What is CAD Software? - Definition & Uses

Instructor: Katie Musselwhite

Microsoft certified professional with a bachelor's degree in information technology management

This lesson provides an overview of what CAD software is, how it is used, and details the up-and-coming applications of CAD modeling. Information on two-dimensional modeling, three-dimensional modeling, types of CAD software, and 3D printing is included.

Computer-Aided Design (CAD)

Look around the room you are in right now. Do you see corners? Windows? Electrical outlets? Have you ever stopped to think why those items are in the specific locations they are, or how their location was decided? Why is the window in the master bedroom wider than the windows in the kitchen? How did the designer communicate that to the builder? The answer is CAD!

Computer-aided design software or CAD software refers to a type of software program used by designers and engineers to create two-dimensional and three-dimensional models of physical components. CAD software has all but replaced the t-squares and protractors used by the designers of yesterday in a process known as manual drafting, the traditional 'pencil on paper' approach to engineering and design.

Two-Dimensional CAD

2D CAD models are what most of us are familiar with. These models are flat, two-dimensional drawings that provide overall dimensions, layouts, and information needed to reproduce or build the subject. Examples of these types of drawings are found in a variety of industries including aerospace, architecture, automotive, cartography, civil engineering, interior design, landscaping, and even fashion.

If you have ever built a house, you probably haven't forgotten the small fortune you had to fork over for your floor plans. The architect you purchased them from almost certainly used CAD to create them. This photo shows a two-dimensional floor plan drawn with CAD software. It looks messy, but this one image contains most of the information that a builder would need to construct the inside of this house.

This two-dimensional drawing is a floor plan created with CAD
2D drawing of a house

Three-Dimensional CAD

3D CAD models have uses similar to those of 2D CAD models. Then why the distinction? A three-dimensional CAD model provides greater detail about the individual components and assemblies of a physical object. In other words, 3D models show you how something fits together and operates rather than just how big it is and its overall shape. There isn't a great need for 3D modeling when it comes to floor plans, but what about the world of mechanics? The intricate pieces used in the automotive or manufacturing industries, for instance, might be best represented by a 3D model such as this one.

This is a three-dimensional mechanical drawing created with a program called TurboCAD
3D CAD model

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