Fifty years of CAD - Canadian Manufacturing
Fifty years of CAD:
WOOD BOARDS TO
The history of CAD is largely one of visualization, creating better, faster, more accurate ways of
envisioning designed constructs
By Viktor von Buchstab
enabled engineers, as opposed to computer
experts, to “do CADD.” For much of the
20th century, CAD power remained largely
limited by hardware. At the time of the
Apollo 13 mission, for instance, NASA had
the computer power of an Intel 386. Long
before, a way around the expensive CRT displays was the classic flatbed plotter, introduced by
CalComp in 1959.
n 1955, Design Engineering advertisements for engineering finery consisted largely of better wooden
drafting tables and associated pen-and-ruler paraphernalia. The high-tech bauble of the day was
the electric eraser, which at the time seemed
like the ultimate in productivity
The past 20 years has
seen a phenomenal
1960S: REAL-TIME IMAGES
Meanwhile, computers languished in the
dark ages during much of the 1950s. Few had visual displays, and the
input was much the same as the output – 80-column punched cards,
machine-read to decipher their content, although some hardy types
learned to read the rows and columns of rectangular holes in the
otherwise illiterate bits of cardboard.
These, then, were the platforms on which the enormous enabling
technology of computer-aided design (CAD) was built – from its
crude, mainframe-attached, often frustrating beginnings, through
computer-aided drafting, computer-numerical-control (and computer-aided manufacturing) and improved 2D and 3D visualizations, to
the present divergence with increasingly true-to-life solid models.
Today there are even “4D” fly-throughs and motion simulations with
nauseatingly accurate representations, inducing a form of “space sickness” as the visual sense disagrees with kinetic inputs. To help make
sense of the complex path of CAD development over the past 50 years,
Design Engineering presents a chronology of the companies, software
and programs involved in making CAD technology what it is today.
Much of the CAD/CAM developments for the next two or three
decades were hardware-related, paving the way for the “connected”
era that arrived with Unix, then DOS/Windows. In 1962, Denverbased CAD entrepreneur William Barnes began marketing his bundled hardware and CAD code, automated control, as Auto-trol. It was
a quick success in CAD, whose proprietary operating system was
eventually eclipsed by “open” systems based on Unix, and later by
more universal operating systems from Microsoft. “Regarding the
switch to Unix, Auto-trol Technology, Calma and Mentor Graphics
began shipping Apollo systems [eventually acquired by HewlettPackard] that used a Unix-like operating system <HP-UX> in 1982
and 1983,” says David Weisberg, chief industry strategist for Cyon
Research, and publisher emeritus of Engineering Automation Report
and A-E-C Automation Newsletter. “Sun Microsystems and other
‘pure’ Unix systems [arrived] more like 1984 and 1985.” To put this
1950S: THE DARK AGES
Computer-aided design began with the emergence of real-time displays,
enabling computer operators to see their creations on screen. By 1955 U.S.
military visionaries were hooking up then-avant-garde CRTs to their mainframes. At the time, CAD was a hypothetical application for the computer. It wasn’t until 1957 that mathematical genius Dr. Patrick J. Hanratty,
reputed father of computer-aided design and drafting, wrote the code that
An avant-garde Moen faucet was created on a current-generation PTC system.
Photo courtesy of PTC.
Profile of a Program
The following is a timeline of IBM and Dassault’s CATIA (Computer-Aided
Three-Dimensional Interactive Application) evolution:
1976: IBM sells, markets and supports Cadam.
1998: DS, IBM and Matra Datavision announce a new co-operation.
1977: AMD tasks its internal engineering team with creating a 3D
First DS acquires key Euclid Matra Datavision software products, while
interactive program. This is the forerunner of CATIA.
Matra Datavision becomes a service company supporting DS’s CATIA
1981: AMD markets CATIA to other companies and industries.
and Enovia products and the migration of Euclid to CATIA. Finally,
1982: CATIA V1 is announced as an add-on to Cadam, and as an add-on
Matra Datavision becomes an international business partner of IBM to
product for 3D design, surface modelling and NC programming.
market, sell and support CATIA, Enovia and IBM e-business solutions.
