When it comes to design software, the options are endless. To meet the needs of many professionals, the industry offers software solutions for 2D design, CAD, and BIM.

What are the strengths of each type and which one should you use? It depends on what you’re working with.

In simple terms, we can say that:

  • 2D tools are mainly for line drawings.
  • 3D modeling is for creating spaces and objects.
  • BIM is used for designing and documenting a building.

 Let’s analyze each term.

2D CAD

The most basic construction tool of any technical drawing is usually CAD software. CAD stands for Computer-Aided Design, which means that technical drawings, which until the 1980s were traditionally created manually, are now “aided” by software solutions to increase productivity and speed. Chances are you started your design career by learning to draw lines on a computer screen. To this day, CAD is the industry’s most widely used 2D drawing method.

For a long time, the CAD concept meant the AutoCAD product family. In recent years, many alternative drawing products have emerged. The main attraction of these products is uniformity: they provide the same CAD drawing tools and commands (polylines, chamfer, intensive use of layers, etc.), language, and culture that professionals already know and always look for. The strength here is that you don’t have to relearn anything if you switch from one software to another; if you have used a CAD product in the past, getting started in new software is likely to be easy.

Although some CAD products also offer 3D capabilities, most still focus on creating 2D and line drawings. CAD products also tend to specialize, and there are many products designed for architectural design, electrical design, landscape design, urban planning, and dozens of other areas. CAD is everywhere and wherever technical drawings are required. CAD is great for documentation, but if you need rendered images, you must dig deeper into 3D modeling.

Why choose 2D CAD software? Advantages:

  • Cost: 2D CAD software is very cost-effective; it requires a fairly low initial investment.
  • Easy to use: the drawing concept uses familiar tools.
  • Compatibility: saving drawings in DWG format ensures that you can exchange data with others.

Shortcomings:

  • 3D capabilities are limited.
  • Changes to plans are time-consuming to implement.
  • Repetitive drawing tasks, using the same basic editing commands such as trim, extend, etc.
  • No simple way to automatically create a 3D model, based on 2D drawings.

3D Modeling

So what if you need 3D? Especially when your goal is to create renderings, or you need models where things have substance and mass, you need to be able to model 3D spaces and objects. What you crave is the freedom of imagination, to model whatever you want, at lightning speed.

Fortunately, there are many products for such purposes: AEC Collection, SketchUp, Autodesk Revit, 3ds Max, and so on. The workflow is simple but powerful: we draw polylines, extrude and sculpt them until we achieve the desired shapes. Then, we apply materials and push our model to render. These tools are great for architectural, interior, landscape, product design, or any area, where computer-generated images are desired. Again, depending on what you need, you have a custom solution for product design, the film industry, etc.

However, 3D modeling is mainly about appearances and not about product data. If you want to attach information to your models, you will need BIM.

Why 3D modeling software? The advantages:

  • Strong 3D skills: design ideas are straightforward to create.
  • Intuitiveness: drawing, transformation, and sculpting tools are quite easy to understand
  • Compatibility: most common file formats of 3D modelers: OBJ, SKP, FBX, etc.

Shortcomings:

  • Limited 2D: if you need 2D floor plans, sections, or details, additional software solutions are needed.
  • No data handling: to attach data to your models, you will need additional solutions.

BIM

 Let’s first talk about data: in the construction industry, producing a 2D drawing or a 3D model may not be enough. Ideally, the entire life cycle (design, construction, operation, demolition) should be paved with data and information, which should be accessible to all stakeholders in the construction project.

 For architects, this means that not only do we need to model a building, but we also have to work with all kinds of specifications and data (construction schedules, information on materials used, project data parameters, and many other tiny things). that we have to attach to our models, and this is really what BIM does.

 BIM stands for Building Information Modeling, and it is not software, but a way to manage data, a method to store and standardize information, which can be read by other professionals (other architects, interior designers, MEP professionals, etc.), even if they use different software platforms.

Why choose BIM software?

 The advantages:

  • BIM is the present and future: the construction industry is heading this way.
  • Fully integrated workflow: changes made to the project appear in all views.
  • Time savings: less time spent on the tedious drawing tasks required.
  • Ability to manage “real” projects: BIM is useful for each project to achieve an optimal result in 3D model representation and quantity take-off.
  • Cooperation: exchange data and models easily.

At the same time, BIM solutions should enable professionals to use their existing CAD knowledge (and files) and 3D modeling expertise; otherwise, no one could expect users to abandon everything they know and relearn a new method. Therefore, BIM should give you the power of data, but at the same time, it should look and feel like the programs you already know.

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