How to use CAD software to reduce material waste in industrial designs

  • Articles
  • Mar 19,22
Errors and mistakes during the design process can lead to costly material waste later on. With the right CAD software, it’s often possible to make design mistakes much less likely, says Emily Newton.
How to use CAD software to reduce material waste in industrial designs

Without the right approach, manufacturing can be a wasteful process. Design oversights and manufacturing errors can both result in significant material waste.

Computer-aided design (CAD) software is already a popular tool among many industrial designers, but not every company is using CAD tools to their full potential. 

In practice, the technology can help to significantly reduce design and production errors — making manufacturing much less wasteful.

Minimizing errors with CAD software
A lean manufacturing approach often benefits from new technology that can help make manufacturing processes much more efficient. Even simple CAD tools, however, can reduce waste in manufacturing.

In industrial manufacturing, waste often comes from avoidable errors that require manufacturers to discard products and components and start over. 

CAD tools can help designers reduce the frequency of manufacturing errors that may lead to costly revisions, reworks and scrapped prototypes. 

Simply using CAD to automate manufacturing processes can help to reduce human error. Computer-aided manufacturing tools — like CNC machines, lathes and water cutters — are remarkably consistent and don’t get tired, even with extended use. 

By handing off as much of the manufacturing process to these machines as possible.

So long as they are properly maintained, these machines can work continuously for multiple shifts in a row without a growing risk of error, unlike a manufacturing worker who will necessarily need time for rest and recovery.

Simple to moderate geometry, for example, can often be machined overnight in a machine shop, without the same risk of error or injury that would come with asking a machinist to work through the night.

CAD software and computer-aided manufacturing may also make changes to designs that occur during the design process less likely to create errors. Human workers will need time to adapt to the new manufacturing process. During this period, they may be more likely to confuse the old design and new one, leading to production errors.

A computer-aided manufacturing tool will also help a manufacturing facility or machine shop to switch from one version of a design to another with less chance of error, so long as necessary changes to the machine — like its tooling — are made before manufacturing of the new design begins.

Simulating designs to reduce error
CAD software may also come with simulation tools that can help designers predict how well a design will function in operating conditions — reducing the risk that a prototype design doesn’t stand up to real-world testing.

For example, a shop may be asked by a client to design outdoor grating for a new structure. Both the grating’s design and its material will need to be carefully considered if the end-product will survive both significant temperature changes and a variety of weather conditions.

Metal fabricators faced with a job like this will often use a metal like aluminum, which is both corrosion-resistant and easy to maintain. Available CAD weather and corrosion simulation tools can help designers determine if their design and choice of materials are well-suited for a particular project that will face tough weather conditions. 

Analog tools, like galvanic tables, can help a designer identify corrosion risks without the use of CAD simulation software. However, these manual tools may not offer the same level of information and accuracy that a simulation can provide.

Automated error-catching with CAD software
Computer-assisted manufacturing equipment may also come with error-prevention tools that can help designers avoid design mistakes that they may have otherwise missed. 

For example, creating a design with impossible or impractical parameters can trigger an alert from CAD software that will automatically notify the designer about their mistake, ensuring that the bad design will never go to production.

For example, a duct design tool may catch invalid fittings, “like a transition offset that exceeds so many degrees,” allowing the designer to fix them faster than they could otherwise. Not all of these designs would go to production — but in the event that they did, they could waste a significant amount of time and material.

These alerts can be extremely useful for designers, especially if the designer’s business already has established design and fabrication standards that they can use. During the design process, designers may also be able to automatically select settings they know will work, further reducing the chance of design mistakes that don’t meet company design standards or guidelines.

With these standards, businesses may also be able to use CAD software for automatic design generation. These automatic designs can be created both faster than manual designs and can be guaranteed to line up with design best practices that will help minimzie waste and error.

Designers can use CAD to reduce material waste

Errors and mistakes during the design process can lead to costly material waste later on. With the right software, it’s often possible to make design mistakes much less likely. 

The wide variety of available CAD tools can allow designers to more effectively create and simulate designs in a way that will reduce the risk of design error.

Because CAD tools can support a range of manufacturing sectors, most designers should be able to take advantage of the technology. 

About the author:
Emily Newton is a tech and industrial journalist and the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. Subscribe to the Revolutionized newsletter for more content from Emily.

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