Drafters use software to convert the designs of engineers and architects into technical drawings and plans. Workers in production and construction use these plans to build everything from microchips to skyscrapers.
Drafters typically do the following:
Many drafters are referred to as CADD operators. With CADD systems, drafters create and store drawings electronically so that they can be viewed, printed, or programmed directly into automated manufacturing systems. New software systems, such as building information modeling (BIM) and product data management (PDM), are coming into use. Through three-dimensional rendering, BIM software allows designers and engineers to see how elements in their projects work together. PDM software helps users track and control data, such as technical specifications, related to projects. Just as BIM is changing the work of architectural drafters as well as engineers and designers, PDM is changing the work of mechanical drafters. These software systems allow drafting and design work to be done at the same time as the work done by other professionals involved in the project.
There are several kinds of drafters, and the most common types of drafters are the following:
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 new construction projects. These workers may specialize in a type of building, such as residential or commercial. They may also specialize in materials, such as steel, wood, and 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 workers use to install and repair electrical equipment and wiring in powerplants, electrical distribution systems, and buildings.
Electronics drafters produce wiring diagrams, assembly diagrams for circuit boards, and layout drawings used in manufacturing, installing, and repairing electronic devices and components.
Mechanical drafters prepare layouts that show details for a wide variety of machinery and mechanical devices. These layouts indicate dimensions, fastening methods, and other requirements needed for assembly.
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.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition