MCAD Tech News #102 (July 29, 2003)

28 Jul, 2003 By: Joe Greco

Every company specializing in CAD translation seems to have a different approach. Some developers, such as International TechneGroup Incorporated (ITI,, focus on geometry translations; others, such as Proficiency ( and Translation Technology Inc. (TTI,, specialize in feature-based translation, and even these two have different approaches to feature-based translation.

PD Interactive

Now a new company out of Troy, MI, has put a fresh spin on how to handle the ongoing interoperability problem. Actually, PD Interactive (PDI, is not really a new company; it was just recently spun off from an engineering service company that has been around since 1939, called Efficient Engineering. In any case, what makes PDI's approach different is its patent-pending CAD-XML technology.

First let me start by clarifying the name. CAD-XML is not based on XML; it just uses the same methodology as XML, hence the name. For those not familiar with XML (eXtensible Markup Language), it is the technology that allows you to easily use the same information on multiple computer platforms: your computer, PDA, and cell phone, for instance.

According to Jeff Camiener, the president of PDI, a typical seat of CAD-XML costs between $10,000 and $15,000, which provides users with the software needed to share data among disparate CAD programs. Currently the software runs on either Windows 2000 or Windows XP and also requires Microsoft Access or Microsoft SQL Server.

A Service Company

However, PDI is also a service company, which is a critical part of its overall solution. PDI works with design teams to develop a "master model," which is a common parametric model driven by an external CAD-neutral database to control the parametrics. For example, if a company uses Unigraphics to design pistons, and in the past five years it has developed 20 different types of pistons, PDI would develop a parametric model and populate a database that captures all the important parameters of all 20 design variations, so that the next 20 (or 50, or 100) designs could be quickly rebuilt. Since this master model was created for Unigraphics, it can easily be "commonly" recreated for CATIA and I-DEAS, if the pistons were also needed for other suppliers who used those programs. According to Camiener, the result is an integrated design process, where users can instantaneously translate their CAD data without having to convert geometric entities or rebuild the model one feature at a time (either manually or with the help of software).

In addition to support for CATIA V5, Unigraphics, and I-DEAS, support for both Pro/ENGINEER and Autodesk Inventor are expected soon. Currently, the methodology only works with parametric models. Camiener pointed out that the creating of the master model is something a company can undertake itself, if it is willing to spend the time.

Other Advantages

CAD-XML also captures the engineering knowledge, design history, and any drawings related to a model and places them into the CAD-specific parametric design templates. Another advantage of its neutral database is that CAD-XML users can simultaneously search for information across different CAD models. The use of a neutral database also allows the easy integration with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) systems, according to PD Interactive.

Camiener also discussed other uses of the technology. He pointed out one situation where two companies were both using CATIA, but each one needed to get the model information differently formatted. They were more easily able to achieve this using the master model concept, which goes back to the idea of how your computer, PDA, and cell phone all make the best use of the data available to them via XML. The greatest benefit of implementing the CAD-XML methodology, according to Camiener, is that it can "help standardize the design approach across CAD platforms, thus helping companies develop products more consistently and efficiently."


Whatever you think of PDI's philosophy, the technology is definitely worth a closer look. It certainly doesn't come cheap, but the building of the master models, which according to Camiener has been as much as $20,000 for a complex piston. For many companies, this may be a suitable product, considering the time they would save by not having to remaster the model, the accuracy of the results, and the organization of the data and design methodologies this technology offers.

Relevant Links

International TechneGroup Inc.:


Translation Technology Inc.:

PD Interactive: