Exploring with the Expert: Unveiling CAD Software's Journey and Modern Significance

Interview Commentary with Troy Menebroker, Chief Consulting Officer at Circular Stream Engineering

Emma Menebroker

10/8/20236 min read

Exploring with the Expert: Unveiling CAD Softwares Journey and Modern Significance

Interview Commentary with Troy Menebroker, Chief Consulting Officer at Circular Stream Engineering

In our rapidly evolving world, technology constructs the very fabric of our lives, making complex tasks simpler and unlocking the doors to innovation across various industries. Among the technological marvels, Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software takes center stage. In this exploration, we'll dive into the history of CAD software, uncover its multitude of contemporary applications, and offer insights into the fundamentals of using this powerful tool.

The Genesis of CAD Software

To truly appreciate the present, we must embark on a journey into the past. Starting at the beginning, the origins of CAD software can be traced back to the original codes of design computer programs developed in the 1960s, like Sketchpad and PRONTO. The following decade saw a shift towards attempting to render three-dimensional designs. While this concept would not come to fruition for a decade, UNIX workstation was released in the meantime and prompted large-sale producers to take up CAD systems to design their products. IBM PC was the leader in the development of this software in the early 1980s, developing Autodesk and AutoCAD, which not only advanced the software’s capabilities but made it more affordable for companies to start the conversion from the drafting board to the computer. AutoCAD was the start of CAD but consisted of a simpler design with lines on the screen used to offset and trim 2D drafted designs.

In 1987, a company out of Massachusetts created what was to become the industry standard that we still use today. Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC) created Pro/ENGINEER, a program that ironically was not a CAD system at all, it was intended to be a rule-based system that performed calculations for engineers. With this system, one could not only perform geometric calculations, but it also allowed us to step into the world of 3D. Per requests from the first customers, PTC incorporated a drafting package into their software that allowed drawings to be designed. The major drawback for CAD systems at this time was that they had to be run on a mainframe computer using UNIX workstations. This meant that only large companies could afford this extremely expensive system. Realizing this restriction, a group of developers left PTC in the mid-1990s and started their own company called SolidWorks. This new software had one major advantage, SolidWorks could be run on a personal computer. This made it the most popular CAD system of the 1990s. Today, as the uses for CAD software continue to multiply, we are seeing these systems revolutionize how we interact with the world around us, revolutionizing the concepts of virtual and augmented reality!

Question for the Expert…

How has the use of CAD shaped your career?

CAD is the tool/world I live in. I was fortunate enough to start my career in 1990 using AutoCAD. One year later StorageTec, the company I worked for, converted all the engineering team to Pro/Engineer. Looking back, this was my lucky break. I was able to use what I had learned to become a national contractor moving from company to company not just using the CAD system but also teaching it. In 1996, I worked for CASE IH and after a couple of years, I became the Pro/Engineer administrator. In 1999, I moved on to John Deere in Dubuque, Iowa where I worked directly for PTC, the maker of Pro/Engineer. As CAD administrator, I taught classes and supported all user questions. Eventually, I sought to get back into the engineering game. Wanting to use the CAD system to create, I moved into the defense industry where they didn’t limit my creativity, they encouraged it. After a downturn in 2009, I switched to SolidWorks, using it for design but also as an analysis tool. I utilized SolidWorks when performing flow analysis and finite element analysis for an HVAC company. In 2013, I moved over to the automotive industry. I started out designing combustion engines at IAV Automotive Engineering and then went on to ZF, where I designed transmission components.

Throughout my career CAD has been my primary tool, from creating formal documentation to master models of entire vehicles. The power of the CAD system gives one person the ability to replace an entire team of engineering specialists.

Based on your wide array of experiences, how have you seen different CAD programs be used in various fields?

Here is a list of the major CAD programs and the industries that originally used them. Now CAD programs have more cross-over, and it is more based on company preference.

Pro\Engineer (Creo)

Original Industry: Heavy Equipment Defense industry, Automotive (Engines)

Strengths: Large assemblies, Rule base system that reflects how the parts are manufactured

Drawbacks: Rigid layouts need to be completely defined. Not friendly to an occasional user.


