Frequently used in architecture as a means of producing detailed sketches with accurate dimensions, CAD (computer aided design) is also an effective way for manufacturers to design and tweak a prototype before production. Depending on the exact application requirements, 2D vector-based models or 3D solid, surface models can be produced with CAD. However, there are other significant differences between 2D and 3D CAD which may prompt a user to select one over the other.
2D CAD Features
Both 2D and 3D CAD are widely used in designing machine-related products and buildings, as well as mechanical services. Architects and engineers often depend on CAD programs to assist them in the developmental stages of production.
2D CAD is often an effective way for those who value working drawing level documentation, such as landscape designers, to produce and edit their design. 2D CAD allows users to navigate an array of symbols, choose what they need, and accurately and quickly see how an additional component or device will figure into the original drawing. For various kinds of facilities design, such as certain sports arenas, 2D CAD can easily and quickly produce the needed prototype, without superfluous features.
Although many architecture programs were among the first to embrace 3D CAD (seeing as buildings are all naturally in 3D), simpler buildings and project designs are often more quickly drawn up using 2D CAD. In cases where a complex project calls for multiple designer input, a larger 3D system may expedite the design process.
Transitioning to 3D CAD
If, after examining the needs of a specific project or application, it is determined that switching from 2D to 3D CAD is the best decision, there are several factors to keep in mind. In terms of a financial investment, 3D CAD software can run anywhere from 500 to 5,000 dollars, depending on the number of users and software package. Additional training is often necessary because using 3D CAD requires different skills from those needed to work with 2D CAD. Investing in computer hardware with a larger operating system is also often necessary to accommodate the newer software. In all cases, considering the rate of return on investment is essential in determining if switching from 2D to 3D CAD is a cost-effective move.
3D CAD Features
3D CAD can make any image three dimensional, including jpg, gif and bmp formatted images. Because the images feature height, depth and width, graphics tend to be more precise and realistic, which can be beneficial for many types of prototyping, especially those that require data in 3D format.
In terms of identifying errors and flaws in prototypes, 3D CAD can simulate the matching and mating of product models to test for a proper fit. A design can then be re-worked as necessary before being manufactured, which ultimately saves time and money spent ordering multiple prototypes. Additionally, the product assembly process can be viewed using 3D CAD, which enables users to analyze and visualize the process before manufacturing. If multiple designers are working on one project, desktop sharing allows multiple users to work on the same project in real time.
Because all dimensions of a product are visible in 3D CAD, it is easier to determine the amount of material needed and for engineers to make necessary design changes. Although 2D CAD programs are still extremely useful for basic drawing and drafting, 3D CAD offers a wider range of features that may be more useful for those designing highly specific components that require routine testing before they can be manufactured.