Free CAD File Conversion In The Cloud?

The problem of CAD file conversion in old and has never been easy. Engineers are working in multiple CAD systems and conversion is a real problem. Quite many companies are in business of CAD conversion. The policy and practice of CAD vendors with regards to their ability to open/save competitor’s files are different. The person who needs to solve this problem is either engineer in a small company or CAD manager or IT in a bigger one. What if… we can find a solution for this problem by leveraging internet scale and cloud availability?

I found an interesting web site http://www.online-convert.com/. The idea behind is pretty simple – you have your file to convert, and you can use services. I found it quite useful for myself.


I tried to Google “CAD File Conversion service online” and wasn’t able to find any similar online service for CAD data. I know, many companies have different solutions and services that either provide you with conversion service or selling a translation software. Is it a time to think how to convert it into an online service? I can think about several monetizing strategies of this service. It sounds simple and viable. What do you think about that? Do you know somebody who tried to accomplish it in the past?

Best, Oleg

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33 Responses to Free CAD File Conversion In The Cloud?

  1. Vladimir Malukh says:

    Oleg,

    guys from TTI do provide online service for CAD data translation. though not for free.

    http://www.translationtech.com/services.asp

    Another imortan thing about their solution, that the do feature-based translation, keeping in translated data history-trre, features etc.

    Best, Vladimir

  2. Vladimir Leybenson says:

    Oleg. One of the WW leaders in this area is the Company founded and placed in Israel (Jerusalem). In July 2007 ITI TranscenData Acquires Proficiency. Alex Tsechansky (General Manager, ITI Proficiency, Ltd.) is very experienced and high skills person you can talk about this. The Company Web adresses are: http://www.proficiency.com or http://www.transcendata.com.

  3. Nikhil says:

    Oleg,

    You can check http://www.babel3d.com. It is an online 3D file translation service. The input for translation to Babel3D can be an Autodesk 3DS, DXF, DWG, Rhino 3DM, SketchUp SKP, STEP, IGES or OBJ file. These files can be translated into the 3DS, OBJ and XAML 3D formats.
    Are you looking forward to any specific file format conversion?

  4. Vladimir Malukh says:

    Just thoght – 3Dcontentcentral can be used as an online translation tool :)

  5. Vladimir, Thanks for this link! Best, Oleg

  6. Vladimir, Thanks for this link! Proficiency was long time on the market. I never heard about online translation services from them… Have you? Thanks, Oleg

  7. Jovan says:

    Oleg,
    First, congrats for your new platform :)

    Funy you ask yourself this question (you can check my blog) , there are so many places where cloud computing would be a great benefit to the PLM market.
    To Nikhil: Babel 3D is a good first step, but if you look at the format they propose, from what I know of them, they all formats define par surfaces and not by volumes. There fore except AutoDesk formarts, there is no translation from/to more CAD oriented formats like CATIA or Pro/E formats

  8. Nikhil, Thanks for the link and comments! I’m just researching what available. Do you have support for conversion of MCAD systems such as CATIA, NX, SolidWorks, Pro-E etc. support online as well? Best, Oleg

  9. Vladimir, 3Dcontentcentral can be a good idea :)! Best, Oleg

  10. Jovan, thanks! I will be moving gradually to beyondplm.com… I agree, there are lots of places where cloud can provide great benefits. My points with all discussions about cloud is how to find “low hanging fruits”… Re- Babel, agree, except Autodesk, there are no CAD formats there. Best, Oleg

  11. Vladimir Malukh says:

    No, I never heard about on-line service from Proficiency.

    Best, Vladimir

  12. jim merry says:

    Spatial Technology provided a web-based CAD translation service about 15 years ago based on what has since become the InterOp suite. It was a fee based service but didn’t do very well. They were simultaneously trying to convince the investor market that they were a cutting edge internet company. Which also didn’t work.

  13. It is not a new idea, but in our market in Germany just a mental problem to give confidential data to unknow portal.
    Since some years some of our customer use converter service of Camtex GmbH:

    http://download.camtex.de/dokumente/CAMTEX_Service.pdf

    Here you find good technology and high skills and can ask for special questions.

