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bridgebuster (Civil) (OP)
2 Dec 12 9:16
I'm curious about drafting policies in other firms/offices. Where I work, the department has a little more than three engineers per drafter. We also have two drafting trainees as part of a government contract requirement.

Our department policy is that engineers shouldn't do any drafting. This is primarily a utilization issue, although there are older people like me who are not well-versed in CADD. Our drafters do quality work and they're well paid - about the same as an engineer with 10 years experience. The trainees are paid a little more than half of an entry level engineer.

Over the next 10 years +/- I don't see much of a future for CADD drafters. In another office I worked in, the younger engineers did their own drafting. The one or two drafters we had typically worked with those not fluent in CADD or did the clean-up work on the drawings. As people like me retire there's going to be less of a demand for drafters. The way I see it, either the majority of our higher paid drafters will be let go and/or the entry level CADD drafters will never earn anything close to what the experienced people earn.
Qshake (Structural)
2 Dec 12 12:17
Hi Bridgebuster - Interesting question. Where I work, the civil/roadway department has gone to all engineers doing the work as opposed to 20 years ago when CADD techs did much of the work based on input from the engineers. In my group we stll have CADD techs, some with 40 years of experience, who really did well at the transition from the board to the computer. In contrast we've had to let go those who didn't make the transition so well and relied on being "reviewers".

Our structures group has developed CADD interface programs to allow CADD techs or engineers draw all main components of structures with ease and thus the detailers do mainly dimensioning and drawing specific items such as notes or sectioning, etc.

Also most all of our engineers use CADD for sketches which may or may not be used by the CADD techs for the basis of the drawings. However, we stop there and our engineers do not do production CADD. We do have our engineers engaged in checking drawings though. A task that was done by the most experienced detailer years ago. Years ago, probably like it was at your place, once engineering was done on a structure it went to the detailing department with little interaction from the engineer. Not so nowadays and the formal detailing department is no longer.

Currently I don't see the CADD tech going away but they most certainly don't do what they once did or have the same amount of responsibility. As you indicated with the reduction of our most senior drafters, the new staff will no longer understand the "art" of the drawings. Though at this time I'm not sure that's absolutely necessary as the industry seems to have placed a low value on that level of detail anymore. Nowadays it's all about faster, faster, faster and cheaper, cheaper, cheaper.

I'm definitely interested in what experiences other bring up.

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Helpful Member!  zdas04 (Mechanical)
2 Dec 12 13:51
I do my own drafting. On a project this year I was told to use the drafting services of a medium sized Engineering firm. I drew finished drawings on my title block and shipped the .dwg files to London. A few weeks later I would get their first draft. I'd load their draft into a new file as a .pdf background and mark it up (2-3 hours work) inside AutoCAD and send it back as a .pdf. They would get 60% of my changes right and miss the rest (and I'm just trying to get back to the starting point). A few weeks later I would get their second draft and go through it again. Generally took me 6 hours to do the drawing and 18 hours to check their work.

Drafters down the hall that can turn a mark up around in a day might be useful. Drafters 4,000 miles away who take 2 weeks to even open a file are worthless. This one might have been because my project was tiny by their standards and I kept getting shunted to the back of the work queue. In the end, I finished my part of the project a month ahead of schedule and then had to send 15 e-mails to the Engineering firm before I got all the drawings and was able to submit the finished product the day before the deadline. My vote is that I am trainable and if I have to basically do the whole drawing before giving it to the draftsman I'd rather do the whole job.

This is like when I first started, I typed 40 words per minute and my typest typed 40 words per minute. I could write about 15 words per minute longhand. The process was for me to write stuff out longhand, give it to the typest, get it back the next day, mark it up and resubmit. Generally 3 days to get a simple letter out that I could have typed and printed in 10 minutes. The last thing I did that way was a 75 page report with endnotes and graphics. I did the whole job on my PC XT and then submitted it for typing. The head of the typing department saw my first "draft" and went screaming to the head of Engineering that I should be disciplined for wasting my time this way. He looked at it and threw her out of his office. Next budget cycle the Typing Department had money for computers and less money for staff. A couple of years later the department was absorbed into the other departments (and the typests got additional assignments beyond just sitting at a typewriter all day). I see drafting going the same way. 20 years from now an Engineer that can't do CAD will either be a boss or a shoe salesman.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

"Belief" is the acceptance of an hypotheses in the absence of data.
"Prejudice" is having an opinion not supported by the preponderance of the data.
"Knowledge" is only found through the accumulation and analysis of data.

bridgebuster (Civil) (OP)
2 Dec 12 14:04
Hello Qshake,

Our civil/roadway sounds like yours. They have two CADD and about 25 engineers. In the 2 1/2 years I've been in this office they've cut back quite a bit on the CADD staff. Blame it on InRoads sad

I haven't worked with a true structural detailer in about 15 years. A dying breed - literally.

