How To Use This Playbook

Each Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub playbook is created with the business growth needs of our area’s small and medium manufacturers in mind. By utilizing the information in the Computer-Aided Design/Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAD/CAM) systems Playbook, you are taking the first steps to creating a competitive advantage for your company by innovating in the face of disruptive technologies. 

This playbook follows a logical flow to guide you as you learn more about Computer-Aided Design/Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAD/CAM) systems (see Fig. 1). Review the sections as they apply to your individual opportunities and resources, either in the order they’re presented or jump around to fit your immediate needs.

Figure 1: Computer-Aided Design/Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAD/CAM) systems Playbook Information Flow

Fig 1

This is your toolkit for plugging into the CAD/CAM network in the Quad Cities.

Together all eight of our playbooks uplift our regional manufacturers and Department of Defense suppliers through increasing digital readiness, working in concert to accelerate the understanding and investment in emerging technologies and to foster a culture of innovation in the manufacturing industry. We encourage you to review the other playbooks (see appendix for more information) as well.

Whom can I contact at the Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub with questions?

Email and a member of the Hub team will respond to your question.

About the Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub and Our Partners

The Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub assists businesses by offering services such as operational assessments, registry in a regional catalog of manufacturers and suppliers, trade and business-to-business events, access to national marketing, access to subject matter experts through the Chamber’s Critical Talent Network, connections to the Quad City Manufacturing Lab and national research, and training seminars targeted at key technologies. More information on the Hub can be found online here

This content was prepared as part of the Illinois Defense Industry Adjustment Program, a partnership between the University of Illinois System, the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce, and the Voorhees Center at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), with financial support from the U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA). It reflects the views of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce and does not necessarily reflect the views of the OEA. For more information, please visit

Copyright © 2018 by Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except as permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher at the address below:

Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub c/o Quad Cities Chamber 1601 River Dr., Ste. 310, Moline, IL  Visit the publisher’s website at

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CAD/CAM Systems in the Quad Cities: At a Glance

What are CAD/CAM systems?

Wikipedia has a simple definition for both computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing:

Computer-aided design (CAD) is the use of computer systems (or workstations) to aid in the creation, modification, analysis, or optimization of a design.[1] CAD software is used to increase the productivity of the designer, improve the quality of design, improve communications through documentation, and to create a database for manufacturing.[2] CAD output is often in the form of electronic files for print, machining, or other manufacturing operations.”

“Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) is the use of software to control machine tools and related ones in the manufacturing of workpieces.[1][2][3][4][5]

Inc. Magazine also published a summary of both online:

“Computer-aided design (CAD) involves creating computer models defined by geometrical parameters. These models typically appear on a computer monitor as a three-dimensional representation of a part or a system of parts, which can be readily altered by changing relevant parameters. CAD systems enable designers to view objects under a wide variety of representations and to test these objects by simulating real-world conditions.

“Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) uses geometrical design data to control automated machinery. CAM systems are associated with computer numerical control (CNC) or direct numerical control (DNC) systems. These systems differ from older forms of numerical control (NC) in that geometrical data are encoded mechanically. Since both CAD and CAM use computer-based methods for encoding geometrical data, it is possible for the processes of design and manufacture to be highly integrated. Computer-aided design and manufacturing systems are commonly referred to as CAD/CAM.”

Why do CAD/CAM systems matter to the Quad Cities community?

Quad Cities manufacturers can be more fast and flexible as well as more visible and accessible to new customers, partners and geographies by utilizing CAD/CAM systems. Building your part related data online and  being able to update and share that data with suppliers and customers is critical to competing in a global economy where access to potential manufacturing partners is seemingly unlimited and business information travels fast. The definition of “business as usual” has evolved to “going digital” is now table stakes for manufacturer survival within our communities.

What are the biggest CAD/CAM opportunity areas locally?

The Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub has identified three key opportunity areas in CAD/CAM systems for area manufacturers.  More information and case studies can be found in the Identify Opportunities section.

  • Opportunity #1: Streamline processes for better engineering and manufacturing productivity
  • Opportunity #2: Reduce lead times, design time, programming time, and rework
  • Opportunity #3: Improve time to market and exceptional design

What are the business benefits of utilizing CAD/CAM systems?

There are numerous benefits to implementing CAD/CAM systems into your workflow.  For example, CAD/CAM has been proven to be more cost-effective means of:

  • Having a unified source of part geometry and manufacturing data.
  • Providing both improved external and internal communications.
  • Improved productivity of operations.

Customers who feel connected to their manufacturer throughout the design, purchase, and delivery process are also more likely to purchase as well as recommend and refer you to their peers.

This article lists the top benefits to incorporating CAD/CAM software into your CNC manufacturing:

CAD/CAM also can be used to reduce product development costs, with 60 percent of overall project cost determined during the concept stage:

Where can I find help to get started?

