Principles of Good Product Development

Computer Aided Design systems

CAD is an ideal tool for companies that want to improve quality and reduce development cycles and costs. A design built with CAD should be of higher quality than one made by traditional means. The geometric model in the computer is accurate and unambiguous. Many things can be done with it that are not possible or would take far too long to carry out manually. A 3D CAD model of a part can be displayed on a PC or workstation so the designer can see what it really looks like. The model can be rotated, viewed from different angles, and magnified so the designer sees the details on the screen. Any errors can be corrected immediately. Analysis can be carried out while the model is still in the computer - there is no need to wait for a physical prototype before testing starts.

It is cheaper to design with CAD than with traditional means. Although it may cost as much to develop the initial design, everything after that is much cheaper. For example, instead of paying people to build physical prototypes, it may be possible to simulate all the necessary tests on the computer model. If a physical prototype is really necessary it can be produced directly from the CAD model by rapid prototyping - again avoiding all the traditional costs of model-making.

CAD is much faster than manual techniques. As with the cost, there may not be much difference on the initial design, but after that everything goes much faster. Once a model has been built it can be used throughout the development process. People don't have to re-develop it for each task. With traditional design methods there is always the danger that people in downstream functions may re-design the part to fit the way they work. With CAD, there is no need for this - they can work with the as-designed CAD model, saving time and avoiding re-design. Another way in which CAD saves time compared to manual techniques is in the opportunities it offers for re-use. Once a part has been developed and released it is available for use on other products. It may be possible to use it on another product in exactly the same form or perhaps with a slight modification. In either case, much less work is needed than in developing a completely new design, so a lot of time will be saved.

There are still some companies that don't use CAD. There are still many companies where CAD is not used in all the areas where it could be used. In areas of these companies where CAD is not used, all the usual problems of use of manual design continue to occur. There may be quality problems because the design on paper is not an exact representation of the part. When the paper design is handed to another group there may be errors due to misunderstanding what the design is meant to represent. Transcription errors may occur as design details are copied from one task to another. Time may be wasted as people carry out tasks -such as technical calculations and data communication - that would be carried out much faster by computers. Between tasks, time may be wasted as people wait for drawings to come by internal mail.

As well as being a source of quality problems and wasted time, manual techniques are much more costly. People have to be paid to do them. It's cheaper and more accurate to get a computer to carry out a calculation or draw a straight line than to get a person to do it.

Those companies that do use CAD should have a faster product development cycle than those that don't. Their development process should be cheaper and of higher quality. They will find it easier to get closer to customers. For example, the customer can be brought in and shown the design on a workstation and asked if it satisfies requirements. If it doesn't, changes can be made much quicker than they would if it was necessary to wait for a physical prototype to be built before the client could be involved. Once the design is agreed, it can be communicated immediately to the team responsible for the next phase of the development cycle. They can get working right away and as soon as they are finished, the next phase can start. Time will not be lost through the transcription and communication delays so typical of manual development. By getting their products to market faster companies using CAD should increase market share and profit.

Home | Top of page | Front of Principles of Good Product Development section

Page last modified on March 10, 2000
Copyright 2000 by John Stark