JohnRBaker (Mechanical)
2 Dec 12 14:36
I can't speak for Civil Engineering or Building Construction, but in the case of Discreet Manufacturing, the industry trend is toward the reduction or complete elimination of traditional Drawings, which in many cases will also mean a severe reduction of the so-called 'Draftsmen' positions in an engineering organization.

The technology which is being employed is something called PMI (Product and Manufacturing Information) which is where the product engineers and designers ADD the annotation necessary to convey the required manufacturing information directing onto the 3D mechanical models:

Here's an article from 'Machine Design' maginzine covering a sort of status report as to what is being done today and where we're headed in the short term:

And then for an example of how CAD vendors are responding to this in terms of software applications, here's a 'Fact Sheet' covering what our company is offering:

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

SNORGY (Mechanical)
2 Dec 12 18:03
As much as I would like to believe zdas04 is correct (well, I kinda wouldn't because I don't know CADD myself), I suspect up here in Alberta, CADD is such a lucrative cash cow that I don't see CADD drafters becoming extinct any time soon.  So many man-hours are burned in CADD drafting and checking - at the Clint's expense - it's just too much revenue down the tubes.  The flip side of that is that it drives me completely nuts having to check every piece of ink on a drawing coming out of CADD and discovering that no matter how many mistakes I find, they have made more that I didn't find.  Worse, on the recycle, just when they finally get what is marked up in red correctly, they change what was never marked up at all in the first place and make *that* wrong.  (Those are typically the mistakes I miss because I am not looking for them when the markups come back with the revised drawing.)

The second safety net that the would-be CADD designer has is that, if engineers were to start doing their own CADD, it would put scores of thousands of technologists (as opposed to P.Eng.s) out of a job, and I doubt that either industry or the Professional Association would gladly allow that to happen.

I think it depends on the industry, too.  An engineer doing his own CADD on a machine component design makes more sense than an engineer doing 3-D modeling of the piping in a gas plant.  Otherwise, a system in which engineers use calculators and CADD designers use mice (or pucks / tablets) is probably going to be around for some time.
Helpful Member!  zdas04 (Mechanical)
2 Dec 12 22:58
I bought CadWorx and 3-D modeling is trivial now. I can do a to-scale piping model faster than I used to do Iso's (and it generates Iso's as well). I vote for the end of draftsmen.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

"Belief" is the acceptance of an hypotheses in the absence of data.
"Prejudice" is having an opinion not supported by the preponderance of the data.
"Knowledge" is only found through the accumulation and analysis of data.

MikeHalloran (Mechanical)
3 Dec 12 0:27
Forty years ago, I kept three designers busy, and each of them kept a couple of drafters busy, spreading lead.

Twenty years ago, I helped transition my designers onto CAD systems. ... at which time the drafters were effectively replaced by pen plotters, and disappeared.

Ten years ago, Pro-ENGINEER (emphasis mine) was installed on all the designers' computers. ... at which time _I_ became obsolete. ... at least according to the MBAs who were running the place.

Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

berkshire (Aeronautics)
3 Dec 12 0:34
I am glad I am now retired.
I earned my living as a draughtsman, then later a CADD drafter designer( I made the jump from the board to the computer.). The number of times I have been given a sketch literally on the inside of a cigarette packet, and told " See what you can do with that.", I can no longer count.
The nasty fact is that not all engineers have the skills that David has.
Whilst it may be true that in the future they may, have to, learn 3D modelling as part of their job desription.
The sad fact at the current time, is that not all can and do.
I now make a part time suppliment to my pension, taking drawings from people, cleaning them up, and making them so that the shop floor in a manufacturing plant can produce an article, right the first time, without being touched by human hand.

