CAD Translation and Repair: What you
have or need?
You have plenty by default
“Data Translation and repair costs the industry 20 billion dollars a
an Industry study released in the last 12 months.
Are you surprised?
Don’t be-- the need to translate data between different systems
can be a very costly and frustrating roadblock to successfully producing
a product. The topic alone can be
mind-boggling so I sought out to explain the process, terminology and
options you have as a SolidWorks user while trying to maintain a
readers’ digest format.
The fact that you are a SolidWorks user is the good news. The data translation capabilities and variety shipped with every seat of SolidWorks is very robust. The types of files that you can open (read/import) or save as (write/export) are in the following commands. File:Open: select Types of Files:
For exporting or to send a file to another system from SW you will File:Save As. Note that depending on the file type you have active will determine your options. Notice the difference when you have a part active versus an assembly or drawing.
built in translators breakdown in the following categories: Neutral
formats, Native/Direct, Graphics/Viewing formats.
Some native/direct translators can convert feature information
(Sketches, dimensions, etc). If
features are required, all other translations efforts potentially can be
enhanced with the use of FeatureWorks included SolidWorks Office and
Professional or a solution partner product add on.
Neutral Files Types
STEP AP203/214 (*.step;*.stp)
STEP203 or ISO
10303-203 is an Application protocol for Configuration controlled
design. In Industrial automation systems and integration of Product data
representation and exchange. STEP214 or ISO 10303-214 is an Application
protocol for Core data of automotive mechanical design processes. In
Industrial automation systems and integration for Product data
representation and exchange.
AutoCad / MDT: DWG (*.dwg) DXF (*.dxf)
The MDT translator imports part and
assembly information from Mechanical Desktop (MDT) files as SolidWorks
part or assembly documents. You must have MDT installed on your desktop,
but it does not have to be running, to use the MDT translator. The MDT
translator is integrated into the DXF/DWG translator in the SolidWorks
software, and is always available when you select DXF (*.dxf) or DWG (*.dwg)
under Files of type in the Open dialog box. The DXF/DWG exporting
translator only supports drawing documents as .dxf or .dwg files.
Native or Direct Files Types
ProE Part (*.prt,*.prt.*;*.xpr) ProE
Inventor Part (*.ipt)
Solid Edge Part (*.par)
Unigraphics aka UGII (*.prt)
AutoCad / MDT: DWG (*.dwg) DXF (*.dxf)
Graphics, Polygonal, or Viewing Files Types
Catia Graphics (*.cgr)
HOOPS HSF (*.hsf)
RealityWave ZGL (*.zgl)
Additional Translators as Add-ins for SolidWorks
There are other options available to you
other than SolidWorks out-of-the-box translators.
For instance, if you have a client that requires you to open a
CATIA v4 file, what will you do? The
reasons will vary why they require this but if you want their business
you will need to open this file. SolidWorks
solution Partner program has numerous options for you and CATI can help
you select on that meets your needs.
Here are the three main questions that
most people should ask when you are researching a translation method. Do you need to read and write or just read the cad specific
data. Second, do you need
to maintain features or just translate geometry?
Third, what is the version of the other CAD system?
It is important to know whether you have to read or read and write. Some translators only go one direction and most have addition costs for both directions. If your client says you need to read CATIA v4 and deliver the job in CATIA v4 format then you are talking about two translators. Or do you need to do the job in CATIA? In most cases you will not have to buy the other CAD system. However, before committing to the job you need to ask a few more questions.
Second issue concerns features or just geometry transfer. In most cases, the client will only need you to deal with the “dumb” geometry. This is the volume separate from all design history. It comes into SW as one feature versus separate items per feature. You can experiment by taking any part and save as a parasolid type. Go to file open and read the file into SW and you will see the feature tree be reduced to one feature.
If the client expects feature-rich data
then your options are now down to very few offerings: Specialized
Feature-Based Translator, or Service equivalent, or get yourself the
same CAD system. The slamdunk comes if you need full associativity
between parts/assemblies with drawings—this will require the use of
the native cad system. Currently,
2d drawings are not connected even via direct translators. The common
practice is not to expect associativity and send DWG/DXF files of the
drawing separate from the 3d dataset.
Third, what version of the other CAD
system are you expected to be compatible?
There are many translators available but not all versions are
supported. Using our CATIA
client from the earlier example, is it v4 or v5 of CATIA that you need
to read/write? These are
typically two separate translators you may need to purchase.
