Computer-aided design (CAD)
“Computer-aided design (CAD) is the use of computer systems (or workstations) to aid in the creation, modification, analysis, or optimization of a design.” – Wikipedia
CAD is generally used to describe two things: A kind of software and the file outputted from said software. So when someone asks “do you have the CAD?” they are referring to whether or not you have a CAD file. When someone says “I’ll have to draw this up in CAD” they are referring to using the software. As an analogy, CAD can described as Photoshop being the software and the jpeg image as the file. Engineers and designers use CAD software to build a digital representation of a real world object.
Put simply, CAD is the digital representation of a product’s design. It includes parts, dimensions, materials, geometry, just about everything needed to produce the product.
Why is it so important?
In many ways, the CAD a prototype. Although it’s only visible through a computer screen, it is still very real. With the correct software, a design can be seen in 3D, rotated, and explored. A CAD file has everything needed to produce your product. It has dimensions, materials, geometry, and features. A CAD file can be edited at any date in the future by anyone with the correct software.
Absolutely Necessary for Manufacturing
If you’ve reached out to any manufacturers before, you’ve likely been asked “Do you have CAD files?” Or they may ask for “Drawings” which is a laymen’s term for CAD files. These days just about everything is made using some sort of computer, or “CNC”. A CNC machine cuts and removes material according to the design specified in the CAD file. Without a CAD file there is no way for the machine to know how to machine a part.