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CAD Engineering for
Small Manufacturers:
Why it is Commercially Essential

CAD Engineering Business Benefits


CAD Engineering Business Benefits

Why the Need for CAD Engineering Essentials?

Now more than ever, Small Manufacturers are under commercial pressure to bring new quality products to market quickly. Also for many businesses, production needs to be high quality, efficient and fast.  Whether you are in the business of developing products for launch, or alternatively a manufacturer whose production could really benefit from computer aided manufacturing (CAM), or better jig and fixture design, 3D CAD has got something for you. In the experience of many small manufacturers who have taken the 3D CAD plunge, they find it yields benefits in so many unexpected areas throughout the business.

CAD Engineering Business Benefits....

What small manufacturers need then, is a straightforward explanation of 3D CAD Engineering, it’s benefits across the business, together with how best to justify the investment to senior managers. Following this, clear implementation and integration information is provided, for maximum benefit. 

Ideas need to be relevant to small engineering businesses and easy to understand, such that they can be applied quickly and conveniently in the workplace. What’s more, everybody knows how tough it is out there financially. So options need to be low cost.

Note: CAD Engineering, as described here, includes 3D Computer Aided Design and derived technologies like simulation analysis (for example FEA and CFD), 3D Printing and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM). Here, 3D CAD refers to three-dimensional models, whereas 2D CAD is essentially technical drawings.


CAD Engineering Business Benefits

CAD Engineering – The Basics for Small Manufacturers

Put simply, if you are serious about competing and remaining competitive, then 3D CAD should be a key part of your technology tool box. For small manufacturers who develop products, it is as straightforward as that. Likewise for supply chain manufacturers who principally are production based, but want to increase their flexibility and ability to handle customers’ CAD data, the ability to understand CAD files and organise their production set-up accordingly is paramount.

Commercial pressures to get quality products to market quickly, have driven the adoption of 3D CAD and its derivative technologies like 3D printing, FEA (finite element analysis), CFD (computational fluid dynamics) and CAM (computer aided manufacturing). Alongside this, computing power has increased considerably, whilst tumbling in price. These trends continue. 

The real value of 3D CAD is the ability to design something once and use the CAD data later in other areas of the development process, and indeed the product life cycle, beyond. The benefits are covered comprehensively in the next section, but they can be summarised here. In short they are reduced development lead-times, fewer errors, significantly better quality and finally, big resultant cost reductions.


CAD Engineering Business Benefits

However the picture for small manufacturers is patchy…

  • Some are fully signed up and are utilizing 3D data not only during the design stage, but also making use of this information throughout the business and beyond.

  • Many are using 3D CAD during design development, yet only partially exploiting the software’s full functionality.

  • Others are still using 2D CAD software to produce technical drawings, but not yet using 3D data.

  • Indeed, some in niche areas are still using hand drawn detailed drawings.

  • Additionally, some are using a combination of these, depending on the skills and facilities within the business.


In response to this, practical assistance is provided later on in this section for small manufacturers striving to raise their game. It’s targeted at those whose aim is adopting greater use of 3D CAD and so reaping the significant benefits the technology has to offer.

3D CAD Engineering adds real value throughout the development and manufacturing process. Examples include photorealistic rendering for illustrating concepts in areas like market research and sales, as well as 3D modelling, analysis and simulation during detail design. It also enables collaborative development projects with geographically dispersed design teams.

Other production-related 3D CAD value-added activities include computer aided manufacturing (CAM), simulations to check tool paths before cutting metal, as well as the provision of data for tooling suppliers. Additionally, it enables you to supply assembly information during production, digital data for inspection, as well as outsourcing CAD data to your supply chain.

3D CAD also facilitates rapid prototyping, or 3D Printing (for tactile feedback) and can supply clear instructions for quick maintenance, service, installation and recycling. Importantly, 3D CAD is pictorial and easy to understand in a way technical drawings simply are not. This is crucial to help gain buy-in from senior managers and non-technical specialists, like finance.  

Larger customers (prime manufacturers and their tier 1 suppliers) are driving the adoption of 3D CAD further down the supply chain. CAD and other data standards are sometimes mandated as conditions of any contract. Using the same CAD data between businesses has a number of advantages. These include the elimination of duplication, better design integrity, less potential to introduce errors, higher quality and improved communication. All of these benefits contribute to shorter development and production cycles.

For the individual engineer, make no mistake, these are highly sought after skills employers look for in CVs. If you can demonstrate you’ve used CAD whilst developing engineering products, you’re onto a winner. The names of the major CAD software vendors feature as key words companies and technical recruitment agencies look for and sift applications by. When combined with engineering experience, being proficient in one or two CAD software packages could transform your employability.

2D and 3D CAD Benefits for Manufacturers: Product and Plant Layout

(Courtesy of Autodesk) 

Next... Business Benefits: Commercial Advantages and Productivity increases

Back to CAD Engineering Essentials 

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