Top CAD Trends for 2021
Written By: Ruth Morss
12/21/2020 Read Time : 3 min.

It takes more courage than usual to make end-of-year predictions, but we corralled our CAD experts and here’s what they see as emerging CAD trends in 2021: simulation, designing with artificial intelligence, and model-based definition (MBD).


In 2021, we predict the industry will realize that simulation capabilities are a necessity, not a luxury. Our customers, for example, view simulation as something they must do. It’s not just for the obvious reasons of cost and efficiency, but because manufacturers see innovation as a way to power positive business results. Innovation is more likely to appear if simulations come earlier, rather than later, in the design process. COVID restrictions, which have kept many engineers out of product labs, have also been an important driver of simulation’s importance in 2021.

At PTC our solution strategy is to ensure that simulation can be part of every design engineer’s CAD environment as he or she evolves the design. That’s the reason PTC partnered with Ansys, the world-leader in simulation and integrated the Ansys solvers directly into our Creo product. The product designer should not have to flip between windows, use another software package, or click and wait.

Designing with Artificial Intelligence

Generative design is buzz-worthy right now, and we expect that only to pick up in 2021. At its heart, generative design is about co-designing with artificial intelligence, building on generative studies, and bringing the technology to the point where it encodes company approaches to design.

The idea behind generative design is that early concept development – or even final designs – is faster, more efficient and more complete. Enter in your design constraints, loads, and materials and the system comes back with optimized solutions the user might never have considered. The result can be better, higher-quality designs with efficient material usage, which has a positive impact on cost of goods sold (COGS).

Ideally that generative design tool uses the cloud, has a world-class engine, and is closely integrated into the CAD software. What that means for the user is that cloud allows them to do multiple studies simultaneously because of the expanded compute power. We’ve just released Creo Generative Design Extension which delivers on this promise.

Model-based Definition (MBD)

This approach will become more pervasive than ever for an important strategic reason. When a company has a digital product model, all facets of the enterprise can use it – not just engineering.
Companies want to focus on 3D for varied reasons. First, companies want to avoid duplicating in 2D what they already have in 3D, and above all they want to avoid the risk that the 2D and 3D may get out of sync. Version control is about more than annoyance – it can have serious consequences.

Second, most modern manufacturing equipment can work directly with 3D. Companies working off 3D can minimize mistakes because manufacturing can work directly off of your 3D model. 3D documentation, when done right, provides really clear indications of quality requirements that are sometimes harder to interpret in 2D. It’s also noteworthy that many other activities like simulation, manufacturing process development, and service instruction development– are all best done in 3D by today’s standards. Why not focus the design process so everyone is working off of exactly the same information the design engineer intended?

Third, we’d underscore this point. A geometrical product specification doesn’t sound glitzy, but it is gold when you’re looking for higher quality, greater collaboration between professionals of all types in the enterprise, and greater efficiency. Remember, you make a change in the model, and it ripples to all parts of the company! That’s the idea of the digital thread.

Increasingly we’ll see model-based definition as a cornerstone of digital transformation. At PTC, we even have a name for it, “getting your digital house in order.” We work with customers who may have engaged with us because they know we lead in IoT and AR, but when we get into a discussion, they realize the first step in realizing value from these technologies is making sure they have rich full-fidelity 3D data from engineering. MBD is absolutely part of that and it’s why, in the COVID era, our CAD business has done so well.

Tags: CAD Creo Generative Design
About the Author Ruth Morss

Ruth Morss is a B2B content creator and freelance writer with a background in Art History. When not pining for Italy, Ruth writes about product development, CAD software, engineering and PTC Mathcad. In her free time, Ruth enjoys rowing crew, baking, and learning why and how engineers do what they do. A self-confessed jewelry fanatic, she believes in accessorizing.