The role of computer-aided design (CAD) in 3D printing


The role of computer-aided design (CAD) in 3D printing

Authored By: SDI Plastics

Computer-aided design, or more commonly referred to as CAD, is used to generate virtual 2D or 3D models. 2D CAD designs are generally for technical engineering and architecture, while 3D printing models are typically either used for digital applications such as animation or for manufacturing and prototyping processes like 3D printing.

For the manufacturing process, the role of CAD And 3D printing is used very early on as part of the design process, and is integral to the project overall. Following on from the product design and innovation phase and before launching into the toolmaking of the product, CAD and 3D prototypes are required prior to production to emulate closely the near final physical version of the product.

Every designer, engineer, or producer must be able to visualise their work. A visual representation of our imagination can assist us in ascertaining any design flaws. As 3D printing fans, you’re probably aware of the significance of developing a 3D model. The transformation of a concept into a graphical 3D model sets the tone for the entire manufacturing process. CAD software is the one software that 3D Printing cannot do without!

The use of 3D prototypes during the manufacturing process, ultimately provides excellent project efficiencies, benefits and cost savings prior to the manufacturing process and production.

The Following Sub-topics Connected to CAD Software are Discussed Further Below:
  • What exactly is CAD?
  • A basic overview of CAD
  • CAD Modelling – CAD Files for 3D Printing
  • What is required to create one’s own CAD software?

What exactly is CAD?

Computer-aided design is referred to as CAD, and is used to construct, analyse, and alter graphical representations. It is a widely used design tool in various areas, including architecture, construction, automobiles, and aerospace. The software was created using the Fortran programming language.

With the introduction of OOPs (object-oriented programming), a dramatic shift occurred, resulting in the development of CAD software based on a parametric feature modeller. It began to develop APIs using the C programming language (application programming interface).

The Three Essential Components of the CAD System Architecture are:

  1. GUI (graphic user interface)
  2. Operating system
  3. Database

With the help of a geometric modelling kernel, the GUI in CAD is developed using NURB geometry and boundary representation (B-rep). 

CAD currently supports various operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and Mac.

The CAD software can perform tasks with very little hardware, making the software more user-friendly and accessible.

CAD software for 3D printing

3D printers follow a set of instructions to operate. 3D modelling on CAD software is used to capture these. Printers employ a file generated by CAD software to print the specified model. The CAD file aids in determining the materials needed and the overall design structure.

STL files are commonly generated via CAD software (there are different types of files discussed later in this article). It stands for “stereolithography,” which is also known as “Standard Triangle Language” or “Standard Tessellation Language.” This STL file provides structural information that computers can comprehend.

CAD software function lies at the heart of every manufacturing and production process

Because of technological improvements, this instrument has become a critical component that is both advanced and simple to use. So let’s take a look at how we got here by looking at the history of CAD.

A quick overview of CAD

It may be difficult for today’s engineers, designers, and architects to envision a world without computer-aided design. However, before CAD software, the world of design had been disrupted. Engineers had to sketch their models on enormous drawing boards with sheets of paper. 

To achieve the most exact portrayal, they used simple instruments such as different graded pencils, set squares, t-squares, etc. The necessity for visualisation prompted the early development of modelling software. CAD systems were initially implemented to act as a replacement for 2D sketch boards. Instead, it was used to save a model’s digital drawing. 

Engineers began to understand more about computers as time went on. 

CAD software allowed them to tweak and adapt designs with little effort.

Dr Patrick Hanratty, the inventor of CAD, introduced Pronto, the first commercial and numerical control programming system, in 1957. As a result, numerous engineering companies began to adapt. Established corporations such as Ford, Siemens, and Lockheed Martin have started using 3D CAD software to design products for their specific industrial segments. They eventually began to modernise the programme with in-house software solutions that would meet their needs.

CAD modelling types

  • Modelling in solids (Parametrics):

The model was created using 2D sketching. It has a customisable history tree that draws features and functional connections to other designs. The primary value of this method is that changing one parameter automatically changes the other values. Mathematical equations form the foundation of such models. It is often used in architecture to design buildings or structures. Parametric modelling is analogous to direct modelling. It does not, however, have a history tree. This form of modelling is ideal for one off designs with a very minimal structural variation. Rapid prototyping and short production cycles are frequent applications.

  • Surface design

The geometry of an object is formed through this type of modeling, which is dependent on the surface. It lets you look at an object from a different perspective. It’s also broken down into two types: parametric and freeform.

  • Modeling using code

This form of modelling is still in its early stages of development. Academia is working to improve CAD modelling by employing strategies that automate the software’s foundation. The concept is to create a design from a set of conditions set by a designer. This modelling is suited for 3D Printing and can aid in the creation of highly accurate 3D buildings.

  • 3D printing files (CAD files)

CAD modelling is ubiquitous in many industries, but when it comes to 3D Printing, CAD software is the technology’s backbone. However, for additive producers, understanding CAD from the standpoint of 3D Printing is critical. So let’s look at the different sorts of files we use for 3D Printing.

The three most frequent file types on the market now are:

  1. STL,
  2. STEP 

While the precision of various technologies varies, one feature they all have in common is the flexibility to make modifications to your 3D printed designs even before the printing process begins. Compared to manually designed models, which would take more time and effort to correct, this is an invaluable asset.

CAD is also incredibly adaptable, with businesses as diverse as architecture, gaming, and manufacturing using it in their projects. All CAD mould designs are precisely built to maximise their service life and ease maintenance, as well as to meet client cost and functionality requirements. CAD is a technology that is increasingly being utilised globally for various 3D printed products on a global scale. The pace of use of these services is expected to rise globally over the next decade, according to Statista, which reports a consistent increase in CAD market revenue for both 2D and 3D designs.

What is required to create one’s own CAD software?

Many industrial organisations have developed their own CAD software to boost their output. However, specific design-related issues peculiar to the organisation can be solved with in-house software. It’s also cost-effective and marketable as a product. SDI Plastics is also in the process of developing its own CAD software. We rely on 3D Printing as a manufacturing enterprise, which necessitates extensive use of CAD software. As a result, we’ll be able to effortlessly integrate features created with bespoke software into our production workflow.

Try it right now

With a single, integrated CAD design for manufacturing platform, SDI Plastics provides an end to end service, starting with the important design process. SDI Plastics is based in Australia and offers complete CAD and 3D Prototyping services to assist in the early design process of manufacturing.

 If you are looking to partner with a reliable team, bring a new idea to life, or have a complex problem you would like to solve, please contact our talented team at SDI Plastics on (07) 3807 8666 for a confidential discussion.

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