Computer aided design (CAD)

BIM vs. CAD: What is the difference between CAD and BIM?

Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Computer Aided Design (CAD) are tools that help with the design process of a building. Companies use CAD and BIM widely in the construction, engineering, and architecture worlds. But there are important differences between them. For professionals to determine if they should use CAD or BIM or alternate between the two, some critical questions must be answered. What are the differences in BIM vs. CAD? What are the advantages of BIM vs. CAD, and how should you decide which one to use?

The future of CAD and 3D modelling are rapidly changing. So the question of where each system will land is in question. What is the difference between CAD and BIM? Which one will reign supreme in the industry, or will they both thrive together? Is there a place for both of them, and do they complement one another? These are the questions we'll address in this article.

What is the difference between CAD and BIM?

Computer-aided design (CAD) is the process of using computer software tools to create 2D and 3D virtual models of buildings, structures, machines, and parts. In the most basic sense, it replaces traditional hand drafting with an automated process.

On the other hand, building information modelling (BIM) is the process of using a set of software tools to visualise a design idea with realistic dimensions from a multitude of angles. It basically provides a digital representation of an entire facility before companies build it. They both provide vital information about a structure before construction begins. But CAD and BIM use different file types and design techniques. Let's take a deeper look at BIM vs. CAD:


Since CAD is an acronym for computer-aided design, people flexibly use the term to describe the design process, the software, and the resulting files. Basically, CAD is the process of using specialised software to create accurate 2D and 3D drawings. CAD files are the digital form of drawings produced in either 2D drawings or 3D models.

A project using the CAD process depends on separate drawings that work together. To change the design, each drawing must be altered manually. Data in CAD files can include drawings, scans, photographs, reports, letters, and files. Generally, companies store their entire CAD projects on a local disk.


An acronym for building information modelling, BIM is a process that usually depends on multiple types of software, including CAD software. BIM was developed after CAD, so the technology is more sophisticated.

The BIM process combines the use of integrated tools and software types to create a single model of an entire structure. Since the elements are geometrically dependent, alterations can be completed by various contributors to the entire model. BIM files are stored using different formats; the project is usually stored on a cloud server for easy access by multiple collaborators.

What are BIM and CAD used for?

Both BIM and CAD can create complex models of structures before building begins. However, the processes for BIM vs. CAD can't be used interchangeably.
The difference between CAD and BIM is that CAD is a type of drafting software that has been used for decades to meet strict aerospace and automotive manufacturing guidelines. It can also improve the time to market for new products. CAD users typically have CAD standards in place, as well as a library of details and symbols specific to the work they do. As a result, engineers use CAD programs across various industries, from industrial and manufacturing to civil engineering and plant design.

On the other hand, BIM is a process that depends on various types of software to allow architects, engineers, and contractors to collaborate on a commercial building using the same computer model. Professionals exclusively use BIM in designing and constructing commercial buildings such as airports, office towers or schools. It has increasingly become the new industry standard for such projects.

However, BIM is an evolving technology. As a result, companies planning to shift to BIM may have difficulties finding trained staff. They can also face some compatibility issues with trade partners.

BIM provides some clear advantages in its ability to offer extensive information about the finished operations of a commercial building long before a construction company breaks ground on the project. But it's not designed for every type of project currently depending on CAD.

The future for CAD and BIM

Professionals initially developed CAD to design virtual models for everything from appliances and furnishings to automobiles and rolling stock. Companies use the software to create visualisations of the surrounding bodies of vehicles and tools. It can also help create the smaller parts that make up the motors and other components inside each machine. BIM was developed for the virtual design and multidimensional visualisation of proposed building ideas. Going back to what is the difference between CAD and BIM, BIM is still evolving, it's expected that BIM and CAD will be used alongside each other as parts of a whole.

However, as BIM evolves, more construction professionals are likely to become interested in transitioning from CAD to BIM. Companies interested in making the switch will need to take into consideration that the investment will require a substantial budget and a significant amount of time.

Furthermore, companies that make the switch will need to be sure every party that collaborates on a project is on board with the new method; third parties also must be capable of integrating new types of software. As organisations evolve into the complete BIM transformation, the conversion of legacy models from CAD to BIM will likely be a significant goal.

Unfortunately, the process isn't easy, as it requires multiple steps for completion. Based on the difference between CAD and BIM, some organisations may be in the process of transitioning to BIM. But it's likely that CAD will still be in use for quite some time.

Technology is always evolving, especially in the ongoing BIM vs. CAD debate. Construction industry professionals need high-quality tools to provide the most detailed models of products and structures possible. Whether your company uses CAD, BIM, or a combination of both methods, it's important to have a large format plotter/printer you can depend on accommodate the difference between CAD and BIM. Contact us today to discuss your printing needs.

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