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An introduction to the CAD software industry

 

This brief introduction to the CAD software industry is the first part of a six-part article that aims to show contractors how to buy CAD software. Subsequent sections explain the advantages of CAD software packages, offer hints for making the most of CAD software comparisons and demonstrations, and discuss the typical training and implementation processes for CAD software.

CAD software, or computer-aided design software, is used to expedite the process of 2-D and 3-D design and drafting. CAD software can be used on projects as small as a single room in a house, such as a kitchen or bathroom, or as large as a municipal master plan. CAD software also lets engineers and manufacturers design components such as car parts or circuit boards; this process is referred to as CAM, or computer-aided manufacturing.

The first CAD/CAM software tools emerged in the late 1950s and early 60s for use by automobile and airplane manufacturers with highly detailed mechanical engineering requirements, according to CADAZZ's CAD software history. (Such companies were among the few where the benefits of computer-aided design actually outweighed the immense costs of purchasing and maintaining computers.) This CAD/CAM software was typically developed internally with assistance from researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Not surprisingly, it took a while for the CAD software industry that we know today to take shape. Commercial CAD software came out first for mainframe in the 70s and then for UNIX workstations and personal computers in the 80s. Finally, 3-D modeling software, hitherto limited to large, immobile workstations, made its way onto the PC in the 90s.

Today the CAD software industry offers dozens of tools made specifically for architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) firms. These products range from general purpose design tools, used by all segments of the AEC industry, to sector-specific products such as commercial, industrial and residential design software. In addition, while some programs in the CAD software industry can be used solely for creating 2-D and 3-D designs, other products can be linked to construction cost databases, thus giving users the option to click on a window and see data such as a model number and its cost. Finally, today's CAD systems also provide functionality for Web-based collaboration, for turning 3-D models into animations or videos for prospective clients, and for publishing designs onto surveying applications such as Google Earth.

The next page of this article, When to buy CAD software, will show you signs that it might be time to invest in a new CAD software package.

 
  Free CAD Software Buyer's Guide  
     
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Free CAD Software Buyer's Guide
 
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