Facilitating the Migration of 2D Drawings to 3D

2d CAD printouts

The advent of 3D CAD revolutionized the way in which new products were designed, saving companies significant ROI, while also enabling them to design better products faster than ever. In addition, the intelligence-rich 3D CAD model can be leveraged for downstream applications to facilitate and speed the development process enterprise-wide.

While most new product development today is done in 3D, there is still a significant amount of design data that resides in the form of 2D drawings, and many companies choose to retain their existing 2D designs and their related skills and expertise that they have built up over time. Nearly three-quarters of manufacturers today continue to use 2D for certain applications, such as shop floor drawings or collaborating with outside vendors and customers.

Despite the continued use of 2D tools, there are many compelling reasons for manufacturers to transition to 3D. It has become a competitive necessity for manufacturers to compete in today’s world.  The tougher questions might revolve around what to do with the treasure chest of 2D legacy drawings? How much of this legacy data should be converted to 3D? When do you convert them? Do you buy translation tools to convert them in-house or hire an outside company to convert them for you? These are some of the many questions manufacturers must address in regards to their legacy data.

Leveraging 2D for Reuse

Design reuse is one important way for manufacturers to shave time and cost out of product development processes. Migrating 2D drawings into 3D CAD systems, however, is a process often fraught with errors and often takes more time to do than if engineers had started from scratch using 3D.  Despite the fact that legacy drawings often contain critical design information, extracting that data in a usable format is often problematic, because the systems (hardware, CAD software, or operating systems) with which it was created, may now be obsolete. In addition, many companies now lack in-house expertise with these older design systems.

According to a study conducted by the Aberdeen Group, few manufacturers have a clear strategy for migrating their 2D drawings to 3D CAD. In the study entitled, “Best Practices for Migrating from 2D to 3D CAD,” among the participants designated as “Best in Class,” 21% migrated their 2D legacy data to 3D based only on a specific product/project line and another 50% on an “as-needed” basis. Among this same group (64%) are more likely to deploy translation tools to help them work with third-party CAD data or to leverage existing 2D legacy data.

Before moving 2D datswered.  Does this product generate a lot of revenue? Is it closely related to other successful products? Is there the potential for future market growth? If the answers to any of these questions are yes, then you will most likely want that 2D data converted to 3D.

A successful conversion program requires careful planning, preparation and logistics. Migration approaches will differ among companies based on myriad of factors. Some manufacturers will decide to not convert any 2D drawings and design all new products in 3D, often a path taken when there are infrequent changes to old product lines or when new products are not off-shots of previous ones.

Another approach is to convert 2D drawings on an as-needed basis or just those product lines deemed as offering the possibility of ROI. Another migration strategy involves migrating all 2D drawings to 3D CAD, though this is probably the least executed because of its high cost and the extensive planning and resource management required to execute it.

Some vendors offer bundled 2D/3D tools that can facilitate the migration from 2D to 3D, allowing users to leverage their years of 2D design data and expertise, and then incorporate and learn the 3D software at their own pace. Ideally, the 3D tool should provide direct ‘read and write’ of native 2D files while maintaining full associativity with the 3D model. This interoperability enables the engineers to safely reuse 2D files to build accurate 3D models and then communicate feedback from digital prototyping back to partners that operate in 2D environments.

Image by florsignol

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