7 New CAD Technologies (and When to Use Them)

Written By: Dave Martin
  • 9/21/2020
  • Read Time : 3 min.

When I started studying engineering, CAD was usually understood to stand for computer-aided drafting. Shortly thereafter, as 3D modelers became more popular, the term colloquially came to be computer-aided design. Now, in 2020, I’m convinced we’ve arrived in the age of true computer-aided engineering, or CAE.

We’re seeing the integration of seven technologies that elevate 3D modeling tools. Transforming them from a convenience, to a sort of design assistant that participates in our product development process.

This idea expands the ground-breaking work in additive manufacturing (AM) by Andreas Vlahinos. Engineering is different from design in that engineering applies math and an established body of mechanical theory to the development of new products.

Let’s look at seven emerging 3D modeling tools:

1. Topology Optimization and Generative Design. These tools represent the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to the design process. With topology optimization, you can find a single solution for an engineering problem. Generative design generates numerous potential concepts at the beginning of the design cycle.

2. Additive Manufacturing. Closely related to 3D printing, this technology helps us manufacture parts that are lighter, with more complex geometry and fewer components, than what’s possible with traditional subtractive manufacturing techniques.

3. Real-Time Simulation. We can perform structural, thermal, modal, and fluid flow analyses of our models. The results update on the geometry as we design, providing immediate feedback of how changes will affect the model.

4. Multibody Modeling. Multiple independent solid volumes can be modeled within a single part. This has applications in many advanced design areas, as we’ll see. I wrote about this more here.

5. Behavioral Modeling. Feasibility and optimization studies allow us to build our design intent into models. We can vary any dimension or parameter within a specified range to meet design constraints and minimize or maximize another measure, such as mass.

6. Design Exploration. While modeling, we can establish checkpoints and branches to investigate several design choices.

7. Cloud Computing. Creo Parametric 7.0 leverages the cloud, which helps support generative design solutions that couldn’t be performed on a local software installation.


How to Use Emerging Technologies in Your Design Project

What does it look like when you combine these emerging technologies? Imagine you’re starting a new design project. Your workflow could look like this:

  1. You develop design requirements for the envelope, keep in/keep out volumes, boundary conditions where your product will interface with other components, and load cases.
  2. Based on the requirements, you develop a multibody model to define starting geometry (initial envelope), preserved geometry (volumes that must be maintained), excluded geometry (volumes that must be avoided), and undesignated bodies (geometry that facilitates creation of boundary conditions and load cases).
  3. You develop topology optimization and/or generative design studies to let Creo formulate potential solutions.
    • Topology optimization helps you find the best solution, based on whatever criteria and manufacturing method (CNC machining, injection molding/casting, or additive manufacturing) you specify.
    • Generative design studies are performed in the cloud leveraging the Atlas SaaS technology. The study produces numerous potential design alternatives, many of which your team probably would not have conceived. You apply Pareto methods to pare down the results and select an initial concept.
  4. You set up a real-time simulation so you can see how critical analysis measures change as you refine the design.
  5. You initiate a design exploration session so you can branch off into design alternatives.
  6. You refine the design by using lattice features to reduce the mass for components that will be produced using additive manufacturing. The lattice feature dimensions can be used as design parameters in behavioral modeling feasibility and optimization studies.

In this workflow, your CAD package has performed most of the heavy lifting throughout the design process, from concept through detailed design. Simulation and optimization are performed in parallel with design work, rather than at the end of the process.


Emerging Technologies in Creo 7.0

CAD tools have evolved from simply following our instructions and facilitating geometry creation, to a quasi-independent engineering assistant. The year 2020 is an exciting time to be in product development.

Are you familiar with all these emerging technologies? Would any of them benefit your design process?

Creo 7.0 introduces revolutionary generative design and real time simulation capabilities, improved multibody design, and more. Learn more here.

Creo 7.0. The Future of How You Design.


  • CAD
  • Retail and Consumer Products
  • Connected Devices

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 amazon.com. He can be reached at dmartin@creowindchill.com.

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.