1984: Dassault Systèmes (DS) introduces CATIA Version 2, which
Matra also takes over marketing, selling and supporting the Deneb
integrates 2D and 3D functions. CATIA becomes the world’s leading
solutions not distributed by IBM.
application for aeronautical design.
1999: DS purchases Matra Datavision’s development laboratory and
1984: CATIA is able to function independently of Cadam.
acquires a majority interest in Smart Solutions Ltd. (formerly SmarTeam
1985: Launches CATIA V2.
Corp. Ltd.) to strengthen product data management (PDM) capabilities.
1986: DS secures Boeing as a CATIA user.
1999: DS invests in Invention Machines, a knowledge management
1988: Launches CATIA V3. With AEC functionality on Unix and main-
software company, and takes a 75-per-cent interest in Smart Solutions,
frame platforms, CATIA becomes the world’s leading application for
a PDM provider at the lower end of the market. It also acquires
Safework, a human modelling software provider. This signals a second
1992: DS purchases CADAM from IBM (which purchased the system
step in the company’s digital manufacturing strategy.
2000: DS and Intergraph announce a strategic alliance around the ship-
1993: Launches CATIA V4 (Unix-based).
building industry. The company then acquires EAI Delta, to provide
1996: CATIA-CADAM Solutions V4 is available on multiple platforms
digital manufacturing software focused on factory floor layout. LMS
(Hewlett-Packard, Silicon Graphics, Inc. and Sun Microsystems).
selects the DS V5 platform to build its next generation of virtual pro-
1997: DS acquires SolidWorks.
totyping and physical testing software solutions. DS then creates
1997: DS acquires Deneb Robotics, signalling the start of its digital
Delmia digital manufacturing, consolidating Deneb, Safework and EAI
Delta products. DS also acquires the 3D software component business
1998: DS acquires IBM Product Data Management solution, IBM’s
of Spatial (the ACIS solid modelling kernel rivaling EDS/UGS’ Parasolid).
internally developed PDM system.
2001: DS acquires SRAC, an analysis software company focused on
1998: DS launches Version 5 of CATIA for native Windows NT and Unix
design-centric markets, and Alliance Commerciale Technologique
platforms, purchases IBM PDM assets and establishes Enovia Corp.
(ACT), a Canadian-based PLM service company.
in context, consider that the world’s first
microprocessor, the Intel 4004, debuted in
late 1971, followed 10 years later by IBM’s
introduction of the first personal computer.
Meanwhile, other changes were happening to CAD. In 1963 John Wright founded
United Computing, which would later
become Unigraphics (now UGS) and a leading name in CAD/CAM. While Auto-trol
was still in its infancy, United Computing
had begun work on the first coherent CAM
tool, UniAPT, a minicomputer-based version
of an Automatic Programmed Tool (APT)
that computed tool-paths. APT came to the attention of airplane
manufacturer McDonnell Douglas, which brought the code in-house
along with United Computing. The firm also bought into Dr.
Hanratty’s ADAM design-visualization code, and soon became a
leader in CAD and CAM.
AutoCAD was the original PC-based CAD program.
1970S AND ’80S: REAL CAD/CAM DEVELOPS
According to John Baker, UGS product evangelist, NX Product Line,
“Unigraphics (now NX) actually predates McDonnell Douglas,
although they were an early adopter of both UniAPT and
Unigraphics. It was originally developed by United Computing, and
RATE CONTROL ACTUATOR
Developed for a company in the food
service industry, this fluid-filled
cylinder delivered what the competition
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control for a spring-loaded cover.
MOLD LOCK ACTUATOR
In a molding application, a customer
needed tighter tolerance for the locking
assembly. Bimba developed a unique
actuator designed to lock onto a
mating lug and hold the two halves of
a mold together.