There are local partners who can assist you with full CAD/CAM strategies or specific implementations of tactical solutions on business functions that you’ve prioritized. There are also many free online resources, as well as educational courses offered by Quad City and state universities and colleges. Go to Find Help for a full list of area resources to help jump start your use of CAD/CAM solutions available to grow your business.

Understand the CAD/CAM Technologies

In this section, we take a closer look at the variety of technologies that contribute to the collective term “CAD/CAM systems.” You’ll gain a better understanding of how CAD/CAM systems contribute to an overarching strategy through diagrams, frameworks, and definitions of key terms used in the CAD/CAM system’s space. This section also details additional online resources for greater understanding.

Computer-aided design (CAD) is the use of computer systems (or workstations) to aid in the creation, modification, analysis, or optimization of a design.

Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) is the use of software to control machine tools and related ones in the manufacturing of workpieces.

Fig. 1. A chart describing the design process using CAD systems

Cad Lesson Principles Cad Scheme

By User:Vrecion - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5,

By using 2-dimensional CAD software, designers can create accurate, scaled drawings of parts and assemblies for designs. It can also be used to develop and firm up design ideas by concentrating on single views and using the range of geometric tools available.

By using 3-dimensional CAD software designers can create fully rendered 3D models of parts and whole assemblies for designs. Designs can be tested virtually before being made from costly materials. 3-dimensional CAD allows all of the parts of a design to be modelled in separate files and then assembled together into a final model. Each part can be modified at any time and changes will be applied to the final model also.                                                                              

3D models can be viewed from any angle allowing complete visual testing. Assembly of the final model allows the designer to check for exact fit of the parts.

Fig. 2. How do CAD/CAM systems fit into the digital enterprise

Being digital ready includes all three elements of computer-aided design, computer-aided manufacturing, and materials requirments planning.

Ppt Bob Smola Graphic How Does It Fit Into Digital Enterprise

Source: Graphic included in presentation at CAD/CAM tech team meeting by project manager Bob Smola

Additional Online Resources

Here are additional sources of information about CAD/CAM and implementation. Many of these are infographics or provide great summaries and frameworks for you to begin shaping your thinking about implementing a CAD/CAM system. They will not provide detailed solutions or plans. Those specific solutions and plans need to be developed for you individual business needs and conditions.

There is a wealth of information available online to help you get started with your understanding of CAD/CAM. You can use Google images or Pinterest to find ideas using the suggested search terms below.

  • CAD/CAM infographics
  • CAD/CAM elements infographic
  • CAD/CAM benefits
  • CAD/CAM implementation

Identify Opportunities

Using CAD/CAM systems offers many key benefits to small and medium manufacturers in the Quad Cities.  The Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub has identified three key opportunity areas that can bring greatest benefit to our area’s small and medium manufacturers.  We will look more in depth at a couple of those opportunities. Below, you’ll also find a case example for different opportunity areas that shows how a manufacturer was able to utilize CAD/CAM systems to produce results.

Opportunity #1: Streamline processes for better engineering and manufacturing productivity

Case example: Race car company uses CAD to realize both engineering and manufacturing productivity

Texas Chassisworks produces high-end drag-racing cars and associated parts.  By applying CAM operations directly to the Solidworks CAD model and using advanced tool-path operations, the Tyler-based company can decrease cycle time by 50 percent.

Read the full case study here:

Opportunity #2: Reduction in lead times, design time programming time, and rework

Case example: Using CAD/CAM to automate design and part programming

“CP-Carillo, a leader in the production of pistons and rods for the power-sports and motor-sports racing industries, is leveraging the Applications Programming Interfaces (APIs) of the integrated SOLIDWORKS CAD and CAMWorks CAM solution to fully automate the design and part-programming of its products … This integrated, automated approach reduces overall lead time by 85 percent, including a 95-percent reduction in design time, a 75-percent drop in CNC programming time, and a 20-percent decrease in scrap and rework.” 

Read the full case study here:

Opportunity #3: Improved time to market and exceptional design

Case example: Software allows for easy modification in record time

KTM, Europe's largest manufacturer of motorsports vehicles, engineers everything in-house. By using PTC’s Creo software, the company is able to design faster and smarter by connecting its digital design to physical products.  This allows them to “quickly take any design and easily modify it … (they) can design, simulate, optimize, and modify every aspect of the complete bike in Creo, and this can all be done in just a few hours, compared with the weeks and months it took previously.”

The blog post gives results for the KTM 690 DUKE as an example:

  • Developed in record time, just 22 months from first concept to start of production, a 15% reduction in time-to-market compared to the previous generation.
  • Lightest weight in it class, with the most powerful engine.
  • Highest fuel efficiency in its class, with a 10% improvement in fuel consumption compared to the previous generation.

