Computer Aided Design, or CAD, is a technology that’s been widely used in the engineering and product design industries for years.

However, as with any technology, there are some people who’ve held out against CAD, preferring the manual drafting process instead. Maybe you’re one of them!

While that may be what works best in certain cases, there are so many advantages to using CAD that it’s worth another look. Here are just a few.

1. CAD can create 3D models.

If you’ve ever tried to create a 3D model manually, you know how difficult and time-consuming a process it is.

A CAD 3D modeling package can take your 2D model and turn it into 3D quickly and easily. And if you’re going to be using 3D printing at any point during the product development process – say, for rapid prototyping – you have to have a CAD 3D model for the printer software to read.

2. CAD is easy to learn and use.

You’d think that a computer program as complex as CAD would be a nightmare to learn, but that’s actually not the case. CAD is fairly easy to learn for engineers and product designers – in other words, for people who are used to thinking spatially and who have a background in design.

One of the best parts of CAD designing is that you have the same simple tools that we all use on our computers every day: cut, paste, copy, and delete. These have virtually no learning curve at all.

3. CAD designs can be replicated almost instantly.

With CAD software, you can create as many copies of a design as you like. This is a huge advantage over manual drafting. If designs need to be shared with multiple departments, for example, or handed over to another product designer, being able to replicate your designs exactly is vitally important.

4. CAD designs can be modified quickly.

Modifying a CAD design for, say, a second generation of a product, can be done quickly and easily. What’s more, all your modifications can be tracked and saved in the file. That means a lower chance of modifications being lost or forgotten.

Lost or unnoticed modifications can create huge costs and time disadvantages for companies, so any method that reduced the chance of this happening is something worth considering.

5. CAD files can be shared worldwide, instantly.

In the global economy, the product development process can be distributed among different companies, some of which may be across the world from each other (unless you use an all-in-one product development partner).

In these situations, it’s a simple necessity that you be able to share your designs and files with your partners in the process.

Manual drawings can be scanned, certainly, but CAD files can be shared, viewed, and modified all within a single program. Scanned versions, on the other hand, may need multiple programs for recipients to be able to open, view, and comment upon them.

6. CAD files integrate seamlessly with Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) and Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) packages.

If you’ll be working with CAM or CAE packages at any point throughout the product development process, you’ll cut way down on time if you use CAD right off the bat.

Manual drawings cannot be used for CAM or CAE packages, so if you end up using these at some point, you’ll have to make CAD files anyway.

7. CAD files are more secure than paper drawings.

CAD programs come with permission controls that can be used to restrict access to just the people who need to see the file.

This is not only helpful for security purposes, but also for preventing unauthorized editing from others who aren’t directly engaged with the project. While security measures can be taken with paper drawings, it’s nearly impossible to keep a paper drawing completely secure.

Computer aided design is an incredibly useful tool for engineers, product designers, and others engaged in the product development process. For more on how technology is affecting product design and development, read our post “6 Manufacturing Trends to Watch for in 2017.”