Computer Aided Design

CAD Designer Job Description

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I remember my first electrical design that I was tasked with developing while I was working as an electrical design engineer within our instrumentation group. This simple circuit was a backup switch in the event that the primary mechanism failed and would ensure that the driver would still be able to modulate the temperature within the vehicle. I sat down and drew out the design using a sketch pad and simple notes on a piece of paper (this was before we each had laptop computers to use at our desks) and then once my design was complete I did a quick test of the functionality with a bread-board (long ago tool used to verify an electrical design before we could run simulations on a computer) then sat down in the CAD design room with my CAD designer and he looked at how we could incorporate the design into the circuit board of the instrumentation cluster.

Historical perspective on CAD design

It wasn’t just 30 years ago that CAD designers had specialty computers that utilized large monitors that generated so much heat that the designers would actually heat their lunches on the excessively large machines while they worked laying out intricate designs following design rules that were not automated and they had to remember from their training. These now archaic tools actually came from an even more outdated past where the earliest designers utilized large drafting tables with rulers, protractors and special pencils to create a multitude of designs and drafters worked directly with the design engineers to draw the prints from their descriptions. When I was working as an engineering student I had a rotational assignment with the drafting department of plant engineering. This department did all the layouts for the machinery and equipment that was used throughout the plant. The department was quite old and still used the drafting tables to draw out the plans even though the computers were available. The reason they used the drafting tables was because the entire department was on the verge of retirement and the elder gentlemen that composed the group were reluctant to learn the new technology they needed to utilize the computers! (Plus, each one would crawl behind the drafting table and take a nap during lunch.) Needless to say, I was happy when this rotation was complete and I could move to a new department that utilized the CAD design computers and more current technology for the times.

CAD design job description

Today’s CAD designer is responsible for developing the drawings and designs for all level of components and final assemblies within the automobile. They work directly with the design engineer at all levels of the design and then incorporate them into the electronic drawings that will be used to build and assemble the part. Today’s CAD systems have evolved and are now programmed to follow all the preprogrammed design rules that a component must meet so that when a designer is drawing a part they will not be allowed to design something that goes against the manufacturing rules that are preprogrammed into the part. For example, when you are designing an electronic trace on a circuit board there is a minimum width that the trace can be. This width is determined by the manufacturing capabilities of the printed circuit board fabrication house and if this rule is not followed then the cost to manufacture the circuit board would increase dramatically. These same design guidelines hold true for all levels of assembly and will be specific to the materials and end assembly for that particular design.

Becoming a CAD design engineer

Today’s CAD design engineer have become increasingly more technical and their schooling and education requirements vary on the specific part of the industry where you decide to work. It is still possible, though to enter the CAD design job market after completing a technical degree in CAD design. Technical schools are available that will provide training and experience using CAD design tools and programs as well as learning key design rules that you will need to understand the job. For more intricate technical designs such as semiconductors, it is very helpful to have an understanding of manufacturing limitations that you will be working with when you work in this arena.

Working as a CAD designer gives you the opportunity to work hand in hand with engineers developing the next generation of products that will be launched within the industry. By utilizing the engineer’s ideas and your design expertise you will develop the blueprints for new technology that will be assembled into the next generation of automobiles.

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