Here are some additional issues about
translating directly from one system to another.
Some translators work inside the CAD systems.
Therefore there may be a component to send a file and then the
receiving system may also need a software component.
This can force you into a difficult spot if you do not have
access to the originating operator/cad system. For example, if you’re
a sub-vendor you may be out of reach to request this cooperation.
Final thoughts on specialized and direct
translators. From my
experience, the investment for a direct translator is typically a
business decision more than a technical decision.
The point being, if you are not going to get work from a client
because you don’t have the same CAD system buying this translator can
bring in more business for your organization.
On the same point, it can be a competitive advantage for your
organization! Also, set
your expectations accordingly, nothing is perfect and therefore budget
for the ongoing support and maintenance to make sure you can get all the
help at the proper time.
Geometry Repair and Improvement Add-ins for SolidWorks
When dealing with imported data there
will be issues from time to time. The
old saying goes, “Garbage out then Garbage in”.
This is not an exact science and therefore things will happen
that will be very difficult for the common user to repair—hence, the
20 billion dollars lost a year in data translation!
When translating between two systems
there are accuracy issues, missing entities, unsupported entities,
mathematical errors, formatting issues that potentially can cause things
to go a stray. Therefore,
there are many things SolidWorks has done with their translators to
accommodate these issues in the base software.
However, there is a point at which the damage is beyond
automation and you will need to manually interact with the data to
achieve proper results.
The most common issues fall into a few categories; surfaces not knitting into a solid or to each other, solids with bad faces or gaps, or missing data—it happens! There are many tools in SolidWorks to detect these situations but not many to quickly repair or improve them. I recommend FormatWorks as a tool to review and understand.
FormatWorks, A Gold-Solution Partner of SolidWorks, offers three main additions to SW. It gives you another IGES reader with geometry checks, automatic repair and healing automation routines, and Quality improvement tools that enhance SW base translators.
Automatic repair and healing comes with numerous features. One example that will be very common if you deal with CATIA data is their ability to simplify Nurbs data. In the above example when reading the file with SW IGES turned into 322 surfaces as a result, with FormatWorks IGES turned into 79.
As mentioned earlier, accuracy is one of the most common issues where translating data can cause heartburn. There is very little SolidWorks can do if the accuracy is not in the incoming IGES file--so what will you run into?
common issue will be gaps in the file
causing it to disable you from working with the part by not allowing you
to do additional commands in SolidWorks.
Here is a simple example of what can cause you to lose time.
These types of issues are not always apparent after importing the file into SolidWorks. So here are some recommendations for you to do each time you have read a solid or series of surfaces into SolidWorks.
there is a Red ! like :
we have a problem! Next
you need to select the Imported1 icon with the Right mouse button (RMB)
and select Diagnosis
and the menu to the right with come up. This tells us we only have one
bad face. In most cases fix faces option will have little impact at this
point and we will need to do delete and recreate the face.
FormatWorks can eliminate the tedious process of doing this and
will automatically knit the remaining surface into a solid.
A more common scenario is to our left where the model didn’t knit into a solid. This example has 591 surfaces to form a solid. One surface missing can make or break it coming in as one imported solid. FormatWorks reduced this potential nightmare into 10 minutes of repair work.
Summary of Translators and recommendations for SolidWorks.
The following chart includes a summary of
capabilities by default. I
have also included alternative suggestions to get to/from other CAD
systems. These recommends
also include add-in tools from Solution Partners.
This is only an overview--Keep in mind that versions can play a
big factor towards success. There
is not always one answer to each scenario so don’t hesitate to
experiment if time permits or call upon CATI for assistance.
Key: X = Default SolidWorks, N/A = Not Applicable or available, NF= Use a Neutral file format, DT= Direct Translator Solution Partner add-in, or a Specific translator type as an alternative.
Note1: 2D geometry can exported via IGES/STEP via a looping process . However, the annotations and dimensions will be ignored.
Note2: If they are converted to TIFF format they can be read in as background images. There are several programs that canconvert a JPEG to TIFF—external from SW.
Note3: Standard Windows functionality
allows you to import a graphics format like JPEG or TIFF in to SW
Drawings with Insert|Object.
If you have a situation that you would like to discuss feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to learn more about FormatWorks see attached demo video to this newsletter or contact me to setup a webex.