Why 2D CAD remains relevant in 2018

Today there are a wide variety of 3D CAD tools on the market; millions of copies have been sold. Engineering industry trade publications report on new 3D tools and procedures all the time, but barely mention 2D products or processes. It would seem as if every design industry has gone completely into 3D. Yet, as they tell Journalism 101 students, find the facts, not the hype. And the facts in CAD are simple.

For every active seat of 3D CAD software in a company, there are between four and ten active seats of 2D CAD in use. I have seen this ratio stay consistent for years, whether it is reported by various analysis firms or observed as I talk to CAD users. The specifics vary by industry; construction uses more 2D CAD than general manufacturing, and general manufacturing uses more 2D CAD than aerospace & defense. But the ratio is always in favor of 2D. Why?

If you already use DraftSight, the answer is obvious to you. Your work is delivered in the language we call Drafting — the common language of design intent and manufacturing specification in all industries. Drafting is a language of precision and standardization, free from ambiguity. Drafting lets you communicate efficiently. Using common standards and processes, you and your 3D-using colleagues can work in a synergistic and productive fashion.

The answer may be personally obvious to the average CAD user, but for the record there are many reasons 2D CAD remains a relevant technology in 2018:

  • One size fits all. 2D CAD is a horizontal product, good for any industry. By comparison, every 3D CAD program is known for the specialty it serves.
  • Speed. An experienced 2D drafter is a fast communicator. There are multiple reasons. 2D is more intuitive. The rules of Drafting remove complexity from the process. A mature 2D market means there are many experienced drafters, and more experience translates into faster drafting.
  • Scale, tolerance, and coordinates: There are no limits to the size of a design in 2D CAD. It is just as good at creating a diagram for microscopic brackets or skyscrapers. By comparison, 3D CAD tools are built for specific size ranges, and working in multiple scales of reference is complicated.
  • DWG: The drafting industry has standardized on a single file format, DWG. Every 2D CAD product on the market today uses a stable and modern version of the DWG file format. And every 3D CAD program can import and export DWG files. DWG is one of three file formats I call post-proprietary; the other two are DOC and PDF. They have been elevated from being the file format of one product to being global standards.

3D modeling is a powerful technology, but it did not and will never kill 2D CAD. Drafting is a rich descriptive visual language, evolved over generations. As a CAD business analyst and commentator, I’m a cheerleader for all design technologies. And I know there is no single CAD tool on the market right for every person, every company, or every industry. Schematics, iso’s, and call-outs are as important in the era of self-driving cars as they were in the age of the Model T.

As the new guest blogger for DraftSight, I will be occasionally sharing my ideas, insights, and reports based on more than 30 years in the CAD business. I’ve written books on CAD, I’ve written and published third-party CAD add-on software, and I’ve worked at two large CAD companies. I look forward to sharing my ideas and reports for DraftSight users here in the coming months.

Randall Newton
Randall S. Newton is Managing Director of Consilia Vektor, a boutique consulting firm serving the engineering software industry. He is a Contributing Editor at Digital Engineering and AEC Magazine UK. You can follow him on Twitter.
Randall Newton
Randall Newton
Randall Newton

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