CAD Data Interoperability

INTRODUCTION

Recent advances in CAD systems include the ability to centrally manage tasks for each project, provide high accessibility to their engineers, cloud & IoT integration, automation modules, generate better quality reports, domain-specific design libraries, etc. Organizations continue to look to adopt newer and technologically advanced CAD systems to fulfil their Design and Engineering requirements for better productivity, quality, reliability, and realize financial benefits. CAD data migration is also triggered through the acquisition of companies or the merger of design departments. Ex: A large automotive customer who uses CAD_XXX as their primary CAD might acquire a smaller downstream supplier who might be using CAD_YYY. So, the adoption of new CAD systems mandates the larger exercise of migration of existing CAD data.

PROCESS OF CAD MIGRATION

Detailed planning, analysis, selection of the data is some of the key parameters for successful data migration. The total effort and time for the migration depends a lot on the amount of 3D data, 2D data, process documents, custom tools/plug-ins, and existing integration with 3rd party applications. The primary and most important factor in this process is the amount of existing CAD data and the expected quality of the translated data in the new CAD system. Two popular CAD Data Migration methods that are widely accepted and reliable are:

  1. Conversion through neutral formats (STEP, IGES, etc.)
  2. Custom Tools – Off-The-Shelf and Custom Developed

Method 1: Conversion through neutral formats:

STEP (Standard for the Exchange of Product Data) and IGES (Initial Graphics Exchange Specification) are two widely used neutral formats for the digital exchange of CAD data files and are supported by most CAD software. This conversion is widely used to share 3D CAD files with vendors, suppliers, manufacturers, and to share sample files with other organizations. The process of migration is simpler with just one intermediary step where the files are converted into a neutral format before imported into the new CAD system.

This is an easy method and script can be easily developed to run the migration in batch mode, the quality of translated data is poor sometimes (for some features) and might be unacceptable to the end engineer. Also, usage of CAD specific font type or feature type can lead to low-quality output with overlapping text and misleading information.

Method 2: Custom Tools

    1. Standard Tools:

      There are standard tools available by various leading vendors in the market for the translation of CAD data. Some examples are products from ITI, CADVerter, etc. These tools have various configuration settings and the quality of the translated data depends on the user requirement and type of input data.

      This method has a longer lead time before the migration process is started and it can lead to less accurate data if the proper analysis was not done. This can also be cumbersome at times where different divisions with the same organization prefer two different standard tools based on their data.

    2.  Custom Tools:

      Organizations may also validate the option of developing their custom tools for data translation if they are dealing with huge data. Though the initial cost is high and the quality of the output data is only next to Manual Re-creation of the CAD data. These tools can even translate each feature of existing CAD files to new target files. These tools use the Application Programming Interface (APIs) of both the CAD systems, to read data from Existing files and write it to Target Files.

      With proper planning, the migration of the data can be planned in phases based on the type of data. Engaging key users in planning, training, and all other critical phases of the project helps to get their acceptance and success of the project. The tool can have reusable components & frameworks which can accelerate future migration projects. Ex: The module to read from an XML file and create features in the CAD_NEW systems is a reusable part of other migration projects.


BENEFITS OF USING CUSTOM TOOLS

  • High-Quality Data with Template management in New CAD system
  • Usage of different units and formats can be managed
  • Easily tested and quick feedback can be provided
  • Automated creation of 3D and 2D features up to some extent