Editor's Window

31 Jul, 2005 By: Sara Ferris

Can't get what you want: Kubotek survey charts file-exchange frustrations

INTEROPERABILITY, OR THE LACK THEREOF, between CAD applications has long been among the top user complaints, regardless of discipline. Kubotek (, a developer of mechanical design software, surveyed 1,250 CAD managers and users to assess the current state of affairs. Kubotek was kind enough to share the results. Though the responses may be skewed toward those who use the company's products (KeyCreator and its predecessor CADKEY), Kubotek says it didn't do any direct promotion of the survey to its customer base.

 Sara Ferris
Sara Ferris

The results are interesting, but not surprising—interoperability remains an irritation for most CAD professionals. More than 80% of respondents need to access existing models to reuse data and components, and close to half (46%) use three or more different CAD tools per month.

Three-quarters of respondents receive half or fewer models from outside their company in their preferred format, while a lucky 6% always receive those models in their desired format. Things don't get much better when the models come from coworkers—only 30% of respondents always receive their desired format. This shows that standardizing on a common CAD tool is difficult even inside a company.

The size of the company influences the model-exchange experience. Sixty percent of respondents who work for companies with more than 500 employees report using three or more CAD tools, while more than a quarter use five or more. Those at smaller companies may use fewer tools, but are more often forced to translate the models that come in from other companies.

Respondents represented fifteen different industry segments. As you'd expect, companies that make molds, tools, dies and forged parts face greater interoperability challenges than companies in other markets. They also report the need to use multiple CAD tools—42% use four or more tools, as opposed to a cross-industry rate of 24%. Companies that supply parts to other companies, such as those in automotive and transportation, also use more CAD tools than the average firm.

From an interoperability standpoint, life is best in the consumer products field, followed by engineering and design services, electric utilities and telecommunications, industrial components and medical/scientific devices and equipment.

With so many firms using multiple CAD tools, it's no surprise that respondents named 42 different products and versions when asked their primary CAD tool. Assorted Autodesk products made up close to 30% of the responses. Kubotek products amounted to 20% of the replies, though Kubotek notes that it didn't promote the survey to its customers directly. CATIA, Pro/ENGINEER, Solidworks and Unigraphics rounded out the favorites. And don't look to standards for help. Only 19% use IGES and STEP files.

A bit of good news is that users are taking advantage of the benefits of recycling. Fewer than 20% of respondents create all their models from scratch, and a comparable number create none from scratch. For most users, the hassles of file transfer and translation are outweighed by the benefit of accessing the data in the file rather than redrawing it.

Sara Ferris
Sara Ferris

About the Author: Sara Ferris