Read the full case study here:

Build the Business Case and Begin Implementation

In this section, we’ll outline the steps to take in implementing strategies and tactics of CAD/CAM systems within your company, beginning with awareness and change management, through establishing partnerships and building use cases that will save you time and money. We understand that the idea of implementing a CAD/CAM platform may be very different from what you may be accustomed to, and that the prospect of this degree of change to your communications and operations is daunting and frightening. It is our hope that, through the following content and previous look at the benefits of CAD/CAM systems, you’ll feel more comfortable exploring how you can utilize these technologies to better connect with your internal and external information flows to ultimately increase your product and service sales. 

Making Your Case

Here are some key takeaways from a blog post related to paperless moldmaking, which can be achieved with the help of CAD/CAM platforms.  According to the article Achieving Real Cost Savings with Paperless Moldmaking from

“While the paperless manufacturing environment can clearly reduce costs through the elimination of printed drawings and machine instructions, the real cost savings from a paperless approach comes from a streamlined process with fewer steps and faster time to market.”

  • 3-D software for tool design can be much faster than traditional paper drawing-based methods
  • Using the same CAD model for tool design and NC programming can save significant data conversion times and support fast design updates.
  • Advanced data display on a 3-D CAD model can support rapid collaboration between supplier and customers.

Read the full article here, including example calculations of costs at the end:

Here is another online source to help you understand your business case:

The CAD Upgrade Handbook
by: Chad Jackson of and Life Cycle Insights with PCT Creo

“While innovation progresses in the CAD industry, many engineering and IT managers watch with a mix of excitement and trepidation about a CAD upgrade … Make no mistake: the promise of greater productivity, cost savings and better design is fairly self-evident. Along with those hopes come valid questions and fears.”

Read the full article here:

What to Look for in a CAD/CAM Platform

You’ve made your case.  Now what? Here are some online resources to help you when choosing your platforms.

Change Management: Building the Case Requires Defining Your Business Requirements

For most small and medium manufacturers, the prospect of adopting an CAD/CAM platform into your internal and external operations seems risky, as it requires “unlearning” the methods and habits that you have used to run your business to this point. And it requires learning new technologies and procedures to remain relevant in a digital age.

There are many ways for you to get started along the path to using CAD/CAM.  Check out this blog post by Rachel Burger from Construction Management, 5 Steps to Get Started with CAD, for a succinct overview:

You also can use the change management tips below to make the case for change and immediately begin proving results:

  • Understand the business value of CAD/CAM and set goals accordingly. Use our metrics outlined below as well as your own data research to set realistic expectations of how you will measure the impact and success of integrating CAD/CAM into your existing manufacturing processes. This will help in resource planning if you’re measuring the right benchmarks out of the gate.
  • Focus on one or two key areas (such as a new part or order, or a medium production-volume part) first before adding complexity to your production process and supply chain.
  • Focus on getting every employee on board with the benefits of CAD/CAM through peer education. Get all stakeholders involved from the beginning via one-on-one conversations with leaders and all-company meetings to drive the vision.
  • Make them as knowledgeable as you possibly can, taking ownership of CAD/CAM initiatives. Innovative companies like GE promote “reverse mentoring” to foster understanding, create mutual empathy, and promote collaboration between disparate generations and team members. In reverse mentoring scenarios, a younger colleague mentors a more tenured employee as a way of getting everyone up-to-speed quickly with new technologies and benefits. See below for more education resources and tips.
  • Keep communication lines open during the trial-and-error portion of CAD/CAM implementation. Employees should understand that it’s okay to fail, and fail fast, if it’s part of a learning process that eventually leads to prototyping successful new business processes. This mindset must be led from the top-down within your company in order for employees to feel like they can experiment and innovate in order to achieve efficiencies from CAD/CAM. Breed risk-taking early.

Part of change management also lies in understanding and planning for the challenges you will encounter in integrating CAD/CAM systems into your existing operations. Below are three challenges we’ve identified through our research and conversations with area manufacturers. Become familiar with the potential roadblocks so you can steer clear of their hindrances early on.

  • Challenge 1: Time commitment and prioritization. Many manufacturers, especially those small and medium in size, find it difficult to allocate precious time to adopt new technologies in lieu of other pressing priorities. In order to achieve results from CAD/CAM systems, it takes commitment from both leadership and those responsible for implementation. Start with part-time allocation of one or two employees and grow from there.
  • Challenge 2: Strategic oversight and education. CAD/CAM systems must be integrated into a manufacturer’s overarching operations strategy. This takes foundational education for not only those leading the charge but all employees who are responsible for adopting the new operating system. See below for recommended educational partners in the Quad Cities.
  • Challenge 3: Budget availability and measurement. Allocating budget for not only the software, but also support and training is vital. In addition, a few key metrics need to be established to measure the progress implementation and its impact. See the Metrics section below for possible metrics, but the actual selection will depend on your specific business strategy.