David is right, times and methods change. When I started CNC programming, I would write out the code longhand on a tablet,and give it to a typist to type the tapes out on a teletype machine. These days most people send the data for the model direct to the CNC machine or to a toolpath program. The latest trend now, is lights out unattended , structural steel fabricating plants, as well as machining centers, and sheet metal shops.
The engineer who can design,put that design into an electronic format that others or machines can use, either on the shop floor or in the field, is going to be the one employed in the future.
End of rant.

The good engineer does not need to memorize every formula; he just needs to know where he can find them when he needs them. Old professor

beej67 (Civil/Environmental)
3 Dec 12 3:07
What I see pretty routinely now is that there aren't "draftsmen" as much as there are "designers," who do the drafting and design under the eye of an engineer. Those "designers" could be "draftsmen" who understand what they're drawing, or "engineers" who haven't yet acquired the experience to do the job without oversight.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East -

CheckerHater (Mechanical)
3 Dec 12 7:12

Throughout my entire career (if you can call it a career) I was never given anyone to assist me with my projects – they were all busy helping somebody else. This trend continued thru different companies and even different countries; and I felt neglected all the time.

Then recently, in the middle of so-called “jobless recovery”, I realized that being my own engineer-designer-detailer-checker actually has benefits like keeping the job.

The way I see it, Engineer is a profession, CAD is a tool. Have you ever heard of professional pencil operator?
Helpful Member!  MrHershey (Structural)
3 Dec 12 12:01
Right now we have four drafters for 13 engineers. These are true drafters, they don't do any engineering work at all. The most senior of the four is the closest and could probably put together a set that could pass muster. But would be in deep trouble if asked for calcs or specifications. We have one senior drafter, another older drafter who does well but isn't at the the level of the department head, one junior drafter (who is pretty good already), and one Revit specialist (doesn't even know CAD, only does Revit).

Engineers generally are limited to structural detailing. Plan work is mostly by the drafters, and even most detailing is by drafters. But engineers will step in and do some structural detailing where it is simpler and quicker to do it yourself rather than try and communicate to the drafters. This is usually unique conditions or details that you kind of need to figure out as you draft it up. The other monster is Revit. Generally speaking, engineers don't do any Revit work here. Not plans, not details, nothing. This might change as Revit becomes more ingrained, but right now Revit work is almost exclusively done by the drafters. The younger engineers know Revit and could probably pick it up fairly quickly. But it's a lot easier to change things you don't intend to change in Revit than it is in CAD, so we really prefer it to stay with drafters who know the program more intimately.

I don't see the drafters going anywhere. We may hire and fire as our workload increases and decreases, but the need for them will never truly go away. At least for our firm. They take a look of the more mundane and time-consuming drafting work away from the engineers to allow them to concentrate on engineering and client management. And good drafters are extremely valuable and difficult to find. Out of our firm of 25ish (including engineers, drafters, admin, and inspectors), our lead drafter is probably the 3rd or 4th least disposable person here after the owner and VP.
Helpful Member!  SNORGY (Mechanical)
3 Dec 12 13:03
To compensate for my own lack of training and abilities in AutoCad, I usually take a bit more time with a ruler, geometry template, eraser and pencil to produce "engineering sketches" that ultimately go into CADD for what, at that point, becomes an exercise in copy-drafting. It has been often said that people shouldn't bother CADD-ing the drawings coming off my desk, they should just go to IFC and build the stuff.

Indeed, 30 years ago, that's how things used to be, and things got built.

About 15 years ago, I did a 1:500 scale drawing (2 drawings actually) of an HVAC system in a fire flood compression building on E-size gridded vellum paper. A CADD designer told me that it was worthless because if it didn't come from a CADD station, it wasn't a "professional engineering" drawing. Arrogant dork...anyway, I said, "Watch how fast this becomes a "professional engineering" drawing.". Then I pulled out my P.Eng. stamp and ink pad, stamped it, signed it, dated it, had the VP put the PTP stamp on it, and I issued it for construction. I went back to the CADD designer with a scanned copy of the issue, told him to file it, and asked, "Any questions?".

That facility got built; there was one drawing revision made halfway through construction to add a hanger detail for one size of ductwork that I had overlooked.