SINGLE BLOCK ACTUATOR
A manufacturer of small electronics
was looking for a way to hit tighter
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Bimba thought inside the block to
package five single-acting cylinders,
with integral manifolding for the valves,
into one single block.
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Reader Service #106
Much of the history of CAD seems punctuated by Patrick Hanratty,
1997, and introduce a succession of successful programs. Highlights
whose work continues half a century later, defining and refining CAD
include the launch of Windchill PDMLink and ProjectLink as “pure
algorithms. However, some three decades after his seminal work, in
architectural solutions” for PDM and project collaboration in 2000;
May 1985, Russian mathematician Samuel P. Geisberg divined the con-
the launch of Pro/Engineer Wildfire in 2002, with improved GUI (in
cept of relating the various components of a subassembly parametri-
MS Windows motif) and full web-orientation; and the introduction
cally, allowing designers to change components without having to
of its Product Development System as an integrated PLM solution in
recreate the whole enchilada. Geisberg changed the name to
2003. In 2004 Parametric acquired Ohio Design Automation for elec-
Parametric Technology Corp. in 1987, based on an idea for mechanical
trical CAD (ECAD) integration, and this year acquired Arbortext for
computer-aided design software that would revolutionize the industry.
“dynamic enterprise publishing” and Polyplan Technologies for
Geisberg’s company would grow to swallow Computervision in
first delivered as a commercial product in 1974,”
says Baker. “In 1976
United was acquired by
MDC and operated as a
wholly owned subsidiary
until 1979, when it was
merged into MDC’s
McAuto.” Much later, in
1991, EDS (formerly
Electronic Data Systems)
But by the mid-70s competition had come to CAD.
In 1974, Lockheed developed Cadam (ComputerAugmented Drafting and
Manufacturing) a 2D
CAD/CAM system. A
young Frenchman, Marcel
Dassault, then formed
Avions Marcel Dassault
(AMD) and bought a
Lockheed, becoming the first
MPM, plus Aptavis Technologies for footwear and apparel design.
Algor's 2003 InCAD technology for
direct CAD/CAE data exchange added
full associativity with each design
change for Autodesk Inventor,
Pro/Engineer, Solid Edge and
SolidWorks. Full associativity enables
changes to CAD geometry to be
reflected in the associated FEA model
for each design iteration. Now, when
engineers make geometry changes in
the CAD solid modeller, a new mesh
is created and any surface-based
loads or constraints, element types,
material properties and analysis
parameters are automatically updated
with each change. Associating the
FEA data directly with the CAD geometry saves engineers time doing multiple design and analysis iterations.
1990S: MID-SIZE CAD TAKES HOLD
As CAD giants grew and acquired both major and minor players,
“compact” CAD suites emerged to fill the gap between “kitchen CAD”
and the five-to-six-figure CAD suites. The giants also shrank from the
Big Five to the Big Three, as Matra Datavision was acquired by
Dassault Systèmes and SDRC was absorbed by UGS. While Autodesk
dominated the low-end (casually spinning off CadKey via its former
employees’ entrepreneurial imperatives) it gradually grew into the midsize market through its in-house developed Mechanical Desktop, and
by acquiring the more popular Inventor series.
During the 1990s Bentley Systems developed its MicroStation,
including its key
Moving to 3D with SolidWorks is easier
than a lot of moves you already make.
Like falling behind schedule. Again.
JK Mold Design went 3D. And kicked their business into high gear.
“My company was facing stiff competition from high-end complex molds
and needed to make the transition to 3D,” says John Kreutzberger, owner of
JK Mold Design. “It only took a couple of weeks to get up to speed with
SolidWorks. It didn’t take long for me to cut design time by 50% and reinvent
myself as a mold designer. Now I can give my customers a greater range
of services and output to any file format they need. SolidWorks has not
only kept my company ahead of schedule – it’s kept me ahead of the game.”
