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Computer Aided Drafting Technician


Every physical structure or object created in recent years -- from hand blenders to skyscrapers -- has a set of design or drafting diagrams to accompany it. Structures do not just pop out of thin air; they are carefully designed by a team of engineers and computer aided drafting (CAD) technicians. Computer aided drafting technicians support the work of engineers and architects by developing and preparing engineering designs and technical drawings used to build everything from mechanical products to structures. CAD technicians operate computer-aided design systems and peripheral equipment to draft and modify drawings from rough or detailed sketches or notes to specified dimensions for manufacturing, construction, engineering, or other purposes. They utilize knowledge of various CAD programs, machines, engineering practices, mathematics, building materials and other physical sciences to complete drawings.

Using industry standards and regulations, they perform calculations and design based on preliminary concepts, sketches, calculations, specification sheets and other data. Their drawings technically explain the details of products and structures, specify materials to be used and procedures to be taken. CAD technicians may write a technical report to accompany the CAD drafts.

CAD technicians use a number of sources to help them in their design work, such as tables, calculators and computers. They are also involved in related activities such as estimating, contract administration, and specification preparation and interpretation. Traditionally, this job involved hand drawing blueprints and designs, but with increases in technology, almost all design now takes place on CAD systems.

Computer aided drafting technicians use CAD techniques to prepare engineering plans, architectural plans, flow diagrams and schematics, layouts, maps and detailed working drawings. CAD systems create realistic geometric models of objects which can simulate and analyze the effects and potential problems of designs. The system sorts drawings electronically so that revisions, variations and duplications can easily be made. Although CAD technicians use CAD extensively as their main task, it is still only a computer tool. In other words, CAD technicians should still possess design skills and have knowledge of drafting skills and standards in addition to CAD skills.

They may work independently, in teams with engineers from many disciplines, or as support for technologists, engineers, architects and industrial designers. They are able to work in a number of engineering fields, such as civil engineering, urban and regional planning, industrial control and automation, process design, machine design or communications technology. CAD technicians are required to constantly update their skills and knowledge in order to keep up with technological advancements in this quickly changing field.
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  Interests and Skills  
Computer aided drafting technicians must be able to pay close attention to detail and maintain good hand-eye coordination when designing projects. They must possess the ability to visualize three-dimensional objects from two-dimensional drawings and the relationships between parts in machinery and systems. Using CAD software skills, they apply their mathematics, physics, computer and chemistry skills to their designs.

Once they have completed a design, they must be able to communicate design ideas and solutions clearly and concisely verbally and in writing. Most CAD technicians enjoy taking a methodical approach to their work, analyzing data and finding innovative solutions to problems.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Develop and prepare engineering designs and drafts from preliminary concepts, sketches, engineering calculations, specification sheets and other data
  • Study drafts, information and instructions from the client or engineer
  • Design flow diagrams and schematics, which illustrate how a machine operates
  • Operate computer aided design (CAD) and drafting stations
  • Draft rough CAD layouts of the planned structure, machine or product
  • Complete documentation packages and produce drawing sets
  • Check and verify design drawings to conform to specifications and design data
  • Make the necessary changes to the designs, drawings or specifications
  • Supervise and train other technicians and drafters unfamiliar with CAD systems
  • Computer aided drafting technicians usually work in an office environment, spending the majority of their time using CAD software on the computer. Most generally work standard office hours, but longer hours may be required to meet deadlines. Some senior CAD technicians may also be involved in field and site work, and project supervision.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Computer aided drafting technicians work in both the public and private sectors. Consulting and construction companies, utility, resource and manufacturing companies, private machine design firms, architectural and engineering consulting firms, electronic manufacturing companies and organizations in the petrochemical, food processing and energy industries employ CAD technicians. In the public sector, they work for all levels of government and for a wide range of other establishments.

  Long Term Career Potential  
There is room for advancement as a computer aided drafting technician. Entry-level positions involve heavy supervision, but with experience, most develop greater competency skills and advance to positions in the management or supervisory nature. CAD technicians may also advance to senior drafting positions, taking on larger, more complex problems.

With more education, some CAD technicians may go on to become technologists, engineers or architects.

  Educational Paths  
Completion of a one- or two-year college program in CAD engineering technology is usually required for computer aided drafting technicians. A certification in CAD drafting technology or a related field is available through associations of engineering or applied science technologists and technicians and may be required for some positions.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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