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What is CAD? From basic knowledge that can not be heard now, to the difference between “CAM” and “CAE”


When you hear CAD, many people think of it as a tool for designing on a computer.
CAD is system software that supports the design and drafting of automobiles, houses, architecture, clothing, etc.
There are many qualifications, including the “CAD Trace Skills Examination” certified by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, and it is widely used in the field of manufacturing operations.
This time, we will introduce the basic knowledge and merits of Computer-Aided Design, the difference between the types of “2D CAD” and “3D CAD”, and the difference between “CAM” and “CAE”, which are easily confused.


table of contents

  • 1. Basic knowledge of CAD
  • 2. CAD features
  • 3. What is the difference between “2D CAD” and “3D CAD”?
  • 4. Difference between “CAM” and “CAE”
  • 5. CAD that expands the field of activity


Basic knowledge of CAD

CAD is an abbreviation of “Computer-Aided Design” and is read as “cad”. It is translated as “computer design support” in Japanese because the design and drafting that used to be done manually are done on a computer. Many products around us, such as automobiles, smartphones, and refrigerators, are all made based on drawings, and Computer-Aided Design is an indispensable tool for designing and drawing those drawings.

In the 1960s, a two-dimensional Computer-Aided Design called “CADAM” was developed by Lockheed Corporation, a major aircraft manufacturer, to design airplanes. After that, it came to be used in the manufacture of mechanical systems such as automobiles, and it is said that Computer-Aided Design systems became popular.

Those specialized in a specific field such as construction, building equipment, and piping are called “dedicated Computer-Aided Design”, and those with functions that can be widely used regardless of the field are called “general-purpose Computer-Aided Design”. “AutoCAD” is famous for general-purpose Computer-Aided Design software. It is compatible with 2D Computer-Aided Design to 3D Computer-Aided Design and is widely used due to its high functionality.
In addition, there are various types depending on the field of use, such as electricity, civil engineering, and clothing design, and some have specialized functions.




CAD features

The reason why Computer-Aided Design is used in a wide range of industries is that it has three characteristics that are effective in designing and drawing products.


● Easier than hand-drawn drafting

Before the use of Computer-Aided Design, product design and drawing was done by hand on paper. The work of writing the shape of the product and all the necessary information on the drawing can now be expressed on a computer, which has shortened the work time.
In addition, since the specifications of drawings change depending on the line thickness, a technique for adjusting the line thickness to a uniform level is required. However, with Computer-Aided Design, the thickness is set on a computer for drawing, so anyone can easily draw a line with the same thickness.


● Easy to correct drafting data

Another feature of Computer-Aided Design is that it is easy to modify drawings. If you are writing on paper by hand, you must be careful not to erase other parts when making corrections. There was also the risk of unexpected problems such as tearing of the paper.
In the case of Computer-Aided Design, you can delete/modify only the part you want to modify on your computer. Whether you want to erase a specific line or add a new element, you can make accurate design and drawing corrections on your computer without affecting anything other than the corrections.


● Data can be managed and shared

Paper drawings are not only difficult to modify, but also difficult to store and duplicate. It also needs to be mailed when needed and may take several days to share.
Drawings created with Computer-Aided Design, on the other hand, can be saved on a computer or server for easy copying and sharing. With hand-drawn drafting, it is difficult for multiple people to work together on one drawing, but with Computer-Aided Design, multiple people can create drawings at the same time. Since it is possible to keep the data before correction, it is a big merit that the past data before correction can be saved as a reference/history without losing the original.


What is the difference between “2D CAD” and “3D CAD”?

Computer-Aided Design can be divided into “2D Computer-Aided Design” and “3D Computer-Aided Design” depending on the data representation method.


● 2D CAD (2D CAD)

2D Computer-Aided Design is a method of expressing a solid in two dimensions, creating a cross-sectional view of a product and applying it to drafting. Since the method of drawing by hand is performed on the computer as it is, there is an advantage that it is easy to remember the actual drawing operation.
However, since it is a cross-sectional view, it cannot be seen from another angle other than the cross-section. Therefore, to accurately grasp the shape of the entire product, imagination and the ability to grasp the space are required.


● 3D CAD (3D CAD)

3D Computer-Aided Design is an expression method for drawing 3D objects. Taking advantage of computers, you can draw solids that cannot be expressed by handwriting. Drafting that is difficult to express in 2D, such as designs with many curves, can be expressed visually in an easy-to-understand manner. Drawings created with 3D Computer-Aided Design capture concrete images in 3D and can be confirmed from all angles, which will shorten the time for designing, studying, and presenting.
However, to run 3D Computer-Aided Design tools, a high-spec computer with a large amount of memory area and high processing power is required. Unlike 2D Computer-Aided Design, there are not many systems that are open to the public for free, so it is expensive to deploy.


● Use 2D CAD and 3D CAD properly

Although the demand for 3D Computer-Aided Design is increasing, the demand for 2D CAD, which can be drawn with conventional paper drawings and the same operation feeling, remains strong.
Comparing both 2D CAD and 3D CAD, 3D Computer-Aided Design is by no means superior. Either one does not have good performance, and it is used properly depending on the application. For example, electrical Computer-Aided Design does not need to be represented in 3D, so 2D CAD is used for drafting.


Difference between “CAM” and “CAE”

Tools that are confused with CAD are “CAM” and “CAE”. Computer-Aided Design is drafting, CAM is manufacturing, and CAE is analysis. They look similar, but each has a different purpose.


● Manufacturing process

In manufacturing, CAE is used for simulation, and Computer-Aided Design is used for drafting. Based on the drawing, programming is done with CAM, and the product is made by the machine tool.



CAM is an abbreviation for “Computer-Aided Manufacturing” and is translated as “Computer-Aided Manufacturing” in Japanese. It refers to manufacturing products with a computer and is a system that creates machine tool programs based on drawings designed and drawn by Computer-Aided Design. The output program is sent to the machine tool for actual processing.
Generally, the design data created by the Computer-Aided Design system is output to the CAM system for processing, so many tools can cover the CAD and CAM processes in one. Since one product can perform two processes, it has the advantage of high data integrity.



CAE is an abbreviation of “Computer-Aided Engineering” and is translated as “Computer-Aided Engineering” in Japanese. It is a tool that simulates whether the performance of the machine or part to be manufactured is appropriate with a computer and calculates in advance whether the product can perform the desired function.
CAE is done before you start drafting in Computer-Aided Design for proper design. Until now, we have conducted operation tests based on prototypes that were designed and made, and repeated design and manufacture while fixing defects. However, since CAE can calculate movements and characteristics before drafting, the prototyping cycle can be significantly reduced.


CAD that expands the field of activity

CAD is an important system in the manufacturing industry.
It can be said to be an indispensable tool for manufacturing such as designing automobiles and aircraft, designing structures such as bridges, roads, and buildings, pattern making in the apparel industry, and jewelry design.
In recent years, Computer-Aided Design-related work has become more diversified, such as creating 3D animations based on blueprints and 2D processing of blueprints and elevations for catalogs, brochures, presentation materials, etc. It is also used in various situations.
Both 3D Computer-Aided Design and 2D Computer-Aided Design will have more opportunities to play an active role.


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