Why You Should Update Your 3D CAD Software

Written by: Cat McClintock

Read Time: 2 min

While engineers have flocked to 3D CAD for more than a decade to gain efficiencies and boost overall designs, many settle in on a version of their software, and stay there—for years.

But like an older generation that clung to 2D drawings, these CAD holdouts may be missing out on important opportunities. Thanks to a slew of highly accessible, more advanced features, it’s time to reevaluate your 3D CAD system. From augmented reality (AR) functionality that provides another dimension to the digital experience to sophisticated generative functions that automate the design of complex shapes, the latest CAD platforms are packed with enough promise to entice even the most vociferous holdouts. If you haven't upgraded, here's what you're missing out on:

Augmented Reality

Most current CAD versions incorporate cutting-edge capabilities that go beyond CAD’s traditional promise of accelerating design workflows and increasing accuracy. Take augmented reality (AR), which blends the physical and digital worlds together so engineers can experience their evolving product designs in a real-world environment, at true scale.

With functionality like Creo AR Design Share, engineers can gain a sorely needed real-world perspective that aids in effective decision making while providing a realistic forum for design reviews with engineering partners and customers.

Augmented reality overlays multiple windscreen models over scene with snowmobile.
 Image: Augmented reality allows an engineer to evaluate multiple windshield design options for a snowmobile.

Instant Design Feedback

Recent breakthroughs have brought near-instant design feedback into the modeling environment. With tools like Creo Simulation Live, design engineers view thermal, structural, and modal analyses of their designs—much the way they view shaded or wireframe views.

This reduces the back and forth cycles between designer and analyst. Now, engineers can use simulation geared just for them to guide design decisions throughout the development process. When the optimized design reaches the analyst, few surprises arise.

Design of a case for a guitar effects pedal showing simulation study.
Image: Creo displays thermal, modal, and structural analysis in real time as a designer works on a part.

Freeform Modeling and Topology Optimization

The rigid design constraints that have characterized traditional parametric CAD programs are rapidly disintegrating. In lieu of squared up parts with holes and fillets and conformance to history-based modeling, CAD programs now deliver freeform modeling capabilities that give engineers greater design freedom to create new geometries with simple push and pull interaction.

More recently, 3D CAD tools like Creo incorporate new topology optimization functionality, in which the software automatically finds and optimizes the best design option based on a defined set of objectives and constraints. In the near future, generative design will further push the boundaries as engineers specify preferred materials and manufacturing processes. The AI-driven technology then arrives at a selection of smarter, faster, and innovative solutions for the designer to work with.

Design for Additive Manufacturing

Generative design and topology optimization capabilities complement design for additive manufacturing practices. Plus, some CAD systems are introducing the ability to create lightweight lattice structures along with features for designing, optimizing, and checking print capabilities. Engineers can even modify 3D support structures directly in the CAD platform, making it easier to create designs that are optimized for 3D printing right from the onset.

In addition, tools like Creo Additive Manufacturing Plus Extension for Materialise extend these capabilities to metal parts, making it easier for engineers to incorporate 3D printing into workflows for both prototyping and production without having to learn or integrate additional software.

Wrench with handle created with generative design technology.
Image: Generative design suggests options for lightweight metal tool that can be fabricated using additive manufacturing.

Support for the Internet of Things

Modules like Creo Product Insight integrate with industrial IoT platforms like PTC ThingWorx to take the guessing game out of product design. Through IoT data streams, for example, engineers can glean insights on performance or product usage behavior in the field, which can then be used to proactively guide product designs, improving quality and allowing for data-driven innovation.

Access to IoT data can also optimize sensor placement on future smart, connected products to aid in subsequent data capture that will support downstream processes.

Model-Based Engineering

As increasingly complex products comprise a mix of mechanical, electrical, and software components, it becomes difficult, yet more critical to fully understand the system’s behavior. With CAD tools that incorporate MBE environments, engineers can model and simulate an entire system operating in its native setting in a digital space. This approach provides a much richer understanding of behavior to facilitate more effective designs while eliminating reliance on costly physical prototypes.

A Paradigm Shift in Digital Design

Today’s 3D CAD releases deliver more than a laundry list of nice-to-have, but totally unnecessary feature enhancements. Most usher in a paradigm shift to digital design processes that can be game changers for engineering productivity and product development innovation. What’s holding you back from adopting the latest version of your CAD software? If you already subscribe to Creo or pay for maintenance, it’s free! Visit the PTC eSupport Portal for your free download.

Download the eBook: An Engineer's Guide to CAD and the Renaissance of Design

Tags: CAD Retail and Consumer Products Connected Devices

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.