Computer-aided design

Computer-aided design (CAD) is the use of a wide range of computer-based tools that assist engineers, architects and other design professionals in their design activities. It is the main geometry authoring tool within the Product Lifecycle Management process and involves both software and sometimes special-purpose hardware. Current packages range from 2D vector based drafting systems to 3D parametric surface and solid design modellers.

CAD is sometimes translated as "computer-assisted", "computer-aided drafting", or a similar phrase. Related acronyms are CADD, which stands for "computer-aided design and drafting", CAID for Computer-aided Industrial Design and CAAD, for "computer-aided architectural design". All these terms are essentially synonymous, but there are some subtle differences in meaning and application.


CAD is used to design and develop products, which can be goods used by end consumers or intermediate goods used in other products. CAD is also extensively used in the design of tools and machinery used in the manufacture of components. CAD is also used in the drafting and design of all types of buildings, from small residential types (houses) to the largest commercial and industrial types (hospitals and factories).
CAD is used throughout the engineering process from conceptual design and layout, through detailed engineering and analysis of components to definition of manufacturing methods.

Fields of use

Architecture, Engineering and Construction - the "AEC industry"
Building engineering
Mechanical (MCAD)
Consumer Goods
Ship Building
Electronic and Electrical (ECAD)
Manufacturing process planning
Digital circuit design
Software applications

Electrical and electronic
Electronic design automation (EDA) includes PCB design, intelligent wiring diagrams (routing) and component connection management.

anufacturing process planning
2D and 3D CAD systems are sometimes used for graphically represented of plant layout, usually with the aid of specific machine geometry libraries and layout tools. Although this is often done with specialist real-time process simulation tools based on Product visualization and Manufacturing Process Management technologies.

Software applications
Computer-aided design software is also starting to be used to develop software applications. Software applications share many of the same Product Life Cycle attributes as the manufacturing or electronic markets. As computer software becomes more complicated and harder to update and change, it is becoming essential to develop interactive prototypes or simulations of the software before doing any coding. The benefits of simulation before writing actual code cuts down significantly on re-work and bugs.