Definition of MCAD

Mechanical Computer Aided Design (MCAD) software is used to create and modify 2D and 3D geometry, in order to design, assess and document mechanical components and sheet metal components, assemblies, and products. These components include molds, dies and other tooling.


In the development process, MCAD software can be used to:

  • Explore different iterations of a design, either conceptually or in detail. Users can build out different alternatives and options, comparing them to each other.
  • Assess the form and fit of designs. This includes measuring the weight of a design or checking for interferences.
  • Generate engineering documentation. This documentation is released to manufacturing as part of the specifications used to source, fabricate and produce products.

Capabilities Provided

MCAD software provides some combination of the following capabilities:

  • 3D Modeling enables users to create and modify 3D geometry. This set of capabilities includes:
    • Parametric Modeling: In this modeling methodology, geometry is created and modified through standard geometry definitions called features. These features are numerically sized using parameters. Features are sequentially built and interdependent, so that a modification ripples through the entire model.
    • Direct Modeling: In this modeling approach, geometry is created with pre-defined shapes that do not retain their original definition. The geometry is modified using push, pull and drag manipulations.
  • 2D Sketching provides ways to create and modify 2D geometry. This set of capabilities includes:
    • Parametric Sketching: With this approach, sections of 2D entities are fully defined and controlled by constraints and parametric dimensions.
    • Direct Sketching: In this approach, 2D entities can be pushed, pulled and dragged directly as the software makes intelligent assumptions about the related geometry.
  • Assembly Modeling provides a way to put together many individual 3D models with constraints. Note that such models can be used for Kinematics and Dynamics Analyses, as provided by Mechanical Computer Aided Engineering (MCAE) software.
  • Engineering Documentation provides different methods to create standard documentation that is then released to manufacturing for production. This set of capabilities includes:
    • Derived Drawing Creation: These capabilities automatically generate drawing views directly from a model. The parameters used to create the model can also be shown in an automated way.
    • Drafting: In this approach, users can manually manipulate 2D entities in sketches or drawings with commands such as extend and trim.
    • Model Based Definitions (MBD): These capabilities provide a means to add Product Manufacturing Information (PMI), such as dimensions and notes, to a 3D model. The resulting annotated 3D model can then be used to augment or replace 2D drawings.
  • Geometry Derived Assessments provide tools to assess and measure the characteristics and traits of 3D and 2D geometry.
    • Volume Derived Assessments: These assessments are based on the volume or 3D shape of the design and include distance measurements, mass and volumetric properties, as well as interference and clearance checks.
    • Two-Dimensional Assessments: These assessments are based on 2D entities that are on a single plane. This includes area properties and distance measurements.

Related Technology Enablers

MCAD software can produce a number of different deliverables that can be managed by Product Data Management (PDM) software.

Additionally, there are numerous technology enablers that exchange data with MCAD software.

  • Mechanical Computer Aided Engineering (MCAE) software can use the design geometry created by MCAD software to create simulation models.
  • Mechanical Computer Aided Manufacturing (MCAM) software also uses design geometry from MCAD software to create toolpaths to drive milling, turn and EDM machines.
  • Surface models designed in Computer Aided Industrial Design (CAID) software can be brought into MCAD software and used to create design geometry.
  • Piping and electrical systems developed in Routed System Design (RSD) software can be routed through assembly models created in MCAD software.
  • Models from MCAD software can be imported and documented in 3D Authoring software in compliance with Model-Based Definition processes.
  • Models from MCAD software can be viewed and interrogated in 3D Visualization software, even by non-technical users.
  • Models from MCAD software can be printed in 3D Printing.
  • Engineering Calculation software can be used to create dynamic equations that use dimensional measurements from 3D models in MCAD software.

In some cases, MCAD software and some of these tools are combined into a single application or service. In other cases, MCAD software is offered as part of an integrated suite alongside some of these applications or services.

Technology Providers

Providers that offer desktop-based MCAD software include:

Providers that offer cloud-based MCAD software include:

  • Autodesk offers Fusion360
  • Dassault Systèmes offers SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual and Industrial Conceptual as well as various 3DEXPERIENCE services