When considering the 3D modeling side of AutoCAD it’s helpful to compare the program with other 3D modeling programs like Maya, 3ds Max, Cinema 4D, Blender, etc. It’s also useful to know the real-world applications for the software, and which industries are using what.
Many similarities exist between the 3D programs but the essential difference lies in the purpose to which they are used. CAD programs like AutoCAD and the others are basically technical visualization tools used in industrial design, engineering, manufacturing and architecture. The term CAD means either computer-aided design or computer-aided drafting, and as such focuses on technical drafting and design. The logical outcome is specific tool sets pertaining to various industrial applications.
On the whole 3D modeling and animation programs aim to create a whole world environment from the floor up – think Pixar. As such their tool range is aimed at artistic and aesthetic outcomes in modeling and animation, for example shapes and textures and atmospheric effects. They are also designed to render multiple objects, like characters, props, with hair, fur and foliage which interact with their environments.
In our AutoCAD 3D course there are a few methods of creating sections of objects in Autocad 3D, one of which is the combination of the Shell and Slice functions.
CAD programs like AutoCAD, on the other hand, concentrate on creating precise and accurate technical models that emulate the functionality of a real-world environment. As such their tools focus more on accuracy and precision as well as measurements and scale. Efficiency as well as creativity are integral parts of these programs. We have in AutoCAD basically a drafting or modeling tool which allows us to communicate design intent and concepts to clients or other professionals, and has a legacy of 30 years as the industry leader in 2D and 3D computer-aided design.
Presently almost all structures or built environments, as well as machine tools and consumer products are created using CAD software, like AutoDesk’s AutoCAD, Revit or Inventor. From 2007 onward AutoCAD’s 3D modeling capabilities have been improved with each new version, which to date includes a full set of solid modeling tools, modification tools, including mesh modeling as well as the Mental Ray rendering engine. In addition to libraries of materials which ship with AutoCAD 3D it’s also possible for the user to create their own realistic materials and textures. Real world lighting for Sun and shadow studies is also possible. High-quality fly-through movies can also be outputted.
Many industries use AutoCAD 3D including architectural, mechanical, electrical, engineering and construction, GIS, surveying, civil engineering and urban planning. Recent releases also include 4D BIM functions. Originally an MS-DOS program, AutoCAD runs on both Windows and Apple Macintosh platforms, remaining the industry leader in CAD programs despite many competitors arising over the last three decades. AutoCAD has grown more complex in keeping up with the increasing complexity of the design and drafting processes, especially when it comes to 3D functionality, but its basic drafting or modeling principles remain simple and logical.
AutoCAD LT (or Lite) was released in 1993 and is a smaller, cheaper alternative to the full AutoCAD program. It does not include 3D and some other advanced features but is nevertheless very powerful and will perform all 2D drafting needs. First released in 2010 AutoCAD for Macintosh is identical to the Windows version in functionality, whilst retaining the pre-2009 PC layout. Hopefully AutoDesk intends to make the two versions more visually compatible in future releases.