Processes and Frameworks for Implementing CAD/CAM Systems

Integrating CAD/CAM systems into your existing manufacturing processes requires a strategic approach. Utilize the workflows and frameworks below to jumpstart your efforts. The frameworks in this section are presented to aid in your high-level strategic prioritization of CAD/CAM systems, and we recommend you search out specific frameworks for each platform and tactic chosen to guide your implementation.

Framework 1: Computer-Integrated Manufacturing

Note: While it uses the term CIM, the framework encompasses CAD/CAM systems also.

According to Wikipedia, “Computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) is the manufacturing approach of using computers to control the entire production process. This integration allows individual processes to exchange information with each other and initiate actions. Although manufacturing can be faster and less error-prone by the integration of computers, the main advantage is the ability to create automated manufacturing processes. Typically CIM relies on closed-loop control processes, based on real-time input from sensors. It is also known as flexible design and manufacturing.”

Fig. 3: Computer Integrated Manufacturing control system

Principles Of Comp Int Mfg

Credit: By Jean-Baptiste Waldner - "CIM: Principles of Computer Integrated Manufacturing", Jean-Baptiste Waldner, John Wiley & Sons, 1992, CC BY-SA 2.5,

Framework 2: Integrated Computer-Aided Manufacturing (ICAM)

According to Wikipedia, “Integrated Computer-Aided Manufacturing (ICAM) is a US Air Force program that develops tools, techniques, and processes to support manufacturing integration. It influenced the computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) project efforts of many companies.”

Fig. 4: Integrated Computer Aided Manufacturing

Icam Air Force

By Dennis E. Wisnosky - An overview of the Air Force program for integrated computer aided manufacturing (ICAM). ICAM program prospectus. SME technical paper, Public Domain,

Resources Needed: Technology and Staffing

Resources required to manage and implement CAD/CAM systems will vary by which area of your business that you’ve prioritized. As previously outlined, you must create a strategic plan for how ERP platforms will augment or replace your current operational processes. How and where to begin implementing elements of ERP needs to be strategic in order to avoid investing in the latest “bright, shiny technology” or hiring unnecessary talent.

Use the following general checklist to assist in the process of planning for your hard and soft costs. You may also contact the Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub for help in thinking through your next steps. Email: and a member of the Hub team will respond to your question.


  • There is a wealth of systems available, and they are constantly changing.
  • You might perform an online search using the term “best small-business CAD/CAM.”
  • You may want to learn what systems your customers and suppliers are using now or planning for the future.
  • Learn how the pricing of the software is calculated. It may be by user or by site. This can be important when looking at the future growth of your company.


  • You will need to review your current systems and equipment to see how you are currently capturing and sharing data (it may be on paper).
  • While most software runs on personal computers, there is usually a need for more processing power, memory, and graphics cards.
  • You will need to consider how and who will be supporting whatever equipment you adopt.  

Employees and Hiring:

  • You will most likely need some expert assistance in implementing a CAD/CAM platform. You will also probably like to have that assistance to be on-site and face-to-face for some period of time. You may want to check the local area for CAD/CAM integrators and the software that they support.
  • You will need someone within your company to be the “owner” and project lead for the new system. This will require a significant amount of time in the start-up and also be needed to train new or additional people in the future.
  • As mentioned in the change management sections above, there will be a significant amount of your and your people’s time and energy devoted to this implementation. You will be changing the way your company’s work gets done, not just adopting a computer system.

"Quick Wins" to Get Started with CAD/CAM Systems

Here are a few areas on which to focus in order to jumpstart your preparation of CAD/CAM element implementation:

  • Tip 1: Begin mapping your existing design and manufacturing processes. This is probably the very best thing you can do to prepare. There are many local and online resources to help with this, many of which are listed in Resources below. 
  • Tip 2: Pick out a new part or order to begin your 3D modeling experience.
  • Tip 3: Connect with a local CAD vendor or community college to try out CAD software.
  • Tip 4: Find or appoint an internal Project Manager. You will need someone within your company to be the owner of the new system. This is the only way to sustain the implementation and train additional people.
  • Tip 5: Identify the information bottlenecks where you are losing time. Where are the places that either design or manufacturing have to wait before they can move to the next step?
  • Tip 6: Ask your customers about their plans for future CAD/CAM systems. While systems are getting much better at exchanging data, it makes sense to be proactive in understanding what is going on in your whole supply chain. You may also find others who are sharing your implementation journey.
  • Tip 7: Reach out to people in the community. You’ve already taken the first step by reviewing the Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub playbook. Next find opportunities to network with others interested in the same topic through professional organizations or informal gatherings (ex: MeetUp groups or other user groups in the area).  

Metrics for Success: How to Measure Impact

When setting your objectives for your CAD/CAM platform, you’ll need to tie goals to business impact using metrics for success. Without measuring and benchmarking the performance against where you are today, it will be more difficult to consistently improve processes, assess weaknesses, and secure future resources.

