Twenty-five years ago, Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) was a novelty, an experiment, an expensive toy for engineers of all disciplines to play with. But, that was the past. Today, CAD has become a mainstay in all engineering disciplines, providing engineers with a powerful tool to use in design, redesign, testing and analysis of new designs.
Simplifying Design with Computer Aided Drafting
Modern CAD programs provide much more than simply a computerized way of replacing a draftsman. Not only are they considerably quicker than drawing on paper, but they contain powerful modeling and analytical tools, allowing the engineer to test drive their design, looking for incompatibilities, poor fit and construction problems, before the design leaves his desktop. When using CAD, much of the drawing process can become automated, working from a library of components which can be plugged into the design, eliminating the need to redraw the same component over and over again. Take something simple, like a truss bridge. Once the ends and the basic section are designed, elongating the bridge to its full length consists of copying the completed section and pasting it repeatedly.
Development of materials lists is automated as well, with the CAD program tracking materials use as the design progresses. Instead of having to spend days developing and cross-checking a materials list, the civil engineer only needs to query the program, receiving a complete list of all materials for the project. By simplifying the design process, civil engineers are provided with the opportunity to concentrate on engineering tasks, rather than spend their time drawing and redrawing parts of the design. Engineers are not wasting their time doing clerical functions, such as bills-of-materials, but instead concentrating on applying their knowledge and expertise to solve potential problems.
Simplifying Collaboration with Computer Aided Drafting
By having the design in progress available to the entire team, each civil engineer working on the project, regardless of their specialty, has access to it. As each progresses in their particular area of expertise, the results of their work are instantly available to other team members. Problems with space availability, loads and structure are instantly visible to the entire team, shortening the process of dealing with those problems. As the design progresses, each change which affects other parts of the design become instantly visible. There are no last-minute surprises, where it is found that the foundation won’t support the weight of the building or the space allocated for heating and cooling isn’t large enough for the plant needed.
Improving Design with Computer Aided Drafting
Because the entire design resides in the computer, computerized calculation of stresses, airflow, harmonics and loads are extremely easy to compute. Flow analysis software integrates directly with CAD software, using the model created in CAD for its simulation. Design changes, which are a part of any project, are easier to implement in CAD. In some cases, such as the need to enlarge a particular area or structural component, the design change can be made and the results computed in a matter of minutes. This provides the civil engineer with valuable options for creating the best possible design, with the confidence that their design is fully analyzed for stress and loads. CAD permits automated analysis of designs. This reduces the civil engineer’s workload, especially the tedium of performing multiple calculations. Having the software perform these calculations both saves time and ensures a level of accuracy that the human mind can’t easily reproduce.
Final Words about Computer Aided Drafting
The experiment of computer-aided design has been a success. The work of today’s civil engineer is so closely linked to the computer, that it has become as essential a tool as his father’s scientific calculator and his grandfather’s slide rule. With CAD, the civil engineer accomplishes more than he ever could before, both in quantity and in quality. Some modern designs, such as the Egg stadium built in Beijing, China could not be completed without the use of CAD. Manually calculating the stresses on the multiple curved beams of that structure would be impossible. Yet, with CAD to assist, civil engineers are able to broaden their horizons, developing new, exciting designs that were never before possible.
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