Tools of the Design World: CAD

Designing involves a lot of things. One of these things is the tool being used. CAD is one of the tools that is used for Design. So now, here the question is what makes CAD so important for Design.


CAD helps to create 3D models quickly, too, without any hassle. You do not have to waste time creating sketches or even making scale drawings; all you have to do is touch your keyboard and draw lines, circles, etc. Adding dimensions becomes easy as well. This reduces time wastage and ultimately increases the productivity of work.

What is CAD?

CAD (Computer-Aided Design) allows any object to be designed on a computer. For example, the most common use in the space industry is designing and manufacturing spacecraft elements such as fairings, trusses, or heat shields.

But CAD can also help design rovers, planetary exploration tools, and outpost modules with greater ease than traditional computing programs like Tops or AutoCAD.


Computer-Aided Design is not new in the space industry. Still, affordable software development combined with exponential growth of computer power and resources onboard robotic spacecraft has made it an essential tool to design hardware for space exploration.

The technique used in CAD is based on spline geometry. These curves are mathematical representations that define the contour of almost any object. 

Once properly defined, shapes can be lofted or tessellated into complete solid models open with other modeling programs like Autodesk Maya. Then, other elements like lights, cameras, and materials are added to make more realistic renders.


CAD also allows mechanical engineers to create 3D models of instruments, mechanisms, or any part manufactured using additive or subtractive manufacturing.


CAD is used to create 3D maps for planetary landing sites, roadmaps of craters, and other geological features, as well as atmospheric models for altitude/temperature/density calculations.

How much does CAD cost?

CAD, Tools of the Design World: CAD, Peterman Design Firm

CAD costs are based on the individual’s usage. Therefore it is hard to state a fixed cost for CAD. It primarily depends on what type of applications you use and how often they are used. The more intensively the applications are used, the higher the cost of upkeeping them. Your usage patterns should determine which CAD software suits you best.


If you only occasionally make changes to your designs, then using free tools would suffice; however, if you work with Design all day long, commercial/professional tools would be the most suitable choice.  

Also, try to consider future developments that might require updating your CAD application – this way, you can predict whether these future updates will have an impact on your budget or not before committing yourself to a purchase.

When is CAD used in the process?

Computer-Aided Design is used from the early stages of product development. This allows for testing and tuning ideas and testing the looks and feel of a product to consumers before it enters mass production

In short, CAD is used from any stage of development where designers need to benefit from digital tools without starting over from scratch every time they make a change or improve on an idea

CAD, Tools of the Design World: CAD, Peterman Design Firm

What does an engineer use CAD for?


Engineers use CAD for dimensions, outlining parts and assemblies, placing holes and bolts, creating exploded views, sectional drawings, and technical illustrations. Industry-specific software will provide engineers with specific drawing functions that suit their needs, e.g., Plastic industry – mold flow analysis; mechanical industry – stress analysis.

What is being used in CAD?

There are many different CAD systems on the market; each provides various tools to its users. For example, some companies focus more on 2D drafting software while others invest more in 3D modeling capabilities. 

Many CAD systems have solid modeling capabilities, whereas others are hybrid with both solids and surface modeling features. Some programs can create full-scale prototypes manufactured using additive manufacturing methods or milled out of metal or wood blanks. Other use molding techniques to produce plastic models. 

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