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CAD designers use CAD software to create technical drawings. They develop design drawings and multidimensional models of objects such as components and tools directly on the computer. Additionally, they have the ability to assign different materials to the digital objects and rotate them in three-dimensional form. They can also use various light sources and create photorealistic representations of designs from any angle. Rendering in this context refers to the process of creating a graphic based on a sketch or model.
The use of CAD programs enables, for example, the planning and construction of energy-efficient buildings. CAD designers visualize designs through simulations and add utility plans for electricity, water, data, and other components. CAD software is also used in dentistry to create extremely precise dental restorations. In orthopedics, it is used, for example, in the construction of orthopedic sports insoles.
CAD, an abbreviation for “computer-aided design,” refers to “computer-assisted drafting” or “computer-assisted design.” It describes the use of electronic data processing to support design work, whether it’s for buildings, textiles, or cars. The CAD process encompasses all computer-based tasks that occur during the design process, including calculations, simulations, and geometric modeling. From the development of initial concepts to data transfer to the manufacturing department, CAD plays a crucial role. It is used in nearly all fields of engineering, ranging from mechanical and electrical engineering to dental technology.
The CAD designer utilizes a powerful computer with a high-resolution screen and appropriate design software as their most important tool. In various work environments, specialized programs such as AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Autodesk Inventor, or CATIA are used. For highly demanded 3D modeling, which is a subset of CAD design, tools like SketchUp and 3DsMax are employed to give shape to the designers’ ideas. In addition to a strong technical understanding, CAD designers also require a lot of patience, as it can take several weeks or months to fully digitally design a component or even an assembly. Teamwork and communication skills are also important qualities as regular interaction with colleagues from other areas, such as manufacturing, is part of the profession.
There are various paths to becoming a CAD designer. There is no standalone training specifically for this profession. Instead, many different paths can lead to the desired goal. A frequently chosen path is pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering, which is offered at many universities and technical colleges. This demanding program places great emphasis on mathematics, physics, and chemistry, providing an ideal foundation for entering the CAD designer profession.
However, it is also possible to become a CAD designer without a degree. Training as a technical product designer or technical systems planner, which lasts approximately 3.5 years, provides the fundamentals in areas such as product design, construction, and mechanical engineering, or building services, electrical engineering, and steel construction. Although these training programs do not require specific prior knowledge, apprentices should at least have completed their secondary education, ideally with a high school diploma.
For those who have already pursued a trade and wish to transition into a CAD designer role, a further education program to become a “state-certified technician” is recommended. This program lasts either two years full-time or four years part-time and provides a solid foundation for starting a career as a CAD designer.
Overall, there are various paths to becoming a CAD designer. Whether through a degree in mechanical engineering, training as a technical product designer or technical systems planner, or through further education as a “state-certified technician,” the choice of educational path ultimately depends on the individual’s interests, abilities, and educational background.
Technical expertise, creativity, and imagination are just a few of the skills that a CAD designer needs in their professional life. As highly sought-after professionals, they are accordingly well-compensated, provided they have the necessary work experience.
Creating technical drawings or designs and transforming them into two- or three-dimensional representations using CAD systems are fundamental skills for a CAD designer. In addition, a solid understanding of mathematics is essential as calculations involving statics and component parts are part of their daily tasks. Evaluating measurement data, precise component design, and selecting suitable materials for a project also fall within the CAD designer’s responsibilities.
CAD designers also play a significant role in the entire development and design process as they collaborate closely with other departments. Therefore, communication skills and a strong sense of teamwork are indispensable abilities that a CAD designer must possess. This close collaboration enables them to understand the requirements and desires of other team members and incorporate them into the design work. Thus, a CAD designer is not only a technical expert but also a team player who can communicate ideas and implement them effectively.
In technical professions, the average pay is typically higher than in other fields. This also applies to CAD designers, who can expect excellent incomes. The salary depends on various factors such as the industry and specific area of expertise. CAD designers specializing in areas such as PDMS (Planned Designed Management Systems), 3D modeling, or the interfaces between CAD and manufacturing (CNC programming and CAM) can expect starting salaries of around €39,000 per year.
With increasing work experience, the salary generally increases as well. After several years in the profession, CAD designers can expect an average salary of €46,000. Those who also complete specific further training, such as becoming an expert in Tekla, Revit, or Microstation, have good chances of salary jumps of up to €56,000 per year. The combination of extensive experience and specialized knowledge allows CAD designers to achieve an attractive income.
The prospects for aspiring CAD designers are extremely promising. In a world where computer-aided systems are increasingly used in technical professions, the future security for CAD designers is ensured. The demand for well-trained experts in this field is continuously increasing. Furthermore, CAD designers have a wide range of employment opportunities in various industries. Whether in mechanical engineering, the automotive industry, aviation, or medical technology, CAD designers can find their niche wherever complex technical components or even entire product lines are required. The field of application is accordingly diverse and offers a wealth of exciting challenges.