What Percent of Teams Use CAD?

Does anybody know how many people use some sort of CAD software? I know that chief is a little biased but my team would still like to know.

I haven’t met many teams who don’t use CAD.

Try adding a poll to this thread. It will let you collect the data that you want

I’m the only one on my team who uses SolidWorks and attends meetings regularly, but we model everything up before building. Between the CAD work and some basic prototyping, we build every mechanism on our robot once this year and had no issues we weren’t able to fix without rebuilding the mechanism. Is it necessary? No… but you better have the resources to build and rebuild things when something doesn’t fit right.

I plan on holding a SolidWorks course for any of our students who are interested, and hopefully we’ll be able to CAD up EVERYTHING on the robot next year. Not having time to plan out mounting holes or gussets was probably the biggest problem we had from the design side.

There was another thread recently that posed a similar question about whether teams used CAD or whether CAD was essential.

The answer is: you can be a successful team and not use CAD. It is not essential. However, you can also build robots using just hand tools. Power tools are not essential. But of course they are extremely helpful and time saving.

(Hey, we made our robot with only a drill press and miter saw and hand tools. But, we also did use a lot of CAD :smiley: )

Here is a poll to get this started


Results here.

I would suspect the vast majority of younger teams (0-3yrs) do not utilize CAD based on my observations.

Our team has used one form or another of CAD since about 2008, prior to that, one of our engineering mentors on the team would actually hand draw (in detail) robot components on plotter paper.

My team just started thinking about CAD this year. We didn’t do any more with it than get the software license from the KOP and think about it at the beginning of the season*. Next year we may use it more, but this year we did not.

*we did draw our arm to scale on paper before manufacturing it, that was a first for us.

We use Inventor, 90% of our parts are made from a CAD drawing. Also, we use our CAD to direct our CNC mill. CAD is also used mainly on our team to find places where electronics, motors, and pneumatics fit. As a guess, I would say 75% of teams use CAD to help build their robot.

If your team has access to (and uses) water jet, CNC manufacturing, or 3D printing, then CAD becomes a necessity.

If your hand building; CAD is not strictly necessary. But it helps with planning the robot configuration, and designing some sub components. Mechanical drafting seems to have become a lost skill, but is very useful for configuration development.

My guess is that the majority of teams do not CAD.

CD polls are skewed towards more successful teams much farther than one would expect. Most low-performing teams don’t have a connection to the greater FRC/FIRST community, and operate in isolation.

Many FRC teams are also “participants” more than they are “competitors.” But I think this trend is changing, especially with the growth of districts.

I don’t necessarily think a minority of teams do CAD, but it is definitely a smaller percentage of teams than the poll suggests.

Another aspect of this discussion which is emerging, is to what extent teams use CAD during their design process. I have seen teams that use CAD to make sure that things fit simply by modeling blocks that are roughly the shape of a mechanism, organizing the blocks and then saying “ok the shooter must be no bigger than the block” and so on.

There is a big difference between modeling a rectangular prism called, “electronics board” and placing individual electronics components.

There are also plenty of teams who model in every fastener, and every hole. As others have mentioned, this becomes more important when parts are being cut with CNC tools.


From what I have been told, 246 didn’t start using CAD until 2015. Apparently they just ended up using their prototypes as the final product.

This year, we housed a rookie team in our lab for the later half of the split, and I saw that they didn’t use CAD. This is mainly because their robot was just a modified kitbot with a 1 joint arm to help with defenses, so there really wasn’t any need for it.

All of the teams we work with use CAD systems. We have learned a lot from them about whats needed to make it run smoothly. The part some teams tend to forget is that your peripherals are just as important to the workflow as the program and knowledge base the user has. A good mouse/keyboard with certain features can make your life WAY easier. One of our teams uses some weird 3D knob thing that works great with solidworks. When used in conjunction with a Sentinel III mouse it can really speed things up.

One of our mentors brought in something like this a while back for the team to use for CAD, one of our kids really likes using it; I personally found it bizarre and hard to CAD with, so to each their own I guess, I’ll stick with my 3600dpi laser mouse. :rolleyes:

I believe you guys are referring to this?


Different version/brand in my case, but basically the same thing, yes.

Once you use a 3D mouse, it is hard to go back. It just makes it so simple to rotate and see the side of the part that you need to see.