'CAD Trends' Survey Covers More Technologies But Yields Few Surprises

6 Feb, 2019 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

3D printing adoption continues to grow significantly, as strong growth potential is found for emerging technologies such as generative design and artificial intelligence.

Four new technologies were added to the mix when Business Advantage surveyed users in the CAD/CAM market late last year to assess the most important technology trends; generative design, virtual reality, machine learning, and artificial intelligence brought the total number to 16.

“CAD Trends 2018-19” was the fifth-annual such survey conducted by the U.K.-based research and consulting firm, which specializes in the CAD/CAM market. It surveyed 626 CAD/CAM users worldwide at companies of all sizes to gauge awareness, use, and other factors related to technology adoption. Respondents were primarily in the manufacturing (38%), AEC (31%), process and plant (7%), and utilities (5%) market sectors. The company this week presented a summary of results to the media, including Cadalyst.

Not surprisingly, 3D modeling and 2D drafting remain the heart and soul of the design process, reflecting the highest rates of use (69% and 67%, respectively) and deemed by respondents as the top two most important technologies of the 16 surveyed. Rendering (39%) and building information modeling (BIM, 36%) were next highest in use.

Adoption Ratio; click to enlarge
This slide compares awareness of 16 CAD technologies with actual current adoption, according to the “CAD Trends 2018-19” report. Source of all data: Business Advantage; click any image to enlarge.

Importance is rising for collaborative design, BIM, CAM, 3D printing, 3D modeling, and cloud-based CAD, and stabilizing for product lifecycle management (PLM), 2D drafting, product data management (PDM), and mobile access to CAD, according to the report. 

Current Trends; click to enlarge
This slide shows how survey respondents rank the importance of technologies and how each is deemed more important by specific market sectors, regions, and company sizes. Click image to enlarge.

The greatest growth in use was found for collaborative design, also known as concurrent engineering, with a current adoption rate of 29% (12% more than the average use rate over the previous four years) and 3D printing, with a current adoption rate of 31% (6% more than the previous average). Reported use of mobile access to CAD (19%) was only 1% higher than the previous years’ average, and use of PLM (21%) was 3% lower than the previous average.

Based on survey respondents’ predicted future use of technologies, the greatest growth is foreseen for 3D printing, mobile access to CAD, cloud-based CAD, and virtual reality (VR) applications. Technologies that show the greatest growth potential, when compared with current use, are AI, machine learning, VR, augmented reality, cloud-based CAD, and generative design.

Mapping Future Potential; click to enlarge

The most widely used CAD software among respondents was AutoCAD (35%), followed by SOLIDWORKS (25%), Autodesk Inventor (13%), AutoCAD LT (12%), and PTC Creo (11%). Those using more than one CAD system could select as many as three options. 

Most Used CAD Software


When asked what type of license they had for their primary CAD software, 70% of survey respondents indicted perpetual license (39% with annual support/maintenance and the other 31% without), followed by annual subscription (37%). 

CAD Software Licensing; click to enlarge

Regarding hardware used to support CAD systems, desktop workstations are the most popular option (56%), edging out desktop PCs (49%). Solid-state drive adoption (25%) grew the most, and mobile phone use more than doubled (to 8%) compared with average use over the previous four years. Virtual workstation use remained the same year-on-year. Professional graphics cards (GPUs) debuted in this year’s survey, with 24% of respondents citing their use. 

Hardware Use; click to enlarge

A recording of the “CAD Trends 2018-19” summary report is available on YouTube. In-depth data is available as well; contact the company directly.


About the Author: Nancy Spurling Johnson

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