Dialog Box October 2004

14 Oct, 2004 By: Cadalyst Staff Cadalyst

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National Cad Standards
I just finished reading Mr. Goldberg's article, "Are You Up to Standards?" in the September 2004 issue of Cadalyst magazine, p. 45. I agree with all of his comments concerning CAD standards. They're indispensable in any design firm and a standard that is accepted and used across disciplines is a definite plus. This is where we part ways.

I work for a large civil/environmental engineering firm that has taken up the issue of standards many times over the years. About two years ago, the company decided to adopt the NCS (National CAD Standards) at the suggestion of one of our designers. I've since talked to designers in other civil engineering firms. All of them, without exception, stated that their companies have either ignored the NCS completely or looked at them and discarded them as being irrelevant to civil engineer's needs. While my company still uses the NCS officially, its use is not mandatory due to the fact that there are more exceptions than uses. It became quickly apparent to me, as well as other CAD drafters within the company, that the NCS were developed primarily by and for the architectural industry. Other building design disciplines, such as electrical, HVAC, and the like, were addressed to a large degree as well. Civil design seems to be an afterthought. The few references to civil design are limited to those situations that relate to building design. The NCS are almost completely unusable for transportation, utility, and infrastructure design.

Another problem I have with the NCS are the color choices. Many of the colors, within AutoCAD, are indistinguishable from each other. The only reason to use colors is to help identify objects of different types from each other. Using all of the available colors is not very ergonomic, visually speaking.

It's not my intention to do away with the NCS, merely to point out its deficiencies in the hope that it will be improved in the future.

— Patrick O'Connor, via Internet

Where have all the CAD jobs gone? Redux
I read your article "Where have all the CAD jobs gone?," August 2004, p. 6, and I have to admit that you're correct.

I can't talk about the architectural area because I work in a civil/structural design office. We have several problems there.

Because AutoCAD and MicroStation coexist, drafters often have to know both programs. Both are very complex and continue to become even more complex. As a result, people who must use both can't be equally proficient in both--either a person is good in AutoCAD or MicroStation. As a result, the quality of work goes down year after year. Also as a result, both programs are not used to their full potential. I estimate about 35% of each is actually used. Even seasoned CAD users with 5-10 years of experience don't use more then 45-50% of a program's capabilities. In other words, this direction leads to nowhere.

Junior engineers are forced to use AutoCAD (mostly because MicroStation isn't part of their college background) and because engineers have a very little knowledge of AutoCAD. Of course, they're trained to design and are good at that. They hate drafting and as soon as get some engineering experience, they move away from it. The result is that the quality of drafting is going down. It takes a lot of time and is very frustrating to fix drawing to simply follow client standards. For engineers, CAD is great tool to enhance design and create quick sketches, but not for production drawings.

Companies hire drafters that have 1-3 years experience and phase out experienced ones. They hope the new drafters will learn on the job (without formal training) and for much less pay. There is no way for the beginners to learn quickly on the job simply because there is not enough experienced people to teach them.

When drawings are done abroad, in India, or other countries, it's a disaster. You get exactly what you pay for -- you lose money instead of gaining any profit. I work with some of these drawings -- some of them have had to be redone 100%.

I see specialization as the future -- by discipline and by software packages. And, even more in 3D drafting, as you spoke about. Unfortunately, I see 3D drawings developed from 2D, and then some backwards - to show areas of 3D in 2D otherwise impossible to show. I probably can't see a big picture -- but some of the directions are questionable.

— Leonid Nemirovsky, via Internet

Quality of Drawings
I liked your last paragraph from the Editor's Window in the September issue of Cadalyst magazine about the quality of drawings, "Know your business," p. 8. As a drafting checker, I've noticed that young people who come into drafting these days may be computer smart, but don't completely understand what it takes to make a good drawing, and some older drafters may not be quite comfortable making CAD drawings. I think that schools are placing more emphasis on computer skills rather than teaching drafting the way I learned long before CAD.

Some of the problems that I've found are:

  • views that don't line up,
  • poorly dimensioned drawings,
  • AutoCAD drafters who type in dimensions instead of making dimension styles and letting the computer make the dimension (this is my biggest pet peeve),
  • improper use of layers, and
  • when a dimension needs to be changed, sometimes a drafter changes the dimension without changing the geometry of the part.
It's fine for engineers to make CAD drawings. Part of our job is to take an engineer's CAD drawing, that we're supposed to think of as a sketch, and clean it up to our current standards in particular and established drafting standards. Engineers have more important things to worry about instead of trying to make an aesthetically pleasing drawing.
— Roger Carter, via Internet

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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