Mechanical CAD has come a long way in the last few years and in many ways is helping the process of mechanical engineering more than ever. In the earlier days, CAD systems were nothing more than an extension of the drawing board, simply offering a more convenient way of producing design specifications. Now, CAD systems will not only produce the full designs for a product, but they can also offer virtual prototyping, and endless extra information on materials, manufacturing processes, component selection, and tolerances of individual parts, and even the whole system.
CAD doesn’t only operate in 2D any more either, 3D CAD is now so widely available that these days even the most humble items may well be designed, specified and virtually prototyped within a CAD system before anybody ever gets to see or touch anything real at all. In many cases, a number of different designs will be on the go at once so that they can be tested together and even, in the case of products that need to be seen and touched and have some degree of aesthetic or ergonomics, they can be visualized in photo-realism and shown to target audiences so that you can decide final product details before it ever goes to the physical prototype stage or even straight to manufacture.
The CAD process has become very advanced and it would take a brave company to take on their own mechanical design CAD systems in-house, which is why a number of companies are now providing design services for mechanical engineering companies, working together through all the process stages until the product is ready to roll.