Invisible Magic: Musings on how CAD drives our modern world

A while back, I experienced every traveler’s nightmare. I was on a flight home that got canceled. I immediately got on my cell phone to call our travel agency to see what my options were. It ended up that they couldn’t help me, so I settled in for a long wait in a huge line of people waiting to be given a new flight assignment. As I shifted from one foot to the other during what turned out to be a two-hour-long wait, I started to reflect on how amazing it is that in all of my years of travel, this has only happened to me twice. While it is certainly a large inconvenience to have a flight canceled, it’s nothing less than a miracle of modern technology that our planes, cars, and even the cell phone I used to call our travel agency work as well as they do, and a lot of the thanks should go to modern CAD, CAM, and CAE.


I have to say that I truly believe CAD/CAM/CAE systems are the hidden heroes of our modern world. CAD is a sort of “Invisible Magic” that enables modern technology and manufacturing. Take any man-made object you can think of, and it’s a sure-fire bet that someone designed that object or a part of that object in a CAD system. From the plane that misbehaved on my flight home to the rental car I used to get to the airport; from the cell phone I used to call our travel hotline, and all the way down to the toothbrush I used that morning. The very existence of many of those products is a direct result of design with a modern CAD system.


Would we have cars, for example, without CAD systems? Sure. But you can bet they wouldn’t be as comfortable, safe, fuel efficient, high in quality, or as attractive as they are today. An average modern automobile has about 30,000 parts, whereas a Ford Model-A had about 5,500 (depending on the model). That’s over a five-fold increase. Tolerances are tighter, regulations are stricter, everything is more powerful and efficient, and still new automobile designs roll off the assembly line all throughout the year, every year. This is a feat that would simply not be possible without modern CAD systems.

And that smartphone I used to call travel? No way would that exist without CAD. The extremely tight tolerances needed to pack those electronics into such a small, portable shell would never happen without the ability to design each and every part to a virtual fit of fragments of a millimeter. As one of our resident NX/ECAD connection experts, I’ve been front and center for the revolution that brought us the modern smartphone, and the fact that our software continues to enable innovation in that technology still amazes a gadget guy like me. If you think about it, true “smartphones” didn’t really exist in any greatly usable fashion until 2007. That’s less than 10 years ago, and today many of us cannot imagine living without them. How’s that for a world-changing impact?toothbrush.jpg

So, it goes without saying that I’ve been lucky at Siemens to be part of such an extraordinary legacy. Working with customers who make the products that shape our modern world is a distinct honor. Not only have I had a part (ok… a very tiny part…) in the design of multitudes of awesome products that have shaped our modern world, but I’ve also had the good fortune to be involved with quite a few cutting edge technologies as the CAD world has advanced. From flexible printed circuits (FCBs) to 3D printing, the CAD world evolves as the world around us does too, and I’m in constant awe of the things our customers do with our software. I can’t imagine what the next generation of designers will do with CAD, CAM and CAE, but I know one thing for sure… You can bet that they’ll change the world again, and again, all thanks to the invisible magic of CAD.

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