3D solid modeling programs were not available until the late 70s, and widespread in the 1980s. Although many drafting processes could be partially automated, greatly expedited, and paired with computer aided machining (CAM) programs to increase productivity like never before, the cost of such programs and hardware was still too high for most engineers to use. It was not until programs like Pro/Engineer began to use the UNIX open architecture, instead of proprietary strictly code, that we began to see the familiar platform layout complete with drop down menus available at affordable prices, standardizing the field even more.
These 3D modeling systems exploited a surging technique of making calculations called Finite Element Method that calculated and aggregated stresses, forces, and energy transfers on minute parts of 3D solid models. Although these calculations are laborious by hand, a computer quickly performed these analysis and determined stresses using parameters, material properties, and physical governing laws provided by the user or pre-programmed by developers. This broadened the field of CAD from engineering drawings to computational analytics. Much more robust CAD software eventually lead to the development of innovative design manufacturing techniques like machine design automation and electronic design automation.
Within the world of engineering, earlier CAD platforms were once very specific and technical for a certain purpose. The shrinking of components for example, gave way to deep interest in the management of heat within devices. However, electrical and mechanical engineers, fundamental to the design of electronic devices, had to be able to use this software without the technical knowledge of thermal systems and computational fluid dynamics. For example, today, FloTHERM XT can import 3D CAD drawings on a software environment that lets engineers run thermal analyses of a product before proceeding with the rest of the design process.
From mechanical design automation and electronic design automation, to product life-cycle management, marketing, and even advertisement, many people of different skill sets began to use computer-aided design. Thus, software developers had to expand their target audience to accommodate for users of variant technical knowledge. Thanks to standards and agreements, plus the affordability, popularity, and usefulness of CAD, there are now worlds of software intended for many purposes.
The development of the computer mouse began around the same time as the earliest CAD programs. Nevertheless, it was not until the mid-1980s when the computer mouse began to gain popularity as a peripheral to Apple Macintosh computers and many others that followed. Mouse technology accompanied the use of CAD software and continues today.
Hardware and software advancements actively seek to replace the simple but limited abilities of the conventional mouse. Controlling high-definition 3D models is difficult using a device that moves along a plane so engineers continue to create new accommodating devices and systems. New devices are minimizing the amount of movement and increasing functionality while incorporating natural and intuitive hand movements to the creation process.