Emerging Dimensions

Published Date
01 - Feb - 2007
| Last Updated
01 - Feb - 2007
Emerging Dimensions

The sheer range of industries it finds a place in, and the increasing demand for trained professsionals, marks CAD/CAM as a very attractive career options

he Taj Mahal is an excellent example of architectural design. The design and construction of this marvel of a monument took years to complete-which is often quoted as testimony to its greatness. But we must note here, without disrespect to those architects long gone, that were they to have had access to Computer Aided Design (CAD) technology, their work would have been much easier, and execution would have progressed much faster.

CAD and its allied technologies-Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) and Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) has widened the horizons of organisations at every level. 10 or 15 years ago, designs of a product, vehicle, or building were drawn by hand using special geometrical drawing tools. It would take several weeks or even months for a drawing to get to completion.

Gradually, as the IT revolution hit every industry, developments took place in the field of CAD/CAM. ("CAD/CAM/CAE" is usually referred to as just "CAD/CAM", since CAE just involves tasks that involve analysis, testing, and diagnostics on products or assembly lines, for instance.) Computers began to be used for drafting. 2D modelling was initially developed to minimise the time consumed for drawing the design of a new product, optimising existing products, and deriving better results. When CAD/CAM technologies gradually shifted from 2D to 3D, advanced solutions for designing a product could be derived. Walkthroughs, simulations, and animations of products could be created, which made for more realistic designs.

CAD/CAM technologies are widely used in various industries such as automotives, consumer electronics, aerospace, and many, many more. Four vendors-Autodesk, Dassault Systemes, PTC, and UGS Corp. hold more than half the CAD software market.

Today, the use of CAD/CAM tools has become a necessity in organisations over industry verticals such as automotive, aerospace and utilities. According to a study by Booz Allen Hamilton-a global strategy and technology consulting firm-and NASSCOM, called Globalization of Engineering services-The Next Growth Frontier for India, an additional $40 billion in opportunities will be created from the offshoring of engineering services for the Indian IT Industry by 2020, which implies that the demand for qualified engineers and skilled professionals will rise in the near future.

"With a global engineering shortage, CAD/CAM skills are in great demand. It is important that all students understand the culture of different countries and regions that the companies work in. It might involve a product that is designed in Europe, with programming in Australia, a mould base created in Korea, raw material from Canada, and manufactured in India," says Ved Narayan, vice president, Asia Pacific Operations, SolidWorks Corporation, who develop and market 3D CAD technology software tools.

In An Organization
The CAD/CAM technologies used across various industries can be broadly divided into Architecture, Construction and Infrastructure, and Manufacturing and Engineering.  Different industries such as Automotive and Aerospace come under Manufacturing and Engineering. Today there are a number of super-specialised courses available. By pursuing a super specialised course and having a keen interest in a particular domain, one can look for opportunities in three broad categories:

Initiatives of industry-academia collaborative efforts to standardise the level of education and closer exposure to industries will help in meeting the demand of a skilled workforce in the long run"
Rohit Biddappa, Marketing manager, Parametric Technology (India) Ltd

In A Nutshell 

CAD, CAM and CAE-The Difference The use of computer-based software and hardware tools is made for the design, planning, analysis, manufacturing, and simulation of a product or construction. These tools help in saving time and cost of producing a prototype for testing and analysis, which resulted in its adoption amongst various industry verticals.
Computer Aided Design (CAD) means the use of hardware and software tools by design professionals, engineers, and architects for design, development, modification, and optimisation of products before the actual manufacturing starts. There are various software by which CAD can be carried out-for example, PRO E, IDEA, CATIA, AutoCAD, and more. These tools are used extensively in the automotive industry, where the design of a model is tested by computer simulation rather than physical prototype testing.
In Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM), use of specialised computers and CAD tools is made to control, monitor, and adjust the machining tools in a manufacturing unit. A Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine is programmed after adding raw material to it, and the CNC machine will process the raw material according to the instructions coded in the programming language (G-code) for Numerical Controls and CNCs.
Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) refers to the use of computer-based analysis tools for optimising engineering tasks at every level of a product's life cycle. The tools are used for engineering tasks such as analysis, design and simulation, planning, diagnosing, validating, and repairing. Tasks such as stress analysis of a component or assembly line, product or process optimisation, mechanical event simulation, and more come under CAE.

