What do I need CAD for?
Almost all professional CAD packages have different levels or grades. Identifying which version is right for you can be the first challenge in making an informed decision.
The better you understand your needs, issues and goals, the better equipped you will be in narrowing down and removing from the list products that are not fit for purpose or not suitable for your specific requirements. This then allows you to move ahead with your CAD investment with confidence.
The key to the success of a modern 3D CAD system is that it is easy and intuitive to use. Quickly and accurately creating a 3D model that can be shared, viewed, revised and secured before being sent to manufacturing is the fundamental purpose of CAD tools. Considerations you should be making cover a wide scope of needs, for example:
- If you are involved in sheet metal, does the prospective solution have the ability to automatically flatten and document the sheet metal designs for manufacturing?
- If you are looking to test your designs before prototyping, can you simulate in a test environment and, more importantly, what kind of results can you expect to get.
This article looks at questions you should be asking.
Is this CAD solution compatible with other CAD formats?
There are many different file formats that are used in design and manufacturing industries. It is not just compatibility with the native CAD format your business works with, but take time to consider the formats your suppliers and customers can use. Think about the formats that can be imported but also what formats can you export in:
- What CAD file formats can I import?
- What CAD file formats can I export to?
- What file formats can my customers and suppliers accept?
What is the learning curve for this CAD product?
You should think about how much time should be set aside to develop the knowledge and skills required to make the most of your CAD. This is an area which certainly needs to be mapped out before making your decision. If an investment is made on the CAD package and the learning path for designers is not clearly understood a slow uptake of the necessary skill set could undermine your investment.
- Where are the training centres I can use?
- Can you provide on-site training if necessary?
- How flexible are your training courses?
- How much subsequent on-line content is available for hints, tips and guidance?
With less established CAD systems you are unlikely to have the same wealth of online content as a more widely adopted system.
If you are considering a new CAD package, then you are looking to grow – whether as a start up or an established business investing in new growth. When looking to employ new design staff consider what your local university, colleges or schools teach. Employing someone already skilled in the CAD package you are looking at can give you a great head start.
Perform a job search on any of the major online careers boards and be sure to include the name of the CAD package you are considering in the job search. If significantly more roles come back using that particular product then you are able to confidently conclude that there will be many more candidates out there able to use that product. Knowing that it will be easy to recruit for people able to use your CAD tools and reduce your future training costs should be an important part your decision making.
- Are there plenty of people already trained in using this CAD that I can recruit?
How good is the support I will get with this CAD investment?
There are few industries where the old addage “time is money” is more appropriate. When your CAD designs are critical to the success of the business you want to make sure that when you need help you get support in an effective and timely manner. There are various kinds of support depending on the CAD package you are looking at.
- What hours are the support team available?
- What experience do the support engineers have?
- What response times can they offer?
- Does the vendor offer specialists for technically difficult challenges?
- Is the support fully certified and authorisaed by the software vendor?
- What different levels of support are available to suit my needs?
- Can I get references from existing customers who can verify the support quality?
- What out-of-hours material is available online?
- Does the support service offer ongoing training and development material?
Any software reseller should consider themselves part of a partnership with your business. They should have a strong support service with a solid track record and they should welcome your questions.
As I grow will the CAD package be able to grow with me?
You want to know that as you continue to grow the technology you rely on is kept up to date and its capabilities grow to meet your needs.
When deciding on an new CAD package you should always look ahead and consider possible upgrade paths that allow your business to seamlessly grow and develop. When considering this you might ask:
- What networking functionality does this CAD support?
- As my system and business grow are there tools I can integrate with my CAD to help me manage my documents and files?
- If I choose to extend my CAD capabilities to other parts of my design process such as electrical design or marketing can this CAD solution offer upgrades or complimentary products?
Can this CAD handle large designs?
In many industries designs can contain more than 10,000 parts. If you require managing, assembling, viewing and documenting large designs you need to ensure your system has the capability of doing so without problems. Delays in this can really slow up the design process and downstream development.
What hardware will I need?
You don’t want to choose your CAD package, install it and press go to find out it runs incredibly slow or not even at all. Make sure you are fully aware of what the system requirements are. A good vendor will have a spec sheet or web page you can easily determine what you need. It is also worth asking what they would recommend as you may be able to include it in a bundle offering.
- What is the best hardware for running CAD?
- What graphics card should I buy for 3D CAD?
- Is my current hardware compatible or supported?
- Can the vendor help me choose what is right for me?
What are my competitors using?
Whether you are falling behind and looking at catching up with the rest of the industry or can you gain an advantage over your competitors by using something different, this needs to be considered. In a constantly evolving environment where things like 3D printing is becoming ever more available, you need to know the system you choose is up to date.