What's Next in CAD? Our Top 5 CAD Trends in 2023


Read Time: 5 min

As the CAD market continues to be driven by the needs of manufacturers in response to unique macroeconomic trends, enterprise and small companies are being affected in different ways.

High global inflation and a weakening Euro are two trends generating uncertainty around the economic outlook for 2023. While this wave of uncertainty is bound to impact the entire market, enterprise and medium-sized companies are better equipped with the resources to accommodate risk. These companies know that they need to continue investing through the downturn if they want to take advantage of the inevitable rebound. Conversely, smaller companies may spend less this year as they weather the storm.

Keeping these macro-trends in mind, we see five primary trends emerging in product development in 2023. Keep reading to learn about each.

Trend 1: Adopting Simulation Driven Design

In 2023, we anticipate continued momentum for Simulation Driven Design (SDD). Instead of primarily applying simulation technology at the end of the design process, we expect to see continued expansion throughout the design process by designers and engineers. This enables organizations to create higher-quality designs and better control costs through more well-informed decisions made earlier in the design process.

Additionally, it enables greater innovation by allowing companies to explore many more potential designs using digital testing. It is this tempting combination of higher quality, more innovative, more cost-effective designs, coupled with newer user-friendly technologies such as real-time simulation, that is accelerating the adoption of SDD.

Structural stress analysis of a wheel, suspension, and connecting rods.

Real-time design guidance using Creo Simulation Live—Structural stress analysis of a wheel, suspension, and connecting rods. 

In the past, disconnected tools and broken processes have blunted SDD adoption efforts. Integrating simulation tech into the CAD tools that designers and engineers are already using is helping eliminate the largest barrier for adoption while creating a single source of truth across the value chain—creating consistency by preventing errors and ensuring efficiency by reducing process cycle times.

As a result, companies are able to quickly validate and progress designs, improve quality, enhance speed to market, and design with higher confidence. Customers are also exploring a wider array of design concepts with simulation technology instead of with costly prototypes, creating a higher likelihood of delivering more optimal products.

Trend 2: Enabling Innovation with Emerging Technologies

Newer technologies like generative design and additive manufacturing (AM) are driving innovation in product development. These technologies significantly impact how a particular set of design objectives can be achieved. In short, the definition of what’s possible is greater. Many large companies are experimenting and integrating these new technologies, but the smaller, more nimble ones are leading the way.

Generative design algorithms are unencumbered by human biases. Users define design parameters, and the engine determines an array of optimal solutions—often many that no human would. Generative design can achieve in hours or days what would take designers weeks or months to do by themselves, assuming they even had the time and budget to explore that many options.

By integrating this technology within the CAD tool, engineers can incorporate generatively developed designs into their existing designs. It creates an agile process that takes full advantage of the benefits of parametric CAD. This is what makes generative design a driver for significant innovation, instead of a semi-useful point solution that is disconnected from the rest of the process.

Additive manufacturing enables companies to develop unique designs unobtainable using other fabrication technologies. Over the past decade, this potential has led many companies to experiment with AM and integrating tools for designing for additive manufacturing directly into their design process.

An avionics heat exchanger produced using metal additive printing and self-supporting gyroid lattices.

An avionics heat exchanger produced using metal additive printing and self-supporting gyroid lattices. The innovative design offers higher structural strength, 4 times better performance, and half the volume of the original design.

To be truly innovative, users must work with technologies that are fully incorporated into their existing workflows. Designers want to get the same high accuracy results and sophisticated relationships between all aspects of their design, regardless of the origin of the geometry or the intended fabrication technique. True innovation takes full advantage of the best technology for the design task at hand, across all parts of the design, without sacrificing how those different parts interact with one another functionally.

Trend 3: Driving the Digital Thread Through the Design Process

For years companies have been aware of the value of model-based enterprise (MBE), scaling the use of the CAD model throughout the organization. The goal is to increase efficiency and eliminate errors by driving a digital thread between functions and across the entire organization.

Today, most companies persist in the use of multiple, disconnected tools within the design process. This breaks the digital tool chain, decreasing agility, flexibility, and efficiency, all while introducing multiple opportunities for error. As competition increases and supply challenges persist, companies need to find ways to deliver better products to market faster and at lower costs. They are realizing the benefits of driving a digital thread through the product development process to capture the full value of the 3D CAD model

A primary example of this growing trend is driving manufacturing deliverables from the CAD system, eliminating point solutions for items such as machining toolpaths. By driving these deliverables from the CAD tool, companies are removing a point of friction, maintaining associative links and getting rid of unnecessary data handoffs. This decreases the amount of time it takes to get parts ready to be machined on the factory floor while eliminating opportunities for error.

Trend 4: Taking Advantage of Cloud Computing and SaaS  

Coming into 2023, it is estimated that 50 percent of all enterprise application spend will be on SaaS applications. As organizations continue to invest in SaaS and the cloud, their expectation is that software vendors will also invest in SaaS and cloud functionality. Design software is no exception, and the first place to expect changes will be in licensing and deployment.

Another area where we expect to see significant improvements is in collaboration. By enabling design software with the power of the cloud, multiple users will be able to operate on the same design at the same time in a shared environment. This will also make it much easier to both extend the collaboration team to include people outside of the company (vendors, partners, etc.) and control IP.

Cloud computing will also be used to dramatically scale the power of technologies such as generative design. We are already starting to see companies using generative technology in the design space, investigating hundreds of potential solutions in the time it usually takes to investigate one. Lastly, as customers move to SaaS, they will automatically gain access to new capabilities on a regular basis, and never have to worry about planning a version upgrade again.

Trend 5: Investing in Training

The final trend we see coming into 2023 has been around a long time: training. We are seeing a resurgence in training as more companies get focused on driving the digital thread through the value chain. The need to produce high-quality, directly manufacturable 3D models is forcing companies to double down on good modeling practices.

By establishing and leveraging best practices across teams through effective training, design reuse and collaboration also become more efficient. Designers want to reuse existing designs to save time and energy. But if the modeling practices used to create those designs are flawed or incomprehensible to the next designer, then there is significantly less value in their reuse.

The other challenge driving more companies to invest in training is the growing shortage of engineering talent. We’ve seen predictions that by 2030, the world will be short millions of engineers. Companies, regardless of size, are already feeling the shortage and have recognized that they need to make their designers as effective as possible. The competition for engineering talent is also creating an employee retention challenge for companies. Designers looking to improve their marketability will change jobs to gain access to training and certifications. Conversely, some companies are mandating that certifications be completed to ensure credibility and demonstrate their reliability to customers.

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Tags: CAD Creo Aerospace and Defense Automotive Industrial Equipment Oil and Gas Software and Technology Additive Manufacturing Digital Thread Generative Design Simulation

About the Author

Katherine Brown-Siebenaler

Katherine Brown-Siebenaler is the Marketing Content Manager for PTC's CAD team. Based in Austin, TX, Katherine is responsible for editing the Creo and Mathcad blogs. She has six years' experience as a content creator for various corporate marketing teams, primarily in SaaS environments. Katherine holds two degrees from the University of Florida, a BS in Journalism and an MA in Mass Communication. She enjoys learning how PTC customers bring software to life in real-world applications every day, leading innovation in their various industries.