Becoming a CAD drafter

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What's involved in learning to become a CAD drafter:

So you want to become a CAD drafter?  How many hours do I have and how many years do you want to spend?

To become a proficient Cad drafter requires several things and a lot of time:

  1. Knowledge of the discipline you are working in. e.g. architects need to know how to build buildings.
  2. Knowledge of the relevant discipline’s drafting conventions i.e. how building working-drawings are structured and represented graphically including knowledge of any relevant drafting Standards.
  3. Knowledge of a suitable CAD program e.g. AutoCAD including its command words and how it works.
  4. Knowledge of how to use the CAD program to create and plot drawing files.

This is a whole lot of knowledge and we haven’t discussed skills yet.  I’m afraid that I will for the moment have to leave you to deal with items 1 to 4 yourself but what I can help you with right now is developing a real skill at driving your CAD machine.  I’m assuming that you have had at least a little exposure to either AutoCAD or Intellicad.

There are basically two ways of interfacing with AutoCAD and Intellicad (programs with a command line in addition to a menus interface) and these are as implied:

  1. Using the keyboard to enter and interact with commands via the keyboard.
  2. Clicking on menus with the mouse to activate mainly dialog box command interaction.

We have all become used to the standard Windows concept of menu driven programs; excellent for casual users or learners but abysmally slow for full-time professionals.  If you doubt this then you really do need to read on even if it is against your logic.  If you are relatively new to CAD and haven’t formed a fixed opinion then you have a real chance to learn some better more efficient techniques.  Have a look at Why I use the Command-line.  A couple of very experienced people share their views with you.  Yes I know one of them is me but I’ve had thirty years’ experience of almost full time CAD drafting with AutoCAD, been a CAD Manager for ten years and taught CAD in tertiary institutions.   Most professional CAD users and users of other programs will agree that keyboard shortcuts are the way to go.  What I would like to show you is the next step up the efficiency ladder; I would like to tell you about ACADUI; an enhanced AutoCAD (and Intellicad) User Interface that will double your output but I don't think that is why you are reading this article.  What you really want to know is how to become a better CAD operator.

The first thing is don't be put off by the fact that AutoCAD now has 1422 commands and eight different menu systems.  Unless you are into 3D modeling and rendering or you are a senior drafter responsible for setting standards and plotting and distribution of files most of what you do can be achieved by knowing about two dozen commands and how to use the command line.  Line, Arc, Circle, Copy, Move, Rotate, Offset, Fillet, Trim, Text, Dim, Hatch, Layer, Block, Insert, Osnap, Erase, Undo, Tilemode and Plot cover about 90% of what you will do. The rest you will learn as you progress.

The really important things for a GOOD drafter and those that I would look for when hiring are an understanding and use of object selection options, object snaps, how to navigate around the work plane, how to design and use blocks, and above all name and manage layers and then of course Paper Space and Plotting.  It is difficult to identify the most important command feature of CAD but Layers would have to be very close to the top.  The most useful skill you can learn is to drive AutoCAD from the Commandline using aliases (keyboard shortcuts) wherever possible.  Use menus to learn new or unfamiliar commands but once learned avoid dialog boxes wherever you can and enter instructions and parameters at the keyboard.

WOW!!  In that last paragraph I will have alienated about 80% of drafters but the top 20% will be nodding in assent and I have only just started.   The next step is to learn to customize AutoCAD for your particular needs.  This will vastly improve your output but that is another subject.

You can shortcut the customization process by reviewing ACADUI from caduserinterface.com.  It works at the most basic level of speeding up user input and enhancing all of the most commonly used commands.  It might just be the answer for you.

Happy CADDing.