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Introductory Computer Drafting & Design

CADD A Design Investment

A CADD (computer-aided drafting and design) system is an electronic pencil, electronic eraser, electronic templates and an electronic overlay system. It is a tool that provides automation of repetitive design functions. CADD is an investment that will pay you back many times over.

When CADD systems were first introduced, they were based upon mainframe computers and cost well into six figures. Later, systems based upon minicomputers were introduced and costs were somewhat lowered. Then came systems based upon PC (personal computers) or micro-computers and costs were reduced to a fraction of the cost of a mainframe system. Today, PC-based systems have capabilities similar to mainframes and CADD is an investment affordable from the two-person office to the two-hundred person office.

Almost all micro-computer systems are DOS (disc operating system)-based although Macinthosh and Unix offer some CADD capabilities. Personal computer systems consist of a computer configured for CADD, input devices, a monitor and an output device.

In order to operate the software of your choice at its maximum potential, better ;quality, higher performance computers are required. For reliability and support, major name brand 286 and 386 machines should be used. The 286 machines are less costly and slower, and are usually recommended for smaller firms. Larger offices with heavier production requirements or those desiring a faster system should invest in a quality 386 computer.

A color monitor should be considered because color has function. Line weights can be assigned by color, or layers (overlays) can be identified by different colors. A 19-inch monitor is best because a larger screen will make the system easier to utilize to its fullest extent. The brightness of the monitor and its compatability with the rest of the system are also considerations.

Input devices include a keyboard, a mouse and a digitizer tablet. They are used to enter information and commands. The selection of a digitizer or a mouse is dependent upon the users needs and software choice. Landscape Architects will usually require a digitizer.

The output device (printer) is a plotter. This will usually be a robotic device that draws with pens. Also available is a plotter with pencil capability. Electrostatic plotters are considerably more expensive than pen plotters, but have the advantages of greater speed and no moving parts. Currently, electrostatic plotters cannot produce graphics quite the equal of pen plotters but can produce a wide range of colors. Recently, a laser plotter has been introduced that has excellent black and white graphics, high speed and superior reliability, but is a considerably larger investment than a pen plotter. Larger CADD users should investigate electrostatic and laser plotters, but for the large majority of firms a pen plotter is best. A typical plan sheet can be drawn by a pen plotter in about thirty minutes. It’s easy to see how such a device will pay an excellent return on the investment required.

There are additional pieces of hardware required that are beyond the scope of this article. Graphics drivers, math chips and other CADD components are best addressed by those with the technical knowledge to do so correctly.

No hardware is of any use without software. There are many CADD programs 5available and definitely too many to discuss here. How to investigate the choices intelligently will be addressed in a later column. It must be noted, however, that currently there is only one program available specifically for landscape architecture.

CADD is a tool that should fulfill the specific needs of your firm. Since each firm’s needs differ, each firm’s CADD system should differ also.

Tom Dellaquilla is a registered Landscape Architect with 19 years experience in landscape and irrigation system design. He has owned his own business, been the landscape manager of a large development company and is currently employed by Consolidated Reprographics, CADD Division.

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August 19, 2019, 10:32 am PDT

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