How to Recapture Obsolete CAD Data

While we’ve written before about conversion of old mylar and paper drawings to CAD, as well as the conversion of obsolete CAD data to newer formats, the importance of what we do cannot be underestimated, and deserves another review.

Some industries — notably Aerospace and DOD — need to retain their CAD drawings for at least the life of the equipment, sometimes longer.  Often, this means retaining the data for 30-100 years.  Similarly, other long-lived equipment, such as that used in Manufacturing requires current versions of drawings when parts need to be replaced or re-engineered.  One other industry that has requirements for preserving old drawings is AEC, particularly when it comes to preservation and repair of historical buildings.

While the information contained in the drawings may be relevant today, the format is obsolete.  This obsolescence of format (whether digital or analog) means major headaches for the businesses and organizations that are responsible for maintaining it.  Mass conversion of data may be costly.  Data may be lost.  Old design concepts may not translate well to new technology.

Conversion for 3D Printing

 One example that we see all the time is the conversion of old parts drawings to 3D printed parts.  Because 3D printing materials have advanced so much, it’s literally possible to “print” a replacement part for your machine or equipment.  This saves many steps.  There’s no need to prototype and machine a replacement part.  Even if the printed part is not as sturdy as the original, in environments where safety is not an issue, many replacement parts can be printed more economically than one part could be manufactured the “old-fashioned” way.

But, converting the 2D parts drawing data to a 3D printable file requires extensive knowledge and expertise that most technicians, who are charged with replacing the part, do not possess. This is one area where CAD conversion companies, such as CAD / CAM Services, come into play.  Another area is conversion to PLM.

 PLM and Data Obsolescence

To some extent, PLM (Product Life-Cycle Management) has begun to address the issues of data obsolescence.  But, even the best PLM software needs updated data to start.  Many of the industries that use PLM are industries that have millions of parts for many different products, and they all need to be designed, tracked, maintained and replaced.

When companies come to us to solve the dilemma of CAD drawing and data incompatibility we caution against trying to do everything at once.  Most organizations have relatively simple requirements: (1) they want to be able to access and use the drawings and data over time; (2) they want to be able to use the data easily and make changes as needed; (3) they want interoperability between vendors and applications.

These may be simple requirements, but they are complicated and time consuming to achieve.  Most organizations don’t have the internal manpower and technical expertise to undertake a project of these dimensions, while still maintaining their core business.

Therefore, we recommend that they undergo the process in incremental steps.  For instance, they can have a service such as ours convert the data on an as-needed basis, rather than trying to do it all at once.  By including an outside conversion partner in their plans, they can ramp up and down as the workload requires.  They reduce their risk as they deploy new technologies in stages, while an outside conversion partner maintains, updates and revises their drawings.

Security Protocols During Conversion

Whether the CAD conversions are required by classified DOD agencies or competitor-conscious consumer industries, such as automotive, it is essential that the CAD conversion service with which you partner has the required security clearances and protocols in place.

With nearly 30 years in the CAD conversion industry, we are experts and we invite industry representatives, commercial companies, and government agencies to contact us with questions and concerns they may have about any form of CAD conversion or conversion to PLM.


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