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National CAD Day

National CAD Day, or National Computer-aided Design Day, celebrates CAD—or computer-aided design—each year on August 2nd. CAD is "the use of computer software to help create, change, analyse or optimize designs." It is utilized in fields like architecture, construction, and product design. Some types are parametric modeling, 3D wire-frame modeling, and direct/explicit modeling. While designs may be made by hand (manual drafting), CAD helps make sure they are more precise, neater, and of a better general quality. Designs made by CAD can be more easily modified than manual ones, and they can be stored on the cloud, making them accessible for those on job sites. Overall, CAD helps to increase productivity. Its main drawbacks are that it may take longer than drawing on paper, the software needs to be purchased, and people need to be trained on how to use it.

Patrick J. Hanratty is considered the father of CAD/CAM. While working for General Electric in 1957, he came up with PRONTO (Program for Numerical Tooling Operations), the first commercial CNC programming system. (CAD/CAM are used to write the programs for CNC.) Then, in 1961, he had a hand in creating DAC, an early CAD system. A few years later, Ivan Sutherland created Sketchpad, which was transformative in 3D computer modeling and visual simulation. Numerous companies created CAD programs in the 1960s, such as Applicon and Computervision.

Hanratty developed ADAM in 1971, "the first commercially available integrated, interactive graphics design, drafting, and manufacturing system." Most CAD programs owe a debt to ADAM. It eventually was updated, with more machining and surfacing capabilities, and was renamed AD-2000. In the 1980s, larger consumer industries started using CAD programs like CATIA on their UNIX systems. The first noteworthy CAD program for IBM, AutoCAD, a 2D CAD program, came out in 1983. The first big 3D CAD program, Solidworks, was released in 1995. 3D CAD replaced 2D CAD and programs like SolidEdge and Inventor were born. CAD programs today are often tailored to niche markets instead of having broad use. On National CAD Day, we celebrate CAD for all it has done to increase convenience for designers and everyone who uses what they make.

How to Observe National CAD Day

The creator of the day encourages everyone to use CAD and says: "I encourage you to make something tailored to National CAD Day, maybe something 3D printable for others to print or CNC!" They also encourage participants to wear attire promoting their favorite CAD company. They wrote that a high point for CAD software development was the release of the first big 3D CGI film, Tron, so perhaps you could watch it.

A sampling of some CAD programs you could check out or use today include:

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