In The Age Of Cad?

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In the age of CAD, is it worth learning how to draft (draw technical blueprints) by hand anymore?

Round about 1985. I know this because I became a university lecturer in 1985 and a 3 years later the departmental draftsman retired and I was given his teaching load. So I promptly used my contacts to talk to companies to find out how engineering drawing was being done (in the process industries). A common practice at the time was for chemical engineering graduates to draw a flowsheet (the basic outline design) by hand, and then pass it to the company draftsman (or woman though I never met one). This would then be drawn on a computer using CAD software. Essentially the flow diagram symbols would be gradually be replaced with increasingly accurate drawings on the computer as design progressed until a fully dimensioned drawing of everything appeared. Thus new projects would generally grow in CAD space. However, there were plenty of people who could make good drawings for the workshop by hand for small (and not so small) items who would continue to do so without what would for them be extra time and hassle. The workshop staff were of course used to this. Existing drawings were often updated by the traditional method of tracing. The CAD system was too expensive to be on everyone’s desk at this time, and smaller companies were reluctant to buy it. However its advantages meant that it rapidly increased in use. Larger companies soon got what t called the CAD Lads - young people who would copy existing drawings into the computer system or take hand drawings from older members of staff and make them into a storable file. So I think it was about this time that it was in the vicinity of 50/50. I had only done hand drawing myself. However, I had a particular conversation with a CAD user who pointed out to me (and I later pointed out to the students) that CAD was NOT a drawing system, but a database system. At its most basic it stored points, and connections between them (lines) in 2D vector space. Even then the system was set up to work in 3D space, so planes could also be represented. However, even the first time, entities could be grouped and attributes added. This could be as simple as the colour of a line, or the technical specifications of (say) a pump. Best of all, manufacturers could simply supply this entity to be dropped into what its location in the virtual space.

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This would greatly help their sales and lead times for getting parts to the shops. At first, it was all very complicated and hard to use (and still is). However, I soon found that those who didn't get drawn often made excellent drawings. Mostly, they were using a program called Acme that was specifically designed for making drawings (and which I use now to this day to make drawings). If one is only limited by the pencils and the printer, then the computer can take care of all the rest. If they have a good computer and good software, then their drawings will never go the way of the dinosaur. By the way, this was also just about the time that I began to be aware of a couple of important things — the rise in the manufacture of computer systems as a business, and the fact that almost.

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