Computer-aided design (CAD) is the process of using software to take an idea in your head and create a digital model of it. It has applications in manufacturing, testing, and graphic design. The step immediately following CAD is Computer-aided manufacturing in the design process. The CAD process can currently be applied to 2-Dimensional (2D) and 3-Dimensional (3D) spaces. However, researchers are currently looking at the practical uses of 4-Dimensional CAD by using Virtual Reality.
In addition to software, there are some hardware devices that can be purchased to assist users in design, such as graphic tablets. These devices emphasize the artistic aspect of design and are not necessary for the CAD that is usually used in the Design and Build Lab. However, users of the space are more than welcome to bring their own.
Types of 3D CAD
Both types of 3D CAD are using in what is called solid modeling. Since the goal of DaBL is to teach CAD with the extent of manufacturing an object, solid modeling is required to ensure the object is bounded in space and can actually be created.
This type of modeling relies on defining features (parameters) that build upon each other to create an object. For example, a 4x4mm square is defined by the parameters of length and width. If we add a third parameter for height of 4mm, we get a 4mm cube. An important note about parametric modeling is that it can be modified. If we go back and modify the length and width to be 5mm and 6mm respectively, our cube becomes a 5x6x4mm rectangle.
At its core, this type of modeling does not impose relationships on any of its object bodies and relies on the user to manipulate points freely. However, many of these types of software do possess the ability to add relationships to aspects of the design.
List of CAD software
|Autodesk EAGLE||2D||PCB Mill|
|Inkscape||2D||PCB Mill / Laser cutter / Vinyl Cutter|
|Autodesk Fusion 360||3D Parametric||3D Printer|
|Blender||3D Non-parametric / Parametric||3D Printer / Media devices|
It is important to do some light research on what software may be best for you. For example, if you plan to create a very simple shape and know nothing about 3D CAD, TinkerCAD is the software you want to use. If you would like to create a more complicated shape and do not mind investing an hour or two learning the software, Fusion 360 is likely your best bet. If you would like to create a device with moving parts and be able to test its mobility in the software, Inventor is likely going to be helpful. And for character creation, animation, or simulation (stuff not always meant to printed), then Blender, Maya, and 3DS Max will be helpful. There are also other options not listed here, but be aware that using those software options in the Design and Build Lab means that none of the staff on hand will be able to properly assist you if needed.
- Computer-aided design on Wikipedia
- Solid modeling on Wikipedia