  14. Cornelia, Thanks for your comment! I understand your point. This is the same security factor that exists for all cloud solutions. In your case, how a customer send/receive files for conversion? Is it acceptable to get them via secured HTTP/FTP storage? What level of security is required? Best, Oleg

  15. Jim, thank you for your comment! I’m not sure got your point with regards to internet-company. What is your opinion why Spatial service didn’t do very well? Is it a problem with a product? licensing? Best, Oleg

  16. Cornelia Schmidt says:

    Oleg,
    camtex solution is secure solution with SSL. In many cases the owner of data sends data over (non secure) ftp or email but discuss about the unknown security gap of solution provider.
    It´s not a technical problem – we have secure solutions- but a mental or political. And the solution needs time and understanding in the management level of the companies.

  17. Cornelia, I agree with you. In many of the cases, the security issues is not actually “security”. People’s mentality prevents from using cloud/internet to share IP or sensitive documents. Work with companies and management is the right way to go. In addition, WOM is very important. People are getting things well, when they see how their friends are doing the same… Oleg

  18. jim merry says:

    Hi Oleg – regarding the comment on Spatial’s “internet-company” push in the mid-90s: they repositioned themselves in all SEC filings to emphasize they were an nternet company, and downplayed what they actually did with ACIS and the translation components. This was just after Netscape was in full bloom. It looked like there were trying to capitalize on the frenzy and froth anything associated with the internet was generating back then. This episode lasted about 2-3 years and to my knowledge that management team has since moved on to other things.

    The licensing model as I recall was a per model fee. You had to upload the files to their servers and they would have someone technical look at the file if it didn’t translate. I don’t have specific knowledge of why it failed; can only speculate it was a new approach and unfamiliar, security reasons, as well as bandwidth issues preventing adoption.

  19. Jim, Thanks for your comment. Yes, your “speculations” make sense to me. The original point in my post was made with the assumption that these days we are actually much closer to the real-dot-com-apps in comparison to the mid-end-90s… Best, Oleg

  20. Hi Oleg et al,

    I seem to remember CADENAS do a generic CAD conversion but not as a service on the cloud, more as a service for various suppliers. They have something called web2CAd which seems to be embedded on various suppliers websites and generated CAD files on demand.

    http://www.cadenas.co.uk/index_main.asp

    A good example can be seen on any of the suppliers websites. and it seems to me that CADENAS are in the perfect position to do on-line conversion, albeit probably for a fee.

    DT

  21. David, Thank you for your comment! I can see on Cadenas web site an exhaustive list of all supported formats. I never heard about their Web2CAd product. What I see is that this services is providing an ability to download parts in a variety of formats. This is related but not exact what I offered – free service to convert files. I agree with you, CADENAS is probably in a good position to offer free conversion if the core business is catalog providing. Free conversion can bring a good traffic for catalog website. Just my thoughts, of course… Best, Oleg

  22. Bob Noftle says:

    Hi Oleg, just a little history for all interested. Web2CAD was a German 3D catalog provider that got its start when Autodesk sold it’s data publishing unit to Thomas Publishing. Web2CAD became the exclusive CAD provider to Thomas through this deal. Web2CAD went bankrupt in 2004. The CAD technology and American customers were sold to Thomas by the German bankrupcy administrators where it has languished (sp) and the EU and Japanese customers were sold to TraceParts and a Japanese company that Cadenas now has a relationship with. So much for the history. The majority of the 3D catalog providers supply CAD models of purchased components in a number of different formats. That being said if you were to ask them to convert, let’s say the body panel of an automobile, then the interoperability devil will raise it’s head. In my opinion those of us in the CAD world (MCAD and AEC) need to get end users to demand 3D models from component manufactures. Why? Because too much valuable design energy is being wasted modeling purchased parts. Best regards,Bob

  23. Bob, Thanks for comment and info. I didn’t know all these details. I think, demand for 3D model exists. However, the supply-chain process of components from manufacturers to end-users (engineers) is broken. The overall chain is 1/component manufacturers –> 2/parts catalog –>3/company parts catalog –> 4/engineers. What is interesting to me is to understand what is the weak point in this chain. What is your view on this? Best, Oleg

