Computer Aided Design and Computer Aided Manufacture is the way things are made these days. Without this technology we wouldn’t have
the range and quality of products available or, at least, they wouldn’t be available at a price most of us can afford.
Hand-building and manual techniques still very much have their place and Design Education needs to treasure and foster these skills so
that future generations will have the ‘hands-on’ skills to understand the man-made world and provide the next generation of engineers,
designers and technicians. All of these professionals will be using CAD/CAM techniques or CAD/CAM products in their work,
alongside practical hands-on skill. Design and Technology education has to reflect modern practice so it is crucial that students have
the opportunity to use real CAD/CAM tools in their designing and making.
What is CAD/CAM?
Sketching is still an essential tool for exploring ideas but CAD has long-since replaced the drawing board and pencil for design
detailing and proposal. Although CAD images are referred to as ‘Drawings,’ a CAD file contains mathematical data that defines shape
and geometry. In early systems, this numerical data could be coded to control a machine – hence CNC; Computer Numerical Control. Modern
CAD/CAM systems do the coding automatically so ‘what you draw – is what you get’. When you output a file (a drawing) to the machine
there is just a simple dialogue to let the machine know what you want it to do and what settings it should use.
The TechSoft Advantage
In many cases, TechSoft’s 2D Design software outputs directly to machines,
so this has huge advantages for teaching. Simple 2D drawing can start with the youngest pupils and be developed as they move up the school
regardless of which material area they may be working in. TechSoft’s 2D Primary
software can make this start even earlier. Drawings could be for simple milled-shapes, iron-on logos, laser-cut badges or
superb presentation sheets. Whatever the desired outcome, the start will always be with an increasingly familiar software tool.
Because we write the software and work closely with machine manufacturers, we make sure that output is easy from 2D Design and, where possible,
direct from the desktop with a common output dialog box. This is far more than simple ‘compatibility’.
2D or 3D Software?
2D CAD is still an important tool for commercial designers. Graphic design will always be a 2D activity and any project using a
laser or knife-cutting CNC machine will need 2D data to work from. 2D shapes are always quick to machine - important in a classroom
situation. The parts may be assembled into 3D products reflecting the commercial practice of flat pack assembly.
There is, however, no doubt that 3D CAD is increasingly the norm for commercial designers and it is important that students have
access to a good 3D modelling system as well. After much searching and trialling, TechSoft were delighted to be appointed UK
Education re-sellers for SOLIDWORKS – world leading 3D CAD.
SOLIDWORKS has excellent support letting students quickly get up to speed and onto the important thing which is using it to design
For education, TechSoft’s 2D Design V2 and SOLIDWORKS sit very well alongside each other and share much common ground. 2D sketches
can be imported into SOLIDWORKS for 3D ‘treatment’, and elevations created in SolidWorks can be imported into 2D Design for profiling
on a CAM system. Many schools introduce students to 2D Design at KS3, SOLIDWORKS at KS4, and then use both 2D and 3D CAD as
appropriate to project work right through to A-level.