How to Measure the Success of Your CAD/CAM Implementation

Here are a few metric examples:

  • Lead time to deliver a design
  • Lead time to deliver a quote
  • Number of engineering changes needed
  • Number of downstream quality issues in manufacturing or design
  • Number of “rush” shipments
  • Actual margin per order

Here some online resources from Solidworks that also offer insight into the measurement process:

Productivity and Return on Investment from SolidWorks 3D CAD Software

While this ROI is for a particular software, the measurement principles would be the same for other software.  On page 8 of the case study, it shows there was a 15-25% productivity improvement on engineering change orders. 

Read the full case study here:

How to Measure the ROI of Better Engineering Design

According to this case study posted by Lucas Leão, “The need to get products to market more quickly is prompting companies to take a closer look at how work is done in CAD. Advanced capabilities within CAD tools can allow companies to remove tedious activities and improve design productivity. This article takes a look into the capabilities of CAD software and how it can be used to improve the engineering design process.”

Read the full case study here:

Find Help with Regional Assets and Partners

In delivering this CAD/CAM platform playbook, among the seven other playbooks provided by the Quad Cities Manufacturing and Innovation Hub, our goal is to connect you to local resources you need to learn about and implement new technologies that will impact your business and our region in the future. In this section, you’ll find local experts, agencies, consultants, and specialists to help you succeed. Additionally, we’ve outlined national and global resources in some categories if local resources do not exist and/or the national resource is reputable.  

Consultants/Service Providers

Greg Robb
CNC Instructor - MasterCam, Mazatrol, Prototrac, EZPath
Blong Technology Center - Eastern Iowa Community Colleges

Karl Schmidt
Automation Control & Information Enabled Solutions
Van Meter

Glen Dugan
Strategic Leadership & Coaching for Digital Applications
One Vision

Eric Faierson, Ph. D.
Interim Director – Quad City Manufacturing Lab - 3D Modeling, Additive Manufacturing Applications
QCML - Rock Island Arsenal

Corey Herchenroder
Director Professional Services - SAP Platform
Contax, Inc

Matt Henningsen
Account Manager - CREO

Ryan Mermall
Sales Engineer - MasterCam for Solid Works
ShopWare, Inc.

Scott Miller
Industrial Engineer - Process Mapping & Digital Machining Applications
The Innovation Machine

Adam Stadelmann
Application Engineer - SolidWorks 3D Modeling Platform

CAD/CAM Hiring Solutions

Chenhall Staffing Services 
In addition to staffing and HR, the Chenhall’s team provides solutions in a wide-ranging area of IT needs. Whether they are simply identifying and placing highly qualified technical experts to fit clients’ staffing needs or serving as a prime or sub-contractor on an operational program, their preferred operating model is to build long-term partnerships and trusted relationships with the common purpose of delivering, sustaining, and supporting quality IT services.

Mid-States Technical Staffing
Mid-States Technical has a network of offices throughout the United States and an experienced permanent staff that includes recruiting, management, sales, accounting and administrative employees. They work with Fortune 500 companies across the nation to match the most qualified technical professionals to their needs.

Robert Half Technology 
Robert Half Technology specializes in placing application development, systems integration, information security, infrastructure management, networking, database development, help desk and technical support professionals in project, contract-to-hire and full-time positions.

Sedona Technologies
Sedona has access to the most highly skilled, qualified candidates for technical staffing, including for infrastructure management, engineering solutions, and more.

Professional Organizations

Eastern Iowa SOLIDWORKS User Group
A group of SOLIDWORKS users gathering in the Davenport, Iowa, area, sharing ideas and information.  All SOLIDWORKS users are welcome.

Educational Resources

Iowa State University Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS)
The Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) is part of the College of Engineering and the Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations at Iowa State University.

Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC)
IMEC is a team of improvement specialists and technicians dedicated to providing organizations in Illinois with the tools and techniques to create sustainable competitive futures. The experienced hands-on team at IMEC works closely with its clients to plan critical business improvements in the areas of Leadership, Strategy, Customer Engagement, Operations, and Workforce.

Eastern Iowa Community Colleges (EICC) – Associate in Applied Science, Mechanical Design (CAD)
The Mechanical Design Technology program includes proficiencies required by industry, delivered in a practical hands-on method that applies directly to the world of work. 

Western Illinois University – Bachelor of Science, Engineering

The Engineering degree program prepares graduates to thrive in the technology-driven global workplace. The program focuses on the practice of engineering with a broad curriculum that emphasizes the basic engineering fundamentals companies in this region require. The program allows students to select electives from a number of areas to increase depth and expertise, including the traditional general degree, Robotics, Civil, Industrial, and Electrical Engineering. Practical Engineering is the major thrust of the program, with multidisciplinary design and teamwork incorporated throughout the curriculum. Students are encouraged to innovate and try new concepts as they develop their problem-solving skills.