  24. Bob Noftle says:

    Oleg, The weak point is the cost to have an effective 3d online catalog. In my estimation, and I’m speaking about the US market only, component manufacturers (~50% of which are sub $10m in sales) waist a lot of money trying to reach their customers (engineers). They maintain a paper catalog, an online catalog (which is often a PDF of the paper catalog), attend trade shows (still), and spend a lot of money on paper and online ad space trying to reach their customers. When you approach these manufacturers with the notion of a 3D onlie catalog; they resist because of the cost. Yet the cost can be less than running 1-3 months of traditional print/online ads. Once a manufacturer implements a 3D online catalog, they wonder how they managed for so long with out one. There are a lot of reasons 3D catalogs are expensive. But that’s another discussion.
    Best regards, Bob

  25. Bob, Thanks for sharing your experience! It is very interesting what you are saying about catalog business and about 3D catalogs, specifically. Are there any companies in the market that tried to make catalogs aggregation? What is the problem with such a type of solution? Thanks, Oleg

  26. Bob Noftle says:

    Oleg, If by aggregation you mean presenting/offering 3D catalogs in one space; then yes there are several fragmented groups. First you have the 3D catalog providers: Cadenas, Catalog Data Solutions, SolidComponents, and TraceParts; these are the main players. Each of these has a portal where users can freely download 3D models, 2D drawings, and collateral documentation from manufacturers who have engaged with them. Some of the 3D catalog providers are experimenting with cross posting each others content. Next we have aggregators of manufacturers data; some include 3D models. The two most popular in the US are GlobalSpec and Thomas Publishing. Lastly, we have the CAD vendors who strike partnerships, of various degrees of usefulness, with the 3D catalog providers in order to provide their end users with 3D content. Most CAD vendors have done this with at least one 3D catalog provider. The most notable is probably SolidWorks 3D ContentCentral; I beleive they have partnered with at least two providers. The problem with these solutions are: the 3D catalog providers are unable to scale because of the cost to create catalogs and their business models; the GlobalSpecs and Thomas’ of the world are not really CAD savvy and face the same content creation costs; and the CAD vendors are creating “walled gardens” as an attempt to control access to the content and to make content a reason to buy their CAD system instead rather than the competitions. Witness SolidWorks 3DContentCentral and Autodesk Seek. I beleive an aggregation solution is possible only if one considers the needs of all the players. Sorry for the long posts, but I’m passionate about this topic. :-) Best regards, Bob

  27. Bob, Thanks a lot! Excellent discussion! From my experience, the best discussion happens when people are passionate about the topic. You provided lots of very interesting information… What is still not clear to me is cost. What are the core elements of the catalog cost creation? Is it about software cost? Is it about a content acquisition process? Is it about maintenance? Best, Oleg

  28. Bob Noftle says:

    Oleg, Typically, there are no software charges from the 3D catalog providers. The main cost is creating the inital catalog. Maintenance costs are normally for adding products to the catalog and are handled on a project basis. Determining the cost of a 3D catalog begins with a basic question. Does the manufacturer have 3D models that can be used for the catalog? If not, the cost will be higher because the geometry must be created. If yes, will the model geometry in the 3D catalog be individual models (1 model = 1 part number) or master models (1 model = many part numbers) or both? If the catalog will contain individual models, then cost is lower because STEP files can be used. If the catalog has master models (lots of options that generate many part numbers and typically the manufacturers higher margin products), the cost goes up because the 3D catalog providers cannot re-use a manufacturers parametric models. This forces the catalog provider into re-modeling the product models in their modeler (typically ACIS based). Unfortunately, CAD vendor licenses normally do not allow their products to be run for commercial purposes on web servers without the catalog provider paying large annual fees. And, the catalog providers would need to have copies of the different CAD sytems used by the manufacturers. Creating product models that can be used my multiple CAD sytems is the largest cost in creating a 3D catalog. I’ve seen catalogs as low as $200 and as high as $200,000. My vision…free 3D catalogs and I know how to get there. I just can’t write about it in a post yet. :-) Best regards,Bob

  29. Bob, Thanks for sharing this information. Free is one of my favorite topics. I’m sure you had chance to read Chris Anderson book… If not, you have to do so. Take a look on one of my old posts on that:

    http://plmtwine.com/2009/07/13/plm-prompt-is-free-the-future-of-plm/

    http://plmtwine.com/2010/02/02/free-and-cool-trends-in-cadplm/

    Best, Oleg

  30. Ahmad says:

    Got some native 3D CAD files converted here for free:

    http://www.CADtrans.com/

    will probably only be free for a limited period

    Rgds AH

  31. Ahmad, Thanks for sharing this link. Best, Oleg

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