What Drafters Do
Drafters prepare technical drawings and plans.
Drafters use software to convert the designs of architects and engineers into technical drawings and plans. Workers specialize in architectural, civil, electrical, or mechanical drafting and use technical drawings to help design everything from microchips to skyscrapers.
Drafters typically do the following:
- Design plans using computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software
- Work from rough sketches and specifications created by engineers and architects
- Help design products with engineering and manufacturing techniques
- Add details to architectural plans from their knowledge of building techniques
- Prepare multiple versions of designs for review by engineers and architects
- Specify dimensions, materials, and procedures for new products
- Work under the supervision of engineers or architects
Many drafters are referred to as CADD operators. Using CADD systems, drafters create and store technical drawings electronically. These drawings contain information on how to build a structure or machine, the dimensions of the project, and what materials are needed to produce the project.
Drafters work with CADD so they can create schematics that can be viewed, printed, or programmed directly into building information modeling (BIM) systems and product data management (PDM) systems. These systems allow drafters, architects, construction managers, and engineers to create and collaborate on digital models of physical buildings and machines. Through three-dimensional rendering, BIM software allows designers and engineers to see how different elements in their projects work together. PDM software helps workers track and control data, such as technical specifications, related to projects.
Just as BIM is changing the work of architectural drafters, PDM is changing the work of mechanical drafters. These software systems allow drafting and design work to be done simultaneously with the work done by other professionals involved in the project.
The following are examples of types of drafters:
Aeronautical drafters prepare engineering drawings that show detailed plans and specifications used in manufacturing aircraft, missiles, and related parts.
Architectural drafters draw architectural and structural features of buildings for construction projects. These workers may specialize in a type of building, such as residential or commercial. They may also specialize by the materials used, such as steel, wood, or reinforced concrete.
Civil drafters prepare topographical maps used in major construction or civil engineering projects, such as highways, bridges, and flood-control projects.
Electrical drafters prepare wiring diagrams that other construction workers use to install and repair electrical equipment and wiring in power plants, electrical distribution systems, and residential and commercial buildings.
Electronics drafters produce wiring diagrams, assembly diagrams for circuit boards, and layout drawings used in manufacturing and in installing and repairing electronic devices and components.
Mechanical drafters prepare layouts that show the details for a wide variety of machinery and mechanical tools and devices, such as medical equipment. These layouts indicate dimensions, fastening methods, and other requirements needed for assembly. Workers sometimes create production molds.
Process piping or pipeline drafters prepare plans used in the layout, construction, and operation of oil and gas fields, refineries, chemical plants, and process piping systems.