The Art/Science of Data Translation

June 17, 2022


Blog, NX CAD


The Art/Science of Data Translation 


Electronic transfer of files has become a normal operating procedure for many transactions

However, in CAD applications the requested option for transfer often is an electronic blueprint, typically PDF format.  This transfer request is initiated by downstream operations such as purchasing requesting a quote.

In the past shops relied on blueprints. Today shops utilize CAD models and may supplement them with drawings.  In many cases the CAD model, or its equivalent, incorporates much of the content that is recreated on a 2-D engineering drawing.

This blog describes some of the methods for importing and exporting data, examining the quality of imported data, and repairing imported data at the receiving system.

Master model data flow

Note the value gained if the overall process uses the same data format.

If an engineering change is processed, it can propagate through the tool design as well as the inspection functions

If the receiving organization utilizes NX, the data transfer options are native or JT format for best results

When a data translation is required

What happens when the receiving organization utilizes another system? Or systems?

Our goal is to provide a CAD file in a format that can be use by the alternative CAD, CAM, and CMM programs.

This GIF illustrates a CAD model with embedded Product Manufacturing Information (PMI)

Would you need a 2-D drawing in this scenario?

The challenge, knowing what the receiving organization requires

From a sender perspective, translations can be run either from within NX (internal translators) or from outside of NX in a separate interface (external translators).

Formats:  There are numerous file formats on the market today.

Choices are an array of abbreviations, IGES, CADL, DXF, ASCII, PAR, PRT, SAT, SUP, STL, X_T, MODEL and other file extensions.

But what do they mean, and which apply for my transfer conditions?

There are 2 types of file translations

Neutral:  Converts a proprietary CAD or CAM into an industry standard format

Direct:  Data is exchanged directly in the receiving systems format.

Often referred to as a native CAD format

In either case, the purpose is to have a translated model that is identical in geometry, 3D annotations, volume and surface area.

What translation type should I use?

Step 1: What is the intent of the data transfer?

Are you trying to get a part produced, quoted, modified or 3D printed?

Step 2:  What format(s) will the receiving system accept?

The “quick” answers….see below for more details

For best results and data quality

  • Use a Native CAD format
    • If your vendor has the same, or compatible CAD software
    • Examples: Parasolid (.x_t), Part (.prt)……

Best neutral CAD format option

  • STEP format is the most popular neutral CAD format
  • If your file contains texture or material, however, a STEP translation is not the best option.

3D printed parts/rapid prototypes

  • STL format is best choice

Native CAD formats

Native file formats are based on the CAD software your organization uses. Native format provides access to the most information possible about your CAD file

Neutral CAD formats

Neutral file formats were developed to make it easier to exchange files with someone that is using different CAD software.

A neutral file format is always an approximation of the original, and may exhibit data quality degradation on transfer

Would you like to learn more?

Post by Craig Robillard

Hello, I'm Craig! With beginnings starting as an engineer/draftsman back in 1983, I was the first user of McAuto Unigraphics II Version 1.0. At that time, Teamcenter was not invented, however the need for file management was soon recognized. I am now an Application Engineer at Swoosh Technologies that specializes in Teamcenter, and has a background in new product development, working on a wide range of products such as the following: Copiers, Ink Jet Printers, Scanners, Satellites like Google Earth, Fusion Energy Research, and Industrial Compressor Design (HVAC).

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