Since the first mobile CAD applications hit the small screens of our PDA’s in the early 90’s, designers have been liberated from their offices, enabling them to take their designs anywhere. Only recently, however, has the quality of consumer mobile devices reached a stage, and therefore extending the reach of these applications to a wider range. With the increased competition between Samsung and Apple in the smart phone and tablet markets, the speed of development has increased dramatically, leading to highly advanced mobile devices. This makes it possible for CAD software developers such as ZWSOFT to produce mobile applications that feature all the tools that users need to make changes and annotations effectively.
Functionality vs. Practicality
Regardless of recent developments in mobile technology, as Ralph Grabowski, Managing Editor of Tenlinks.com recently asked in Part 3 of his article “Running CAD on a Small Screen”, why would users want to swap the full functionality of their desktop software, with its 15” screen, for limited functionality and a 4 inch screen? Well, as Steve Jobs once explained, it is like the small Swiss Army Knife carried on a key chain. The most useful tool is the one that we always have with us, and it is the portability that Grabowski suggests as the main benefit of CAD on mobile devices.
Design on the Go
The need for designers to work beyond their office is of unparalleled importance in almost any other office based profession. Whether it is site visits or product inspections, all designers will, at some point, be required to leave their desk and work without their desktop CAD software. With mobile CAD software such as CAD Pockets, , designers can now take their designs out of the office with them, instead of printing drawings or notes taking the old fashioned way. This enables them to make even more accurate examinations of their designs, and annotate directly, on the go. Some applications even allow for vocal annotations, such as CAD Pockets’ SmartVoice, making mobile CAD an even more appealing proposition.
With recent developments in 3G, 4G and even 5G mobile data, users can have their entire design portfolio available to them, wherever they are through “the cloud”. With most CAD applications linking up to 3rd party cloud software, this can be done automatically. Furthermore, with the growing capacity of smartphones’ hard drives, high data charges can be avoided by simply loading your drawings directly on to your device with even faster speeds.
Greater Productivity at Reduced Costs
Grabowski also suggests that price is a key factor that promotes CAD on mobile devices. Compared to the high prices of desktop CAD software, the monthly subscriptions for most mobile CAD software is an affordable investment, while some CAD applications, such as ZWCAD Touch, are free to download and use.
In addition to the price advantage, companies can also save money by making changes to their design process. Money can be saved on reduced printing costs, as designers don’t need to have designs on paper when working away from the office. Meanwhile labor costs are also reduced since users don’t have to transcribe annotations or alterations, as notes or changes to the drawing on site will automatically be updated on the desktop version.
Collaborating with ease
Additionally, mobile CAD simplifies procedures and makes more cost efficient, favoring collaboration. In the past, users had to print drawings and present them in person, while they can now email them to clients or collaborators, wherever they are. Annotations can then be added and returned to the designer. An important factor is that the client or collaborator doesn’t need expensive CAD software, or extensive CAD knowledge to view and annotate the drawings, leading to significantly reduced costs of collaboration.
In an interview with the Product Manager of CAD Pockets from ZWSOFT, Daniel Huang commented: “CAD on mobile devices may never replace desktop CAD software. Mobile CAD applications, however, as a supplement to desktop software become truly effective. With enhanced ease of use and cost savings, mobile CAD applications can provide is incredible, and will only improve with new mobile technologies.”
Mobile CAD applications have come a long way since their inception in the early 90s, from a mere novelty into an absolute necessity. With the development of mobile devices, however, who knows what surprises they will bring to us in the future.