Do engineers use AutoCAD? 7 Questions Answered

Do engineers use AutoCAD? Yes, all types of engineers use AutoCAD. AutoCAD makes engineering work more efficient and near effortless.

AutoCAD is a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software used for 2-D and 3-D designs. Since its release in 1982 by Autodesk, it has transformed the engineering world. As pre-1970s, engineers neatly and with a lot of patience drew designs by hand!

Now, to better learn about the software, we’ll go over 7 questions on AutoCAD used in engineering.

#1 Which type of engineering work requires AutoCAD?

Engineers use AutoCAD when they want their drawings to be any one of the following:

  • Precise
  • To-scale
  • Detailed
  • Digitally transmittable

AutoCAD isn’t the ideal program for every engineering application. But, like a Swiss Army knife, it can do a lot of everything for all fields of engineering. Plus, it’s easy to use and it just works.

Is AutoCAD the only drafting program used by engineers?

Not even close. Many other CAD programs exist. The following are examples of other drafting software commonly used by engineers:

  • Solidworks: mechanical engineers use SolidWorks for 3D rendering-type work. Autodesk Inventor is commonly used for this type of work as well.
  • Catia: aerospace engineers use Catia for aircraft surface modeling. The software also has many plugins to help engineers analyze specific design elements.
  • ProEngineer: automobile engineers use ProEngineer for the mechanical parts of cars. Think of a chassis or powertrain design.

I’ve used Fusion 360, Inventor, Solidworks, Creo, and Microstation. I’ve found they’re all fairly similar, but learning the fine details takes time. For simple work though, you can learn the ropes in several days with the help of Youtube.

I do still prefer AutoCAD, especially given I don’t do overly complex CAD designs. But at the end of the day, your CAD software choice comes down to the following:

  • Type of work you do
  • The user interface, which you prefer
  • Industry preference

#2 Why is AutoCAD still used so much, even when more advanced CAD programs exist?

switchyard autocad drawing

#1 Program consistency: the core AutoCAD program hasn’t changed much in the past couple of decades. What you knew 15 years ago, is still there. This makes it effortless to move from one version to another. It’s the same reason why many engineers love Microsoft Excel.

#2 Easy to use: many CAD programs have unnecessary bells and whistles. Especially, when you just want to do quick simple designs. 

#3 Affordable: many complex CAD software cost tens of thousands of dollars. This is overkill for the type of work many engineering firms do. Licensing costs are a huge factor in the purchase of CAD programs, while AutoCAD is cheap.

#4 Flexibility: AutoCAD serves every industry. And through add-on packages, you can mimic other CAD programs. All the while, keeping the same AutoCAD user interface and basic workflow. While for example, Solidworks and Revit are only great for a couple of fields of engineering. 

#5 Pick up and go: ease of use to quickly make simple changes.  

#6 Not system draining: AutoCAD can work on old computers without skipping a beat. While other CAD software requires top-of-the-line computers to do just simple tasks.

#7 Older program: since AutoCAD is older than most other CAD programs, more people use it. So it’s like English, a universal language with a large online community. 

#8 Great customization: AutoCAD grants endless customization tools. This includes changing text styles, importing various drawing files, and so much more. Then, there’s Autolisp, AutoCAD’s inbuilt programming language to customize commands. Even more, you can use Visual Basics to customize your AutoCAD application.

#3 People everywhere use AutoCAD

Every engineering company and state agency I know, uses AutoCAD to some degree. Then every client I’ve worked with, has AutoCAD installed.

This makes CAD file exchanges effortless. I even freely send people AutoCAD drawings, without asking if they have AutoCAD. The software is just this ubiquitous.

I would go as far as comparing AutoCAD in engineering to a USB stick. Everyone has a USB drive on their computer to use.

#4 Huge online community with endless resources

Countless free online resources exist on everything AutoCAD-related. You have access to many active online forums and endless Youtube videos. So you don’t need to bang your head on the wall trying to figure out simple problems.

9 times out of 10, I’ll find a solution with a quick Google search. This alone is a incredible selling point of AutoCAD. In fact, you can self-learn AutoCAD through online searches alone.

To further illustrate, I use a lot of different engineering programs. And often, I find I’m paying thousands of dollars for poor customer support. To make matters worse, online resources don’t exist for any of these programs. It’s a nightmare, when I have a project deadline around the corner.

#5 How to learn AutoCAD for free without paying a penny?

If you don’t have the money to pay for an AutoCAD license, you’re not out of luck. Use one of the following free CAD program options:

  • Fusion 360
  • Onshape

The skills you pick up from the free tools will cross over great to AutoCAD. Then, once you’ve sharpened your skills, you can start paying for AutoCAD.

Also to reemphasize again, the online AutoCAD community is huge. There’s endless easy to digest free information to learn. So much so, you’ll probably feel overwhelmed.

#6 How much time does it take to learn to use AutoCAD?

If you have a background in math and computers, you’ll quickly learn. But also, a lot comes down to the type of work you want to do. Then, how skilled and efficient you want to become.

It’s like typing. You can type an essay typing with two fingers. But you won’t be as efficient as using all ten fingers.

Mastery of AutoCAD requires a lot of research to learn the features, but also you need to practice. While drawing basic details, I can teach you in a couple of hours.

Frankly, there are many AutoCAD features I don’t know how to use. But, it’s okay, as I’m very efficient with the tools I do use. Then for anything extra, I’ll learn on the spot.

The following are some quick golden nuggets to improve your AutoCAD skills:

  • Drafting class: take a class to pick up good drafting habits. It’s best to learn how to do things right from the get-go.
  • Supporting program libraries: become familiar with the drafting libraries for your engineering field.
  • Drafting commands: learn shortcuts and commands to become efficient in your drafting.

#7 Is AutoCAD becoming obsolete?

Certainly not. You don’t become an industry-standard overnight and then fade away. But, you can call AutoCAD a dinosaur, as it has been around for nearly 4 decades now. And for certain use cases, it’s simply not the greatest. The following is a release date list, of some of the most popular CAD software:

CAD ProgramsYear released
ADAM1972
CATIA1977
Autodesk AutoCAD1982
ProEngineer1988
Creo1988
SolidWorks1995
Autodesk Revit1997
Autodesk Inventor1999

For example, there are more people using other programs like Revit. Because for certain use cases, such software is superior to AutoCAD. And if your work aligns with their core features, you’ll need to learn their software.

Bluntly speaking, keeping up with technology is a must if you want to excel in engineering. In fact, you need to leverage the strength of different tools to master your craft. It’s like a toolbox. You can’t build the perfect home with only a hammer. You need many other tools at your fingertips as well.

“Do engineers use AutoCAD?” wrap up

As an engineer, it’s smart to get good at using AutoCAD. Plus, once you get the hang of one drafting program, you can then easily learn any other. Because there are many commonalities, with pros and cons to each.

I do recommend learning a little about all CAD programs related to your field. This will give you a leg up over your peers. Especially, since AI and automation will impact future engineering jobs. In the future, drafting may come down to only the review of AI generated work…

Do you use AutoCAD? Do you use any other drafting programs? What’s your favorite CAD program?

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