Computer Aided Mechanical Design Research Paper Starter

Computer Aided Mechanical Design

More and more, industry professionals are turning to computer modeling software to help design machines, factories, assembly plants, and civil engineering projects in addition to the products and tools they manufacture. This paper will take a closer look at the growing field of computer-aided manufacturing design, discussing the use of such technologies as well as their applications in the important arenas of architecture, manufacturing, and the medical device industry.

Keywords: Automated Drafting and Machining (ADAM); Computer-Aided Design (CAD); Modeling Software; SKETCHPAD; Stereolithography; Virtual Reality


The famed science-fiction author Isaac Asimov once reportedly commented, "I do not fear computers," adding, "I fear a lack of them." Indeed, the modern world has become heavily dependent on computer technology, which has become vital for virtually every aspect of life in the twenty-first century—invaluable for commerce, education, government, health care, and even the simplification of household affairs.

Computer technology has also become a key component in organizing and processing data. It is also being used increasingly in crafting a road to the future. Weather forecasters use computer modeling and imagery to better predict storm patterns, and economists use similar technologies to help understand market trends of the present and the near future. Computer modeling software is even used in hospital and medical research facilities, helping doctors and medical professionals track patient responses to medications as well as to better conduct surgical procedures.

The manufacturing and engineering industries are no exception. More and more, industry professionals are turning to computer modeling software to help design machines, factories and assembly plants, and civil engineering projects in addition to the products and tools they manufacture. This paper will take a closer look at the growing field of computer-aided manufacturing design, discussing the use of such technologies as well as their applications in a number of important arenas.

A Brief History of Computer-Aided Design (CAD)

The practice of using computers for the purposes of designing complex machinery and systems began in the early 1960s, although it was conducted privately with specific design purposes in mind. Specifically, the automotive, electronics, and aerospace industries employed such design techniques through automated 3-D modeling programs ("History of CAD," 2009).

Early computer-aided design (CAD) programs, however, were extremely complex, expensive, and required massive computer hardware systems to conduct their calculations. Few industries could afford to support such systems. Among the companies that did utilize such systems were US automaker General Motors, US aerospace giant Lockheed, and European automaker Renault. These applications stemmed from the 1963 program known as SKETCHPAD, which was created by MIT scientist Ivan Sutherland. That system, for the first time, contained a feature that enabled the designer to interact with his or her computer through graphics. Such a graphical user interface (GUI) would ultimately become indispensable in CAD circles.

Particularly notable among these systems were the works of Dr. Peter J. Hanratty, who in 1964 introduced Design-Augmented by Computer (DAC-1) for GM. In 1971, Hanratty rolled out the program known as Automated Drafting and Machining (ADAM); not long after he started his own firm, Manufacturing and Consulting Services, Inc. Shortly thereafter, Hanratty began offering code to a number of companies outside of the three discussed above. Among the industry leaders who would adopt similar design programs were Computer Vision, baby food manufacturer and supplier Gerber, and McDonnell Douglas. Thanks to the work of such figures as Hanratty and Sutherland, early versions of CAD systems became increasingly popular among large corporations. Unfortunately, the size and cost of computer systems in general, along with the costs of systems specific to this purpose, left CAD applications largely beyond the reach of smaller businesses.

In the late 1970s, computer technology became more compact and affordable. With this came an evolution of CAD programs, which increased in terms of capability and versatility. By the early 1980s, CAD programs were able to create more complex, interlinked models as well as design in clearer 3-D settings (previous incarnations utilized a simpler, 2-D format). Such modified systems led to greater interconnectivity among design models (Raj, 2007). By the late 1980s, CAD technology was considerably more sophisticated and more widespread in its use than it had been only two decades earlier. An example may be found in the introduction of PTC Pro/Engineer, a system that used parametric design programs, which allow for greater connectivity with other design models through the application of historical data. This "history-based" approach became, for a few years, popular among engineers who had previously used 3-D modeling in their work. The debate over history-based versus history-free programs has continued into the twenty-first century (Stackpole, 2009).

Introduced in the 1970s, the personal computer (PC) saw a rapid evolution over the next two decades. The prevalence of smaller, multiple-unit computer terminals allowed a larger number of engineers, computer scientists, and design professionals to both use existing CAD programs as well as create modified versions for their own purposes. CAD systems became more common and had greater capabilities — some systems allowed the user to manipulate 3-D shapes, while others created greater parametric connectivity that allowed for the development of extensive and more complex design models.

In the twenty-first century, computer-aided design systems are some of the most popularly used computer programs by major corporations and certain industries of all sizes and industry areas. This paper will next turn to a few examples of how CAD is employed in the twenty-first-century global economy.



Prior to the introduction of computer software, architects relied on careful, manual mathematic calculations and drawings. Architectural drawings and blueprints have long been essential for those doing the work and the clients who seek to have the work done. Such drawings are also useful for government officials who may or may not approve funding and/or zoning for such work and also prove practical for other contractors who are performing landscaping or other external work.

Central to any construction or manufacturing industry is the design stage. In this phase, the engineer is expected to create from a visual ideal a valid structure or mechanism that will appear in a certain way while it performs the task for which it is created. In architecture, the design is crucial, for it not only enables all parties involved (the construction contractors, the client, and others) to see the realized schematic, it also helps them understand the structural integrity and viability of the building.

In the global economy, architecture is essential to the manufacturing industry. Factories and production plants require configurations that are conducive to the manufacturer's needs and budgets. Architects must take into account energy source distribution and space for heavy machinery, and attempt to find ways to help the client save on expenses over the long term. With a growing international marketplace that fosters increased competition among manufacturers, architecture is playing an invaluable role.

Like so many other construction- and manufacturing-oriented industries, the field of architecture quickly embraced the introduction of CAD technologies due to the fact that it offers improvement in both the process and product of architectural design. Additionally, CAD saves on labor, helping create designs in an efficient yet comprehensive and accurate manner. In fact, it has been argued that CAD's continuous evolution consistently offers the architect an opportunity to see design in a whole new...

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