The Difference Between 2D CAD & 3D CAD

Updated July 19, 2017

CAD drafting is used extensively in many industries. It is also used in many ways, from two-dimensional (2D) blueprints to complex three-dimensional (3D) models that can be made to look highly realistic. The two are often used together, with 2D drawings that enable the object to be built, and 3D visualisations to show what it will ultimately look like.

Defining 2D and 3D Techniques

2D CAD drafting is really an electronic extension of the manual drawing board. It is used for making plans and technical drawings. All the work is done on the screen as if it were a sheet of paper. 3D work extends the drawing area, allowing objects to be viewed from many angles. 3D work requires spatial awareness as the view is often changed in order to work on specific details of the model.

3D Solids

The creation of 3D CAD objects often makes use of solids that have width, depth and height and are opaque. When 3D objects are viewed the relationship between them can be clearly shown. This is different from a 3D wireframe model where only the lines forming the edges are shown. Wireframe drawings can be difficult to understand.

3D Visualisation

A basic three-dimensional model can be enhanced by having materials added to it. These indicate what the object will be made of. The model can also be lit and placed in its intended environment to produce a photorealistic rendering. Working demonstrations of models can often be created to show a client what he will receive. This is also useful for problem solving

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About the Author

David Ripley has been writing about computer-aided drafting and theater since 2004. His articles have been published in "Autodesk Users Group International Magazine," "ABTT Sightline," "ALD Focus," "ET News" and "Lighting and Sound International." Ripley is an AutoCAD certified associate and trained in technical theater at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts.