Engineering Drawing Software
Updated July 21, 2017
Engineering drawing software, like Auto-CAD or Solid Works, enables engineers and drafters to spend more time creating and innovating mechanical or electrical drawings. Most engineering drawing software comes with a library of parts or components ready to drag and drop onto the screen. The importance of engineering drawing software is the time it can save in creating drafts for engineers, scientists, technicians and drafters. Of equal importance is the coherency of the drafts that it can produce.
With applications like Solid Works, drafters can create three-dimensional drawings that are more interactive than the older drawing programs. Aside from drawing schematics and blow-up diagrams, engineering drawing software may include flow charts and process diagrams. These types of drawings are done using Microsoft Visio. Some companies have developed entire assembly procedures and parts descriptions for manufacturing using only Visio, and a little bit of programming. Engineering artwork and drafts are often stored and accessed by computer data bases, such as Oracle.
The earliest engineering drawing software is the world-renowned CAD (computer aided drawing) application. CAD was originally a two-dimensional drawing program with very limited drawing tools, consisting of circles and simple line drawing tools. Today, CAD includes extensions like Wire Frame to allow for the creation of three-dimensional drawings. M
There are a number of engineering drawing software applications. Mechanical computer-aided design software (MCAD) is used primarily by mechanical engineers. Solid Works is one of the most popular mechanical drawing software programs. File formatting is saved in Microsoft Structured Storage. This format includes multiple files nested in one another, including previews, images and metadata files. Those who do the drawing are usually drafters or technical illustrators. Engineers spend more time analyzing drawings and crunching numbers.
Graphing/ visualization applications are used to render scientific data into a coherent drawing. Engineers convert data into visual graphs that work with relational databases and reference documents. Graphs and drawings can then be stored in an online analytical processing model (OLAP). OLAP is accessed in multidimensional views by a shared network of scientists, engineers, drafters, and technicians.
Tecplot helps engineers draw out dynamic data maps. Tecplot has been used in creating 3D graphs for invisible structures such as magnetic fields and bio-engineering models. Auto CAD is still the most widely used engineering drawing software. Utilizing C++ code allows engineers and drafters to customize CAD objects, resulting in more accurate and flexible drawings. For Mac and Linux, QCAD is the popular engineering drawing software.
The visual aspect of drawing software is a key component in assembly instructions for engineering/manufacturing companies. None of the products we use today could be manufactured accurately without engineering drawing software. Drawings are fixed point for accuracy and scaled. This means that size and dimension is scaled down (or up) for printing to paper or an electronic medium. A scaled technical drawing is a representation of something with physical dimensions. Without scaling, all drawings would have to match the exact size of the object being represented.
Three-dimensional drawing programs were developed to speed up design processes in engineering. One problem that comes from engineering drawing software is the subject of simulations. Simulation-type drawings are useful for training personnel in hazardous environments, such as manufacturing facilities where dangerous chemicals are handled. Simulation drawings are time-consuming to create, though, and may actually inhibit productivity in the long run. Drawings are more likely used in place of simulations.
A common use for engineering drawing software is in creating documentation for an engineering group. For example, a mechanical engineer puts together three-dimensional components for a new product prototype. An electrical engineer would then draw out a two-dimensional plan for power distribution in the new product.
Technical illustration software or CAD is used to draw the two-dimensional plan. In the case of an electronic file, the engineer or drafter will insert hyperlinks in the three-dimensional plan, which link to a two-dimensional electrical plan for the new product. Modern engineering drawing software, including Visio, has intelligent objects that have been preprogrammed to align on the computer screen and connect lines where it is reasonable to do so. The illustrator or drafter moves objects around more than actually drawing.
One area of technology that is opening the way to the future of engineering drawing is virtual reality. Virtual drawings enable engineers to visit inside space stations of the future, project problems with their designs and improve an existing design without ever leaving the office.
In the real world, Ford Motors has used virtual reality to step inside a drawing of an automobile. Virtual drawings can aid engineers in finding defects before a product has gone to the market. In fact, engineers can utilize virtual drawings to determine the best assembly procedures before the first prototype reaches the assembly line. The use of virtual drawings can save a company money and increase the speed of the design process significantly.
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