How to Convert Engineering Drawings to 3D CAD/BIM

What do you do when you need 3D CAD/BIM models and all you have are paper engineering drawings?  We know one company who had just such a dilemma.  With over 150,000 engineering drawings of various types of parts used in plumbing, building, engineering, manufacturing, they wanted to create an online catalog resource for the industry.  However, the online catalog needed to feature pictures of the parts, not engineering drawings.   It was determined that the most efficient way to get pictures was by converting the drawings into 3D CAD/BIM models that could be displayed online.

Because the catalog was intended for use by businesses that had very precise requirements for their parts – businesses in the industrial, scientific and construction arenas, for which precision is key – the images for each catalog listing needed to be perfect.   If an engineer was looking for a specific part, or a scientist was looking for a specific calibration tool, the image they saw when they searched for the part or tool needed to meet their expectations of perfection.

This provided to be a unique dilemma, requiring a sophisticated answer.  The company did not have in-house resources capable of performing the engineering drawing to 3D/BIM conversion, so the task became to find an outsource service who could perform the project.   With thousands upon thousands of paper engineering drawings needing to be converted into 3D CAD models, it was going to take a company that could handle the job with the precision that the specialized consumers would expect.

It was CAD CAM’s two trademarks: CAD Perfect® and CAD Perfect CAD Conversions® that lead the company to CAD CAM Services.  The process of converting the huge number of engineering drawings had to start with accurate scanning.   The 2D CAD drawings that would be produced from the scanning process needed to contain real lines, arcs, circles and text as text.   They had to have the appropriate level of layers, usually, at a minimum; each drawing is produced with 3-7 layers (levels) and colors.  And, the 2D CAD drawings had to be created in a file format that could accurately, easily and quickly be converted into 3D CAD models.

In addition, time was of the essence, because the online catalog had already established a launch date.

CAD CAM Services was able to ramp up quickly and within just two weeks, had hit the milestone of converting over one thousand paper engineering drawings daily into 3D CAD models that could be pictured in the online catalog.  This goal of 1,000 drawings converted daily was achieved and maintained for the conversion of over 150,000 parts drawings into 3D CAD models.    CAD CAM Services maintained this conversion level day in and day out, for the duration of the initial project.  CAD / CAM Services continues to produce 3D CAD models the catalog as new parts are added.

 “This is one of the largest single CAD conversion projects ever produced in the United States, and we are proud to say that we were able to ramp up quickly and achieve our daily conversion goal within weeks of the start date,” says Scott Shuppert, President of CAD CAM Services.  “ In fact, we completed the initial project 45 days ahead of schedule.”

CAD / CAM Services has had considerable experience with CAD conversions in both the commercial and the DOD world.  Examples include converting aperture cards into AutoCAD files, converting individual Boeing aircraft drawings into full CATIA 3D assembly Models, and other complex CAD conversions.  CAD / CAM prides themselves on their CAD Perfect ™ files which are guaranteed to be more accurate than the original drawings.   CAD / CAM is one of only a couple of firms in the world who can hold aerospace accuracy tolerances of +/-.005” in order to truly qualify as CAD Perfect™.  With experience at taking single drawings numbering in the hundreds and converting them into a one complete and complex assembly model, CAD / CAM Services was one of the strongest contenders for this mammoth job.

During the course of this large 3D CAD Conversion project, CAD / CAM Services continued to provide their smaller customers with the personalized conversion service that they have come to expect.

CAD / CAM Services, Inc. is one of only three (3) firms in the entire US that is qualified and certified for Department of Defense scanning and CAD conversion work.  This small, woman-owned business has a flexible staff that includes P.E. engineers, architects, and other CAD experts.


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