A drafter, draughtsman (British English) or draftsman, drafting technician (American English and Canadian English) is a person who makes detailed technical drawings or plans for machinery, buildings, electronics, infrastructure etc.
In the past, drafters sat at drawing boards and used pencils, pens, compasses, protractors, triangles, and other drafting devices to prepare a drawing by hand. From the 1980s through 1990s it seemed like board drawings were going out of style as the newly developed computer-aided design (CAD) system was released and was able to produce technical drawings at a faster pace. But, board drafting still remains the base of the CAD system. Consequently, some drafters may be referred to as CAD operators.
With CAD systems, drafters can create and store drawings electronically so that they can be viewed, printed, or programmed directly into automated manufacturing systems. CAD systems also permit drafters to quickly prepare variations of a design. Although drafters use CAD extensively, it is only a tool. Drafters still need knowledge of traditional drafting techniques, in addition to CAD skills. Despite the near global use of CAD systems, manual drafting and sketching are used in certain applications.
Drafters’ drawings provide visual guidelines and show how to construct a product or structure. Drawings include technical details and specify dimensions, materials, and procedures. Drafters fill in technical details using drawings, rough sketches, specifications, and calculations made by engineers, surveyors, architects, or scientists. For example, drafters use their knowledge of standardized building techniques to draw in the details of a structure. Some use their understanding of engineering and manufacturing theory and standards to draw the parts of a machine; they determine design elements, such as the numbers and kinds of fasteners needed to assemble the machine. Drafters use technical handbooks, tables, calculators, and computers to complete their work.
Drafting work has many specialities such as:
- Aeronautical drafters prepare engineering drawings detailing plans and specifications used in the manufacture of aircraft, missiles, and related parts.
- Architectural drafters draw architectural and structural features of buildings and other structures. These workers may specialize in a type of structure, such as residential or commercial, or in a kind of material used, such as reinforced concrete, masonry, steel, or timber.
- Civil drafters prepare drawings and topographical and relief maps used in major construction or civil engineering projects such as buildings, highways, bridges, pipelines, flood control projects, and water and sewage systems.
- Electrical drafters prepare wiring and layout diagrams used by workers who erect, install, and repair electrical equipment and wiring in communication centers, power plants, electrical distribution systems, and buildings.
- Electronics drafters draw wiring diagrams, circuit board assembly diagrams, schematics, and layout drawings used in the manufacture, installation, and repair of electronic devices and components.
- Mechanical drafters prepare drawings showing the detail and assembly of a wide variety of machinery and mechanical devices, indicating dimensions, fastening methods, and other requirements.
- Process piping or pipeline drafters prepare drawings used in the layout, construction, and operation of oil and gas fields, refineries, chemical plants, and process piping systems.
- Photovoltaic drafters prepare drawings showing inverter Pad location drawings and slab construction drawings, also prepare specific photovoltaic system assembly details and some wiring diagrams.
Employment and work environment
Drafters work in architectural offices, engineering firms, CAD-specific work-groups, construction companies, engineering consultancy firms, or the government. The position of a drafter is one of a skilled assistant to architects and engineers. Drafters usually work in offices, seated at adjustable drawing boards or drafting tables when doing manual drawings, although modern drafters work at computer terminals much of the time. Because they spend long periods in front of computers doing detailed work, drafters may be susceptible to eyestrain, back discomfort, and hand and wrist problems. Most drafters work standard 40-hour weeks; only a small number work part-time.
Education and training
High school courses in mathematics, science, computer technology, drafting and design, visual arts, and computer graphics are useful for people considering a drafting career. Employers prefer applicants who have also completed training after high school at a vocational school. Apprenticeships combine paid on-the-job training and experience with in-class instruction. People interested in becoming drafters can get qualified as either drafting technologists or drafting technicians. Drafting technologists usually have a 2 to 3-year certificate in engineering design or drafting technology from a community college or technical school. Drafters starting out tend to move from company to company to gain experience and to move up. A more senior drafter often moves up into a management position where they become able to supervise entire projects as they gain more experience or they can start their own business and become self-employed. It is also possible for experienced drafters to enter related fields such as architecture, industrial design, interior design, exhibit design, landscape design, set design, and animation.
This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Department of Labor (US DOL), Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) document "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014–15 Edition, Drafters (visited January 26, 2015)".
- Bureau of Labor Statistics (2008) Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008–09 Edition: Drafters dated: 18 December 2007. accessed: 24 September 2008.
- "Mechanical Drafters". Riley Guide. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
- "Aeronautical Drafter: Career and Salary Facts". Learn.org. Retrieved 29 July 2016.