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A Brief History of Computer Aided Design

A brief history of CAD and its impact on today's engineers and designers

27 Jul 2016

By Taylor Moore, Mechanical Engineering Intern

Computer Aided Design, or CAD for short, has deep roots in history dating  several thousands of years. Engineers and designers often relied on a technique called drafting to convey ideas to paper and later to reality through the use of paper and pencils along with other tools such as compasses, squares, and French curves. Engineering drafts brought us into the modern era of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Inventions such as the internal combustion engine, giant iron and steel ships, and the rockets that propelled the human race to the moon and back were all designed on these drafts and drafting boards of engineering’s past.

The earliest of computers were mechanical devices constructed for mathematical purposes during the early to mid-20th century. Since the inception of computers, they have gotten smaller, more powerful, and more diverse in their capabilities following Moore’s Law (the number of transistors that fit on a computer chip will double every 18 months, resulting in periodic increases in computing power). Today, we have the computing power equivalent to the whole of NASA in the 50s and 60s riding around with us in our pocket every day.

At Aztera we use a computer program called SolidWorks. This program allows engineers to build and create designs without spending numerous hours drawing with pencil and paper. We can design a product and revise it quickly without ever having to use an eraser or scrap now unused or obsolete parts. Aztera can send those files to our computer-controlled equipment and make them from either additive or subtractive manufacturing. Vendors can receive the files of our designs to make circuit boards or laser cut sheet metal.

For the first time in human history, engineers can leave the paper and pencil behind. We can save designs and easily refer to it for inspiration or improvement on future projects and store it in multiple locations; the notes and details can stay with the design long after the original designer finishes so that new engineers and designers can study it. Computers now aid engineers and designers with the task of creating a better future and do so at an ever-accelerating pace. Computer programs paired with screens allow engineers and designers to build everything from complex structures to micro devices in digital space. With the widespread use of computers and advances in CAD software, there is almost no limit to what can be made or produced by modern-day engineers.


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