Editor's Window

14 Sep, 2004 By: Sara Ferris

Know your business

Learn the business as well as the software. That's the overriding kernel of advice from those of you who sent in comments on last month's Editor's Window about the demise of the drafter.

 Sara Ferris Editor-In-Chief
Sara Ferris Editor-In-Chief

Jimmy Moore, president of VisionREZ, a 3D modeling application built on Architectural Desktop, notes that such applications demand greater knowledge of how a structure is actually built: "You can no longer fake the closure of a roof with a few well-placed 2D lines. You must know what is required to make the roof close." On the flip side, he predicts that companies will have to pay better wages to attract CAD operators who have the required expertise in construction.

Educate yourself about construction if you're an architectural drafter, or manufacturing if you do mechanical drawings. Also look for opportunities to specialize. David Busarello, who runs his own structural steel and miscellanous metals business, notes that many fields such as his still have need for drafters. These include sheet metal/ductwork, rebar, precast concrete, plumbing/mechanical, and commercial electrical. Likewise, we heard from an HVAC firm that looks for, and has great difficulty finding, people with three years' experience in HVAC design.

David also recommends getting as much hands-on experience as possible in your chosen field, ideally with your intended customer: "You will learn from those who must read and work with your drawings." Also spend some time learning basic business skills such as writing, communication, and project management. Robert Green's column this month (p. 38) provides more details on the qualities and skills that a CAD manager should value.

Though CAD programs themselves grow more and more specialized, the technology itself is used in a broad range of businesses. For several years now, Cadalyst has faced the challenge of remaining relevant to readers across an ever-expanding spectrum of businesses. In our monthly allotment of pages, we have to cover mechanical design and AEC and mapping/GIS and civil and plant design and facilities management and, oh yeah, HVAC and structural steel.

This month we're shaking things up a bit. The Web site is now home to all product-specific articles and tutorials. That means Lynn Allen's "Lines and Circles" and Mike Tuersley's "CAD Clinic" will now appear only at We also have a new installment of Tony Hotchkiss' AutoLISP Solutions, again only at The expanded table of contents on p. 6 lists all the new Web articles this month. Down the road we hope to add additional columns, so feel free to let us know what other CAD applications you'd like to see covered. E-mail

One more note on the Web site. We're planning to launch a new look onthe 20th of September. We'll have four separate sites: AEC, manufacturing,GIS/mapping, and CAD management. The goal is to make it easier to find the material that relates directly to your line of work.

Next month we'll follow up on an interesting theme common to many replies: the quality of drawing these days is on the decline. Is this because the drafter has indeed disappeared, replaced by engineers or architects-in-training who have little interest in or knowledge of production drawings? Does CAD software encourage more attention to appearance than content? Or is this simply unfounded hand-wringing, and drawings today are more accurate and precise than ever?

Sara Ferris
Sara Ferris

About the Author: Sara Ferris

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