What is CAD? (Computer Aided Design)

A Computer Aided Design Image (CAD)
CAD stands for Computer Aided Design and is a design process which involves software that aids the design process.

CAD stands for Computer Aided Design and is a design process which involves software that aids this process. It is used all the time when designing packaging. It enables the industry to be more creative and packaging to be more easily imagined and tweaked. The evolution of CAD systems has revolutionised many design and engineering industries and is now used widely. Usually when people refer to CAD they are referring to the software used. A common misconception is that the software is simply drawing software, or a graphic user interface but this is not the case. It refers to software that helps any part of the process and for a multitude of industries. CAD design software can be used to create 2D or 3D models with precise measurements, angles, and dimensions.

The use of CAD software requires a combination of tools and mathematical equations as well as drawing skills in order to get the design precise. CAD software is not a walk in the park and people often require lots of training and experience. Industries that use CAD on a daily basis include architecture firms, engineers, and product designers.

What are the benefits of CAD in packaging design?

CAD is often used in packaging design in order to improve the quality of designs. Here at Complete Packaging, we use CAD software to increase the effectiveness of the process and ensure that our designs are as accurate as possible. Here are some of the benefits to using CAD software in our packaging design…


One of the most obvious benefits of the software is its accuracy. All of your packaging designs can be extremely accurate with the use of these systems which enables better and faster products. The system creates much less room for errors than manual design. Your packaging needs to be completely accurate in order to keep your products safe and Computer Aided Manufacturing software helps with this.


With CAD systems, it is possible to visualise the end product much more easily. You don’t need to create hundreds of sketches from every angle and can easily make adaptations in order to visualise different versions of the product you are creating. When we design our packaging it is important for us that our clients can visualise and understand what the end product will look like in the real world.


CAD systems are also quite ‘easy’ to use (after training!). Whilst they do require a lot of training and learning, it does eventually make the whole design process much easier. This is because designs can easily be changed and adapted, and actually created much faster in the first place.


The speed as which you can create designs on CAD means that the system helps to keep costs on track and helps products get to market faster which ultimately saves times, and therefore money, keeping budgets healthy and low.


Another beautiful element of CAD systems is that it means your designs are reusable. There is no need to start completely from scratch every time if, for example, you are working on a packaging project with similar products. This is a great time saver and makes the design process much more straight forward.

CAD systems can make packaging designers, architects, and engineers lives much more straight forward, easier, and faster. The systems also enable collaboration with other people due to the rise in cloud-based CAD systems.

Are there any limitations?

Like everything else, CAD systems aren’t perfect and its always good to identify the limitations.

First of all, they should be treated as a tool and a tool alone. They cannot make somebody a good designer, they simply help good designers do their work more quickly, accurately, and efficiently. This is a common misconception that people have of these systems and should be ignored. In the packaging industry, you need to have solid training and knowledge about materials and other elements of packaging in order to create effective designs, not just the knowledge of CAD.

Another slight limitation to these systems is that they often separate the designer from the physical product so much that it can be hard to materialise the end product.

So, it is a very useful tool for many industries. It can be used to create 2D or 3D models with precise measurements, angles, and dimensions. There are various different types of CAD and the technology is always evolving.

Where did it all begin?

Well, in 1957 Dr Patrick J Hanratty developed the software ‘pronto’ which was the world’s first commercial numerical control programming system and began the world of CAD. A numerical control programming system is basically the automated control of something.

Then, in 1960 Ivan Sutherland designed the system Sketchpad, which basically replaced drawing boards, using similar technology to Hanratty’s software. Initially, that’s what CAD systems were: a replacement of the drawing board. So, this was quite an important step in the evolution of CAD systems. Now, they do much more than just simply create a sketch, you can create 3D models that are visible from all angles for example.

Until the mid-1980s systems were all specifically constructed computers, nowadays the software can be downloaded on to pretty much any computer. The price of CAD systems has also decreased quite a lot making them much more affordable for smaller companies, rather than just for large, richer companies as was previously the case. The accessibility of the system was a crucial part in the evolution of CAD.

The industry is still evolving and cloud-based CAD programs are now becoming the norm. This means that designers, engineers, and architects are able to work remotely as long as they have an internet connection. This is great for many places as it allows more flexible working hours and hot desking.

More information

If you want to find about more about CAD there are a few blogs that we would recommend.

AUTOCAD by AUTODESK has lots of detailed information about how to use CAD and can be a great resource.

Cadcrowd has got something for every industry, their blogs are easy to digest and have lots of useful information.

If you’re looking to keep up to date with the industry, the Google news feed is always a good place to start.

If these are of interest to you, there’s a huge long list here if you want to discover any more.

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