JK Mold Design
Take the SolidWorks Online Tour, learn more about moving
from 2D to 3D with the company that’s #1 in production,
customer service, and sales*. Visit solidworks.com/tour
For details, visit www.solidworks.com/n1in3d. SolidWorks is a registered trademark of SolidWorks Corporation. All other product names are trademarks or
registered trademarks of their respective owners. SolidWorks Corporation is a Dassault Systèmes company. ©2004 SolidWorks Corporation. All rights reserved.
Reader Service #139
Current generation CATIA VS embraces the now-familiar Windows look and feel, leading to significant shortening of new operator training
and better universal document interchange.
Meanwhile, ex-Computervision’s John Kirschtick was devising
more efficient ways of doing business, particularly when it came to
designing CAD user-interfaces that embraced the fast-growing
popularity of the Microsoft Windows GUI. The company is most
well-known for SolidWorks 95, the first true Windows-based solid
modelling software on the market, released in 1995. In 1997 Dessault
Systèmes acquired the company, despite the fact that SolidWorks
shares few characteristics with
CATIA, having a different solid
modelling kernel, limited interoperability and a different market
The Autodesk Revolution
than its full-size sibling/parent.
In 1982 John Walker co-authored AutoCAD and founded San Rafael, Calif.-based Autodesk, Inc. The
Nevertheless, the company conbrand eventually grew to uncontested first-place, claiming the largest number of seats of any CAD protinued innovating, introducing
gram, excluding the myriad unlicensed “pirate” seats, which continue to be a thorn in the company’s side.
eDrawings, an e-mail-enabled
In 2004 company sales topped US$1.23 billion. Following is a quick look at the company’s milestones.
design tool, in 1997, and
SolidWorks 2006 this year.
1982: Autodesk is founded and introduces AutoCAD. The company goes public with an IPO of 1.6 million
According to SolidWorks CEO
shares at $11 per share.
John McEleney, the machine
1992: Carol Bartz is named chairman, president and CEO.
design sector currently represents
1994: The same year as the company ships its 1,000,000th copy of AutoCAD it acquires Softdesk, and
the largest portion of SolidWorks’
delivers multiple products for vertical market segments. Autodesk also acquires Genius CAD Software
business, noting that, “In any one
and Discreet Logic, and launches Autodesk Inventor for feature-based solid modelling.
day, we have 3.2 million hours of
2001: Launches Location Services; acquires Buzzsaw.com; launches Subscription; acquires Media 100
usage – 430,000 users designing
and Gentry Systems.
products eight hours a day.” If
2002: Acquires Revit Technology (the parametric building modeller for AEC) and CAiCE Software.
you compare those numbers
2003: Acquires truEInnovations, Inc., Linius Technologies and VIA Development.
with CAD’s obscure beginnings
2004: Acquires MechSoft Technology and Unreal Pictures. Later that year, at Autodesk University, the
you have some indication of just
firm unveils its next CAD strategic initiative, “smart components,” in which mechanical design conhow significant the technology
structs are specified by functional specifications rather than physical dimensions. This means a shaft
has become to today’s design
could now be defined in terms of torque or horsepower spec, rather than shaft diameter.
which became far more popular in the AEC market even as
Intergraph, by 1990, was noted for bundled systems in integrated
CAD/CAM/CAE systems. In October 1997, EDS (which now owned
by UGS) integrated its UGS software with Intergraph’s Solid Edge –
an agreement that eventually led to the latter’s total acquisition. The
history of Solid Edge, sharing its Parasolid core with full-size (NX)
UGS, closely tracks that company’s story.
Autodesk recently acquired Compass and exceeds $1 billion in revenue. This August the company
announced the acquisition of Solid Dynamics, SA, a French company whose kinematics/dynamics
technology allows designers in manufacturing markets to simulate, analyze, test and optimize physical
motion and loading in mechanical assemblies.
For more information on CAD’s
first five decades, see earlier stories
in December 2002 and