Does CAD/CAM Technology Diminish Quality Of Life And Quality In General?

What? you say, well its not really just CAD/CAM technology its just about all hi-tech technology. I relate to CAD/CAM since that’s the environment I live every day. For younger generation this is the world you have grown accustomed to but for a few of us older generation ( 40+, so not that old) that have spent some time on an actual drafting table with pencil and paper can probably relate a little better.

To provide a brief summary of why I chose such a topic is because I used to have a month to do 3 weeks worth of work and now I have a week to do 3 months of work thanks to technology and for the most part its still the amount of workload.

In all honestly, it’s not all technologies fault, most of the blame resides on the failure for business associates to fully grasp that using CAD is not that much faster then pen and paper initially. Its power comes in downstream and in changes. So in most cases it does still require a fair amount of work to get to the job done. But somewhere along the line this has never really been conveyed properly into the customer’s mindset. Most still think “CAD, so I’ll have this next week, right?”

The problem being is that if you push yourself and your CAD system it just may be achievable in that timeframe whereas with pen/paper it was definitely unachievable. So you say OK (knowing if you don’t someone else will) and stay the extra few hours a night and maybe even put some extra time in on the weekends. And Walla, you client comes back and is making changes and doesn’t really appreciate the sacrifice you have made to make his delivery date. And so the cycle begins. And what a vicious cycle it is now that global resources have pushed tighter deadlines to the Nth degree.

So you eat dinner later (and alone) so you get fatter (and slower making it even harder to meet deadlines) you grasp glimpses of your children grow before you. You miss family gatherings, funerals, and depriving your family even more.

It reminds me of the song “Cats in the cradle” by the late Harry Chapin.

The above comments come from the view as a free-lance designer. I’m sure the employed designer and engineer can relate as well since I see many colleagues in the same predicament. The problem is actually worse for them because they have to play within the corporate guidelines with such technology as ERP, PLM, etc…

One day I was in the elevator going to work, the landlord felt is was time to renovate the building and give a major facelift. Price was no object, the best marble floors the finest woods, paints, and wall paper, you name it. Great! It would be nice to at least come to a place where I spend most of my time that has a nice atmosphere. After all I’m here more than home. So there I am in the elevator that has just been finished being renovated the day before. What do I see, screws missing on the control panel, panels that don’t line up, buttons with symbols upside down and holes for handles that don’t line up well so the screws are put in at such a drastic angle its downright dangerous where you can get a severe cut from the chewed up screw heads. I think to myself, who the heck designed these parts to fit in here and why didn’t the “skilled” worker notify anyone of the problems. I suspect he doesn’t care anyway.

So when I went to get my lunch that day I decide to take the elevator down that had not been renovated yet. Here’s an elevator that was built roughly 30 years ago so in the mid 1970’s not exactly the height of craftsmanship as our grandfathers age but maybe the height of marijuana. What did I find that I and failed to notice until now. Well all the screws in the control are still there and actually straight. Although the buttons very dirty and worn all the symbols were still there and orientated properly. All the sheet metal panels line up perfectly, you could run a small ball bearing along the mating edges (just like the car commercial). In the new elevator I wouldn’t give it an inch before the ball fell off track.

So what my conclusion that I derived at from this simple observation. Well, as with anything I’m sure there are several roads that could lead to the poor quality of the new elevator. I assume that the union workers are consciences and master craftsman just to take that out of the equation. So that brings me back to thee design department where there is the engineer hunched over a CAD system putting in his 16th hour for the day and on his 5th cup of coffee trying to rush there this particular panel design so it gets to the manufacture by tomorrow. By the way he needs to get at least two more completed tonight before he goes home to see his family sleeping. “DONE!!” he exclaims with a tired glee around 11pm, He hits the send button on his email and off to manufacturing. He has plenty of things to start on in the morning.

Hey, wait, what’s missing from this picture…… no drawing checker (is the position still in existence these days, I don’t even know). Ah, yes he did it in cad and did some quick interference checks and done. That’s right it’s done in CAD so it must be right. I guess this explains why NASA success rating is lower today then in 1970.

This article could really go on and on, but I will stop here to keep t relatively short. And I think most of you can conclude where the story is going anyway. I’m sure you have your own input to add, so please do so.


