Engineers & Construction personnel rely heavily on this software for accurate 2D & 3D designs. Allows a lot of customization based on user needs.
- AutoCAD LT – Precision 2D drafting & documentation software. Used across major industries.
- Civil 3D – As the name suggests, this is heavily used in Civil Infrastructure designs and documentation. Offers 3D modelling integrated with updated GIS data.
- Revit – Building Information Modelling (BIM) software that offers high quality designing, time-zone coordination and auto-updating of floor plans as the model develops.
- Inventor – 3D CAD software for professional grade design, engineering & simulation. Popularly used in the designing of heavy automotives.
- Fusion 360 – Cloud based 3D CAD software which allows customization based on your role in the industry. It goes few steps ahead of the rest in offering features such as generative design and rapid prototyping.
- TinkerCAD – 3D Design application created for beginners transitioning from AutoCAD
CAD systems have found their use across the entire spectrum of manufacturing industries by encompassing solid modelling, surface modelling, assembly, draft detailing and reverse engineering. A lot of CAD software are available in the marketspace today and they include 3D modelling too. CAD proves itself to not just be the cake but the icing and cherry on it too – a wholesome deal!
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