After the education and training acquired from academic institutions, one can work with CAD/CAM tools to design in 2D and 3D, animate models, design simulations of a 3D object similar to a desired physical object, and model solids and surfaces. Also, on the construction, architecture, and infrastructure side, one is required to create walkthrough animations to give an idea of nearly exact dimensions of the desired outcomes. Involvement here is more on the design of the product, and in the case of CAM, in deriving codes for Numerical Controls and Computer Numerical Controls.

An individual can be a consultant draughtsman, designer, 3D solid modeller, etc. only after experience of at least five to seven years in an industry domain. One needs knowledge of the manufacturing process flow of different industries.

An instructor or trainer for CAD/CAM tools must have a lot of knowledge and experience of working with those tools, and also industry exposure. Such professionals get hired by academies and training institutes as well as by those involved in organising corporate training sessions.

The entry ticket for a CAD/CAM job would be an engineering degree. One must have a bachelors or masters degree with specialisation in the mechanical, electrical, or electronics branches. Those with specialised qualification in industrial design are also likely to be recruited across industry verticals. Diploma holders (mechanical, electronics, electrical, industrial design), too, are absorbed.

Candidates with mechanical engineering degrees are preferred since their curriculum allows specialisation in CAD/CAM in the final year. Civil engineers, architects, and computer science graduates, too, can get absorbed in the respective industries as in construction, architectural, and the application programming development domains. For CAE, a post-graduate or doctorate-level degree is necessary.

Engineering education can be pursued from a college that is accredited by the National Board of Accreditation (NBA) under the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). In the recent past, issues were raised over educational practices at engineering colleges and deemed universities, for which was announced the assessment of deemed universities. The accreditation from NBA was made mandatory long ago, in 2004. So before seeking admission in a deemed university or Regional Engineering College, one should check for accreditation.

Institutes offering courses specifically for product design and industrial design cover a curriculum that includes the use of CAD/CAM tools. There are many institutes that offer undergraduate and post-graduate courses in product design and industrial design-such as the IITs, National Institute of Design (Delhi and Ahmedabad), MIT India, and more. Several public as well as private institutes offer short-term and long term courses in industrial design and product design.

"The ability to think in three dimensions and comprehend complex geometric shapes in space is a must. Also, good observation and imagination powers help in visualising mechanical movements and animations. Knowledge of different manufacturing operations and floor assembly operations is an added asset for an aspiring candidate," says Prasad Shetye, vice president and head-Engineering Services, Patni Computer Systems, who offer engineering services.

Organisations that develop and market CAD/CAM/CAE software tools also recruit developers. "All the programming skills and attributes required in a software programmer are required. The programmer must be able to program the software keeping in mind the industry the software is being developed for. Besides, aspirants must also have strong visualisation powers," says Debjani Roy, Head of Human Resources-India, Bentley Systems, who develop engineering and design software as well as CAD software.

Industries Where CAD/CAM/CAE Tools Are Extensively Used 
Architecture, engineering, and construction
Architecture,Building engineering
Civil Engineering and Infrastructure Construction
Roads, Highways, Water and Sewer systems
Mapping and Survey
Mechanical Engineering 
Automotives, Aerospace Consumer Electronics, Machinery,
Ship Erection, Bio-mechanical Systems
Electronic Design Automation (EDA) 
Electronic and Electrical (ECAD)
Digital circuit design
Manufacturing Process Planning
Industrial Design
Software Applications Development
Apparel and Textile CAD
Fashion Design  

The recruitment process for CAD/CAM jobs is not radically different: there is an aptitude test, and tests to assess skills with drawings and working with CAD/CAM software. At the interview, personal and intrapersonal skills are assessed.

After recruitment, one undergoes a short-duration training programme. This covers basic induction, exposure to the production and services the organisation is involved in, hands-on designing skills with the CAD/CAM tools used, exposure to the organisation's business culture, and project-specific orientation. As the person goes higher on the rung, he is trained to do high-end designing work for products and structures.

