computer-aided design (CAD) or computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), form of automation that helps designers prepare drawings, specifications, parts lists, and other design-related elements using special graphics- and calculations-intensive computer programs. The technology is used for a wide variety of products in such fields as architecture, electronics, and aerospace, naval, and automotive engineering. Although CAD systems originally merely automated drafting, they now usually include three-dimensional modeling and computer-simulated operation of the model. Rather than having to build prototypes and change components to determine the effects of tolerance ranges, engineers can use computers to simulate operation to determine loads and stresses. For example, an automobile manufacturer might use CAD to calculate the wind drag on several new car-body designs without having to build physical models of each one. In microelectronics, as devices have become smaller and more complex, CAD has become an especially important technology. Among the benefits of such systems are lower product-development costs and a greatly shortened design cycle. While less expensive CAD systems running on personal computers have become available for do-it-yourself home remodeling and simple drafting, state-of-the-art CAD systems running on workstations and mainframe computers are increasingly integrated with computer-aided manufacturing systems.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.