"If you can FAB it, you can CAD it." That's what I have been telling metal fabricators and designers since 1989. The software was the beginning of a game-changer for the metal fabricating industry. FabCAD, originally a subsidiary of Petersburg, Virginia-based Colonial Iron Works, saw a need to increase accuracy in fabrication and efficiency in developing professional shop drawings for high-end commercial projects.

It all began at the National Ornamental and Miscellaneous Metals Association conference where I demonstrated ornamental castings using CAD software. Several fellow members approached me about the futuristic technology. From there, I created a library of 1,200 ornamental castings and shared it with other designers. It evolved into FabCAD, which now includes over 13,000 ornamental castings, forgings and hardware items from 10 industry supplier firms, becoming the industry standard in metal fabrication software.

"As my library of components and designs has grown, I find that design time is being shortened because I can import and modify past designs. I am greatly encouraged by how much we have already saved in time, greater professionalism in design presentation, shop time and elimination of rework," said Duane Seaver of Voorthuysen Iron Works, Muskegon, Mich.

FabCAD Automation

In the mid-1990s FabCAD contracted with outside programmers to create an automated rail, gate and fence drawing program, formerly called AutoRail. The AutoRail program allowed even those new to CAD to immediately create stair rails, entrance gates and fences without much software knowledge.To address total work efficiencies, other feature were built into the program, like a bill of materials, customization of top and bottom extrusions for rails—even an automatic spindle and finial insertion from the FabCAD library. What used to take hours of painstaking manual labor and calculations was being generated within seconds. AutoRail made it as simple as choosing a style name, entering the length or angle of the object and clicking "draw," which generated an instantaneous model, complete with dimensions and a parts cut list.

AutoRail became indispensable to freelancers and companies alike. It brought ornamental detailing in-house, which increased drawing productivity and decreased cost, all the while streamlining the design process. Today AutoRail is fully integrated into FabCAD.

Woodbridge, Va.-based Emerald Iron Works' Justin Pigott discusses using FabCAD with a recent driveway gate project: "It had a predetermined width ... I simply could not have pulled this project off without FabCAD. I was able to model the gate in the open and closed position."

Autodesk Partner

In 2007, FabCAD partnered with Autodesk, San Rafael, Calif., to create an original equipment manufacturer version that integrated AutoCAD source code with the ornamental drawing features that FabCAD had been developing for years. The result was a fully integrated ornamental design system.

Today, FabCAD also offers an add-on version to work with existing AutoCAD systems. As a result, FabCAD is a featured Autodesk developer and has been presented at Autodesk Developer Days Conference in places like Tokyo, Frankfurt and Bangalore.

AutoCAD Training

FabCAD's innovation doesn't stop at software. It provides an array of online trainings and tutorials, as well as weekly webinars that accelerate CAD accuracy and efficiency. FabCAD also offers online tutorials and on-site and personal training sessions to encourage users to refine their skills.

Dave Filippi is the president and founder of FabCAD® Inc.

FabCAD, Inc® provides Computer Aided Design (CAD) software products and drawing services for Fabricators and Designers in the Ornamental Metal and Fence industries.