Top 10 Tips for Students Learning CAD in College

CAD has come a long way from the days of Sketchpad and Douglas T. Ross. So much so, that it has been introduced to colleges as a complete discipline which students are now allowed to specialize in. With the scope and broad domain of CAx technologies, the list of colleges and programs is an endless one.

With all that in mind, this article was prepared to serve all categories of CAx students with a few tips and hacks to make life a little easier.

Tip 1 – Learn 2D drafting on AutoCAD

There is no better tip than this one. AutoCAD has 20+ years of development behind it and has been monumental in setting modern day CAD software and practice standards. AutoCAD 2D drafting and documentation tools are better than most options if not the best all around. On top of that, whether you want to get into organic modeling or surface modeling, the subsequent disciplines and areas of specialization are 3D and you can switch products based on need and feature set available. But drawing/drafting foundation developed in AutoCAD will make the most successful turnovers to 3D.

Tip 2 – Extend semester projects

There is nothing better than to extend a project that you have already worked on, or better yet designed yourself. The second semester will definitely go by easier if your project from the first semester was designed properly with the thought of subsequent expansion and scaling. This will help in creating a more complete program with a better understanding of all the related elements as you would have developed everything yourself. Moreover, you can actually use your efforts for commercial publication since it will be coupled around the same base problem and technologies.

Tip 3 – Jack of all trades

Whether for 2D or 3D, stick to one software package. Almost all mainstream CAD package development firms have suites that complement the actual CAD package. For instance, Autodesk has a whole range of specialized CAx tools that can take input from AutoCAD for seamless transition designs and other manipulations with maximum ease. Stick with one package for your learning phase, which can be the whole program, and master it. You will definitely get to use other software packages in your professional career but at the back of it all you should be adept at one.

Tip 4 – Don't get comfortable

This may sound the exact opposite of the last tip but the key is balance. Don’t exert yourself into mastering one or more than one package to the point of discomfort but don’t get comfortable. Keep exploring other related technologies, as well as disciplines. Reach out of your own discipline and see what other fields and industries have to offer.

Tip 5 – Stay updated with your CAD package

Every student version download or installation of these packages requires an email address assigned by your institution. This creates your user profile and allows you to access special features that may not be otherwise highlighted or whose release in not announced. Many plug-ins and extensions as well as new feature insights may show up on the update page but aren’t announced formally so staying updated is mandatory.

Tip 6 – Industrial research insights

Following from the last point, use your registration details to stay in touch with the industry which your CAD practices relate to. If you’re into architecture, keep looking into the new research being brought forth with your CAD package. Not only will this help with your insight it will also introduce you to new problems in the real world which will definitely come in handy when you get to your final year project.

Tip 7 – Involve other people in development activities

Arrange for friends and classmates to work together using collaborative technologies as you’ll definitely be using them when you enter your professional careers. Collaboration tools are a definite must for any development activity that occurs on a large scale. And most good projects do.

Tip 8 – Highlight your portfolio

Nowadays, setting up a website or personal blog is easy as typing “wordpress.com” into a URL bar. Take all of your semester projects as well as personal projects and showcase them on your personal blog so you have a portfolio even before you graduate and head out looking for jobs. Not only will this help you land a job but will give your potential employers a much better view of your skill set. A chronological display of all projects will highlight your own evolution in the CAD discipline.

Tip 9 – Publish your work

CAD warehouses are virtual markets for re-usable CAD projects. Post your CAD projects for free or for a cost and earn money as well as reputation in the virtual CAD realm. This will be a huge plus because online forums are a great way for related professionals as well as hobbyists to stay in touch. Check out GrabCAD.com, which is one of the best CAD repositories online.

Tip 10 – Practice daily

CAD software packages are being updated daily. That means new features are rolling out every day and you’ll probably be learning something new every class. Stay in touch, and keep practicing because the day you get comfortable, you’ll have much catching up to do.


Conclusion

Considering the vast scope of CAx technologies it is not surprising that you would only be able to cover a minute part of it by the time you graduate and following the aforementioned tips will allow you to build your skills on the fundamentals of CAx technologies. That way any move to a new CAD software in the future will feel like a walk in a park.

cad exercises
  • Mark B

    Why would you ever bother to do 2D? Start with 3D and run. 2D is dark ages nonsense.

    • Dan Holmes

      Schematics, simple cable dwgs, interconnect diagrams, PCB BAB and assy dwgs…
      Loads of reasons to have ACAD. We use the ACAD LT to supplement SW 2016.

      • Mark B

        If I was in college to do engineering I would not expect to do 2D drafting when I went to work except in rare cases and then a 3D package will handle it.

        • Dan Holmes

          35 years on CAD. I still go to ACAD for 2D. One fellow I worked with would lay out his ideas in ACAD then implement the ideas in SolidWorks. To each his own…

          • Mark B

            I was using 3D 46 years ago.

          • Dan Holmes

            God, we’re getting old…

          • Mark B

            Speak for yourself.

  • Ken

    I agree Mark B. I don’t really get the ACAD thing. And I wouldn’t learn 3D ACAD either as it is not relevant to anything. Learn a true 3D package that industry actually uses like SolidWorks, Solid Edge, Pro/E, NX. And you can get low cost or free Student versions from your college/school or directly from the CAD vendor like: http://www.solidworks.com/sw/education/student-software-3d-mcad.htm or https://www.plm.automation.siemens.com/en_us/academic/resources/solid-edge/student-download.cfm