MCAD Tech News (#261)

11 Mar, 2009

Data-Exchange Tools Can Save Time, Money, and Headache

Understand why you need a multi-CAD interoperability solution and how to select the right one for your office.

By Todd Reade

Anyone involved in product design and development understands that interoperability is a major issue for today's manufacturers.  Just consider the various CAD systems, manufacturing software applications, and file formats that are linked into many supply chains.  Software companies are creating new products and new 3D file formats on a regular basis, hoping to find a silver bullet that will be the next "universal file format" -- .UFF? The IGES and STEP formats were once thought to be universal, but their many drawbacks often overshadow their benefits as data translation formats. Nearly every company has toiled over the "IGES file from hell" with missing surfaces that take a week or more to get into a usable state.  It is clear that the need for 3D file translation and compatibility will become more complex along with the need to read and write to new file formats.

Interoperability Costs and Challenges
The costs of product data interoperability issues is difficult to quantify, but is generally regarded as significant.  In 1999, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) published a study of the U.S. automotive industry, which claimed data-exchange costs were $1 billion per year, and that study involved only the automotive industry.  Imagine what that is now!  The study accounted for tangible costs such as rework or outsourced translation but didn't include issues related to longer development times or inefficient reuse of files.  In a 2007 CADCAMNet Interoperability Survey, 100% of OEMs indicated that they exchanged 3D CAD data with outsourced engineers but received CAD data in their preferred format only 34% of the time.

With some 66% of 3D CAD files being delivered in a format other than the preferred one, most manufacturing companies are faced with the daunting task of transferring files between dissimilar systems. Many issues affect CAD data exchange and present common challenges. Read more »

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Todd Reade is president and founder of TransMagic, a developer of multi-CAD interoperability software applications.


Cadalyst Labs Report: 3D Printing Hooks Users
with Prototypes that Bring Designs to Life

By Kenneth Wong and Nancy Spurling Johnson

Once reserved for the creation of mockups, 3D printing has evolved into an alternative manufacturing discipline for producing parts with complex geometry in smaller volumes. At the same time, a number of technology suppliers are introducing smaller, more affordable desktop models, teasing engineers with the promise of personal prototyping machines. To help you find the right 3D printing technology and service for your business, we speak to the industry leaders, take an account of the latest models entering the market, and outline the pros and cons of certain materials and methods involved. Read more »


Mark Your Calendar: MCAD Events

WESTEC 2009 Exposition
March 30 - April 2, 2009 
Los Angeles, California
The exposition puts attendees center stage with more than 600 exhibitors showcasing manufacturing's latest equipment, ideas, and trends. Read more »

PTC/USER World Event 2009
June 7-10, 2009
Orlando, Florida
This conference for the global PTC/USER community offers three days of in-depth training, education, and networking. Read more »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on


What’s New at

User Profile: Wisdom from the Trenches
Charles Prettyman of Robert A.M. Stern Architects' CAD manager, shares advice for software upgrades. Read more »

First Look Review: Graphtec CSX300-09HDplus Wide-Format Scanner
Engineers, architects, and CAD and GIS users can benefit from the scanner's CSX300-09HDplus capabilities. Read more »

Looking for Hot Tip Harry?
Hot Tip Harry’s latest AutoCAD customization tips are now posted online at Cadalyst’s CAD Tips site. Harry’s posting tips all the time now, and you can find the latest ones by checking the Recently Posted list, along with the latest tips from Tips & Tools Weekly. You can also find out about the latest tips from Harry himself (aka Cadalyst's Bill Kramer) by hanging out on Harry’s Tip Jar Discussion Forum. Look for the posts labeled "Hot Tips!" for regular updates.

Brand new, Cadalyst and Hot Tip Harry also introduce his new Programming Concepts Discussion Forum. Keep tabs and chime in to exchange AutoCAD programming expertise and advice.

Software and Hardware Suppliers Database
Cadalyst has made available its online Supplier Showcase, a comprehensive database of companies that provide CAD-related software, hardware, and training products. Information, which is provided by the respective companies, can be viewed either alphabetically or by product category.