While I agree that CADD is a useful skill that may end up becoming even mandatory for engineers to have, and while I most certainly am all for anything that drastically reduces the currently obscene levels of CADD drafting recycle that I have become accustomed to seeing, there comes a point where an engineer's time is better spent doing something other than what is, in essence, clerical rather than technical. I am not a fan of CADD, never have been. I qualify that by saying, in closing, once in a while you run into a few designers - and I mean *designers* - who do understand what an engineer wants and who do add value by doing some smart value-added tweaks, and there will always be a market for *them*.
Venturini (Mechanical)
3 Dec 12 14:14
Well, if you think that the extinction of CAD drafters is the future, I'm a time traveler.

I worked to a company that didn't had (and due some news from former co-workers I believe it hasn't changed over the last year) a single CAD drafter. All the drafting and detailing work would be delegated (or may I say, ditched) to the department's engineering interns (my case at the time). The interns didn't cost anything to the company (the money came from the profit share programme), so it was cheaper to take and train a new group of interns every other year than actually employ someone to do the work. Corporate world things.

The company was large (10.000 plus employees) and this seemed too commom in my area. Most of my former college colleagues were in the same situation (and most of them still are - even after graduation).

One of the many reasons why I jumped out of the boat of industry work.
berkshire (Aeronautics)
3 Dec 12 14:21
One thing I will bring up related to this discussion is the fact that if one person takes a design from initiation to fabrication there is a greater possibility of an expensive mistake.
The old saw was ,that the mistake is always in the part that you "Know" is right.
In this respect the hand off from an engineer to a designer and back to the engineer for checking at least allowed an independent set of eyeballs into the equasion. Most companies are doing away with checkers for financial reasons, and I feel this too is a big mistake.

The good engineer does not need to memorize every formula; he just needs to know where he can find them when he needs them. Old professor

zdas04 (Mechanical)
3 Dec 12 15:28
The corralary to that is that checkers that are competent to judge the technical merits of a design are exceedingly rare (mostly they look at title blocks and font sizes of dimensions), so even in the days of "checkers checking the checkers" that the MBA's have vilified stuff got missed and I'm not convinced it got missed more often than it does today. If I see an error in one of my drawings a week or a month after I "finished" it I don't have to try to explain what is wrong to a draftsman who has done 5 other projects since mine was finished. I just see the marking, explaining, re-marking cycle as life-sucking.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

"Belief" is the acceptance of an hypotheses in the absence of data.
"Prejudice" is having an opinion not supported by the preponderance of the data.
"Knowledge" is only found through the accumulation and analysis of data.

KM (Mechanical)
3 Dec 12 17:29
We do less and less in-house design and are using more and more consultants all the time. (So instead of having 15 design engineers and drafting people we "save money" by have 3 engineers and 50 project managers to do the same or less work---but I digress).

For the very little in-house design work that still gets done, we still have dedicated drafting people. The drafting folks are responsible for version control and maintaining standards for plot settings and layerings. Engineers can do sketches in CAD model space and send it to the CAD people to finalize---i.e. put in paper space at proper scale and dimension, make sure layering standards are adhered to, using the right plot settings, and so forth. Some engineers still prefer hand sketches on quad paper.

However, for small repair jobs that are not being tendered, the engineers themselves do dimensioned sketches as required for the trades people. Mostly this is in CAD. Sometimes we take on summer students who would do that kind of drafting.
KENAT (Mechanical)
3 Dec 12 17:51
I do my own drafting, have since I started out in 1999. My then defense company in the UK had a few non degreed 'engineers' that were arguably really designers by US parlance but they were doing the same work as engineers though with more input from out stress guy on calculations etc.

Here in the US at a scientific equipment I was hired on as part of a 'design services' department that was created to try and improve the quality of drawings to support use of new machine shops etc. There were 2 designers/drafters in the group and a dedicated checker plus me and the manager (plus interns). During the bad times they all got gradually let go until it was just me and one designer left, then last year he retired. When hired there were one or two engineering techs or otherwise non BS/BEng 'engineers' but they're all gone now.

So now, Engineers do all their own CAD & Drafting (like before my initial arrival) and there is no formal checking and little informal checking.

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What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

Helpful Member!  kylesito (Structural)
5 Dec 12 7:52
In the building world....the future of CAD operators is non-existent, the birth of 3D modelers/designers is just starting.

In a traditional sense, I think the CAD operators / draftsman are on their way out. What is coming in behind them though are people versed in 3D modeling who have some construction or engineering background who can operate the 3D BIM software and layout buildings.

