The 5 Best Uses for CAD Software in 2019

Written by: Dave Martin

Read Time: 4:30 min.

CAD software has been essential for product development for decades. Engineers use it to digitally create, modify, communicate, and analyze designs—before physical prototyping and manufacturing. Anybody who’s sat through mechanical engineering courses knows all that.

But what might surprise you is how much better CAD can do all these things these days. Here are my picks for the best uses in CAD software in 2019.

1. Augmented Reality (AR)

As I’m writing this, Microsoft has just unveiled the HoloLens 2. This version is lighter, more powerful, and perhaps most importantly, less expensive than its predecessor. Magic Leap is developing even lower cost consumer-ready mixed reality headsets. We can expect trends to continue as hardware prices lower the barrier to entry for product development organizations.

Augmented reality, generated from 3D CAD design models, has uses across the entire product development and deployment process.
In 2019 and beyond, engineering organizations will include CAD augmented reality in the following areas:

  • Design reviews
  • Manufacturing and assembly
  • Sales
  • Product interfaces

Personally, I’m investigating AR for manufacturing floor operations as a means of reducing process time and simplifying workflows. Products like HoloLens facilitate this effort by moving AR from tough tablets to safety-rated headgear.

2. Real-Time Simulation

I’ve had the opportunity to test drive Creo Simulation Live, the version of ANSYS’ real-time simulation software embedded into the Creo Parametric modeling environment, and WOW! It is easy to learn, easy to use, unbelievably fast, and powerful. Changes to the model update the simulation results in real-time, with no need to re-mesh or re-run analyses.

When designers perform their own analysis, they reduce time-to-market and create better products. Creo Simulation Live unifies the design and analysis environment, resulting in a seamless product development flow.

3. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Come to CAD

We see machine learning and artificial intelligence in many facets of our day-to-day world, like internet search, voice and image recognition, smart speakers, self-driving cars, and social media. Machine learning analyzes data sets and uses code to learn from that data. It is already being used in engineering in areas like virtual manufacturing, predictive maintenance, and our focus here: Generative design and topology optimization.

Generative CAD design autonomously iterates concepts for boundary conditions that we specify, factoring in simulation and even manufacturing. For example, the system can now make design recommendations based on your preferred fabrication technique. Since generative design isn’t constrained by human pre-conceived biases, and has immense computing resources behind it, it can generate orders of magnitude more concepts with radical, unexpected shapes and configurations.

Whereas generative design is great for new concepts, topology optimization finds the best geometric configuration for an existing concept. Topology optimization solves for the lowest possible mass that meets structural requirements.

In the future, machine learning will be applied to other areas of design engineering including

  • Fastener location and selection
  • Routing of cable harnesses and piping systems
  • Mechanism design
Since generative design and topology optimization are especially good at creating organic-looking, untraditional aesthetic structures, it lends itself best to the next item on this list:

4. Additive Manufacturing

Product development organizations have already benefitted from additive manufacturing with:
  • Faster prototyping
  • More complex geometry that can’t be built via traditional subtractive manufacturing methods
  • Reduced numbers of components and fasteners, corresponding to lower assembly time
  • Capability to rework worn field parts
In 2019, CAD continues to support improvements like:
  • Wider range of materials, including those specifically designed for 3D printing
  • Ability to connect directly to more printers
  • Interfacing directly with printing vendors

Additive manufacturing aligned with generative CAD design represents a new synthesis of hardware and software for CAD.

5. Working in a Multi-CAD Environment

Ideally, your company operates on a unified CAD platform. However, that often simply isn’t possible. You may have legacy products developed on a displaced CAD package or acquired business units that operate in different software. Your partners and vendors may work in a different CAD system.

Many organizations resort to neutral formats like STEP or IGES, but the translation might be flawed and they aren’t conducive to design changes.
Multi-CAD capabilities, like those in PTC’s Unite technology, allow you to increase the range of potential design partners by allowing you to convert or open native files from another package. So, if changes happen, you can update your files quickly, without worrying about their source.

Are You Excited?

These are just a few of the technologies that are advancing the state of CAD in 2019. Are you currently using or investigating these opportunities in your product development organization?

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Tags: Augmented Reality CAD

About the Author

Dave Martin

Dave Martin is a Creo, Windchill, and PTC Mathcad instructor and consultant. He is the author of the books “Top Down Design in Creo Parametric,” “Design Intent in Creo Parametric,” and “Configuring Creo Parametric,” all available at He can be reached at

Dave currently works as the configuration manager for Elroy Air, which develops autonomous aerial vehicles for middle-mile delivery. Previous employers include Blue Origin, Amazon Prime Air, Amazon Lab126, and PTC. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and is a former armor officer in the United States Army Reserves.