Tales From a Mechanical Engineer

Josh Gomez

Josh Gomez

CAD has become synonymous with both ingenuity and frustration. While it's celebrated for its design prowess, experienced designers are always ready to discuss the ugly side of CAD. In my six years of professional CAD experience, I fondly remember the hour-long waits for large assemblies to load. I would desperately try to find something else to do while watching the progress bar inch its way forward. Now imagine a lead engineer comes to you and says they have a very hot (urgent, for those not familiar with the lingo) change that needs to be done yesterday. I'll never forget the look of confusion/annoyance when I would tell them “Give me an hour”. Most of the time the change itself would take a few minutes, but I was a prisoner to my tools.

On top of the frustration of loading your assembly, throw in some paranoia of the app crashing. You finally get into your zen state of modeling and then boom, the app crashes. App crashes were unpredictable, so the only advice the experienced designers would give you is to “save your model often.”

Hell, maybe you'd like to talk about:

  • Exporting proprietary file formats just for colleagues to view the CAD file.
  • Manually auditing CAD assemblies, tethered by a spreadsheet.
  • The fact that there are CAD admins who are still hired just to “make the CAD file load faster.”
  • Opening someone else's CAD file and spending hours fixing dependency issues.

I can talk your ear off with what I used to see daily as a CAD designer. I always assumed there was something better, but my ignorance led me to believe that what was better must cost too much, or perhaps it doesn't have enterprise-level licensing, or perhaps the work involved with making the switch would send the company too far past deadlines. To my surprise, there just wasn't anything better. There have been some improvements over the years, but most of the industry still deals with these antique tools.

At the birth of KittyCAD, we had an overwhelming amount of people who reached out to us saying they were fed up with the current state of CAD. Their anecdotes were enough to assure us we were on the right path. A couple of weeks ago, we released the Zoo Modeling App (ZMA) Alpha to the public. I couldn't be more ecstatic about it because I finally get to see the potential of CAD when rebuilt from the ground up. ZMA is our take on a new CAD tool, but we understand we can't fit everyone's needs. We want others to build tools that are best for them using our Design API, so they can cater to what makes the most sense to them. As we progress, things I used to dream up for CAD suddenly become more of a reality. Things like:

  • Automated testing of tolerance analyses.
  • Having multiple contributors to a single CAD assembly at the same time.
  • Having a direct connection to CAD and analysis for immediate feedback.
  • AI assistance for 3D modeling and drawings.

The Zoo Modeling App is in early development, but the road ahead is very promising. Every day I get new ideas on how CAD can be used in the future. My motivation and drive stem from knowing that I will be helping my CAD mentors from years past with the pains they are still dealing with today. It excites me to know that one day their creativity will no longer be limited by their tools.