The Future Of CAD

Ralph Grabowski painted a rather sad picture in his version of The Future Of CAD. He believes that there is little innovation going on in the CAD world. I agree with him, but only partly.

In my opinion, there is little innovation going on the 2D CAD world. Take AutoCAD for example. CAD Digest has a page dedicated to “What’s New” in AutoCAD 2008. Fiddling around with existing things such as layers, linetypes, blocks, hatches, dimensions and things which have been around for donkey’s years is not called innovation. It’s called tweaking. When was something as substantial as a layer or block added to AutoCAD?

On the other hand there is a decent amount of innovation going on in the 3D CAD world. The focus is shifting from being able to model something to being able to model it easily and quickly. We are now seeing a greater push towards non-parametric modeling in the form of SpaceClaim and the like. T-Splines is shaking the very foundation of surfacing by combining NURBS with SubDivision technologies to offer unprecedented flexibility. A one man show called Michael Gibson is showing us how his Moment Of Inspiration can display gorgeous anti-aliased curves on low end gaming video cards. High end CAD systems are closing the gap between modeling and analysis by incorporating downstream processes like FEA, CFD, etc.

The people listenning to Ralph claimed that for most of their work AutoCAD-style CAD is just fine. And why not? He was talking to an AutoCAD user group who probably haven’t ever changed the default plan view that AutoCAD starts up with. For 2D CAD users the world starts and ends with 2D. With 2D you cannot take things futher. Things like ray-tracing, rendering, animation, FEA, CFD, etc., where the real innovation is going on, have no place in the 2D CAD world.

Like 2D CAD vendors, users of 2D CAD aren’t doing anything innovative either. They are not drawing rounder circles or straighter lines. On the other hand, a 3D CAD user can take his 3D model and test it using FEA, analyse it using CFD and a whole lot more.

Bottom line. There is little future for something which is stuck in the past.

  • Anonymous

    Go Get ’em, Deelip!

    Nicely said!

    Matt

  • Anonymous

    Go Get ’em, Deelip!Nicely said!Matt

  • IKCT

    I think 2D CAD could be made easier to learn and use. There will be a need to 2D layout and design for a long time, why should it be painful. ME10 (now CoCreate) CoPilot 2D navigation functionality was a great innovation in the ’90s and I’m sure someone cleaver could do more. So Autodesk, stop chasing SolidWorks for 2 minutes and give the AutoCAD users a break. Go IronCAD !!!

  • IKCT

    I think 2D CAD could be made easier to learn and use. There will be a need to 2D layout and design for a long time, why should it be painful. ME10 (now CoCreate) CoPilot 2D navigation functionality was a great innovation in the ’90s and I’m sure someone cleaver could do more. So Autodesk, stop chasing SolidWorks for 2 minutes and give the AutoCAD users a break. Go IronCAD !!!

  • Anonymous

    You are correct in that 2D CAD in general, and Autocad in particular, has had no “great leaps” recently. But I do take issue with what you disparage as “tweaking”. I have been working with Autocad for a long time now (among with other CAD software) and how one draws in 2D in Autocad with the more recent versions is far different than if you stuck with the earlier versions.

    The Japanese refer to it as “Kaizen” engineering, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaizen and in Autocad it translates to tools that are a lot more efficient than they used to be. The “Heads-up” interface, the additions and tweaks to the dialogs, the abilities added to things like mtext, hatching, object tracking and the various “associative” objects add up to a more powerful, efficient program.

    Having said that, I’m still waiting for my virtual reality interface!!

  • Anonymous

    You are correct in that 2D CAD in general, and Autocad in particular, has had no “great leaps” recently. But I do take issue with what you disparage as “tweaking”. I have been working with Autocad for a long time now (among with other CAD software) and how one draws in 2D in Autocad with the more recent versions is far different than if you stuck with the earlier versions.The Japanese refer to it as “Kaizen” engineering, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaizen and in Autocad it translates to tools that are a lot more efficient than they used to be. The “Heads-up” interface, the additions and tweaks to the dialogs, the abilities added to things like mtext, hatching, object tracking and the various “associative” objects add up to a more powerful, efficient program.Having said that, I’m still waiting for my virtual reality interface!!

  • Deelip Menezes

    Anonymous, Autodesk has surely made drafting easier in every new release. They had better, otherwise people would not find a reason to upgrade. I am not talking of making tools efficient, but rather I am referring to new tools. The future of CAD (or anything for that matter) lies in doing something altogether different. Just that I don’t see much happenning in the 2D world.

  • Deelip Menezes

    Anonymous, Autodesk has surely made drafting easier in every new release. They had better, otherwise people would not find a reason to upgrade. I am not talking of making tools efficient, but rather I am referring to new tools. The future of CAD (or anything for that matter) lies in doing something altogether different. Just that I don’t see much happenning in the 2D world.

