Computer Aided Design (CAD) tools are now more accessible than ever and are being employed in almost any industry where “design” activities take place. Many varieties of CAD software are now available to almost any hobbyist with an internet connection.
Although it may not be immediately obvious which industries employ these kinds of design technologies, it there are a few impressive consumer product industries in which CAD is employed which can serve as a fantastic object lesson and spur thinking beyond what are conventionally thought to be “CAD industries” or not.
Footwear Design and Fabrication
This industry may not be exactly obvious to those readers who are unfamiliar with exactly how various textiles such as footwear are actually manufactured. Shoes of all shapes and sizes and styles actually start out as a flat pattern cut diagram. Digital 2D CAD footwear fabric patterns have actually been employed in the manufacture of shoes from as early as the 1970s, but advances in CAD technology have enabled far more to be accomplished since then. Today, the entirety of the footwear fabric cutting and forming process is digitized, and the full 3D final product can be viewed all angles, simply from the creation of the 2D fabric cut drawing. The shoe mold, required for manufacturing, can then be designed from the CAD data of the shoe, ensuring optimal fit.
For this reason, CAD software such as Autodesk is commonly employed by many footwear manufacturers because it is possesses many great tools for mapping flat pattern cut designs and sequential fabric cut diagrams. The footwear industry is even taking it a step beyond CAD by extending the interface directly to Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) platforms. Probably the most notable of these sorts of projects is the Under Armour “Architech” shoe designed exclusively for 3D printing by Autodesk CAD/CAM software. The intricate lattice cushioning structure comprising the heel of the shoe can actually only be manufactured using 3D printing technologies, and as such represents one of the first shoes created entirely from the CAD/CAM technology frame of reference.
Truly, the footwear industry from top to bottom (pun intended) is becoming a CAD product!
NIKE Footwear from Autodesk Gallery Exhibit
NIKE Footwear from Autodesk Gallery Exhibit
It’s actually not surprising that jewelers and other precious metal experts would employ a CAD tool to plan and map out the look and feel of the design before cutting, forming, and assembling the piece. CAD tools are the ideal tool to plan these literally high value operations before actually undertaking them. CAD tools commonly used by jewelers and metal workers include RhinoGold and 3Design software because they provide amazing tools to create photorealistic rendered images via advanced visualization and 3D rendering capability. These types of CAD softwares typically possess an integrated interface with various kinds of 3D metal printing software, thus bridging the gap between CAD and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM). The 3D printing technologies of binder jetting and wax casting processes are commonly used in with alongside CAD modelling in this industry to 3D print metal jewelry.
CAD software that is typically employed in jewelry design also possesses some amazing visualization and 3D rendering abilities. In much the same way that CAD has enabled complex engineering designs and components to be created digitally before any actual piece is put together, CAD software employed in jewelry design efforts function in the same manner. Stunning designs and arrangements are able to be created with stunning levels of realism before a single cutting or forming operation is undertaken on a piece of precious metal. CAD software makes it much easier to design a complex arrangement of precious stones into a metal channel in order to test the feasibility of a particular design.
Admittedly, most jewelry designs are customized, low volume product-meaning a particular design may only be used for one or two units of sales. However, since these are high value products, there is still a huge financial incentive to get these designs correct before prototyping to ensure that all of the components are assembled together perfectly the first time.
CAD/CAM Jewelry Design from The Gemological Institute of America
Other CAD Uses of Interest
In today’s digitized world, almost everything employs some sort of CAD. Children’s toy designers oftentimes employ use Rhino3d and/or Zbrush CAD software to create smooth organic surfaces for injection molding of action figure components, while anyone can go online and use IKEA’s 3D CAD kitchen planning tool which enables prospective customers to design a new furnished kitchen with actual IKEA products, within the space confines of actual home layout.
The CAD revolution is reinventing every aspect of consumer product creation and the customer is reaping the rewards. It’s exciting to think about what design challenges will be conquered next.
Cover photo from CAD Jewelry Skills