The Loftsman
Leith Shipyards

A history of the Ships built at the Henry Robb Shipyard in Leith, Scotland. Also a testimony to the men who built the Ships and to all who sailed in them.
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CAD-Computer Aided Design

CAD (Computer Aided Design)

Since the early 1970's CAD has become the normal in the shipbuilding design and lofting process.

Here on these pages we shall introduce you to some of the primary marine software systems and to our recommended sources for the purchase and recommended training courses for the systems as well.

The first thing to consider when it comes down to working or choosing a system to use in the shipbuilding or boat design fields is just what you want the system to be able to do, how much will it all cost and how long will it take to learn, is it any good is another big question.

This of course is based on my own opinion experience and from observations in the Industry so it is not just some dry pages about CAD and it use in Shipbuilding and other industries of course

We shall endeavour on these pages to try and sort through some of the myriad of design software and where applicable if we can we shall recommend or otherwise depending if we have actually used the systems or not, when the case is that we have little or know knowledge of the system we shall refer to others who have used the system for there comments and guidance.

There are so many CAD systems out there now for the design of everything and some are good and some are just overpriced for what they do, so keep checking back to see how these pages develop as we have the feeling that they will become a very large part of the site in our efforts to become the must go to site for good practical information on anything to do with ships and the sea.

The all encompasing high end software from CATIA is Dassault Systèmes' Pioneer Brand. It is the World's Leading Solution for Product Design and Innovation and is capable for all marine design requirements, although it is expensive and the learning curve is steep, but for very large commercial applications no other system can compete, although there are other less expensive systems that can do many parts that the cost of such a large system would not add much benifit.


Now I am sure that many of the users of other systems used in the design and application of ships will say otherwise as it all really boils down to what system you are most used to using, but this massive system can and does cope with everything to do with the design and development of a ship, there is no need for instance to use another system to do the surface or yet another system to do the fairing, while some systems will do one or the other along with the need to bring in yet another system for the actual design and production drawings.

Some of the shipyards at present using Catia include

Dassault Systèmes has begun serving shipbuilders with CATIA V5 release 8, which includes special features useful to shipbuilders. Electric Boat used CATIA to design the latest fast attack submarine class for the United States Navy, the Virginia Class Newport News Shipbuilding also used CATIA to design the Gerald R. Ford Class of supercarriers for the US Navy. Along with Bath Iron Works to design the Destroyers for the same Navy. In 2004, it has been adopted by the Beneteau Group for development of new sailing and leisure motor boats.

The technical director at the well-respected Meyer Werft facility in Germany, a shipyard that is known for its adherence to the latest technological trends and systems, had this to say about the system: "Since 1989, we have been using Catia extensively in designing our ships, including one of the largest cruise liners in the world." "We go beyond such things as general arrangement, structural steel, HVAC, piping accommodation and electrical design, and use Catia for such crucial features as on-board shopping malls, swimming pools and entertainment centers." Catia-CADAM is from Dassault Systems, and is marketed, distributed and supported by IBM worldwide.

There are many more of course including the super-yacht builders on the South Coast of England and the STX group of shipyards worldwide.

Not to mention Universal Shipbuilders in Japan a country not known for slacking when it comes down to new ideas and the use of technology. Catia is also making inroads into the many other shipyards large and small using the system in Korea and China and throughout the Far East.

You will note that not too many shipyards or ship design offices in the U.K. are using this system, and here is a funny story about this which I am tempted to say is true but cannot say for certain, and it's my website so it also includes my opinions.

When they decided to build an aircraft carrier for the Royal Navy it was also going to be built for the French Navy as well and there was the usual clamour for who would get all the contracts for this multi billion deal, one of the leading contenders at the time if memory serves me right was a company called Thales (of French origin) and they had or where way down the line of the design phase at the time, politics and shipbuilding eh! And of course they used the well known system called Catia for there design software requirements but that was a French system and this ship was going to be a Royal Navy Ship so they could not use a French system to design this lead Ship.

For a good few years I remember many Catia users in the U.K. where looking forward to this bonanza, this despite the fact most of them had no idea about ship design or shipbuilding but who cares they could use the high end system that every one thought was going to be used to design and production finish the two new Elizabeth class Aircraft Carriers for the U.K.



So despite there being available many competent Catia users in the U.K. it was decided that being a ship for the Royal Navy they must use a British System (or at least as near as they could get to one the somewhat strange decision was made to use not one system but two systems as one system could not do all that was required, and how the appropriate salesmen must have been rubbing there hands. so they plumped for a system called (Foran) and another system called (Tribon) not too many users of either system in the U.K. and one of them was originally a British system from long ago.

So the design went ahead with two software systems that do not even talk to one another and remember what I said earlier not too many users in the U.K. of either system, who cares they can be trained (by the salesmen who sold the system in the first place of course) and so it goes on but what is worse from a British working perspective is that all the shortfall in man power in the use of the systems had to come from the countries that primarily used these systems and it just so happened that the majority of them came from a newly elected member of the European Union having previously been a member of the Soviet Block, so all these jobs did not go to British designers and of course the use of this somewhat cheap labour more than made up for this in the eyes of the companies running the show to assemble and build what are in fact the largest ships ever built for the Royal Navy.

Now the U.K. is not the only country where this somewhat anomaly is or has happened and some may point to the fact that we live and work in a world wide market place, well BS to that in my humble opinion. The designers in the U.K. could and should have had a far larger slice of the pie and perhaps the contract rates in British Shipyards may not have been held down at so low a rate for so long as well.

It is difficult to argue with the numbers and as the system has and is still being used to very great effect by the U.S. to design and produce there even larger Carriers it make me wonder at some of the decision makers involved.


