What is CAD? (Part 1)

Updated: Feb 14, 2021

Written By: Brianna Schulstad

What is CAD?

Computer Aided Design (CAD) is the use of computers to create mechanical drawings. Its main functions are to optimize the accuracy, quality, and aesthetics of a drawing. It also helps the drafter be more efficient and productive.


Real Life Applications

CAD drafters are found in multiple industries. Most commonly, they are found in industrial engineering, structural engineering, mechanical engineering, prosthetic engineering, architecture, and interior design.


How to Download CAD

One form of CAD is AutoDesk. CAD can get pricey, but Autodesk offers a free access to all their AutoCad products for high school and college students. Click here to download.


Basic Ribbon Commands

The ribbon is the upper part of AutoCad. It can get very confusing and overwhelming for new users. For this mini series, we will only be focusing on the “Home” part of the ribbon. One great thing about AutoDesk’s version of CAD is that when you hover over each command, it gives you the name and brief description of the name of each tool and its function. Here are the basic commands and their basic functions:

  • Line tool: Creates straight line segments. You can either type in a value for how long your line would like to be or click a start and end point.

  • Polyline: Similar to the line tool but it automatically connects all the lines together.

  • Circle: Draw’s circles by either using a center point and radius or center point and diameter

  • Arch: Creates semi circles. Many different ways of making an arch (ex: knowing start end and radius points, start center and length of arc, etc).

  • Move tool: Allows multiple lines that are not connected to move together all at once.

  • Copy: Allows multiple lines that are not connected to duplicate and move to another area.

  • Mirror: Creates a mirrored image of selected objects.

  • Trim: Trims objects to meet with the edges of other objects.

  • Fillet: Rounds the edges of objects to a certain radius value.

Status Bar

The Status bar is the thin strip at the bottom right corner of the screen. There are not many important features in the status bar, but some can help a lot when drafting! Here are the features I use from the status bar:


Display drawing grid (GRIDMODE): Shows the graph/grid in the background. Very helpful when drawing straight lines.


Restrict cursor orthogonally (ORTHOMODE): Restricts lines from being drawn at angles other than 0, 90, 180, 270


Object Snaps (OSNAPS): When drawing lines, it will automatically snap your line to a near point. Within Osnaps, you can customize which features you would like your object to snap to. Personally, I recommend having Osnaps on for endpoint, midpoint, center, quadrant, intersection, perpendicular, intersection, and tangent.

This is the first article in the CAD mini series. In the next article, we will be using some of these tools mentioned in making a 2d basic step by step drawing.

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