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 The Interoperability Advisor
Jamie Flerlage
Jamie Flerlage
Jamie Flerlage is a Senior Consultant for ITI TranscenData, an interoperability firm in Cincinnati, Ohio, specializing in consulting services, CAD/CAM/CAE interoperability software systems, and PLM/ERP integrations for Fortune 500 manufacturers. He may be reached at … More »

CAD Model Translation – A Commodity in Question (Part 1 of 5)

December 10th, 2010 by Jamie Flerlage

“The Case for Automated Remastering” is a five-part article series that explores a changing paradigm within Engineering Systems Interoperability (ESI). Part 1, “CAD Model Translation – The Commodity in Question,” explores how the maturation of CAD is changing the industry’s approach to ESI.

Part 1: CAD Model Translation – A Commodity in Question
Architecting and implementing ESI solutions is becoming increasingly difficult – you can’t throw a translator at the problem and expect it to be a cure-all. There is still a need for automation tools that manipulate geometry, but the interoperability market is rapidly expanding beyond geometry-centric translation point solutions.

Manufacturers need consultative ESI solution providers that know how to architect processes, pair them with automation tools, and integrate these solutions into their PLM environments.

The Maturation of CAD and the Effects of Model-Based Definition (MBD)
Eight-to-ten years ago, interoperability software applications were often limited to desktop-based, 2D and 3D-BREP software translators (see Figure 1.1). Clients evaluated these solutions like any other point solution – by comparing features, functionality, price, and performance. In most cases, buyers hoped to achieve 100% success, and were mostly satisfied when it was technically possible to get close (90-98%).

Figure 1.1 – Legacy CAD Translation Scenario
Legacy CAD Translation resized 600
Today, 3D models have essentially become holding containers for intellectual property (see Figure 1.2). With the proliferation of MBD, and the advances in 3D modeling technologies, more entities are now being introduced into the CAD model. It is increasingly difficult to maintain 100% of these entities, despite the fact that they are managed and manipulated throughout the product development value chain.
Figure 1.2 – Today’s MBD Translation Scenario

MBD Translation

As CAD systems continue to mature, and PLM systems become more complex, the ability to achieve 100% translation success in an MBD-centric environment is diminishing rapidly. In most cases, some form of manual intervention is required. Even with feature-based translation, model completion is often required to ensure design intent and model quality, and preserve drawings and/or manufacturing information.

Move Away from the “Translator” Mindset and Execute Strategically

MBD has created an explosion of new data, and this proliferation of intellectual property requires a different approach to CAD data management. Manufacturers are becoming strict about how they deliver data to partners and suppliers. Technical environments are changing; the size of models is increasing, as is the need for improved hardware and robust infrastructures.

MBD strategists are looking for solutions that offer better performance, robustness and investment returns. This is where automated remastering can play a strategic role in moving MBD data between containers (CAD systems). The automated remastering process is scalable and repeatable, and in many cases, serve as a confidence-building first step in constructing an ESI strategy.

In the next article, we will examine the process of automated remastering, and how this process can factor into your Lean Manufacturing initiatives.

Acknowledgments: My thanks to colleagues Tony Provencal and Peter Heath for their time and contributions to this article series. For more information about the solutions their teams provide, visit: and, respectively.

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Category: CAD, CAM, CAE & PLM

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