Should Fabricators Continue using DWG File Format?
2D drawings and 3D models generated in CAD software predominant in fabrication industry, and if any fabricator were to dedicate their success, they would happily pin it on CAD. But more fabricators are adapting specialized systems such as MCAD, ECAD and others. There is a legacy in the industry of using DWG files ever since CAD has been introduced. However, with increasing design complexity single DWG file isn’t sufficient and involves a dozen other CAD platforms and sketching tools for the final assembly.
Today, Autodesk – the CAD giant – itself is steadily moving away from DWG file format. But since the legacy has served so well, maybe it’s time we rethink our shift away from DWG formats.
Extending CAD data usage through DWG files
It’s no secret that most CAD systems provide APIs [Application Programming Interface] to exchange and re-write design data as well as share it for further utility with a third-party enterprise. But sorting their design data and utilizing their native CAD files to make the most, fabricators should leverage the enlisted features.
- Xdata files
- Xrecords without file size limits
- Document-level definition with extensions
- Object level definition, tables, charts etc.
- Custom objects
By leveraging these and other inbuilt APIs in AutoCAD, such as LISP, DCL, Tx and many more it helps fabricators address task-specific needs. These APIs help to extend the design data being compatible with other digital technologies; automatic development of NC programs for machines using reference points on 3D CAD models being an excellent instance.
The gradual but constant shifts away from DWG formats
Autodesk has launched several MCAD products – AutoCAD Mechanical Desktop [MDT] and AutoCAD Mechanical which works using DWG files only. Alongside these MCAD systems also use custom objects that enables editing and viewing specialized drawings.
However, with the gradual advent in software architecture and knowledge MDT was replaced by Autodesk’s Inventor which works with the file formats that include .idw, .ipt, .iam, and .ipn for drawings, 3D parts, assemblies, and presentation, respectively making a fundamental separation and began drifting away from AutoCAD.
This also marked the decline of DWG formats since after Inventor more collaborated Autodesk’s Fusion also made a breakthrough in the industry – which by every fact is more user-friendly for users making half a dozen of different file formats.
On the other hand, Dassault Systèmes popular product SolidWorks also faced same challenges for data compatibility at external enterprise levels. This challenge still persists even after prolonged efforts by the organization for almost a decade.
Devising a way out without abandoning DWG files
Although these giants have made their choice for shifts, there are fabricators who, in support of CAD design engineers or a CAD design consultant, can find a way out to keep their legacy of using DWG files. A single file format will not only solve the discrepancies in interoperability but will also eliminate working in siloed software.
Once APIs are understood thoroughly, deploying them for the appropriate usage will solve the shortcoming and certainly eliminate the issues of non-compatibility. The foremost challenge of working with CAD is dealing with assemblies. But strategic usage of DWG files helps overcome them.
For instance, using Xrefs [native 3D part models] along with pre-defined 3D constraints is one of the ways out. It works with sheet metal parts as well as other CAD models.
As long as the interoperability issues are concerned, IGES/STEP file conversion and neutral file formats are always there to the rescue. They help extract intelligent design data and make the CAD drawings and models to be opened, viewed and edit across the enterprise.
Change management, as well as project archiving, becomes easier and manageable task by letting several people work on a single project, simultaneously. Fabrication firms will always need an access to CAD drawings and models that are in multiple different file formats. If they start updating themselves now by giving up the traditional best practices and partner with a design consultant they can start anew for profits and still continue their legacy of DWG files.