Converting Old DWG Drawings to 3D Models

If you’re a mechanical engineer who’s been around a while, you probably started your career designing in 2D CAD…usually AutoCAD.  Even though you may have changed with the times and are now designing in 3D(often SolidWorks) you probably have many DWG files that you still retain.  Many of your old DWG files are probably obsolete, i.e., designs of out-of-production products, parts, and designs.  But…there may be a treasure trove of older designs that are still relevant and that could save you time by reusing them.  For instance:

  • If you have common sets of 2D parts that are still in use, it goes without saying that they should be converted into 3D models right away. As part of the conversion process, you will want to ensure that the revisions are current and that they fit properly.  Make any modifications that need to be made and calculate accurate assembly mass properties.  Then you’ll have 3D parts ready to machine or to add to new designs.
  • You may also have other parts sets that, while still in use, are not regularly called for. In this instance, wait until you need the part, then convert it.  This saves time by converting only what you need when you need it. 3D models

Of course, busy engineers — while agreeing that this 2D to 3D conversion plan is a good one – are often just too busy with new design work to delve into this conversion process.   Unfortunately, this often results in panic mode when you find that you suddenly need several sets with hundreds of parts converted for a new design.  That’s where a service bureau that offers DWG to 3D model conversion can be a huge help

By helping to leverage your existing DWG data so that you can create new designs using programs like Solidworks 3D Design software simplifies your design process, saves time and development costs, and accelerates your time-to-market.

Of course, as we so often caution in our blog posts, make sure you use a reliable service bureau.  After all, you’re trusting them with your design data.  If you have a small project, you may be able to find a single individual that you can hire on an as-needed-basis when you need DWG to 3D model conversion done.  However, if you have numerous relevant parts sets that you need converting quickly, then you’re better off finding a company with a technical staff that can get the job done in the time-frame you require.

Here are a few guidelines:   

  • Look for a vendor that has handled similar projects in the past. This will show that they have the capabilities that you need no matter how big or how small your project is.
  • Make sure that they have sufficient manpower and capabilities to get your project completed in the time frame you require.
  • Ask about the certifications they have and whether they have more than one employee with the same or similar certifications.  You don’t want your project stopped mid-stream if someone gets sick or leaves the company.
  • Find out what type of facilities they have.  Redundancy in computer equipment and scanning equipment is always a plus.
  • Lowest cost is not necessarily the best choice.  Smaller companies may offer a lower bid, but you’re not saving money if they don’t have the manpower or experience to handle your project.
  • Ask for references from past clients who have had projects that most resemble your project and budget.  This will give you a better idea of what it’s like to work with that CAD outsourcing company.

In the end, it comes down to choosing the service bureau team that you’d be willing to hire in-house if you needed to increase staff.  If you wouldn’t hire them to work in-house, then you don’t want them working for you on an outsource basis.

Finally, if your data is sensitive, don’t be afraid to ask for a Non-disclosure agreement (NDA).  A non-disclosure agreement (NDA), also known as a confidentiality agreement (CA), confidential disclosure agreement (CDA), proprietary information agreement (PIA) or secrecy agreement (SA), is a legal contract between at least two parties that outlines confidential material, knowledge, or information that the parties wish to share with one another for certain purposes, but wish to restrict access to or by third parties. It is a contract through which the parties agree not to disclose information covered by the agreement. An NDA creates a confidential relationship between the parties to protect any type of confidential and proprietary information or trade secrets.

Taking a little bit of extra time to choose and vet the service bureau that will do your DWG to 3D model conversions ensures a successful project.


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