The reason I say they are on their way out is simply looking at my own personal workflow. I have two monitors in front of me and most days I have my analysis program opened on one and my modeling/drafting software opened on the other (Revit in my case). I can integrate the two virtually seamlessly and modify entire elements of the building (and their corresponding views, sections, notes, and details) with a few clicks. This efficiency blows away the workflow of the past which required multiple people participating in the process including draftsman. It essentially skips the need for a pure draftsman.

I think there will always be a market for competent people without an engineering degree who can handle the modeling (or drafting) in a similar way to CAD operators now. However, I think these people will need to be much more versed in engineering principles and even real world construction practice as they will need to be involved in the practical decision making on a project.

Draftsman and CAD operators are finished. But new positions are about to be born.

Eastern United States

"If a builder builds a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built falls in and kills its owner, then that builder shall be put to death!"
~Code of Hammurabi

DHambley (Electrical)
5 Dec 12 12:46
The firms doing government work are most likely to have a full-time CAD technician. This ensures that all the "t"s are crossed and "i"s dotted just perfectly per govt regulations. Every firm I have worked with doing govt work has a drafter who also doubles as the PCB layout person and Mechanical drawing creator.

Consumer companies I have worked with have the engineer to both the design and drafting. This century has seen more and more CAD programs which also are engineering analysis programs like Mentor Graphics or Cadence with their Pspice, schematic capture and layout. I have worked for some consumer outfits which still keep the unique drafter mode, even though, as zdas04 pointed out, it is so inefficient.

checking work is another issue and, whether it's drafters checking engineers or vice versa, design reviews and and drawing reviews are still critical to success.

MusicEngineer (Structural)
5 Dec 12 13:47
I work at a company where we have 8 engineers (including quality engineer and team lead) and only 2 designers. I do most of my complex modelling by myself (including construction drawings) and only involve the designers when I am nearing a deadline and there are still lots of details to take care of.
All of the young engineers in the company are proficient CAD users. One of the senior engineers also has exceptional CAD skills. The designers mainly help the engineers that do not know CAD well.
jgailla (Geotechnical)
5 Dec 12 18:52
At my last job, we had tracers who were called designers. They were incapable or unwilling to do anything that wasn't marked in red pencil on a sheet of paper. On one project, I drew a sewer line with manholes down the middle of a street, assuming that the tracer would place them on the centerline. Nope, he painstakingly offset each manhole and pipe segment a minute amount to match my red pencil line drawn not exactly straight.
There's no reason to pay guys like that. I eventually got fed up and just did all my own CAD.
GregLocock (Automotive)
5 Dec 12 19:53
OTOH I had an otherwise excellent CAD guy who would take my carefully engineered solid models and would then round the dimensions off when he issued the drawings 'to make them easier to machine'.


Greg Locock

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ajack1 (Automotive)
6 Dec 12 13:05
I think the two examples above just show what happens with poor communication rather than a bad drafter/ CAD operator.

In both cases the operator did what they felt was right, be that following the drawing to the letter as this had been done like this for a reason, or changing things to round figures as the original model had been done without much care. Obviously they were both wrong but for completely opposite reasons.

If CAD operators are a dying breed well that probably depends on what field of engineering you work in and how big the company is.

I can now sit at my PC and book airline tickets or hotels, do design reviews via a screen share with someone in a different country, program a machine that I am miles away from, do my accounts and transfer money around and endless other tasks that would have been unthinkable when I started out, or even twenty years ago, where we will be in fifteen years time when I retire I have no idea.
GregLocock (Automotive)
6 Dec 12 17:09
I agrree, and that's why i put the example up, but of course in this day it is no more difficult to machine 74.7+/-0.2 than 75.0 +/-0.2


Greg Locock

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ajack1 (Automotive)
6 Dec 12 18:13
I am not sure it ever was more difficult to machine 74.7 rather than 75.0, although it could be argued the worse case is when you work on say the upper and lower limits of a micrometer for example, as you would need to use two micrometers to produce the part.

However it still seems “right” to use round numbers unless there is a good reason not to.
jgailla (Geotechnical)
6 Dec 12 18:55
I never thought about it as a communication issue. It just seems obvious to me to make bends 90 degrees instead of 89, run things in straight lines, etc. I did have someone ask me today, only partly tongue in cheek, if I'd ever been tested for Asbergers (sp).
Maybe I'm too hard on other people.
MikeHalloran (Mechanical)
6 Dec 12 20:03
Not that long ago, I designed a show display based on an engine that was probably metric. We contracted construction of the core, a somewhat complex plywood box, to a local carpenter.

