Our guide to CAD
Hotcourses Editor

Our guide to CAD

First published date October 24 2013 Amended date October 24 2013

Architects, engineers and artists all use it. Top-notch fashion designers, interior designers and jewellery makers all use it too. We're not talking about some fancy new PR company or the latest phablet-du-jour, but something simply called CAD. What's CAD you might wonder? Forget visions of a dishonourable man wreaking havoc in Victorian London, the letters in the CAD we are referring to stand for computer-aided design and all of the above industries – and many, many more – use it on a day to day basis.


But what is CAD?

We know CAD stands for computer-aided design...but what does it actually mean? CAD is sophisticated software used by architects, engineers, drafters and artists to create accurate plans, precision construction drawings or technical illustrations. Before computers came about, such drawings and plans were created by hand by skilled draftsmen. Developed in the early 1980s, CAD is quicker and more efficient for many reasons: the user can include 2D and 3D curves, surfaces and solids, while portions of a drawing can be twisted, stretched or moved and then the picture as a whole will automatically adjust.


Clever CAD...what else it can do

• Switch between two dimensional (2D) and three dimensional (3D) views

• Rotate an image by 360 degrees to view it from a different perspective. An object can be modelled much faster without the need to physically render it

• Zoom in and out for close up and distant views

• Change the scale of images (when one value changes, related values are automatically adjusted)

• Manipulate the shape of images (changing one portion of an image automatically changes the entire picture)

• Link to other packages and programmes to calculate costs

• Designs and information can be sent electronically across the world at the touch of a button


CAD courses

Whether you are an aspiring fashion designer, the next Kelly Hoppen or even fancy your chances in computer animation, CAD is a really useful and important skill to have under your belt. Judging by the number and variety of courses on offer, CAD really is a crucial design tool for every 21st century designer.

AutoCAD is a popular CAD programme and there are many beginners, advanced and tailored courses for you to choose from. Introductory, short courses will arm you with the essentials to create professional 2D plans, drawings and elevations. These are practical, hands on courses covering many of the basics such as setting up and file management, drawing circles and lines, editing and plotting. If you are familiar with AutoCAD and how to produce 2D plans you might want to further your repertoire and learn the concepts and methods of 3D modelling. Such an advanced course will help you create photo-real 3D models covering modules with weird and wonderful names from wire frame modelling to surface modelling and meshing.

Some CAD courses are tailored to careers in interior design while those in the jewellery profession might want to explore Rhino, a general product design CAD programme which has since been adopted by many different industries such as furniture, footwear, architecture and jewellery design. Fashionistas might want to boost their chances in this competitive industry with a CAD for Fashion course while SketchUp and Vectorworks are other CAD programmes used by interior designers, garden designers and architects.


Fast facts

- CAM is different from CAD. CAM stands for computer-aided manufacturing and is computer software which controls tools and related machinery. CNC meanwhile (bear with us on this one!) stands for Computer Numerical Control so CNC machines and tools carry out designs which they receive via CAM. The reality is this: a jeweller can design something using CAD and send it through CAM to a CNC engraving or moulding machine!

- CAD programmes such as Autodesk are used in the film and TV industry too, helping to create stunning visual effects for the big screen

- In the entertainment industry, the computer animation aspect of CAD has meant higher quality cartoons and commercials

- Gamers will appreciate the high-tech, plus points of CAD as software creates super rich visuals as virtual worlds and characters are brought to life like never before

- Dip your toe (or your finger) into the world of CAD and have a go at designing your kitchen, bedroom, bathroom or living space with one of the free online tools for do-it-yourself remodelling and simple drafting

- CAD is an important aspect of food technology and can be used for nutritional analysis, calculating costs and amounts of ingredients needed for batch production, packaging design and advertising decisions


By Lara Sargent

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