Differences of 3D Modeling, CAD, and BIM

What's the Difference Between 3D Modeling, CAD, and BIM?

Not all that long ago, engineers and designers had to draft their designs by hand without a computer in sight…It is hard to imagine that now!

Back in the day, whether they were designing a piece of furniture or a complex architectural wonder, designers began the process with a pen and paper. Thankfully, computers came along and changed the process dramatically in a short period of time. Design and development went from a lengthy, high-touch, and resource-intensive process to a relatively fast, highly automated, and primarily digital process.

This evolution continues even today, with new software (like 3d engineering software), additional technology, and innovative applications.

Take 3D modeling, CAD, and BIM, for example. Each is discussed in more detail below, but—suffice to say—these three innovations have altered the design and production process significantly. The big question is, what are the major differences between the three?

The Basics: What Is 3D Modeling, CAD, and BIM?

At this point, you might be wondering, “Aren’t they all just 3D engineering software?”

In a way, that is partially correct. But, while they sound similar and there is some overlap, each term means something slightly different. Each has its benefits and specific uses. In the end, 3D modeling, CAD, and BIM are actually quite unique from and build upon each other!

What Is 3D Modeling?

It’s likely that you’ve heard of 3D modeling, even if you don’t work in the world of engineering, product design and development, or production. The concept is fairly simple, and the name pretty much says it all.

3D modeling is the process of digitizing a design on a computer using 3D software—essentially creating a digital 3D model of said design.

Important note: This process is so widely used, across countless industries, that its name is often misused to refer to individual 3D software or modeling applications.

The term “3D modeling” has come to be the go-to phrase, applied synonymously with nearly any 3-dimensional computer-based design process. As you read further, you’ll see that there are other distinct 2D and 3D engineering software, design products, and processes—each with their own advantages.

What Is CAD?

CAD stands for “computer-aided design”, which is simply a phrase used to describe the very literal process of using a computer to help create designs.

The term CAD applies to any computer-based design process, regardless of what is being designed or the business for which it is being used. It is also important to note that CAD is not a software product at all…it’s merely a design process that is assisted through the use of computers (and likely software)!

CAD can be applied to create 2-dimensional or 3D designs. Thus, CAD can be used in 3D modeling and BIM. And while CAD itself isn’t an actual software product, there are many CAD software solutions available on the market.

What Is BIM?

Finally, there is “building information modeling” (or BIM, for short) on this list. BIM is the most comprehensive of the three and is actually a special subcategory of 3D modeling.

BIM refers to the process of creating 3D models for buildings, specifically to guide the construction process and make it easier to manage. These digital models are more than just 3-dimensional representations of how buildings will look when completed; they are highly detailed and include functional information as well.

The 3 Main Differences in 3D Modeling, CAD, and BIM

3D modeling, CAD, and BIM are often confused! And sometimes, all three can be wrapped up into the same 3D engineering software solution—making it that much more perplexing. However, there are three main differences:

  • Each has its own scope and project applications (for instance, BIM is primarily used only in construction projects)
  • CAD can be either 2D or 3D, while 3D modeling and BIM are only 3D
  • BIM is far more advanced than a typical CAD rendering or 3D model (BIM plans capture vast amounts of building project data, from materials used to timing to maintenance information)

To quickly sum up the difference, consider this simple scenario: a construction engineer could use the CAD process to create 3D models (less detailed) and BIM (highly detailed) to help illustrate and run their building project.

DesignPoint: Transforming Your Efforts with Quality 3D Engineering Software

With the evolution of computers has come a revolution in engineering and design. CAD, 3D modeling, and BIM help create innovative solutions, shortened lead times, and a less resource-intensive, more easily managed process.

If you are ready to level up your next 3D design project and increase your productivity and efficiency using quality 3D engineering software, contact us today. DesignPoint will help you get the best 3D software suite for your business needs.

We will also help you learn to leverage your new software in every way possible. At DesignPoint, our goal is to help you bring your designs to life in truly sustainable and innovative ways.