Is CAD Moving Toward Specialization or Generalization?


A lot of CAD users get really passionate about our work because CAD itself enables us to bring our imaginations to life. See it in your head, make it in CAD, then everybody can see it on the screen. I know this is how it was for me. First in 2D CAD then wireframe, then solids.

I know in my career I was very happy for a long time to just “do CAD”. I wanted to model or design stuff, anything, everything. I really didn’t want to get distracted by other pieces of what is inevitably a Product Development cycle. If this is your day job, and you want to make money from it, it can’t just be for entertainment, it has to be connected to the exchange of money at some point.

I was a little bit shocked when I finally figured out that CAD was not the center of the universe. I think I really believed for some time that all you had to do to sell a product was to design it in CAD, and the rest of the process just happened somehow.

Every business that produces a physical product for sale has to go through the big chunks:

Market analysis

Product development





and then a lot of smaller chunks as well, like accounting, procurement, packaging, testing, regulation, infra structure, IT, HR, patent law, consumer law, and on and on.

But CAD is still the center of the universe, right?

Even if we just take Product Development, this still breaks down into many sub-disciplines

Process development (product development process and documentation process)


Conceptual development

Industrial Design


CAD/detailed mechanical design



The software has been reflecting this for many years. Companies that used to specialize in one of these areas are now making software for most of them. This happens through new software development, but also acquisition of smaller companies doing something new.

So how about you as a product development professional? Are you also expanding your range? Moving from CAD to up- or down-stream applications? Does your company allow or even encourage people to be specialized CAD users? Do the requirements of the way your CAD models are created require specialized methods or skills that are beyond what you can expect from a general CAD user?

The CAD market is both diversifying and deepening such that one person would have a hard time knowing every function and nuance even within a single CAD tool. But on the other hand, we have single CAD tools that are made to answer for a wide range of industries, and one person would probably never be required to know it all in a single job.

So what do you think? Are CAD users in general being required to diversify so that they can serve across a wider spectrum of product development tasks, or are they being required to specialize more deeply within a single area or discipline?

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