  • bkline

    Deelip,

    I agree with you, I have been a long time Autocad user. With each release you see nothing more than tweeks to the tools that you already use. I have been utilizing 3D since Inventor 7, and see much more userability and tools with every release. While I’m not hacking on anonymous for his point of view, I will say that probably 75% of our office is of the mindset that 2D cad works just fine, why bother with 3D… I just remind them of the comments they made when they made the swith from board drafting to computer drafting. While 2D cad will alway be here I find it much easier to place views from my model and dimension than to draw all those lines…

  • bkline

    Deelip, I agree with you, I have been a long time Autocad user. With each release you see nothing more than tweeks to the tools that you already use. I have been utilizing 3D since Inventor 7, and see much more userability and tools with every release. While I’m not hacking on anonymous for his point of view, I will say that probably 75% of our office is of the mindset that 2D cad works just fine, why bother with 3D… I just remind them of the comments they made when they made the swith from board drafting to computer drafting. While 2D cad will alway be here I find it much easier to place views from my model and dimension than to draw all those lines…

  • Anonymous

    I’m anonymous from 6:23 pm.

    I cannot speak too much about innovation in the 3D world, because I’m an Instrumentation and Controls designer. I do keep up with the industry and the guys down the hall though.

    My world is pretty much 2D. I keep track of thousands of instruments, Equipment and the hardware and software needed to run process plants. The innovation in 2D CAD I see around me is the movement to integrate CAD and databases. Examples of these kinds of Programs Are Bentley’s Autoplant series, the Intergraph Smartplant Suite, and other high end programs such as Innotec’s Comos software. Even Autodesk is getting on the bandwagon with their Electrical and P&ID packages. This may ultimately end up making our ‘2D CAD’ basically another report (albeit graphical) out of the database.

    This may not be ‘Computer Aided Design’ as most perceive it, but is just as critical and innovative as free form surface modelling, FEA, etc. And this may be the viewpoint that some of Ralph’s audience is coming from.

  • Anonymous

    I’m anonymous from 6:23 pm.I cannot speak too much about innovation in the 3D world, because I’m an Instrumentation and Controls designer. I do keep up with the industry and the guys down the hall though.My world is pretty much 2D. I keep track of thousands of instruments, Equipment and the hardware and software needed to run process plants. The innovation in 2D CAD I see around me is the movement to integrate CAD and databases. Examples of these kinds of Programs Are Bentley’s Autoplant series, the Intergraph Smartplant Suite, and other high end programs such as Innotec’s Comos software. Even Autodesk is getting on the bandwagon with their Electrical and P&ID; packages. This may ultimately end up making our ‘2D CAD’ basically another report (albeit graphical) out of the database.This may not be ‘Computer Aided Design’ as most perceive it, but is just as critical and innovative as free form surface modelling, FEA, etc. And this may be the viewpoint that some of Ralph’s audience is coming from.

  • Anonymous

    I guess what you are trying to say is that 2D CAD is coming to the end of its development, and 3D CAD still has a ways to go. If you compare each at a similar stage of development I think you may find that they are quite similar. 3D CAD will mature at some stage and be taken over by the next great thing that is certain…. might even be happening as I type this ….

  • Anonymous

    I guess what you are trying to say is that 2D CAD is coming to the end of its development, and 3D CAD still has a ways to go. If you compare each at a similar stage of development I think you may find that they are quite similar. 3D CAD will mature at some stage and be taken over by the next great thing that is certain…. might even be happening as I type this ….

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been studying up on CAD software because I’ve been tasked to look into which vendor my firm should use. I personally have no experience with CAD software–I’m a finance guy, who has to look at the pros and cons from an investment point of view. (I’ll compare notes with our engineers later in the process.) I’m hoping some of you can weigh in on few questions that I have.

    1. We have a group of engineers/draftsmen who are familiar with AutoCad’s 2D products. Given their experience with AutoCad 2D, would it be easier for our folks to learn AutoCad 3D than to learn a competitor’s 3D?

    2. Which 3D is the most popular at colleges/universities? If we’re looking to add to our workforce, we’d like to know what freshly minted graduates are most familiar with.

    3. The first two questions deal with “network externalities,” which implies that the more people who use AutoCad leads to even more people in the future using it. Assuming price is the same, what reason would an AutoCad 2 user have to choose a competitor’s 3D product over AutoCad’s 3D offering?

    Thanks for giving this some thought.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been studying up on CAD software because I’ve been tasked to look into which vendor my firm should use. I personally have no experience with CAD software–I’m a finance guy, who has to look at the pros and cons from an investment point of view. (I’ll compare notes with our engineers later in the process.) I’m hoping some of you can weigh in on few questions that I have.1. We have a group of engineers/draftsmen who are familiar with AutoCad’s 2D products. Given their experience with AutoCad 2D, would it be easier for our folks to learn AutoCad 3D than to learn a competitor’s 3D?2. Which 3D is the most popular at colleges/universities? If we’re looking to add to our workforce, we’d like to know what freshly minted graduates are most familiar with.3. The first two questions deal with “network externalities,” which implies that the more people who use AutoCad leads to even more people in the future using it. Assuming price is the same, what reason would an AutoCad 2 user have to choose a competitor’s 3D product over AutoCad’s 3D offering?Thanks for giving this some thought.