Computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) are similar specialties that are often used in industry. CAD/CAM jobs rely on specialized software programs to model a product or part before it is physically built. This approach allows workers to visualize a component before raw materials are consumed, and increases the efficiency of the manufacturing process. Some of the most common CAD/CAM jobs are computer drafting and mechanical engineering. This technology is also used in both architectural and cartographic design.
Workers in computer drafting jobs create preliminary drawings and designs for a variety of products. These drawings usually include important details such as the dimensions or materials that are needed. Drafters usually are not responsible for originating new engineering ideas, but instead focus on illustrating existing ideas in a technically-accurate visual format. As with other types of CAD/CAM jobs, computer programs are important in this career. Drafting software allows a professional to quickly reproduce elements of a design, and ensure that important dimensions are calculated correctly.
Mechanical engineering is another CAD/CAM jobs specialty. Engineers in this profession must develop and test new physical devices or machines. These workers are responsible for taking a broad concept and creating a workable plan to produce the idea in real life. In engineering CAD/CAM jobs, software can be used to simulate machines in a virtual environment. Mechanical engineers are able to see how parts interact on a computer screen, and locate potential problems before a device is built.
While mechanical engineers are experts at developing machines, architectural designers specialize in creating buildings and homes. These workers must understand what features make a building structurally sound, and are required to consider safety codes to minimize fires or unsafe elements. Just as an engineer can use CAD and CAM software to visualize a mechanical component, architects often rely on computers to simulate the construction of a building. Experts in this field can produce virtual walk-through simulations of an environment, and demonstrate exactly how a new home or office will appear.
Cartography, also known as map-making, is another field that makes frequent use of CAD and CAM. A cartographic designer has the task of turning geographic information into an easily understandable visual format. These workers collect data from many diverse sources, including land surveys and aerial photographs. Computer-aided design is used to connect this collection of data into a useful and efficient map. CAD allows cartographers to visualize how geography fits together, before a final map is created.