There was a time when the number of CAD software applications could be counted on one hand. Now, with a constantly expanding world of developers, and numerous tools with which they can create enterprise-level apps for multiple platforms, searching for new CAD software has become rather tricky.
Choice is a great thing, but too much of it and you’re likely to end up spending more time trying to decide which CAD program is right for you than doing the stuff that gets invoices paid.
In this post, we’re going to run through the key things you need to bear in mind before investing in CAD software.
Determine your requirements
The first step is to consider your current position. Do you already have CAD software that is outdated or underperforming? Or are you a startup business looking to invest in such a tool for the first time? The answer to this question will determine how you start your search.
If your current CAD application is in dire need of a replacement, ask yourself the following questions:
- Which areas of the software, specifically, are resulting in a sluggish pace of work?
- Is the current system cumbersome and expensive when it comes to running on multiple computers?
- Is the current system too big an overhead in your annual accounts?
- What prompted your decision to reinvest in new CAD software? Were you tempted by seeing another application in use elsewhere?
- Do the developers of your current app offer reliable support?
If you’re new to the business, here’s what you should be asking yourself:
- Do you have a budget specifically for CAD software or are funds tight?
- Do you have one or more people that will need to access the CAD software?
- What computer hardware do you have to hand? (make a note of the specs)
- Are you going to be designing products that have both electronic and mechanical components?
Make a detailed list of all your requirements and keep it by your side as you begin your search.
Narrow your field of search
CAD software comes in many forms. Armed with your list of requirements, you should be able to pinpoint exactly what you need from the list below:
- 2D CAD. These enable you to design in two dimensions by using a variety of shapes and tools to construct elevations, floor plans and sections. Falls within the lower end of the price range and system requirements due to the inability to view a 3D modelling of your work.
- 3D CAD. These applications enable you to create complex three dimensional objects and buildings. Users can zoom in and out, pan and examine every nook and cranny of their work. More expensive than 2D CAD software.
- Multi-CAD environment. If you work in computer aided design, you’ll know that you’ll often have to collaborate with others using different systems. CAD software with multi environment support enables disparate systems and users to be consolidated, creating a far more coherent workspace.
Determine a budget
If you’re a startup and you answered ‘zero’ to the budget question above, you will have to realign your thinking somewhat. Although a quick Google search for ‘free CAD software’ yields some interesting results, professional designers should always invest properly in the best tool they can afford.
Happily, the new software landscape means you won’t have to break the bank to do so. There are now two methods for obtaining CAD software - the first being the traditional per-machine software licence that is paid up front and yours forever (although often comes with an annual support contract) or a monthly subscription-based model. The latter is usually more digestible, but some budgets may favour the one-time fee option.
Don’t forget the hardware
CAD software is still relatively resource-hungry when it comes to computing power. If your current CAD system is failing, it may be due to old hardware. Equally, if you’re just starting out and have a Windows laptop that chugs slowly through basic email and web tasks, you may not have enough grunt to make the most of modern CAD software.
This is why it is vitally important to make a note of the specification of any computers you currently have and check it against the requirements of CAD software vendors. If it doesn’t stack up, you may need to stretch that budget a little further.
It’s important that this decision isn’t rushed too much as the CAD softwareyou choose will be at the centre of the work environment. By asking these questions and keeping your company’s needs and capabilities at the front of your mind, you’ll be certain to make the right decision for the company and its budget.