I got to re-do the CAD model of the box overnight, adjusting all dimensions to eighths of an inch, because the carpenter just flat refused (rightly so in retrospect) to work to decimal inch or metric dimensions.

Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

TomDOT (Materials)
7 Dec 12 8:15
If the carpenter is tooled to measure in eighths.... yep.
Helpful Member!  JohnRBaker (Mechanical)
7 Dec 12 17:59
It has to do with the limitation of the tools which are used:

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

berkshire (Aeronautics)
8 Dec 12 1:39
Hey John,
That rule had 1/16ths on the other side, he could have worked to those. [2thumbsup]

The good engineer does not need to memorize every formula; he just needs to know where he can find them when he needs them. Old professor

JohnRBaker (Mechanical)
8 Dec 12 11:53
Before I joined my current company (actually a long series of companies which has developed and marketed the CAD/CAE/CAM software Unigraphics/NX) I worked 14 years as a Machine Designer for a larger manufacturer of capital food and chemical processing equipment. Most of the structures of these machines were welded from rolled steel shapes (angles and channels). Many of the approaches used to build-up these frameworks were not all that different than what one might find on a construction site where a house was being built (many of our machines were larger than a typical 3-bedroom home). And as a result of that we utilized a hybrid of Engineering and Architectural drafting standards where linear dimensions on our Drawings, if they were less than 72", would be in fractional Inches, while all dimensions over 72" were in Feet & Inches. When I first started working there I had never heard of this practice (it was never mentioned during my 4 years of Engineering school) and when I asked why things were done this way, it was explained to me that a 'Carpenters Rule' only goes up to 72" and for any measurement longer than that, a 'Tape Measure' was used.

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

Erdbau (Geotechnical)
8 Dec 12 14:15
Two stories similar to jgailla:

1. I was in a rush and in on markup drew a bunch of freehand lines seemed to me to be pretty straight, and in context of the drawing were obviously (even to a drafter) supposed to be straight. I got the drawing back with wavy lines. I went back to the drafter and asked him to make them straight lines, and he flipped out because he spent an hour and a half digitizing the lines.

2. Different drafter: I put a note on the drawing in big letters "Dimension all lines marked "DIM"". I get the drawing back with 35 leaders pointing the to the lines I wanted dimensioned, all labelled "DIM".

Now, as ajack said, these may be examples of poor communication on my part, but they also hint at a lack of common sense on the drafters' part. "These lines aren't straight. Do you really want me to take the time to digitize them?" A 10 second phone call avoids 1.5 hours of unnecessary work. Unfortunately, with the way our workflow works, I don't have the opportunity to have a 10-miunte conversation with a drafter and say "this is what I want." I found eventually that I spent longer on markups trying to avoid comically literal interpretations of my notes than it would actually take to make the changes myself or give them to another engineer that understands both CAD and the message that the drawing is intended to convey. Most of our junior engineering staff has taken to doing their own drafting for similar reasons.

As for from-scratch sketches of details, I can draw 2 to 3 times faster on CAD than I can on paper (of enough quality to be draftable). Why would I put it on paper and then have a drafter put it into CAD?

The link below is a horrific example of blindly following a "markup" (i.e., email order form). The rest of the Cakewrecks site is pretty funny, too.

Helpful Member!(2)  ilovechickens (Mechanical)
12 Dec 12 6:51
pc3In my opinion engineers are engineers and draftees are draftees. Sadly over time it has been assumed anyone who can open a computer and start up windows is a 'draftee'. I myself trained as a draftee on the board, then transitioned to CAD before studying to become an engineer. I never ever regret my drafting background, the draftees we do have can not bulsh** me because they know I have a drafting background. A draftee who knows what they are doing is as rear as hensteeth in my opinion and in our company the experienced drafting staff earn the same as the senior engineers. I am happy to wotk out the basic design in cad and then pass it over to the drafting staff to turn into something real.

If you can find a decent draftee they really are worth their weight in gold. Sadly most draftees are just computer operators these days and seem to have no professional training at all. You used to have to do an apprenticeship to become a draftee, now all people think you need is a computer program and a printer.
behindpropellers (Aeronautics)
17 Dec 12 22:47
Interesting reading.

