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Five product development trends impacting the CAD market
Mon, 1st May 2023

The Computer Aided Design (CAD) market continues to be driven by the needs of manufacturers in response to macroeconomic trends. Today’s highly inflationary environment, impacted by supply chain constraints and expensive raw materials and parts, continues to impact manufacturers.

Combined with other macro-political challenges, there is much uncertainty around the economic outlook for 2023. While this wave of uncertainty is bound to impact the entire market, enterprise and medium-sized companies are better equipped with the resources to accommodate risk.

These companies know that they need to continue investing through the downturn if they want to take advantage of the inevitable rebound. In fact, enterprise and medium-sized businesses largely maintained or even increased their product development spending through the pandemic. Smaller companies, which tended to run on lower margins with less financial cushion and less ability to impact upstream costs, were much more careful with incremental spending during that time.

This year, we will see five trends in product development:

Trend 1: Adopting Simulation Driven Design

We can expect to see continued momentum for Simulation Driven Design (SDD). Instead of primarily applying simulation technology at the end of the design process, there will be continued expansion throughout the design process by designers and engineers. This “shift left” strategically positions simulation at the earliest practical point of the product development process, enabling organisations to create higher-quality designs and better control costs through more well-informed decisions made earlier in the design process. Additionally, it enables greater innovation by allowing companies to explore many more potential designs using digital testing.

There will be continued growth in new accounts acquiring these technologies and broader adoption and expansion within existing accounts for large and small companies. Companies are benefiting from greater agility by being able to quickly validate and progress designs, improve quality, enhance speed to market, and design with higher confidence. Customers are also exploring a wider array of design concepts with simulation technology instead of costly prototypes, creating a higher likelihood of delivering more optimal products.

Trend 2: Enabling innovation with emerging technologies

New design technologies like generative design and additive manufacturing are driving innovation in product development. These technologies significantly broaden the potential solution space for how a particular set of design objectives can be achieved.

Generative design algorithms are unbiased by the human thought process. Users define the design problem, and the engine determines an array of optimal solutions. It can achieve in hours or days what would take designers weeks or months to do. By integrating this technology deeply within the CAD tool, using the native CAD model, engineers can incorporate generatively developed designs into their existing designs. It creates an agile process that takes full advantage of the benefits of parametric CAD.

Additive manufacturing enables companies to develop unique designs unobtainable using any other fabrication technologies. This potential has led many companies to experiment with additive and achieve amazing results, both of which are driving more customers to integrate tools for designing for additive manufacturing directly into their design process.

Trend 3: Driving the digital thread through the design process

As competition increases and supply challenges persist, companies need to find ways to deliver better products to market faster and at lower costs. This can be achieved by driving a digital thread through the product development process to capture the full value of the 3D CAD model.

A digital thread creates a closed loop between digital and physical worlds to optimise products, people, processes, and places, creating universal access to data and a single source of truth. When implemented across a value chain, it can create consistency and foster collaboration by aligning different functions around a robust set of data.

By pulling the digital thread through the product development process, customers effectively eliminate data handoffs across disparate tools, saving time and energy, and eliminating error. As such, more customers are building fully associative deliverables that are both reusable and easily updated as designs evolve.

Trend 4: Taking advantage of cloud computing and SaaS

It is estimated that 50% of all enterprise application spend will be on SaaS applications in 2023. With design software, the first place to expect changes will be in licensing and deployment. For large companies, this represents a significant time savings and reduction in complexity while enabling greater control.

We can expect to see significant improvements in collaboration. By enabling design software in the cloud, multiple users will be able to operate on the same design at the same time in a shared environment. This will also make it easier to both extend the collaboration team to include people outside of the company and control IP.

Access to elastic compute resources will also be a major benefit for engineering design tools. Cloud computing will be used to dramatically scale the power of technologies such as generative design. As customers move to SaaS, they will automatically gain access to new capabilities on a regular basis and never have to worry about planning a version upgrade again.

Trend 5: Investing in training

There will be a resurgence in training as more companies get focused on driving the digital thread through the value chain.

By establishing and leveraging best practices across teams through effective training, design reuse and collaboration also become more efficient. Designers want to reuse existing designs as it saves them time and energy.

Another challenge driving more companies to invest in training is the shortage of engineering talent. As such, companies have recognised that they need to make their designers as effective as possible. The competition for engineering talent is also creating an employee retention challenge for companies. Designers looking to improve their marketability will change jobs to gain access to training and certifications. Conversely, some companies are mandating that certifications be completed to ensure credibility with and demonstrate their reliability to customers.


With uncertain economic conditions looming, companies will require more efficient, productive engineers that can create high-quality, directly manufacturable designs that are reusable and associative up and down the value chain. Designs also need to be digitally tested with integrated simulation technology throughout the product development process to take advantage of the very latest in additive manufacturing and generative techniques, where appropriate. Fundamental training on these applications provides the most efficient path to full productivity, giving engineers and designers the knowledge and resources they need to keep the digital thread intact.