Top CAD Trends in 2020

Written By: Cat McClintock
  • 1/23/2020
  • Read Time : 2 min.
2020 CAD Trends

In 2020, a clear theme for CAD is easy to see: efficiency.

Companies of all sizes are using advances in CAD technology to do more with less, whether that means getting by with smaller teams due to labor shortages or creating more cost-effective designs by using emerging technologies to move faster. How will they achieve this? With generative design, cloud-based CAD, and more digital transformation.

Enterprises Will Adopt Generative Design

What happens when advances in artificial intelligence, analytics, and multi-physics simulation all come together? You get generative design. The right software can now give designers and engineers hundreds or even thousands of options early in the design process based on functional requirements like material, strength, weight, physical size, and more. The design team can also adjust filters for functional and non-functional factors, such as cost and supply, to come up with design options that they might not otherwise have thought of.

The result is nothing short of a revolution in CAD capability, and enterprises are noticing. GE, for example, designed a bracket that was 75% lighter than the original design while still maintaining material yield stress requirements. When you consider the number of parts that an enterprise the size of GE has the opportunity to optimize with generative design, it’s hard to wrap your head around the possible savings. But somewhere out there, a cadre of MBAs are surely trying.

Cost savings aren’t the only factor that will drive enterprise adoption of generative design in 2020. A shortage of early-career engineers means that companies are being forced to get creative in finding ways to fill their staffing gaps. Generative design will help even the most novice team member optimize design solutions quickly and efficiently.

Generative design is capable of far more than most enterprises have used it for thus far. 2020 is poised to be its breakout year.

More SMBs Will Adopt CAD on the Cloud

Small- to -medium-sized businesses (SMBs) will increasingly see that cloud-based CAD puts the same powerful software used by big companies within their budget. And unlike traditional CAD software, it won't require the overhead of a large IT department or pricey hardware.

What about security? Jon Hirschtick, VP, President of SaaS at PTC, predicts a change in perspectives in 2020. How safe is on-premise software when laptops can be stolen, USB drives misplaced, unencrypted information intercepted over the internet? "Skeptics have long been asking if the cloud will ever be secure enough to protect their data," he says. "This year, that question will be flipped: 'How in the world can you ever have your IP securely stored on your desktop?'”

CAD on the cloud will also help companies of all sizes navigate an increasingly turbulent geopolitical climate in 2020. Changing supply chains, regulations, and tariffs will drive more and more companies toward cloud software. "Companies of all sizes will seek out product development tools that enable the instant redeployment of their software tools and data – and that can pull back their valuable IP from their old suppliers," says Hirschtick.

Companies of All Sizes Will Do More Digitally

Digital transformation has been a hot topic in engineering for the last couple of years, and that trend will continue in 2020. Design teams will leverage advanced features in CAD technology to get real-time feedback on designs, optimize designs for additive manufacturing, and communicate better via model-based definition.

Real-Time Design Guidance

Design engineers no longer need to wait for the analysis team, let alone the full prototyping process, to start evaluating the efficacy of their designs. In 2020, companies will use features fully integrated into the modeling environments of their CAD systems, like Creo Simulation Live, to iterate through design options more quickly. This will have implications for more efficient material use, speed to market, prototyping, and beyond.

Advances in Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing (AM) continues to draw in product designers as they explore its flexibility and new material choices. CAD plays a key role by offering more sophisticated design options that, in many cases, are best produced via additive manufacturing. Think lattice structures or the more organic generative design shapes.

Historically, AM has been limited by its glacial speed, making it only appropriate for prototypes or small batch manufacturing. New CAD innovations are helping to change that with tools that optimize the build tray—so that the printer can produce more parts in a smaller space. In upcoming years, this will help lead to more additive parts finding their way into mass production.


Model-based definition has been on the upswing over the past few years. That’s because it can reduce the design to manufacturing to inspection process by as much as 72%. Switching to model-based from drawing-based makes your workflows faster and easier.

In some cases, drawings are no longer practical. Think additive manufacturing. As Jennifer Herron of Action Engineering notes “AM is the only method that requires a 3D model to produce it.”

As teams become more and more integrated throughout the design and manufacturing process, they are finding that MBD provides a competitive edge as well as the most effective way to keep everyone on the same page.

What Will Advances in CAD Bring to Your Company in 2020?

No matter the size of your company, CAD will continue to reshape design engineering in the coming year and beyond. Are you prepared for seamless multi-CAD? Integrated CAD, CAE, CAM? Augmented reality? Learn more about the new era of CAD in the free e-book: An Engineer’s Guide to CAD and the Renaissance of Product Design.

Download the Engineer's Guide to CAD and the Renaissance of Product Design

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About the Author

Cat McClintock

Cat McClintock edits the Creo and Mathcad blogs for PTC.  She has been a writer and editor for 15+ years,  working for CAD, PDM, ERP, and CRM software companies. Prior to that, she edited science journals for an academic publisher and aligned optical assemblies for a medical device manufacturer. She holds degrees in Technical Journalism, Classics, and Electro-Optics. She loves talking to PTC customers and learning about the interesting work they're doing and the innovative ways they use the software.