Industry-Academy Collaboration
Academic institutions need better exposure  association with the industries employing their engineers. Education and training must benefit the industry and the students as well. The students will thus be able to receive better industry exposure through summer-winter internships offered by many companies.

 Organisations using CAD/CAM exclusively in their business model are now looking to join hands with academies that offer education and specialised training in CAD/CAM. Initiatives such as internships, campus placements, summer-winter projects, training programmes, and sponsoring R&D projects have now started, due to joint efforts by the industry and academies.

CAD/CAM software vendors provide consulting and guidance to the educational bodies on how to establish and maintain computing labs and keep them up-to-date with the latest software.

 CAD software vendors such as Autodesk, SolidWorks, and UGS Corp. have their own software-specific courseware and certifications. Information about authorised training centres and resellers can be found at the Web sites of CAD software vendors.

People in different industries are given different designation during their tenure with an organisation. However, the nature of the work remains the same at each level.

Entry Level
Trainee Designer/Engineer: The job here is to do everything right from documentation of a project design to the actual design using CAD tools. At this stage the individual gets the maximum time to get his hands on the CAD software tool on a platform (Windows, Linux, or UNIX). Drafting, solid modelling, surface modelling, finishing, and all the other basic tasks involved in designing a new product, constructs and walkthroughs are among the main activities that are done.

 During this tenure, the individual gets exposed to all areas of the project. One can expect to start with remuneration as low as Rs 1 lakh to 3 lakh per annum, depending upon organisation and industry. It takes roughly one to three years to advance to the next level.

Senior Designer/Engineer: Here, one validates the work of the Trainee Designer or Engineer, and works in one's own area of specialisation. People at this level are responsible for development of key areas as well as the growth of the trainee engineers. Responsibilities include the validating and analytical part of the designs. The Senior Designer or Engineer reports to the Design Lead or Engineering Lead respectively.

Remuneration is between Rs 3 to 5 lakh per annum. It takes experience of three to five years to advance to the next level.

"People who have the skills to work on high-end designing projects are required to possess the respective domain knowledge. That helps them in understand how the product will eventually evolve from the raw material through production."
Anil Sondur,Business Unit Head,Innovation Design Engineering,TATA Elxsi

Middle Level
Design Lead, or Lead Designer or Engineer: As a person reaches this level, the obligations and nature of work incline towards the management side. A Design or Engineering Lead is responsible for the team of designers and engineers under him. He works on a particular project and keeps a check on its progress. All the changes or finishing work required is under his influence. At this level, remuneration is between Rs 5 and 7 lakh per annum. The time needed to advance to the next level is, again, three to five years. 

Project Manager or Project Lead (Design or Engineering): Responsible for the entire project. He interacts with clients and understands their needs and suggested changes. Orders regarding changes are passed on to the Design Lead. He manages the application part of a particular CAD technology or tool for a project, and keeps a check over the project performance at every level. Remuneration ranges from Rs 7 to 10 lakh per annum, and advancement to the next level takes four to six years.

Top Level
Design / Engineering Director: An individual at this level is involved in taking strategic and managerial decisions upon a project. The nature of work here is mostly managerial. The decision of selecting a CAD technology and the tools to be used for the projects is taken by the Design/Engineering Director. Remuneration would be more than Rs 10 lakh per annum.

A Final Word
According to a study by Booz Allen Hamilton and NASSCOM, engineering services could help to create 1.5 to 2 lakh additional jobs by 2020-up to 1 lakh with the multiplier effect. The global spending in engineering services will grow from $750 billion to $1 trillion by 2020, and India will raise its market share from 12 per cent in 2004 to 30 per cent by 2020. The total offshore engineering services are expected to grow from $150 to $225 billion, out of which 25 per cent will be realised by the potential talent pool and existing work force in engineering services.

Demand for CAD/CAM professionals who have specialised knowledge of a domain will grow. To breed them, Indian industries need to invest in infrastructure, academics, and the workforce now to reap the benefits by 2020.

Be it the consumer electronics, aeronautical, automotive, or any other industry where CAD/CAM/CAE tools are used, the demand for qualified professionals will always be on the rise. The return over investment in this career option are rewarding, since the offshoring of engineering services is already picking up.

Samir MakwanaSamir Makwana