CAD Manager's Newsletter (#415)10 Oct, 2018 By: Robert Green
Avoid Software Tool Worship by Focusing on Design
No matter how heavily promoted and feature-rich a software tool is, it's just a means to an end — and it's not necessarily the right answer for your particular challenge.
Imagine you could listen in on a 1963 meeting among the scientists, engineers, and manufacturing professionals who were discussing how to get the Apollo astronauts to the moon and back. Which of the following statements do you think would best reflect that conversation:
- "We have a lot of challenges to figure out and we've got no clue what we'll need to do the job, so let's focus on letting our professionals solve design problems, and we'll figure out which tools we need as we go."
- "The sales guys over at IBM say they have a new rocket design program; after we buy it, then we can use the tool and see what kind of rocket we can design with it."
When you think about it, the second statement seems totally ridiculous, doesn't it? Who would let a computer tool company dictate how to create a moon rocket? That's clearly the domain of engineers and scientists, right? And the more you think about the first statement, in contrast, the more sense it makes.
So why are we all letting software companies tell us how to design? Are we unwittingly falling victim to "tool worship"? In this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, we'll start a discussion about why CAD managers should reject tool worship and focus on supporting design processes. Here goes.
The Dangers of Putting the Tool First
What do I mean by tool worship? It's the belief that you must use certain software tools to solve design problems, rather than letting great design dictate which tools should be used. For example, if you've been a CAD manager for any length of time, you've probably heard statements like these:
- If you're going to create buildings, you need building information modeling (BIM).
- If you're going to build machinery, you must have 3D printing.
- If you're going to integrate building systems, you have to use a cloud-based clash-detection tool.
- 3D design is mandatory; 2D is dead.
Rather than accepting these statements without question, we should all ask, "Says who?" After all, skyscrapers were created decades before BIM, stealth aircraft and rockets were manufactured well before 3D printing became mainstream, and clash/interference detection methodologies using pin bars and overlay Mylar drafting systems were well understood long before CAD existed. And let's be honest, there are millions of seats of AutoCAD and competing 2D CAD tools out there that are still cranking out tons of project deliverables.
And while 3D printing of concrete and metals on a large scale may be feasible in the future, you can't robotically fabricate an entire building yet, and you darn sure can't print out an airplane. The reality of making things just doesn't match the technology hype, does it?
To be clear, I am not saying that 3D digital tools aren't beneficial (or superior) in a variety of cases. I am asking, "Are we really so brainwashed that we've stopped thinking for ourselves? Are we asking enough questions and approaching design in the most efficient manner possible?" Read more »
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