Which CAD Software should i learn?
That is the question that comes into the mind of almost every engineering student. Seeing that there are tens of softwares like AutoCAD, SolidWorks, ANSYS, PTC Creo and more, one can easily get confused in choosing the best software to learn, because after all one can’t learn all of them.
Now, the better way to answer this question, is first to describe what really CAD Softwares are.
What is CAD?
CAD stands for Computer-Aided-Design, meaning using the computer to aid in engineering design process.[See Engineering Design Process]
CAD employs computer processing power to aid in the designing better products.
So, in a way, they are tools which engineer uses to design products, just like vernier caliper or a calculator is a tool.
Types of CAD Softwares
The proper way of choosing the right CAD software, is learning what are kinds or types of CAD softwares.
Because when you look at it, all CAD softwares fall into four types, each encompassing an aspect of engineering design process.
These Types are:
- 3D Modelling
- Mathematical Modelling
There are also manufacturing softwares but they fall under the umbrella of CAM (Computer-Aided-Manufacturing), therefore they won’t be discussed here in too much detail.
Drafting Softwares are the one where you work in 2D, using lines and curves and many other features to develop layouts of the product you want to make.
Drafting in engineering disciplines is called as Engineering Drawing.
It employs graphical 2D drawings to represent structures, machines and components of those machines.
The basic intent of drafts or engineering design is to communicate the idea to the person who is in charge of manufacturing that machine.
The most popular and widely used drafting software is AutoDesk AutoCAD, which is no doubt the industry leader in drafting.
3D MODELLING SOFTWARES
3D modelling softwares are not just used for engineering purposes.
Actually, CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) is used for a large variety of purposes, movies, animated movies, video games to engineering and concept designs.
In engineering, 3D modelling softwares are used to generate a visual in 3D of how the intended product would look like.
Typical CGI or 3D modelling softwares like AutoDesk 3DS Max, Maya or Blender can be used for this purpose, if the intent is to get photorealistic renderings.
MATHEMATICAL MODELLING SOFTWARES
Of course, Mathematics plays a huge role in engineering design process.
There are tons of mathematical calculations that are needed to be done in order to get an optimal design, and computer can help in that task too.
MATLAB is one of the most commonly used mathematical modelling package in tho world. Octave and Wolfram Mathematica can also be used for mathematical modelling.
However, PTC’s MathCAD is also great and is intended just for design engineers. Whereas, MATLAB is multi-purpose.
Before computers, building new products was very expensive because prototypes had to be made in considerably large quantities in order to understand the performance of product in the real world.
This cost has been greatly reduced with the use of simulation softwares, which replicates the real environment inside computer and simulates the performance of product.
Prototypes are still made, but in comparatively very low amount.
Techniques of FEA (Finite Element Analysis) and CFD (Computetational Fluid Dynamics) have hugely increased the performance of products.
Which Software should you learn?
Well, it depends on your work area, and if you are a student, it depends on your choice, that in which field you want to excel.
I recommend atleast learning atleast one software from each type, but not two from same type. Like, learning AutoCAD and IntelliCAD both is pointless. Instead, you should spend your time learning some other software.
Some softwares like SolidWorks and PTC Creo contain packages that do drafting, modelling and simulation, all under one umbrella.