What is AutoCAD and Who Uses It?

By Tom Schwarzweller | CAD

Initially released in 1982, AutoCAD is computer-aided design software that allows you to create and modify geometric models to develop objects and structures. Seen as the standard across various design-related fields (architecture, engineering, etc.), it’s one of the most well-known programs for creating precise 2D drawings.

Computer-aided drafting has enabled professionals to avoid manually revising their designs and risking mistakes that could ruin their projects. Now, they can use AutoCAD to easily manipulate designs whenever needed, replicate design parts, and even get the level of accuracy that drawing by hand could never provide them with — such as drawing designs down to tiny details and fractions.

The earlier versions of the program generally targeted 2D drafters only, but soon enough, Autodesk added another functionality — 3D modeling. Today, Autodesk AutoCAD users have a whole host of features to rely on in order to precisely draft, edit, and finalize projects in their industries.

Why Is it Important to Implement CAD Systems?

In the past, drafting and designing projects had to be done manually, which led to a variety of errors that could potentially be the demise of a whole project.

Today, the process is much more optimized, thanks to the game-changing CAD systems. They have introduced a range of advantages, including:

  • Streamlined workflow
  • Increased productivity
  • Higher quality designs
  • Fast problem diagnostics

Streamlined Workflow and Increased Productivity

With its incredible toolsets, options, and efficient functionality, CAD software ultimately lowers production time and costs. It enables teams to be more productive on a day-to-day basis by allowing them to add changes whenever necessary without wasting precious time.

Better yet, the collaborative aspect of CAD software has made it possible for teams to communicate efficiently. Everyone can be involved in the process on any level they see fit. As CAD drawings are standardized and organized, they’re easy to read and understand across various departments. The simplified sharing features of the software also let people work on the projects wherever they are and save the changes to the cloud, thus making the projects accessible to anyone from the team.

Another major plus in this aspect is that CAD software, like AutoCAD, allows for excellent documentation. No matter if it’s a building design or the company’s latest product, you can save every element of the design, including measurements, dimensions, components, and subassemblies, for future reference.

Higher Quality Designs and Fast Problem Diagnostics

Before CAD systems became a norm in the industry, designers had to manually make changes in their designs to drive the project to a conclusion. With CAD software, however, you can diagnose problems in the software itself and make changes before constructing any prototypes.

In the end, this saves both time and money, not to mention that it drastically lowers the error margin. CAD systems allow for incredible accuracy that you cannot even compare to manual drawing and drafting. Thus, getting a design right the first time and ensuring its successful completion is all but guaranteed.

History and Development of CAD

Though many believe CAD software is a recent technological breakthrough, we can trace its origin to the 1950s.

Back then, MIT researcher Douglas T. Ross was heavily involved in pioneering early CAD technology like APT (Automatically Programmed Tools). However, we attribute one of the earliest versions of CAD programs to Patrick Hanratty.

Patrick Hanratty developed DAC or Design Automated by Computer. This wasn’t only the first commercial CAD/CAM software system but also the first CAD system to use interactive graphics.

The 1960s brought further development in the form of Sketchpad, developed by Ivan Sutherland in 1963. The software was incredibly innovative for its time. Most importantly, it brought us the human-computer interaction that we’re so fond of today. It allowed us to use a light pen to draw on the monitor in order to interact with the computer!

The 1980s gave us the CAD revolution. The software only needed a tiny push — in the form of the first IBM PC — to truly be ready for large-scale adoption.

This brings us to 1982 and the founding of Autodesk. The company launched AutoCAD software that same year, its flagship product that has had 36 releases so far. In time, other systems were introduced too, including SolidWorks, Solid Edge, SketchUp, Onshape, and Mindesk. Autodesk is also the creator of Revit, BIM software that’s ideal for architecture, engineering, and construction teams in need of a design and documentation program that can support all aspects of a specific building project.

What Do We Use AutoCAD for?

A major advantage of programs like AutoCAD is the ability to draft, design, and annotate 2D and 3D drawings and objects. However, the software is famous for offering other functionalities too, which actually greatly improve the workflow, and in this day and age, make it impossible to go back to the way things were done before.

