A Guide to CAD
was talking to a fellow at a large NW aircraft company about
sharing CAD files with different companies. They are always confronted with what format to
send or receive
the parts or assemblies. If you are creating parts in small company that only
does initial design and rarely use outside parts this is not a
problem and most any good high or mid-range CAD system will do
the job. But if your are working with different systems, you
either need to establish an import standard or have a product
that can read, save and modify native files from the more popular products.
We are lucky to have the best History, Integrated Direct
Edit and Hybrid modeling products available. All of our
products can read any of the popular CAD packages indirectly
or directly into one file. Yes, you can read the assemblies,
including all the parts into one easy to use file, and
modify them as if they were created in any of these
products. Try that with a Pro/e Clone, it loads up your hard
drive with all of the separate part files, which in most
case can only be used for reference. With our CAD products
we offer the most interoperable capabilities available. So
let's take a look at the translation options. I will not go
into the history of these file types, basically just tell
you where they come from.
Which systems have the best interoperability?
The Worst to Best CAD System
Dxf (Drawing exchange Format)/DWG (Autocad file
extension) are basically the 2D translation
standard. In the past Autocad was the 2D CAD
king and thousands maybe millions of drawings
were created, and other programs used this
format to utilize that data. Today this is the
format used to translate drawings between
packages. All packages include this translator
in their packages. It is quite surprising that
there has not been a more universal replacement.
Dxf/Dwg also bring in 3D wireframe and solids. I
have not used it much for that but I have
brought in solids successfully.
National Bureau of Standards - The beginning of
IGES (Initial Graphics Exchange Specification)
was the first 2D/3D wireframe Translator. Years
ago when working at Boeing we used this format
to exchange wireframe between Catia and CADKEY.
We could translate all Wireframe data. As it
matured it could translate drawing, 2D/3D
wireframe, surfaces and solids. Even though it
has the ability to read and write solids, it is
now used primarily to export and import
surfaces. This package was used for years as the
CNC, CAM or manufacturing standard. It is not
the best translator in this world of solids.
This package is included in all of our packages,
but can be an expensive option for some other
ISO Technical Committee
is an ISO standard for the
computer-interpretable representation and
exchange of industrial product data. Its
official title is "Industrial automation
systems and integration - Product data
representation and exchange", known as "STEP"
or "Standard for the Exchange of Product
model data" This is basically the
replacement for IGES, which I am sure they have
stopped all development. We are hoping that STEP
will be the future standard for all systems to
import and export. Now with the industry moving
to Explicit Modeling as the new standard we need
a common translation format, including the PMI
(Part Manufacturing Information) or Detail
Drawing information. This would close the door
on all the incompatibilities between CAD
packages thereby reduce the incredible cost of
being Lost in Translation. All of our products
read and write STEP. All of the SOLID modeling
packages both read and write STEP.
Now STEP is the real beginning of Solid Model
Translation, even though it can be used to
translate other data with all of the popular CAD
packages. This format is the only to be used
when work with companies that use the following
As of this date
Pro/E and Catia. Both of these programs only
write out their solid models in this format. You
export and import both parts and assemblies. I
have read that Catia will be reading more
standard formats and some native files from
other popular CAD programs with V19. But for now
Dassault Systemes Spatial
This is the beginning of the solid modeling
Kernels. KeyCreator, SpaceClaim and IRONCAD
(also has Parasolids) are based on the ACIS
modeling kernel. Autocad is also based on a
customized version of ACIS. This product was the
first PC based solid modeling kernel. It is very
popular and can be written and read by all the
mid range solid modeling systems. It should be
used when working with companies that use the
KeyCreator, Ironcad, SpaceClaim, Inventor
(Earlier Version) or any other CAD programs that
are based on this system, should use this format
for any translations. I have found that ACIS has
provided better results than parasolid in a few
cases. It is interesting when using IRONCAD, I
have resolved a few translation problems by
using IRONCAD/INOVATE when switching between the
two solid modeling kernels. I have received a
few models in parasolids and the solids were
corrupt and came in as surfaces and could not be
This is other popular solid modeling Kernel.
Solidworks and Solid Edge are based on
Parasolids and it is the translator to use
to when transferring data with these
package. KeyCreator and IRONCAD include the
parasolid translator, SpaceClaim offers it
as an option. I have found mostly good
results with Parasolids, but there have been
a few very disturbing occasions that the
model has failed to translate into a
Parasolid based program. Since IRONCAD has
both ACIS and Parasolid Kernels, we have had
a chance to observe both Kernels strengths
and weaknesses. Parasolid used to be the
translator of choice but since Dessault has
taken over ACIS it seems to be the more
stable Kernel. This format should be the
first choice when work with companies that
use the following programs.
Solidworks and Solid Edge. This truly is the
best format to use when exporting assemblies
out of either of these programs. They will
put the assembly in one file. As we have
stated before all of our programs will
import assemblies from these programs in one
easy to use file.
When in DOUBT!! USE STEP FOR SOLIDS, IGES
FOR SURFACES, DXF/DWG FOR 2D!
Direct Native File Translation
The best translation is direct native file
translation. Both of our product offer
access to all the popular CAD programs plus
all of the standard neutral formats. You
can import a part/assembly and translate it
to a different format or modify the parts or
assemblies directly. The assemblies come
into one file so you do not have to worry
about tracking parts.
Reads Creo (Pro/e), NX, Solid Edge,
Solidworks and Inventor
Catia 4/5, JT
The Worst to
Best CAD System and Why!
Universal CAD Compatibility is Here!
Using Multiple CAD Systems
Why buy a translator only package!
When you can have a complete CAD package for the same price.
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Annual Rental Starting at $350.00
Includes PMI Import for Creo, Solidworks, NX and Catia!