Online Education

In addition to the local options available to you, many institutions and organizations offer online certificates and courses in related topics, taught by seasoned professionals. We’ve included some options below, though there are many more that may fit your specific needs. 

Udemy is a global marketplace for learning and teaching online where students are mastering new skills and achieving their goals by learning from an extensive library of over 55,000 courses taught by expert instructors.

Sample CAD/CAM course:

Coursera provides universal access to the world’s best education, partnering with top universities and organizations to offer courses online. Every course on Coursera is taught by top instructors from the world’s best universities and educational institutions. Courses include recorded video lectures, auto-graded and peer-reviewed assignments, and community discussion forums. When you complete a course, you’ll receive a sharable electronic Course Certificate.

Sample CAD/CAM course

Special Thanks

The CAD/CAM Playbook was created with the contributions, time, and talent of many members of our manufacturing and CAD/CAM community. 

This playbook is dedicated to the memory of Bob Smola, our Digital Project Manager, who left us way too soon! We miss him very much and will miss his very special contributions to helping us create the region’s digital future.

We’d like to extend a special thanks to these people and many more that were instrumental in the development of this playbook:

● Paul Hines, Mechanical Designer - SolidWorks, eBeam Technologies
● Greg Robb, CNC Instructor - Blong Technology Center, Eastern Iowa Community Colleges
● Karl Schmidt, Automation Control & Information Enabled Solutions - Van Meter
● Edward Flinn, Director Industrial Engineering, Rock Island Arsenal - JMTC
● Jaimy Szymanski, Digital Experience Analyst,
● Eric Faierson, Ph.D., Interim Director – Quad City Manufacturing Lab
● William E. Pratt, Ph.D., Director - School of Engineering, Western Illinois University


Glossary: Key CAD/CAM Terms

Definitions provided for educational purposes as described by the source unless otherwise noted.

This Wikipedia article provides a good overview of the CAD landscape and the common definitions that surround it:

Should you need a more detailed listing of specific terminology used in CAD/CAM systems, here is an extensive listing from the University of Virginia:

Application: A computer program. A CAD application, also called and add-on or plug-in, can carry out complex tasks specific to a particular drawing problem. CAD applications run in tandem with the CAD software to perform specialized or automated tasks. Some examples of CAD applications specific to theatre include programs to automate the drawing of construction drawings and light plots.

Arrowhead: The part of a dimension or leader which points to an object or extension line. Arrowheads usually can be drawn automatically in several styles or shapes.


          AutoCAD: Information or data about a drawing object which can be hidden or appear in the drawing as text. Often this information can be extracted from the drawing and used in a spreadsheet or other program.

          Vectorworks: Color, Pattern, or Marker Style of an object.

Bezier curve: A curve defined by endpoints, tangent lines, and control points at the ends of the tangent lines. Altering the length and angle of tangent lines alters the shape of the curve.

Bitmap: A pixel based graphic or image inserted in a drawing. Bitmaps can be sized but not edited with most CAD programs.

Block: (AutoCAD terminology), see symbol.

CAD: Computer-aided design. Common CAD programs include: AutoCAD, Vectorworks, Microstation. Programs differ greatly in features, complexity, cost, and hardware requirements.

CADD: Computer-aided design and drafting.

Cartesian coordinates: See coordinates.

Center point: The defining point at the exact center of a circle, arc, regular polygon or ellipse.

Chamfer: A diagonal line which connects points on two intersecting objects such as an angled corner. The chamfer tool is an editing tool.

Class: A category of objects (Vectorworks) to which objects can be assigned and then manipulated as a group.

Color: A property of any drawing object which defines the color in which it appears on the screen and (possibly) the color in which it is printed. Color is often associated with an object's layer or class assignment and can be used to determines how that object will appear on a printout with regard to line thickness and line type.

Component: (Generic CADD terminology) See symbol.

Constraint: A drawing tool which limits drawing to a particular point, line or angle. Some common constraints are snap to grid and ortho.

Control points: Points determining the path and shape of a Bezier curve.

Coordinates: A system of numbers used to locate a point or object in a drawing.  In the Cartesian coordinate system 2 numbers x and y are used to describe the location of a point in the horizontal and vertical dimensions respectively. 3D CAD programs add the z coordinate which describes distance in the third dimension.  In the Polar coordinate system a point is described by a distance and an angle where 0° extends horizontally to the right.

Cursor: The screen symbol or icon which represents the current mouse location relative to the drawing window or viewport. The cursor may appear as crosshairs or another symbol based on which command is active.

Curve: A complex entity created by the definition of endpoints of spline curve sections. Note, the type of curve you use determines the types of editing tools or functions that may be performed on it. See also Bezier curve.

Datum: A temporary coordinate point set by the user which can be used as a snap point or reference point when drawing.