Original Industry: Aircraft and Automotive

Strengths: Complex surfaces

Drawbacks: Unique interface that is not like other CAD software, making it hard for users to change CAD systems.

Unigraphics NX

Original Industry: Manufacturing, Automotive

Strengths: Digital Twin technology

Drawbacks: Needs more RAM and can be slow to process drawing commands.


Original Industry: Not limited to a specific industry and is widely used.

Strengths: Flexible, can be rigid like Creo, or easy to use like AutoCad. Can be used for complex surfaces and analysis.

Drawbacks: Minimal Drawbacks

Design in Action: How is the CAD Software Used Today?

CAD software has evolved into an indispensable tool across an array of industries, reshaping the way we approach design and innovation. Here is a glimpse of its diverse array of contemporary applications:

Architecture: Architects harness CAD to craft intricate building designs, produce precise blueprints, and immerse themselves in 3D visualizations. This streamlined approach enhances construction processes and minimizes costly errors.

Engineering: CAD is the linchpin of product design and manufacturing, allowing engineers to create prototypes, design machinery, and optimize production processes. It powers almost every design in our modern world, expedites real-world testing, and enables the refinement of designs.

Fashion: In the world of fashion, CAD software empowers designers to create digital sketches, accelerating the design process while reducing material waste.

Healthcare: CAD software plays a critical role in designing medical devices, prosthetics, and customized implants with unrivaled precision. This transformative technology enhances patient care and improves quality of life.

Entertainment: CAD brings dreams to life in the realms of gaming and animation. It's the creative engine behind character modeling, environmental design, and captivating special effects in video games and movies.

Question for the Expert…

What are the main ways you have used CAD as a Mechanical Engineer?

When creating a new product or just performing geometric analysis, the CAD system is the system of choice. Sketching in 3D gives you the ability to lay out what you are thinking in a way that is quick and easy. The alternative is to create something physical, out of wood, clay, metal, etc., as well as the loss in ability to move from one concept to another quickly and assemble multiple full-scale components.

The CAD system is more than a layout tool, it’s a device for communication. One that can be shared anywhere. I can create a model and send it in seconds to my colleague in another country. They in turn can share it with a manufacturer and create the parts that I need without any confusion.

Embarking on Your CAD Journey

Feeling inspired by the transformative potential of CAD software? Here's a roadmap to embark on your exploration:

Select the Right Software: Begin by choosing the CAD software that aligns with your specific needs and interests. While notable options such as AutoCAD and SolidWorks are available, there are many free CAD systems that you can use right on your Mac or PC. Master the Fundamentals: Start by immersing yourself in the software's user interface, tools, and commands. Most CAD software providers offer comprehensive tutorials and online courses to help you grasp the essentials.

Practice and Experiment: Proficiency in CAD is cultivated through practice. Begin with simpler projects, gradually advancing to more complex designs as your confidence and familiarity with the software grow. You can also experiment with multiple software to see which you like the most.

Stay Informed: The world of CAD is dynamic, with ongoing software updates and new features. Staying informed is key to your continued growth CAD and your success as a designer!

Final Question for the Expert…

What advice do you have for someone just starting out using CAD software?

The CAD software packages of today are much more user-friendly than in the past. Start up the program and create, draw anything. Getting good at a CAD system is equivalent to the amount of time you put in. Nowadays you can easily find a CAD system, there is even free software or student versions you can download online.

I have always found creating on CAD more fun than work.

In conclusion, CAD software stands out as a remarkable testament to human innovation, redefining how we envision, design, and create. Whether you aspire to be an architect, engineer, fashion designer, or simply wish to unlock your creative potential with CAD, just remember that your boundaries are defined only by your imagination.

Interested in using CAD to advance a design that could change the world for the better? Circular Stream Engineering can help! Visit our services tab to learn more and don’t hesitate to reach out.


Bethany. “How CAD Has Evolved Since 1982.” Scan2CAD, https://www.scan2cad.com/blog/cad/cad-evolved-since-1982/. Accessed 3 October 2023.