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February 22, 2013

Engineering Drawing: An Historical Overview


Just like literature uses language to interpret ideas and emotion, engineers use drawing to illustrate their ideas on paper. Furthermore, engineering drawing employs different tools in order to come up with meaningful sketches. These tools include lines, symbols, and conventions which bear different specific meanings to the engineers. Through these tools, an engineer cannot only draw meaningful sketches but also interpret the drawings of other engineers. There are generally two broad categories of engineering drawing; two dimensional drawing which is also referred to as plane geometry and three dimensional drawing also called solid geometry. Therefore, engineering drawing can be defined as a document that describes a precise object (Gupta, 2008).

History of engineering drawing
Development of engineering drawing was mainly influenced by changes in other industries such as mining, agriculture, transport and manufacturing especially between the 18th and 19th centuries. Pre-historically, human made sketches on the walls of rocks and caves mainly for communication purposes and for record keeping. Other purposes of these sketches were for religious and decorative reasons. These early sketches depicted pictures of animals and humans, and these early forms of drawing are believed to have laid the foundation for the development of engineering drawing. However, in the 14th and 15th centuries, engineering drawing seemed to have started to take shape since drawing representing building and machinery were widely used during this era. They were normally pictures accompanied by detailed notes describing different aspects of the pictures. These drawing were referred to by craftsmen as they performed the actual construction of the objects represented in the drawing. However, these early drawing were devoid of specific dimension and the craftsmen used their discretion and experience to build the objects represented in the drawings. Over the centuries however, with the advent of computers, engineering drawing has been greatly enhanced through special computer software used to quickly and efficiently come up with engineering drawings. This software is generally referred to as Computer-Aided Design (CAD). Moreover, software has made engineering drawing fast and more accurate (Madsen & Madsen, 2011).

Major personalities that shaped engineering drawing
Engineering drawing was largely developed by artists such as Leonardo da Vinci. Some of his major artworks include Mona Lisa and The Last Supper which received enormous attention in Italy during the 15th century. These artists were called upon from time-to-time to draw sketches for many church building and other infrastructural works. Other than these drawings, da Vinci was a great inventor of machinery and one of his most renowned inventions included the glider machine and even warfare paraphernalia. Another great contributor to engineering drawing was Leon Battista Alberti since he was the first to incorporate geometry into his architectural works. Moreover, he specialized in town planning works and also ventured into perspective drawing to enhance the pictorial drawing that was the only known form of architectural drawing at the time (Shah & Rana, 2009). The Frenchman Rene Descartes in his contribution further insisted on the need for perspective drawing in order to represent more details in an architectural drawing. In order to attain this end, Descartes was the first artist to use the Cartesian plane for drawings and also discovered the analytic geometry that set the precedence for more accurate and detail drawings, a system that is widely utilized by CAD software.

Another great personality who contributed to development in engineering drawing was Gaspard Monge. He made his mark in the drawing arena by developing a large scale city plan using his own observation skills. He used what is now referred to as descriptive geometry in the planning of the city. In the late 18th century, engineers had developed modalities for developing geometrically accurate drawings and manufacturers and builder depended entirely on these sketches to manufacture their products (Gupta, 2008). David Michelangelo was also a great artist and sculptor whose architectural drawings were greatly used to build many churches and other prestigious building in the Baroque era and these building stood the test of time and are still standing strong up to present times. Some of them have been protected as monumental sites due to their design and aesthetics. These artists and inventors played critical roles in the development of engineering drawing as we know it today. Moreover, their sketches resulted in magnificent building especially during the Renaissance period in Italy, France and Germany and were highly valued by the Catholic Church for their talent and devotion (Shah & Rana, 2009).

Engineering drawing has evolved over the centuries from sketches of animals and humans on the walls of caves to intricate drawing of machine parts and buildings. This paradigm shift was largely triggered by exponential changes in other industries such as mining, agriculture and manufacturing. Contemporarily, development in information technology and computers in general has greatly simplified the process of engineering drawing through use of specialized software generally referred to as Computer-Aided Design (CAD) reducing the time and effort used for developing engineering drawing while at the same time developing more accurate drawings.

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