A short history of CAD in civil engineering

Many may not know that the CAD industry has been around since the 50's.  It started off with various confusing acronyms but the most typical was CADD “Computer Aided Drafting and Design” and the commonly known CAD “Computer Aided Design”.  

In the 60’s the CAD industry was just starting but, initial hardware and software running at the time known as the workstation was not cost effective. Many companies used hand drafting as a typical approach to civil engineering design.  During this time a construction plan set didn’t have a lot of redundant information.  Having this kind of information would have made changing the design especially at the end of a project very tedious and time consuming. A great deal of plan set review also had to be implemented due the sheer strain of doing everything by hand. This type of drafting continued in some regions of the US until the 1980’s.

As time passed hand drafting became a thing of the past and the CAD industry became a major player in how a construction plan set was produced.  As it got easier to obtain workstations and trained employees, various different civil software programs were marketed each having their own pros and cons. Even though everything was still designed by hand, technology made it easier by putting the calculations into a 2D line work form. It was still manual drafting.  The workstation became an extension of the technician.  It lessened the amount of strain on the designers, but still required the same amount of plan set review.  Slowly the CAD industry standard was set and stayed there unchanged for some time.

Since the beginning of the 2000’s, the technology has pushed the CAD industry into the three dimensional realm. CAD software now allows one to create a virtual model of a project instead of just 2D line work.  This virtual model has the capability of using clash detection for conflicts in underground or in building utility lines, updating quantities on the fly and text labeling now reads straight off the model. This makes a complex set of construction plans, with today’s push for redundant information, actually easy to produce and easy to change at any point in the project.

This is an exciting time in the CAD industry with all the latest techniques and practices applied to civil engineering, land planning, and surveying disciplines.  Cunningham-Allen is proud of our consistent level of knowledge in the software techniques and practices of the past and equally as proud of our efficiency with today’s software.