Review Article
  • Effects of The Technological Boom February 27, 2007
    Reviewed by 'Rock Chopper'
    There are many interesting observations here. First, does CAD make our lives worse? No, I don't think that is the case. I think most users will agree there are so many things we can do in short order that is very time consuming to do on paper. The CAD systems today have made my job easier.
    The overall observation here is about technology and how it has diminished our quality of life. I feel that technology has improved our lives in most ways. The problems begin with how we choose to incorporate the technology into our daily lives.
    Cell phones are a common example. What a great invention. Your loved ones can get a hold of you if plans have changed or when they get in a bad situation. People can get important messages to you when you are away from your desk or home. You can get the latest updates from the office on a situation that just arose as you were travelling. The flow of information is quicker and easier.
    Now let's take a look at the problems that come up with abuse of this technology. Increased risk of automobile accidents. Kids playing on their phones while in the classroom. Constant disruptions of ringing phones and people picking them up in meetings, movie theatres, in check-out lines, holding everyone else up.
    ***These aren't problems caused by cell phones themselves but by how we choose to use them. In the end it's still our choice on how each of these technologies should be used.
    Let's take a look at it from a different perspective, more inline with the original article. The demand for technology and the constant innovation behind it has increased it's pace dramatically in the past 20 years. It has caused a reaction that begins with us and ends up with us.
    People have come to expect immediate gratification. They want the technology now. When they order something to be delivered they expect it in a few days not the traditional 4-8 weeks that we were accustomed to when ordering that sea monkey kit out of the back of a magazine. If it's not available right now, they will go somewhere else to get it or whine and cry because they have to wait.
    Companies are trying to respond to this and bank on it by being the first to offer the products in demand. This constant demand and the desire to be the first to market or the fear of lost opportunity is a big driver for many companies who have chosen to be technological leaders. This in turn has dramatically decreased the time between concept to market. In turn pressure is on to find faster ways of developing these products, utilizing all of the tools we can.
    ***Now, with this in mind, do you believe the time you save using CAD tools makes up for all of the development time lost because of decreased time-to-market initiatives?

      2 of 6 found this review helpful.
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  • Interested engineer August 30, 2006
    Reviewed by 'Interested Engineer'
    I don't get it. Long hours aren't related to CAD/CAM. I started on a board with pencil and vellum. We worked long hours on some projects on paper, and later worked long hours on CAD, sometimes we worked reasonable hours. A lot of it's related to the company and industry you work in. We are in a world economy and are competing with people in poor countries desperate for work. We also compete with other industrialized nations with strong work ethics.
    A good solid modeling program can be properly used, with downloaded components modeled by the manufacturer, using interference checking and just a lot of examining fits. You can make the parts transparent and see what's happening inside your assembly. I remember the master designer putting together 3 views on the master layout, and everyone studying it to see which pencil lines went to which component! NO THANKS! If you use the power available, you can design far more stuff, better and faster than ever before. With this power and modern rapid prototyping / manufacturing methods, the prototypes should converge much faster and better into a good product. It's all about workmanship with the tools you have.
    As for the elevator panel, there are bad projects in all times. It's a matter of workmanship, at either the design, manufacturing or installation stage. I've got news for you. They made bad stuff in the '70's and every time too. Maybe it's since been broken and replaced. Remember transistor radios and 8-track tapes?

      5 of 10 found this review helpful.
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  • Golden Blend of 'Clicks ' and 'Bricks' August 17, 2006
    Reviewed by 'Er Ramalingam K S'
    Dear Readers
    My opinion is that there are still gaps to be filled when we start using CAD It has to grow a long way to stabilize That does not mean they are not good They are good for faster flexiblity in deisgn , altering the design , fastness in drafting , on line messaging , clarity , visualisation ,printing & easy to get itself for CAM , I mean Computer Aided Manufacturing
    I do accept that the percentage of curomer returns for various products from various industries are growing after this CAD
    One way is to have Mentors for the CAD Team while designing and releasing the drawings The Mentors should be from a cross functional team of senior experts - from Design , Manufacturing, Assembly , Marketing and Service And the CAD Designers should be given an opportunity to interact / see with their own eyes of what is what and not confined to their desks alone The fact is that we have to develop a lot in CAD associated Softwares
    The journey towards perfection is through excellence which is always elusive But let us be on the route We will continue that
    Anyhow, a GOLDEN BLEND of the 'OLD - BRICKS' & 'YOUNG CLICKS' will be ruling the world by contineous upgradation for the betterment of human society/ living at large

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  • Re: Does CAD/CAM Technology Diminish Quality of Life and Quality in general? January 05, 2007
    Reviewed by 'DubleDeuce'
    The author presents a percieved "problem" and does not offer too much in the way of solutions, just a general malise about how things are going to H--l in a hand basket.

    Fortunately for him (and for anyone unsophisticated enough to buy into ALL of his opinion) the solution is to be found staring you right in the monitor screen.

    The base problem with all substandard work (CAD/CAM being NO exception) in all of its manifestations from concept (screen doors for submarines), drawing, checking, manufacturing, installation, and customer buyoff, is to CHECK the work and what your part of the proocess is.

    The author would do well to implement this piece of advice by doing a complete scan of his entry for spelling, grammer, and just plain sentence structure.

    The old addage holds true here, clean your own house first.


      One person of 5 found this review helpful.

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  • past present and future August 28, 2006
    Reviewed by 'samov'
    what can help you deliver better desing in less time - software...
    change is upon us people... using 20 year old software to meet the demands of costumers today...
    autodesk is doing it ... the new inventor and revit... it's sad to say this but... goodbye AutoCAD it was fun while it lasted...
    sure there are many people thinking it will not be today autocad retires, but maybe it's the user that has to retire first. the next generation of designer will not use autocad, just like the old generation switched from pen and paper to CAD

      3 of 8 found this review helpful.
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