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.