Why You Should Integrate Paper Drawings with 3D CAD

We’ve come a long way since the 1950s when it first became possible to modify existing drawings electronically. Back then, a spot scanner could convert microfilm data into an electronic image. The biggest drawback – it was cost-prohibitive.

But, as interactive computer graphics and CAD evolved, newer and better tools became available for creating new designs.  As the technology advanced, standards were developed for storing drawings in raster format.  Then, the emergence of cost-effective scanning hardware heralded the coming of age of raster images.  (And raster to vector services, we might add.)

Today, more options than ever exist for the conversion of paper, including R2Vpaper to CADpaper to 3D model and various permutations and combinations of all combined.   Perhaps what’s most surprising is the number of paper archives or — as one source describes it —  “BC” (Before CAD) designs that still exist today. paper to 3D model 

Going Digital with Paper

In general, there are three options for converting paper drawings to CAD:

  1. You can manually redraw the drawing: You place the paper drawing on your desk, fire up your CAD program and begin.  This is a very accurate method of conversion.  It requires little capital outlay, i.e., no equipment to purchase; no services to hire.  BUT…it is extremely time-consuming and a poor use of your CAD system and your CAD engineers and technicians.
  2. You can purchase a scanner and do it yourself:   Scanning works!  The technology has been around long enough that it’s pretty much perfected, regardless of scanner brand.  Scanning works within the proven environment of CAD as well as EDM and workflow.  Scanning offers excellent control in the transition from paper to CAD because the scanning process can be customized to fit the individual drawing or its application. Scanning has been used successfully in both large and small companies to solve integration problems between paper and CAD.
  3. You can hire a scanning service to do the conversion for you:   Using a scanning service is frequently used for very small jobs and for very large jobs.
    1. Outsourcing for small jobs eliminates the need to purchase scanning equipment and train personnel. With no capital outlay and savings on internal resources, the small charge for the scanning service makes sense.  Moreover, once drawings have been scanned, their value increases because they are more readily able to be used in the CAD system for revisions, updates, and redesign.
    2. Outsourcing for large jobs allows you to take advantage of the many resources that a scanning service bureau can provide, including high-accuracy scanning equipment, trained and experienced personnel, expertise in re-engineering the paper trail and archiving digital documents, raster to CAD and raster to 3D model to make your design production more efficient.


When 7% to 10% of companies’ operating expenditures are spent on manual document management processes, re-engineering the flow of engineering information to encompass the efficiencies of 2D CAD and 3D Design can enable an organization to realize tremendous cost savings over time.  These cost savings outweigh the cost involved in the scanning and conversion project.


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