I started with Autocad making drawings to get parts made. Eventually I started designing parts and assemblies in Solidworks. After I could do those good I started learning how to make stuff on a CNC mill. Thats where the real education started. Making the stuff you design. Being able to learn the manufacturing process has made me 5X the engineer I was before.

I see no reason for a drafter in today's world. Maybe in the civil world.

berkshire (Aeronautics)
18 Dec 12 19:08
behindpropellers (Aeronautics)

The original purpose of the drafter was to make the engineer more productive. As was the secretary and or the typist.
The personal computer changed that, it has supplanted a lot of those occupations.

Now a written document can be done in a typing program on a computer, Word for windows, WordStar, WordPerfect and many others.
Spreadsheet programs and math programs have taken away hours of scribbling on scratch pads looking up Logs and Antilogs or pulling the handle on a 10 key calculator
Drawings can be done in any number of drawing programs. Including the two you mention, Auto Cad and Solidworks. There are discussion groups on this forum for at least 20 drawing and modeling programs maybe more.
Engineers and other technicians have learned to use these programs effectively. The ability of the engineer to produce a document or string of code that can produce a finished component right the first time will improve over the years, as new computer programs come along to take the grunt work out of it.
In the same manner that I never learned to type in school, it was considered unnecessary because that was a typists job that girls did,
Now kids who cannot type on a computer keyboard or at least text by the time they are 8 years old are very few and far between.
Also a visit to the Maker Faire at various sites around the country will scare the hell out of you, when you see 8 and 9 year old kids modeling 3D parts on a computer then printing those same parts out on 3D printers. The question then becomes why I need an engineer if I can do it myself.

"A free people ought not only be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government."
-George Washington, President of the United States----

behindpropellers (Aeronautics)
19 Dec 12 11:21

Quote (berkshire)

Now kids who cannot type on a computer keyboard or at least text by the time they are 8 years old are very few and far between.
Also a visit to the Maker Faire at various sites around the country will scare the hell out of you, when you see 8 and 9 year old kids modeling 3D parts on a computer then printing those same parts out on 3D printers. The question then becomes why I need an engineer if I can do it myself.


There is a big difference between being able to draw a nice picture (model) in the computer and press "Print" than make it so it functions correctly and is manufacturable. I guess this is why "Engineers" will always be needed.

berkshire (Aeronautics)
19 Dec 12 14:21
behindpropellers (Aeronautics)
If a part is printed on a 3D printer, it is manufactured, that is just one way of making it.
You have a part you can hold in your hand, assemble into other parts, or just use.

"A free people ought not only be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government."
-George Washington, President of the United States----

bridgebuster (Civil) (OP)
22 Dec 12 5:36

Quote (ilovechickens)

Sadly most draftees are just computer operators these days and seem to have no professional training at all. You used to have to do an apprenticeship to become a draftee, now all people think you need is a computer program and a printer.

Unfortunately this describes one of our trainees. I suggested that he invest time in a course on mechanical drawing; after 7 months he still has no concept of how one view relates to another.
Helpful Member!(4)  ewh (Aerospace)
27 Dec 12 17:17
It is true that drafters are a dying breed. That said, I have rarely seen a drawing done by an engineer that would get by what were known as checkers without several reiterations. I have seen drawings done by engineers where 3rd angle projection wasn't even understood, much less basic ASME Y14.5. While they may not be around for much longer, a proper drawing consists of more than some dimensions spread across a few views.
I agree that the purpose of drafters/designers was to increase the efficiency of the engineers. As a designer, I take pride in receiving an engineers input and design requirements and providing him with complete, accurate, finished drawings and models. Accomplishing this takes time, knowledge, effort and communication. Having me do it allows him to properly manage the other myriad tasks that have to get done. If he were to do the drawings/models on his own the result, while it may work, would often not be as robust because he would be spread too thin to make the deadlines imposed to make it so. This leads to numerous changes as the omissions/mistakes are discovered, and, depending on the industry involved, these changes can be quite expensive, even the simpler ones.

An engineering student should not be allowed to use a CAD program without at least a basic understanding of how to create a proper drawing.

The future that John points out is getting closer every day, but it will still be awhile before all industries accept PMI. There will still be a demand for efficient designers/modelers to create the files.
Everything is a business model, and time is money.

“Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.”
-Dalai Lama XIV

ewh (Aerospace)
9 Jan 13 14:09
I have landed a position with a company whose philosophy reflects the comments I posted above... leave the drawings to those who know what a proper drawing is, and free up the engineers for other, more cost effective tasks. Now, if I could only move my house 200 miles.

“Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.”
-Dalai Lama XIV

brandonbw (Civil/Environmental)
17 Jan 13 4:06
From what I have seen of Civil 3D the end result is that you won't need drafters for a lot of Civil Engineering work. But you need a very computer literate person to understand how to throw a design into the program.

B+W Engineering and Design
Los Angeles Civil Engineer and Structural Engineer | |

spongebob007 (Military)
5 Feb 13 14:29
My career has been nearly evenly split between defense and commercial. At the commercial jobs I always did my own drawings. As ewh pointed out, my drawings probably wouldn't pass an experienced checker but they were good enough to get the job done. Plus we always built protptypes, so if a drawing error led to a bad part it was easy enough for me to sweep it under the rug and fix the drawing.

At every defense company I have worked for there are drafters and designers. Probably the main reason is that unlike the commercial world, drawings are an end product. The government pays for the drawings and they expect them to be done right. We have had drawings sent back on more than one occasion because something doesn't meet ASME Y14.5. It's the government who keeps us in paper. For our machined parts we send CAD models to the shop for use in programming the machines. This was actually a process I instituted when I started here. We used to send 2D drawings to the shop where they would basically charge us to recreate the 3D models for their programs. Going right from CAD to CNC was a money saver.
11echo (Petroleum)
17 Feb 13 15:21
MAN what and interesting Thread! ...Especially if you’re old enough to have seen the original trouble when it started back in mid-80's, and to where it's at today ...and STILL in free fall! Mid 80’s the business trend (due to poor economics) was to dump the mid-level & part of the Sr. level engineering people, hire a bunch of “young guys”, and have just afew senior level people to ride herd over them. Problem was there wasn’t much work so just a “bastardized” way of doing things was generated, and it was different in each company. In owner companies whole design/drafting groups where dumped, because IF any thing was needed it could be farmed out to contract engineering companies. Now add AutoCAD to the confusion and you had the starlings of the mess we are now in. So now flash forward to the present, in my world as a designer you have multiple 3D CAD programs available and they are constantly changing, it has now become more important to maintain your computer skills then develop/hone your designer skills. Engineers now require 3D picture to “see” things because they can’t read technical drawings, and it’s way cheaper to send any “drafting” oversea where they gladly work for $4.25/hr. …they too have no real designers …people that KNOW how thing should be put together, but operate cheap enough that even after multiple checking efforts (that is required) the total cost of design/drafting is cheaper …or so the powers that be think (the young guys that missed the experience of the mid & sr. level people long ago).
My personnel option is the present system is a house of cards and is ready to crumble at any minute. Presently in the U.S. the infrastructure is a mess and desperately needs to be redone. The President has recently indicated that the U.S. is going to increase oil product in the U.S. to out perform the Mideast by 2020. We haven’t built a new refinery in the U.S. in 35 yr.s …we are falling into the steel industry trap of the early 80’s …an industry that didn’t keep up with technology and became over powered by modern foreign steel plants. We have a lot of old ground to re-learn to get where we can become leaders in today’s world. Hopefully we’ll head in that direction, then CADD with be back where it belongs. …Got my fingers crossed anyway!
brandonbw (Civil/Environmental)
24 Feb 13 18:05
I am brought back to this topic after having a conversation between myself, an Architect and his drafting company he subs to. Basically they put their siteplan onto some made up property line, which didn't line up with the actual survey. So the whole thing was skewed every which way. Their were angle and length busts comparing their plan to the survey. I couldn't figure out how to align everything so we had a meeting. I brought out my laptop to show the siteplan overlayed with the original survey to show how everything was off. Immediately I started to get yelled at by the Arch because he couldn't read plans on the computer. Kept saying he had tunnel vision. He wanted me to go and plot everything so we could figure out the problem.

This went wrong very quickly probably because the Arch couldn't oversee the drafter well enough to know what was going on when the initial plan set was created. After 2 weeks we finally figured out what to do, even though they sent me back basically the original plans with wrong PL still!!!!!!!!! I don't see a future in pure drafters after noticing a lot of strange mistakes on many projects that would easily be caught by the design person going straight into CAD. At least the developer who doesn't know CAD, understood why this was an issue.

B+W Engineering and Design
Los Angeles Civil Engineer and Structural Engineer | |

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