Computer Aided Design software, or CAD, has introduced some seriously profound changes in building and manufacturing in the last 25 years. There are many types and brands of CAD software for any number of applications, from automotive design to architecture.
CAD versus AutoCAD
The name AutoCAD is often used as a generic term for any CAD package. However, this is a common misnomer; AutoCAD is a trademarked name for design software by the Autodesk Company. AutoCAD was one of the first commercially feasible CAD programs.
One benefit of using AutoCAD is standardization. AutoCAD is the de facto industry standard for Computer Aided Design, so other CAD packages emulate AutoCAD operation and ensure file compatibility across industrial boundaries.
2D and 3D
AutoCAD makes the transition from 2D to 3D, and vice versa, automated and easy. For instance, some specialized versions automatically generate paper print documentation for the manufacturing process based on a virtual 3D model.
CAD often goes hand-in-hand with CAM, which is Computer Aided Manufacturing. AutoCAD software automatically, and specifically, interfaces with matching CAM packages, creating machine tool program setups for such operations and drilling, milling, turning and grinding.
Another major benefit of AutoCAD, especially in large-scale operations such as bridge or building design, is virtualization. This is the ability to walk through and view the project in a 3D simulation before ever putting a dime into manufacturing. The Autodesk company is a leader in this technology.