By Jason Vander Griendt

July 15, 2021 at 1:12 pm

There are lots of ways to approach product design. Some people like the old school approach of drawing something on paper, similar to how some people would prefer to read a physical copy of a book for the sounds and textures that accompany the story, rather than read the same book on an e-reader. Others prefer to sketch on their tablet. But nowadays you’ll find that most professionals’ tool of choice is a desktop or laptop computer and CAD software.

There are a lot of reasons to choose CAD Design over manual drafting techniques which we’ll cover below, but just as a quick example, imagine you were assessing a new product design and you had to compare the same product mocked up on paper, versus seeing that product in full three dimensional color, in the environment it is intended to be used in. Which one would you find more compelling? Which would you rather present to investors or use when trying to pre-sell the product? Presentation is paramount, and that’s one of the key benefits of computer-aided design compared to manual drafting techniques.

How Computer Aided Design (CAD) is Different From Manual Drafting

Manual drafting is the process of using pencil, pen or marker on paper or polyester film to create a design. CAD, on the other hand, uses technology to create the same design much more quickly, in a way that can be endlessly iterated upon with ease, as there’s no need to redraw the entire design if you want to make a little change. This is just one of the reasons that the introduction of CAD design in the 1960s created a complete paradigm shift in product development.

Why Should You Pick CAD Design Over Manual Drafting Techniques?

There are a multitude of reasons why CAD design is a better choice for product design than manual drafting techniques, way too many to cover in one article. Here, however, are some of our favorites:

CAD Files Can Easily Be Changed

When you are designing a product, you will likely have to make a lot of changes throughout the process. It’s pretty rare that we find a client who has their design right the very first time. Since the initial design of a product is almost never the one that gets approved for production, changes are inevitable. Even if your design is perfect, you may want to release updated versions of your product in the future with changes or additions. CAD design makes this very easy, as you can quickly make changes to the original without having to start over, and save different versions of the file as it progresses. Manual drafting on the other hand, is not well suited to this, as it takes much longer to manually change designs, and sometimes even requires redrawing the entire design from scratch. And, of course, there is no undo button. So you just can’t make a mistake then undo it in a second like you can on a computer.

Further reading:

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Converting AutoCAD Files to PDF format

CAD Files Can Be Easily Shared, Duplicated and Backed Up

CAD files can be easily shared, even with companies across the other side of the world. In fact, this is a necessity if you want to manufacture your products off shore in any capacity. CAD files can also be duplicated quickly and easily, allowing multiple people to work on iterations of your product design at the same time, or allowing the file to be used in multiple processes at once. Because CAD files are created on the computer, they can also be backed up easily and to multiple places, creating redundancy copies that can be used in the instance of failure, loss or damage. With paper-based drawings you can’t easily or quickly send or share the file, and you are at risk of losing the original document unless you drew copies as a back up, which is not a common practice because it’s time-consuming and a waste of resources.

CAD Files Don’t Require Physical Storage Space

Recently we heard of a business who refused to create and save digital versions of their files. Their office was full of paper-based documents that hadn’t been filed, to the point where they were even walking on some of them!  Unlike manual paper-based drafting, you don’t need a lot of physical space to save CAD drawings. This can really add up to a lot of cost and space savings over a lifetime of designs by a company or individual!

Instead of the time and expense of storing paper copies, you can keep your designs on your computer, a server or even a thumb drive that can be carried in your pocket and can be accessed anywhere, anytime. You can also back up your files in a secure location to protect them in case of fire or theft. If you do find you need hard copies of your file, you can always print them out as you need them, knowing that if you lose or damage the printed copy it’s not a problem.

CAD Design is Much More Eco-Friendly Than Manual Drafting

This may be a small point in your considerations, but every time you avoid the use of paper, you are being eco-friendly. With an increasing amount of consumers looking to work with companies that have a focus on sustainability, it’s in your own interest as well as that of the environment to use computer based drafting techniques as trees won’t have to be cut down to facilitate your designs! Even though it takes power to run your computer, it would have been on anyway, and you can minimize the impact of computer use by adding solar panels to power your business sustainably as well.

CAD Files Can Be Opened in Many Different Programs

3D CAD files are easily convertible. You can convert your model into other 3D formats for use in alternate CAD programs if you need to send it to someone else to edit who isn’t using the same software you are. You can also easily convert your CAD files to PDF for printing or sharing via email.

CAD Design Allows Multiple People to Work on a Project At the Same Time

In fields like architecture, drafters often use a technology called Building Information Modelling (BIM). With this technology, multiple stakeholders are able to plan and design different parts of a structure at the same time. This is only possible when the original plan is available as a 3D CAD file. BIM is used in the early stages of an architectural project to help everyone make informed choices. It makes everything from communication to operation really easy and is extremely helpful in avoiding design clashes. Find out more about our architectural drafting services here.

CAD Design Makes Estimating Production Costs For Your Project Easier

CAD software has some unique abilities in that as well as being used to design and draw your model, it can also be used to make quick and easy budget estimates for a project based on the CAD file you create with excellent precision. This is something that’s just not possible with manual drafting techniques, which require you to not only manually draw the design, but also to manually calculate the amount of materials that will be required in the finished product and how much they will cost.

CAD Drawing is Much More Precise

CAD drawing is also much more precise than manual drafting techniques. When it comes to manually drawing individual objects, it can sometimes be a challenge to get everything aligned and measured properly to meet the required specificity of the product design process. Molds have to be made very precisely for example, to end up with an accurate final product. With manual drafting you also need to validate that everything is correct manually too. With CAD design, there are a lot of techniques and tools to make sure the dimensions are what they need to be automatically, which makes the design more accurate, and saves a lot of time. You can also get designs accurate to less than a millimeter, which is just not possible when drafting manually.

You’ll Need CAD Files For the Rest of Your Project Anyway, So Why Do Twice the Amount of Work?

CAD files are easily transportable to other processes. For example, once you have a finished CAD file you can easily use it for 3D printing to make a prototype, or as part of the manufacturing process to design and fabricate a mold. This is not possible with a manually drawn design, which would need to be converted into a CAD format anyway in order to be used for manufacturing. So essentially by choosing a manual drafting technique you are creating extra cost and effort for yourself as you’ll need to do twice the work.

Making CAD Design Work For Your Project

Unless you are Amish, there are hardly ever any good arguments for using older skills and technology, when newer ones can make your projects quicker, easier and cheaper. So if you speak to a drafting or product design firm and they tell you that you’re better off starting with manual designs, it might be time to looks somewhere else!

You might be surprised just how quickly and affordably (much more so than anyone using manual drafting techniques) we can create CAD designs for your product idea or project. We need a minimum amount of information from you in order to get started, and we’ll have your design back to you in no time at all. Give us a call on 1-888-202-2052 or fill in our quote request form today and let’s talk about how we can help you on your next project.

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You may also be wondering, is CAD Drafting a good career?

Jason Vander Griendt

Jason Vander Griendt is a Mechanical Engineering Technician with years of experience working at major companies such as SNC Lavalin Inc, Hatch Ltd. Siemens and Gerdau Ameristeel. He is the CEO of JCAD – Inc., a company he started in 2006 after seeing a gap in the market for businesses who could assist clients through the entire product design and manufacturing process.

Jason has been featured in Forbes, has had his businesses analyzed and discussed in multiple start-up books, was a previous winner of the Notable8 Digital Innovator of the year award, and is a regular guest on business panels and podcasts. Email Jason at or follow him on LinkedIn.

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