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Strategies For Teaching Cad Automation To Engineers And Technologists

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Computational Tools and Simulation I

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1099.1 - 15.1099.15



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Paper Authors


Derek Yip-Hoi Western Washington University

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Derek Yip-Hoi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Technology at Western Washington University and coordinator of the department’s CAD/CAM program. He received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he worked for several years as a Research Scientist in the area of Reconfigurable Manufacturing before moving out to the Pacific Northwest where he spent 3 years at the University of British Columbia before moving to WWU. His teaching interests are in CAD/CAM, CNC, design methodology, mechanical design and manufacturing processes.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Strategies for Teaching CAD Automation to Engineers and Technologists


Training in Computer-Aided Design is now common place in engineering and technology programs. This can take one of three forms. Instruction in the mechanics and strategies for effectively using a CAD application is the most common. This is often completed early in the program to provide students with the ability to use these tools in term projects and capstone design. The second approach delves into a study of the building blocks of a CAD system getting into the areas of geometric and solid modeling, constraint solving, data structures, computer graphics and the use of CAD data in downstream processes such as tool path generation and rapid prototyping. Courses in this area are typically offered as senior electives or in graduate programs. The third form involves teaching how to automate CAD system functions using simple programs commonly referred to as macros or scripts. In the past CAD system vendors have provided their own scripting languages. Examples include AUTOLisp (AutoCAD) and GRIP (Unigraphics). Today with the use of Windows building blocks in CAD interface development, Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is now commonly available for scripting (e.g. Inventor, SolidWorks, CATIA, SolidEdge to name a few). Study of this area which is referred to as CAD Automation in this paper is also at the senior level or in a graduate course.

This paper describes in detail a new senior level course being offered to Engineering Technologists that teaches CAD Automation using CATIA with VBA. Students are introduced to the various areas in which CAD automation can be applied. These are in automating the activities of Part Configuration, Product Configuration, Integration, Data Retrieval and Analysis and Optimization. Strategies and techniques for teaching the automation tools are presented. This is challenging in part because of the variation in programming backgrounds of the students. The use of Excel a program that students are familiar with, to teach VBA is described. It will be shown how this is also critical to the study of the Integration aspect of automation where data is passed back and forth between a spreadsheet and the CAD system in creating and manipulating geometry and product structures. Teaching the CATIA automation object structure is accomplished through study of macros recorded during manual modeling activities with the GUI. The benefits and challenges in using this approach are discussed.

Overviews of assignments and project work are given. Assignments include the creation of a beam bending program in Excel that controls beam section and length parameters in CATIA and that extracts section properties in calculating beam deflection and stresses. An example of project work that involves automating the creation of airfoil sections for products such as aircraft wings, propellers, helicopter rotor blades, wind turbines and hydrofoils is described.

This paper concludes with a discussion of the challenges observed in teaching this course and ways to improve content and delivery in the future.


The Engineering Technology Department at Western Washington University (WWU) runs several programs that train Technologists in the area of product development. These include

Yip-Hoi, D. (2010, June), Strategies For Teaching Cad Automation To Engineers And Technologists Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15725

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