Along human history, drawings have existed in different ways and for different purposes. From cave paintings to record important events, to the first design drawings between the 18th and 19th century which were the foundations to the design drawings we know and use today, it has been a constant adaptation to achieve the desired results. Then, with the development of the computing technologies, the changes have been dedicated to achieving the evolution of CAD over the years.
The first attempts to use computers to automate design and other engineering activities date back to the late 1950s, when Patrick Hanratty developed the first commercial CNC software called PRONTO while he was working for GE.
Later on, at the beginning of the 1960s, MIT Ph.D student Ivan Sutherland presented his thesis project called "Sketchpad, A Man-Machine Graphical Communication System.", which represented the first graphical user interface used in design engineering. From then on, it has been a non-stopping evolution.
During the 60s, other CAD programs were developed, including those from companies such as SDRC, Evans & Sutherland, Applicon, Computervision, and M&S Computing, which were able to generate accurate 2D drawings.
In the 70s, with the achievement of increased computing power, the efforts moved from 2D drawing to 3D modeling. Ken Versprille presented another Ph.D thesis which resulted in CAD evolution. His creation, called NURBS, marked the basis for modern 3D curve and surface modeling.
Computing power continued increasing, and in 1980s, IBM launched their first PC and Autodesk was created, a company which introduced the first major CAD software in 1983, the very well-known AutoCAD.
However, there were mainly 2D capabilities until a solid geometry based program emerged in 1987 under the name of Pro/ENGINEER, which used parametric techniques for defining parts and assemblies. Nevertheless, computing power was still not enough for all the computations needed and there were many limitations.
Finally, the computing power revolution came in the mid-90s, and many 3D CAD programs came with it, including SolidWorks, Solid Edge, Inventor, and many others.
In conclusion, the evolution of CAD over the years has come hand in hand with the evolution of computing capabilities, and it will continue that way in years to come. One exciting example of this is CAD in the cloud. We'll talk more about that and how it is impacting the industry (and your career!) in a future post.