I’ve listened to many interviews and read lots of books that say if you’re in the tech space learn how to code. Even if producing code has absolutely nothing to do with your role we’re told it’s beneficial to have some understanding of code, even if to just give you a basic grasp of how software works.
If you work in the hardware space the same should be said about CAD. Especially when Yves Behar just sold 75% of his design business FuseProject for $46.7M.
The way physical things are designed has changed a lot in the last few decades. In the old days people had an idea and either sketched it out on the back of a napkin or went straight to the shed and started sawing and nailing until they created that idea they had buzzing around in their head… or at least a close approximation to it. Over the years things progressed with the invention of the drawing board and “drafting tables” but ultimately things were still drawn by hand and produced using jigs or tooling which were made or machined by a real person. With the introduction of the computer some smart engineers figured they could control machines with computers allowing them to take out all the manual work and reduce the chance of errors…. They called this CNC, Computer Numerical Control. By replacing manual controls with electrical motors you could make a computer guide a cutting tool on a milling machine to create parts with amazing accuracy and repeatability. The language that control these machines is called G-Code and is a very basic form of software. Hard core machinest know this code well enough to punch G-Code manually into machines to create basic shapes but when you have a very complex organic form you’re out of luck. Then along comes CAD or Computer Aided Design. CAD allowed us to create a virtual 2D or 3D model of the object we want to create. Feed the CAD model into a CAM program (Computer Aided Machining) and the software will output the millions of lines of G-Code to cut your part or tooling to make the part. 3D Printers operation the same way by they add material instead of taking it away.
Every mass produced product in the world today is designed in CAD so if you want to start making things… start learning CAD.
Learning how to Code or how to use CAD can sound intimidating but with the rise or low cost CNC machines and 3D printing, the accessibility of CAD has improved dramatically. CAD program’s which used to cost hundreds or thousands of dollars and took months of training to learn how to use are now much more user friendly and way more affordable. Forward thinking companies like Autodesk have even release free software packages to get people into CAD at an early age.
Here’s some free programs that are a great starting point if you want to learn CAD.
TinkerCAD – Web based and very basic but great to for beginners.
Sketch Up – More architectural focused but fast and easy to use.
123 D – A very cut down version of Autodesk’s flagship CAD packaged Inventor but good intro to parametric modelling
Blender – A open source poly modelling package which is great for more organic free form character style modelling.
And here’s a big list from Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_3D_modeling_software