Dimension line: A line, usually with an arrow indicating the direction and distance of a drawing dimension. See also extension line.

Drawing database: The central part of a CAD drawing. A list of all objects which exist within a drawing along with all parameters and definition points.

Drawing units: See units.

Drawing window: See viewport (AutoCAD).

DXF: Drawing exchange format created by Autodesk. An ascii text file format describing drawing data and settings to translate drawings between programs and formats. Note: DXF is not a standardized format and different programs convert or ignore different entities found in a DXF file.

Edit: The process of modifying a drawing object or entity.

Editing tools: A class of drawing commands used to modify drawing entities or objects. Common edits include: trimrotatemove and stretch.

Ellipse: A CAD drawing object defined by a major axis, minor axis and centerpoint. An ellipse may also be constructed out of arcs and line segments. An ellipse created in this way is not mathematically a true ellipse but is an easier object to edit.

Environment: The over-all setup of a CAD program including all drawing settings, colors, units, tool palettes, etc. comprise the drawing environment.

Explode (AutoCAD): A common command which break objects apart into their component pieces. Explode most often works on symbols, breaking them back into their component pieces. In some CAD programs other entities are explodable such as text linespolylines, or other complex objects.

Extension line: The line which extends from a measured line or object to the dimension line, showing the extent of the measured distance.

Fillet (Rhymes with skillet): An arc connecting endpoints of two intersecting lines or objects, often a rounded corner.

Fill: A complex object defined by a series of points or a bordering object such as a circle or polyline which fills the defined area with solid color. The display of a fill is highly dependent upon the display or printer/plotter being used. See also hatch.

Font: The typographic style property of text. Fonts may be drafting style (one line thickness) or typographic such as that being used in this document. Fonts are commonly managed by the operating system, not the CAD program and can be difficult to translate from one computer to another or one CAD program to another.

Grid: A drawing tool which is usually a pattern of regularly spaced dots or lines which make the alignment and drawing of objects easier. A snap to grid tool constrains or locks all drawing to grid points only.

Group: A collection of objects which can be manipulated as one object.

Handles: See object handles.

Hatch: A complex object defined by a series of points or a bordering object such as a circle or polyline which fills the defined area with a repeating pattern of lines. Hatches have a scale property which determines the size and density of the repeating pattern. See also fill.

Layer: A property of any drawing object. Usually objects are organized onto different layers for organizational purposes and ease of drawing, viewing and editing. Layers often can be named and can have default colors or other properties associated with them. Vectorworks Layers have the added ability to have associated properties of scale, view, and projection. These added properties of Vectorworks layers are similar in function to AutoCAD paperspace.

Leader: A line with an arrowhead and attached text pointing at another object.

Leader line: The line portion of a leader connecting the shoulder to an arrowhead.

Line: A CAD object defined by two endpoints.

Line type: A property of any line, circle, curve, or arc. Line type describes a repeating pattern of lines and spaces. Lines may be solid, dashed, alternate, etc. The additional property of line type scale determines how often in a given distance a pattern of lines and spaces repeats. Scale may or may not be affected by the scale of the drawing view.

Line width: A property of any line, circle, curve, or arc. Line width describes how thick a line or other object appears on the screen or on a printout. Different CAD programs use different schemes for achieving line width.

Locus: A drawing object with a single reference point and no physical dimension.

Macro: A sequence of commands recorded and saved for easy playback. Well designed macros can save a great deal of drawing time. See also script and application.

Major axis: The longer axis of an ellipse.

Manual entry: The process of entering points manually by typing coordinates as opposed to clicking within the viewport or workspace.

Markers: A line marker is used to mark the end points of lines.

Minor axis: The shorter axis of an ellipse.

Move: A drawing editing tool which moves objects or selection sets to a new drawing location by changing all definition points by a given distance.

Nested: Objects inside of other objects. Symbols may be nested within other symbols. Drawing commands can be nested or executed while other drawing commands are active. Macroprogramming objects can be nested in terms of their control structure.

Object handles: In a windows CAD program the handles which appear when an object is selected. Handles often allow objects to be stretchedrotated, or moved. Note: in AutoCAD handles refer to arbitrary names assigned to each drawing entity in the drawing database so that macros and applications may refer to specific entities directly.

Offset: The distance between two objects. Offsets are often used to draw parallel lines or determine the location of a dimension. In AutoCAD a command which creates a duplicate of an object at a specified distance.

Origin: The point in a drawing with the x,y coordinates of 0,0.

Ortho: Short for orthagonal. Usually refers to objects placed horizontally or vertically within a drawing. Ortho mode is a constraint which limits all drawing to regular 90° angles. In some CAD programs other ortho angles and modes may be set.

Pan: The process of altering the drawing view by moving the viewpoint laterally relative to the drawing.

Polar coordinates: See coordinates.