The program’s industry-specific toolsets are a huge advantage to professionals in fields like architecture and mechanical engineering. Efficiency is the name of the game here; with these toolsets, it’s possible to access industry-specific libraries, automate various tasks, and in general, speed up project creation. This leaves more time for focusing on the actual design, not to mention that it increases overall productivity.

On top of that, the software even cuts the time and effort needed to transmit information across teams. Most notably, it allows users to access it both from their computers (desktop or via the web app) and from their mobile devices. That in and of itself creates a connected design experience — and consequently, unlocks efficiency and the potential for developing better-quality projects.

Who Uses AutoCAD the Most?


AutoCAD enjoys quite a large following among architects, who use it to create precise architectural designs and draft detailed blueprints for homes, buildings, commercial projects, and more. The program’s features are quite versatile and include drawing both floor plans and elevations, as well as adding various surface features, like roofs and windows.

Better yet, builders and architects can, among other things, use this program to analyze components. They can even trace and correct problems that would otherwise prevent the structure from being successfully completed.

For instance, the software lets you analyze a building’s strength and capacity before actually constructing it on a building site. Thus, it can prevent serious structural issues in advance and ensure its real-life reproduction is entirely precise and correct.


AutoCAD plays a major role in various engineering fields. It’s quite popular in civil engineering, for which there is even a special version of AutoCAD — Civil 3D.

The Civil 3D design software supports civil engineers and architects while planning, designing, and managing civil infrastructure projects, such as highways and roads, airports, rail, and more. The program also supports BIM (Building Information Modeling) and streamlines the design process via hundreds of routines specifically created for land development, transportation, and water projects.

Mechanical engineering is another field that puts AutoCAD to good use. Mechanical engineers are crucial to the automotive, computer and electronics, aerospace, and manufacturing industry, just to name a few. They don’t simply design but also develop, build, and test various mechanical devices, engines, machines, and tools.

Thus, they can employ AutoCAD in various ways. At first, they can use it to sketch ideas and analyze them to reach the most cost-effective and efficient solution. The program helps the engineer further by interpreting the designs and finding flaws and inconsistencies.

Instead of developing a real-life prototype, AutoCAD also allows mechanical engineers to generate a simulated version of a constructed machine and see it in action before production starts. At that point, they can deal with any flaws or mistakes that would otherwise render a real prototype useless.

Furthermore, the software lets engineers determine the quality of their designs by simulating various stresses and environments. These would determine how a specific machine would act under such pressure — which can be difficult to do outside of the software. The program can even simulate the machine’s expected performance over time and serve for troubleshooting existing products.

Interior Designers

Since architects can rely on AutoCAD to deliver detailed drawings and plans for various buildings and houses, interior designers can also use the program to create functional indoor spaces. The possibilities are almost endless. AutoCAD allows interior designers to both try out different interior arrangements and create detailed and realistic renders for their clients.

The program comes with a sizable library of household objects, so it’s easy to recreate layouts based on clients’ wishes and help them see how the final product will look. Designers can also use the various features it offers to scale designs, manipulate floor plans, and plan out complex layouts that meet all the technical requirements — anything that’s necessary to make their vision come true.

Other Professions

Other professions that can also use AutoCAD to streamline their workflow and achieve results faster include:

  • Industrial designers and engineers
  • Electrical engineers
  • Plumbing, HVAC, and MEP designers
  • Manufacturing engineers
  • Structural engineers
  • Project managers
  • Fashion designers
  • Artists and sculptors

INDUSTRIES: Architecture, Buildings, Civil Engineering, Civil Infrastructure, Construction, Manufacturing, MEP Engineering, Structural Engineering

Published on March 21, 2022 in CAD.

About the Author

Tom Schwarzweller is an Account Executive for Microsol Resources for upper New York State and Michigan. Tom has a long background in selling and supporting CAD and BIM software to the architectural, engineering, and construction industry. He has worked with many of the early adopters of building information modeling (BIM) and has learned the benefits that BIM can create and an understanding of what makes a BIM implementation successful. His many interests include sailing, photography, and biking.