AutoCAD for product design?

I looked into what should be my future Uni, and looked a bit at the courses there, and saw AutoCAD there. No Solidworks or Inventor, so was wondering if AutoCAD is considered proper for product design.

It is not a proper product design tool in any sense of the word. Autocad is a drafting package, and most of the value of design comes from a NURBS package like Rhino or Alias, or a Solid modeller like Solidworks, Pro E, etc. Even Inventor isn’t used very heavily in the product design world but it does count as a solid modelling package.

But I suppose it shouldn’t be a major issue, right? … I mean, afterall it is only a way to get to the final product.

My question would be if they are that far out of touch on the type of software they should be teaching, were else are they getting it wrong.

I’m not sure I follow? Teaching autocad in an ID education is almost as useless as teaching mechanical drafting, or rendering techniques with gouache. It’d be so out of date and useless you would not be competitive in any situation compared to another design graduate who knew how to use Photoshop and Solidworks.

There are some valid opinions stated here. However…

AutoDesk is the largest CAD software vendor in the US. Their cad package offerings cover number of industries from aerospace to jewelry. There is value in learning the history of any subject, including the history of software for design. Having said that, Learning AutoCAD is not time wasted in understanding design and the tool sets used to create it with.

I have recognized this obsolescence problem in my career as a designer, and it is true, you need to know and be proficient with certain packages in order to be hired as a designer who can deliver the goods. I once told a client that I knew how to use Solidworks (but really did not) during the negotiation phase only to land the contract, move to China and then spent 3 nerve racking weeks getting up speed with the engineers at the factory. Had I not known and had experience with AutoCAD, Alias, Rhino and ProE prior to this little episode, I would not have been able to pick up and learn another package so quickly.

I also teach design and methods at university on occasion. I’ve developed a course for 2nd year students that combines the knowledge and practice of traditional drafting (t-square and triangle) with AutoCAD and Rhino over the course of 16 weeks. Having students learn in this compressed fashion teaches them history of tools as well as prepares them for competitive practice when they leave school. The real value of the class demonstrates how all three methods are inter-related to one another and share concepts and interface logic. I find that the students are better prepared to learn more and more about design software after they graduate as well as execute with high quality, design that delivers on what the software demands.

And the learning of software never ends in design…

…that means somehow it’s not time wasted? I mean, after all I look at these tools as means to get to a final result, and knowing AutoCAD seems good enough to replicate the idea in real life.

Also, quite curious, why would it be useless to ID?

Yeah it’s just a tool to get a final result, anything you learn will help you learn other stuff, yadda yadda yadda, but simply by the standards of today–actually, the standards of the 1990s–it’s “useless” to ID. USEFUL to ID means basically the ability to create neat freeform 3D surfaces that you can easily send off to be machined to make an injection mold. Rhino started out as an AutoCAD plug-in for lofting boat hulls, that should tell you something about what it can’t do. I’m not going to completely say that you couldn’t do that in AutoCAD, but compared to everything available today it would be absurd to even try.

Chevis makes a good point. They should be teaching Solidworks/Pro E for a parametric modeler and Rhino/Alias for a surface modeler. Those are the industry standards. AutoCAD is not the right tool for industrial designers.

The other tool teached there is Maya, and AFAIK that does not have anything to do with ID…

Maya is more relevant than Autocad - but still on the fringes. Maya at least has the following going for it:

-Powerful rendering/Animation tool (good if you want to visualize an idea) I used Maya extensively in College for rendering and projects that weren’t “physical” product based, such as POP and exhibit design.
-Maya does have a small subset of the NURBS tools which are spun off from the fact that it was based around the Alias tool. They aren’t nearly as useful or well developed for products, but you can still do a lot with NURBS in Maya, and at least thats a foundation skill for Rhino/Alias
-Sub-D surfaces are a great form exploration tool that Maya has, and you can take a Sub D object and export it for a physical prototype.

I would never recommend Maya being the first tool to learn, but it can be handy in certain areas of ID. Really Maya is a tool focused more around modelling/rendering/animation than CAD. Great for making pictures of products, but not the products themselves.

Somehow it looks like studying at this Uni might work out, but it feels as if these are some patches done here and there for future studying, although here you’re obliged to do a master degree as well.

Just remember Deformat…

Once to enroll and get into a program of your choice, you can always take the initiative to lobby and upgrade your id department’s CAD software library to where it needs to be more competitive. Being part of a hardware/software upgrade to any organization is a great experience for any designer.

This will benefit your management skill and allow you to take a leadership role among your peers…

Of course there is another possible explanation here…when we took a CadKey class in University it was through the Computer Science department, I’m sure that’s where you’d go for a Maya or AutoCAD course today. The software the ID department actually has may not be listed and you may not learn it through a course per se called “Solidworks 101.”

@designbreathing: sounds like a nice idea, but sadly I seriously doubt my faculty’s financial abilities. We’re speaking of Romania, a state where education is still made like in the 70’s, with few exceptions, this faculty being one. We speak of a class of 30 persons, and a 3000$ licence x 30 would be 90000 $, which is quite something here, not to mention the fact that a faculty here is not like, lets say Germany. It happens that many students don’t attend courses, and it’s quite an unusual spirit… people barely know their colleagues sometimes, but hopefully this will not be the case. To make things harder, I’m an introvert, but I suppose that when I’ll enter there, I might discuss with my teachers.

@JimC5: Nope, I’m pretty sure that this is what happens there. There are no "departments ", only faculties with their respective courses/classes, sort of like a highschool.

I might eventually choose to take courses somewhere else for Solidworks (e.
g. a trainer or a paid course ) to get a better training for a future job.


Educational licenses of software like Solidworks are usually only about $100. Even if you don’t get to learn it in class, you could always band together with a few students and try to teach yourselves. These days with internet tutorials, learning any software is not far out of reach.

When I was in college I had a similar issue, we were learning Ashlar-Vellum Cobalt which was a Solid modeller, but the capabilities of it were very rudimentary, and the surfacing aspects virtually non-existent. But enough students complained that within a year or 2 they switched the curriculum over to Solidworks and eventually Solidworks + Modo (Modo being similar to Maya in that you can use it to prove very complex form, without having to worry about handing it off to an engineer at the end of the day).