The CAD Society: Designing a Better Future

CAD users create a forum to share ideas, learn technical tips and promote CAD awareness.


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Founded almost twenty years ago, the CAD Society (Bethesda, MD) - a not-for-profit CAD industry user association - has made its mission to unite CAD users from any industry into one fraternal group where each can benefit from others' experience while continuing to promote CAD awareness.

The association was the brainchild of Terry Wohlers-a long-time consultant to the moldmaking industry who specializes in rapid prototyping and rapid engineering. According to CAD Society president Joe Greco, Wohlers began the association as a special interest group under auspices of the NCGA (National Computer Graphics Association). "It was originally known as the MicroCAD society-when there was a distinct difference between PC-based CAD and mainframe CAD," Greco recalls. "When the NCGA closed, the CAD Society became an entity in its own right and was structured as a fraternal organization." Currently the organization boasts more than nine hundred members and its membership is free. As for employees, Greco notes everyone involved with the association volunteers their time.


Drawing Support

Greco says that the CAD Society's core function is to "act on behalf of all CAD users." Quarterly meetings give members a chance to meet, enjoy each other's company and build relationships during challenging times. "The CAD Society has been incredibly active for the last eighteen years, with regular and well-attended quarterly meetings across all industries," he states. "But in the last three years, the chartered role of the organization has appeared to lose relevance in the industry because the interest has declined in industry events-the very events where we hold our quarterly meetings.

"As a result, the society will refocus its efforts into a stronger advocacy group for CAD users, as well as an organization that promotes the education and career paths of CAD users and engineers," Greco continues. "The results of this restructure will become evident across the industry throughout the next year."

Another challenge has been growing its membership, which Greco believes will increase as the restructuring occurs. Part of the restructure plan includes adding fee-based individual and corporate memberships, while offering free membership. Greco is optimistic that the association's expanded membership will result in more clout in the industry and more volunteers.


Movers and Shakers

Four years ago, the CAD Society underwrote an event that has helped shape the future of the CAD industry - the Summit on the Future of Engineering Software. Since then, this event has been known as the annual Congress on the Future of Engineering Software, (COFES)-an annual major industry event and think-tank for senior executives in the industry, notes Greco. "In addition, at every COFES, the CAD Society has recognized CAD experts, users, developers, press and visionaries for their role in furthering the CAD industry. The awards, now presented at COFES every year, recognize leadership, lifetime and community. The most recent CAD Society Industry Lifetime Achievement Award recipient is Carl Machover, president of Machover Associates Corporation (White Plains, NY)-a computer graphics consulting firm. The award recognizes a lifetime of outstanding technical and business contributions to the CAD industry. According to Greco, Machover was selected to receive this year's award for his lifelong involvement in the computer graphics industry. He has written more than 180 articles on computer graphics, conducted seminars and lectures worldwide and has authored hundreds of other computer graphic works.

"Carl was chosen for this year's Lifetime Award because of his long involvement and presence in computer graphics industry," Greco states. "He is a pioneer and the expert in the computer graphics field. His outstanding research, ideas and visions have provided valuable insight and growth throughout the world. Everyone involved in computer graphics has been influenced by him in one way or another."

The CAD Society also has an industry award for Leadership and another for Community. The winner of the Leadership Award was Thomas Butta-executive VP and chief marketing officer for PTC (Needham, MA) -a software provider. According to Greco, Butta was honored for his involvement as the chief designer of PTC's Product First Roadmap -a product development strategy that enables manufacturing companies to dramatically improve the use of the product development process to create sustainable value through revenue growth and improved profitability.

C.J. Shirk-a regional sales director for software manufacturer SolidWorks Corporation (Concord, MA) -won the Community Award. "Shirk received the award this year for developing and spearheading SolidWorks' innovative Retraining Program," Greco notes. "Through this program, unemployed engineers received free SolidWorks CAD software licenses for six months, and had access to training and certification -enabling them to gain the valuable technical skills potential employers seek."


Future Designs

The CAD Society plans on starting an engineer mentor program to help students become more aware of the real-world applications of CAD and how it is used in the workplace. "We also intend to begin a series of promotions that build awareness of the CAD industry to a wider audience -including understanding of what CAD brings to the economy as a whole and how it benefits society," Greco notes.

This association's future looks bright-and busy. In addition to promoting educational programs within the CAD industry and building internship opportunities for young users, Greco notes that the group will promote and advocate important issues for the CAD users whenever necessary and supplement existing CAD user groups by offering their users things the groups cannot. For instance, such groups are good at conveying information about the particular CAD program they represent, but perhaps not how that same software interacts with other CAD programs. So, one of the goals of The CAD Society would to help the users of these disparate groups share this important data. "In short," Greco says, "we see the CAD Society as a place where any CAD user in the world can go to express an opinion, share an idea or just learn more about the benefits of using CAD."