Polygon: A complex object composed of three or more straight lines in a closed figure. Polygons are treated differently by different CAD programs. Often a polygon is simply a closed polyline entity.

Polyline: A complex object composed of two or more lines, curves, or arcs which have contiguous endpoints. A closed polyline or polygon has its endpoints joined into a closed form. Polylines are more difficult to edit than a form drawn with individual line segments, but offers some advantages when editing or building surfaces and 3 dimensional objects.

Primitive: The simplest drawing objects from which all objects are built. Common 2D primitives include: point, line, circle, arc, and ellipse.

Prompt: A program message often located on the programs status line.

Radial copy: Also Duplicate Array (Vectorworks). An editing command which creates multiple copies of objects by copying them around a centerpoint for a given angle.

Real scale: Objects in a CAD program a drawn at full scale or 1:1. See scale.

Redraw: The process by which the video display is updated cleaning up any unwanted marks or construction points. See also regenerate.

Reference points: Points associated with drawing objects which allow an object to be selected, grouped, and manipulated. Reference points are often not visible. One example is the reference point of a text line which is often found at the lower left hand corner of the text line. To select a text entity it is often necessary to click near this invisible point or include it within a selection window.

Regenerate: The process by which the view updated from the drawing database cleaning up any unwanted marks or construction points. Similar but more comprehensive and time consuming than a redraw. Note: on some CAD packages these processes are synonymous.

Relative coordinates: Drawing coordinates which when manually entered are interpreted as relative to the last point entered. In AutoCAD relative coordinates are entered by preceding the coordinate pair with the @ sign such as @2,3.

Resolution: The clarity or degree to which individual elements can be discerned on a monitor or print/plot. Common monitor resolutions include 600x800 and 1280x1024 measured in pixels. Common laser printer and plotter resolutions range from 300x300 to 600x600 dots per inch. Resolution of these devices determines how accurate a printout will be or how accurate an object will appear on the screen. The actual resolution of objects saved in the drawing database is usually much higher to insure a high degree of accuracy. When drawing objects are viewed on screen or plotted their size and position is rounded to the nearest dot at the resolution of a given device.

Rotate: A drawing editing tool which rotates objects or groups of objects based on a center of rotation and an angle.

Rubberbanding: A feature of many CAD programs which shows how a line or other object will look before it is actually placed. An example is with the line command. A starting point is selected after which a line appears rubberbanded between the first point and the cursor. As soon as another point is selected the actual line is drawn and the rubberband moves to the next point.


1) An editing tool which changes the size of an object relative to percentage. Some objects can be rescaled to different percentages in the x and y directions.  2) The relative size at which a drawing is viewed on the screen or printed/plotted. Scale is often represented as a ratio where 1:1 is full scale, 1:12 = 1" =1'-0", 1:24=1/2"=1'-0" etc.

Script: A list of drawing commands which can be typed in a text editor and then loaded and executed with one command. Different scripting methods are supported by different CAD programs. Scripts are useful for performing repetitive tasks such as drawing setups.   

Selection set: One or more objects selected for action with a single command. Often items are selected this way by drawing a window around them or holding down the shift key while selecting them individually.

Shoulder: The horizontal part of a leader line.

Snap: A drawing tool which locates points exactly by finding an existing point within the drawing database which is closest to a point selected with the on the screen. Some common snaps are: snap to nearest point, snap to midpoint, snap to intersection of two lines, etc.

Snap to grid: A drawing constraint which forces all points picked to fall on the current grid.

Stretch: An editing tool which moves some of the points which define an object and leaves others.

Trim: A drawing editing command which causes one object to end exactly at another. Trim points are calculated mathematically so they are exact. Some complex objects such as curves cannot be trimmed to.

Symbol: A collection of drawing objects defined as a single complex entity. Defining and using symbols speeds drawing and makes drawing files more compact. Symbols are also called blocks (AutoCAD).

Tangent: A line which intersects a circle, ellipse or arc at only one point. Tangent lines to Bezier curves define the shape of the curve.

Toggle: A drawing control or setting which is either on or off. Subsequent execution of the command reverses the state of the parameter. One toggle is the display grid command.

Units: Units of measure represented by numbers in a CAD program. Usually units are inches or feet, but can be anything from millimeters to light years.

Vertex: A point defining the junction of a segment within a polyline or polygon.

View: The graphical representation of the geometry stored in the drawing database which appears in the drawing window or viewport. A view has a center point and a scale or zoom. Multiple views of one drawing may be open in separate windows or viewports simultaneously.

Viewport: The window or frame within which a view of the drawing is visible. In some complex CAD programs viewports are considered complex objects and can be placed in drawings. Many programs also support the use of multiple viewports which can simultaneously show different parts of the same drawing. This is especially important when working in 3D.

Zoom: The way the view is changed by magnifying or reducing the image on the screen. Zoom scales the view only and does not affect the actual size of drawing objects.

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