Nearly Everything is being designed on computers. CATIA plays a major role in the design process. CATIA is being used by the majority of automotive and aerospace industries for automobile and aircraft products and its auxiliaries and tooling design. Thousands of Engineering companies throughout the world over are using CATIA. A Company using CATIA has suppliers using CATIA too, thus making CATIA a Essential tool.

The most commonly CATIA users are generally Aerospace, Appliances, Architecture, Automotive, Construction, Consumer Goods, Electronics, Medical, Furniture, Machinery, Mold and Die, and Shipbuilding industries. CATIA has played a major role in NASA's design of the various Space equipments. Beside this CATIA has also been used as Vital tool for designing "jet-fighter" aircraft, aircraft carriers, helicopters, tanks and various other forms of weaponry extensively used by the Defense Sector.

Catia is used throughout the North American and European continents, as well as Australia. Apart from this CATIA is increasingly being used by Asian countries like India, Japan etc.

The following are just a few of the 20,000 + companies now using CATIA worldwide

Air Bus , Kelsey-Hayes , Boeing, Lear Jet , BMW, Volvo, Black and Decker, Fiat Peugeot, Northrop Grumman Corp, Ferrari, Lockheed Martin , Porsche , Daimler Chrysler, Goodyear, Freightliner Truck , Allied Signal , Sauber Formula,Volkswagen, Pratt Whitney, United Airlines, Toyota, Hyundai , Ford, Mercedes-Benz , Honda

CATIA – Everywhere...

87% of civilian/ commercial airplane designers use CATIA.
79% of helicopter designers use CATIA, and 50% of military airplane designers use CATIA.
76% of the world's aircraft designers use CATIA - clearly CATIA is the world standard for aircraft design.

51.6% of all the cars built in 2000 were designed with CATIA. More than all other CAD design engineering products combined together.
14 out of the Top 20 automotive manufacturers use CATIA as their core design system.
CATIA 3D product development is now used by 22 of the top 30 global automotive manufacturers and is the de facto global standard in automotive manufacturing.
CATIA is used to design a wide variety of products, including pottery, dental equipment, ski boots, artificial limbs, playground equipment, coke bottles, silent compressors, golf clubs, cardiac pumps, virtual reconstruction of a bombed cathedral, etc.
Some other industries include, Appliances, Architecture, Construction,
Consumer Goods, Electronics, Medical, Furniture, Machinery, Mold and Die, Shipbuilding and Aerospace, CATIA has played a major role in NASA's design of the Space Shuttle.

CATIA is used to design pleasure cruisers, yachts, tankers and submarines.
4 out of the top 5 locomotives and rolling stock manufacturers use CATIA.
More than 50% of CATIA customers have 5 seats or fewer.
The top 10 engineering companies in the Fortune 500 corporations use IBM PLM products and services

The above figures are a couple of years out of date but it gives a good idea of this soft-wares place in the design markets of the world and growing all the time.

With more and more companies adopting CATIA as their primary CAD system, there are never enough CATIA designers to fill the world-wide demand.

Now this is not an advertisement for Catia just my own assessment of the software and its place in the shipyards of the World. Shipbuilders need a good stable software that can deal with the huge amount of information required when designing and the production of a whole ship, who wants to have to be using two different systems at one time, it's just crazy. One that produces a complete and fair surface (not just a pretty surface) one that can deal with all the detail design of the ship, both structure including nestings as well along with all the outfitting requirements, it's a lot but this particular system does it all, although very expensive and comes with a huge learning curve.

While Catia does all it says on the tin this could be a very large system and not entirely suitable for a smaller stable of designers perhaps some very large shipyards have the infrastructure to run this system well but a small design house will find it hard to justify the overall cost.


Ship Constructor Software - There are so many different systems all aimed at the growing market for ship design and another system based on the use of an Autocad platform is a software called Ship Constructor, I confess to knowing little about this software although looking through what I have seen it seems to be a very good ship design and production system which can also do most of what Catia does and it has been developed specifically for shipbuilding which is no bad thing.


AutoCad which is predominate in the Computer Aided Design field primarily as it began as a system for designing and building houses and small engineering projects this system as all others has grown to be so much more although still somewhat limited when it comes down to doing the whole ship-design/build process it is very good for many different parts of the build, it is relatively inexpensive and has a reasonably easy learning curve, but as with all systems if you put crap in you get crap back out, so it is not much good at being able to speed around the system and looking good when in reality once the job gets down to the shop floor a whole load of unseen problems occur.

Tribon – See Above to see what I think of this system

Foran – Again see above to see what I think about this system

Rhino is another pretty popular and reasonably inexpensive system with many good maritime plug ins (a plug in is another separate system that works in tandem with the original base system) Rhino is pretty easy to use and has a reasonable learning curve, very good for the nitty gritty of the design once a hull surface has been developed and good for production details and producing drawings.

While the above systems are all very good it has now been my good experience to have been introduced to a Shipbuilding Software package which in my opinion is far better for what it does and comes at a fraction of the cost of the main high end software systems used in the Shipbuilding industry, you will be hearing and seeing a lot more of the Fairing and design software on this website and we are in the process of creating a whole new set of pages to cover all aspects of this great software-So look out for updates and more information very soon, we even offer a "Free Fairing service" yes it really is free as we are so confident in this well proven software that we can offer to look at any surface and it does not just have to be marine vessels as we can fair any shape for any type of industry, so keep checking back to see more on this well proven and not so expensive software.


Look out for much more info on ShapeMaker Surface Modelling Software to be added very soon


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