How to Modernize Your Engineering Archives in 2017

Do you still have paper and mylar engineering and parts drawings in your archives?  For companies who maintain long-life products (airplanes; military vehicles; manufacturing machinery to name a few), it’s not unusual to have non-digital documents detailing these products and their replacement parts.

That’s because engineering drawings for these kinds of equipment were traditionally created and stored on mylar sheets and/or paper drawings.  As these drawings age and deteriorate, it becomes increasingly difficult to preserve them and to use them when it becomes necessary to repair the equipment.

That’s why many companies choose to scan and convert them into 2D CAD drawings or 3D CAD models.  Digital documents and digital models do not deteriorate. Additionally, converted drawings can be accessed and disseminated much more quickly than mylar or paper drawings can.  Often, in today’s military and business environment, success depends upon the speed with which information can be deployed. 

It’s Not Hard to Convert Paper or Mylar Drawings, but…

If your company has been putting of conversion of paper and mylar archives, isn’t it time to consider converting those drawings to your digital CAD system?  2017 looks like it may be a year of growth and change, and there are many advantages to taking the time now to eliminate your paper archives.  By doing so, you will save space, preserve your valuable historical data and archives, and enable ease of re-use or updates to drawings.

While conversion of paper to digital is not all the difficult, you already know the reasons why you’ve put the project off:

  • Lack of proper equipment
  • Lack of experienced manpower
  • Concerns about cost
  • Difficulties merging the digitized files with your current CAD system

Have you considered engaging a CAD services company to do the job for you?

Of course, not all services companies are equal.  It’s always best to do a little homework and get competitive bids from at least 3 companies.  Here’s what you should know to make an intelligent decision:

The paper to CAD process should start with a high-quality scan.  So, you should ask what type of scanners the outsource company uses, how many they have and what qualifications their technical scanning personnel possess.  Remember, image quality is everything.  If two lines are muddied up and appear as a single line in a scan, that’ll give you an inaccurate CAD file.  The scanners should be able to provide the best-scanned raster image possible,  and then that image should be rectified to make sure it is aligned properly, scaled correctly, and that it measures correctly on all axes points.

Next, in the case of the 2D CAD, the scanned raster image needs to be converted to your CAD vector format.  There are several different methods to convert drawings into CAD — heads-up digitizing, commercial R to V software, custom wrote CAD conversion scripts and software, or some combination of all three.  An experienced CAD services company will be able to determine the method that provides the best result.  One process does not fit all, so if the services company you’re interviewing tells you they always follow the same procedure, consider looking elsewhere.

What About Paper to 3D Conversion?

Maybe your company has fully embraced 3D CAD and you want to convert some, if not all, of your paper/mylar drawings to 3D models.

You’re not alone!  Heading into 2017, one of the most sought-after services we provide to the engineering community is 2D to 3D CAD conversion, with 3D Scan to 3D Model conversion running a close second.

When you go move from paper to 3D CAD, you enable storage of all your archive drawings in a much more efficient and organized system. At the same time, you have improved capability and increased productivity for parts replacement and equipment redesign.

Another advantage to moving from paper to 3D is that the 3D model can be used in the manufacturing process during production. When it comes to deciding on whether to convert paper to 2D or 3D, it’s important to understand that the visual concept that solid modeling provides is beneficial in conceptualizing new products; as well as extremely useful in rapid prototyping of your product.


White paper: 3 Strategies for optimizing your paper to CAD Conversion

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