Which CAD Conversion Method Is Right For Your Needs?

Learn how to choose the right CAD Conversion method and avoid common mistakes. Understanding the different techniques will save you both time and money.

There are only 2 options to consider when converting legacy 2D drawings.

  1. Manual 2D CAD-conversion
  2. CAD raster to vector conversion

Translating your 2D CAD drawings to 3D is a different subject matter all together.

Choosing the right CAD-conversion method is simple so long as you understand why you would choose one method over the other.

A manual 2D CAD conversion is the process of re-drawing the information found on a paper drawing or blueprint and translating it into a 2D CAD platform in a native digital format.

A Raster to Vector CAD conversion is the process of creating a digital copy or scan of the paper drawing (Raster Image) and translating the imagery into a 2D CAD platform.

This process of translating paper drawing to digital (Raster to Vector) format has many names.

Some of the common terms used to describe the process are known as:

  • Raster to vector conversion
  • Digitizing
  • CAD raster to vector
  • Paper to CAD
  • Blueprint conversion
  • R2V conversion

Regardless of what they are being called, the meaning is the same.

Go here to save hundreds and thousands of dollars NOW!

However, the end results or output can vary greatly depending on the service provider you are dealing with…buyer beware!

Learn how and why you should transfer your old paper drawings to 2D CAD... before your assets turn to dust!

Around the world there are an astounding number of hand drawn legacy paper drawings and blueprints that are regretfully in decay.

In time this high value information will degrade beyond recognition if it hasn't already.

These aging blueprints along with hand drawn sketches can be referred to as raster images. Most likely they were created on a drafting board with good old-fashioned manual drafting tools.

Regardless of how they were created, they are deteriorating and even the best methods of preserving them are now failing.

Organizations may have an archive of legacy drawings in safe storage, but over time the quality of the blueprint will degrade to a point that photocopying and scanning is no longer useful.

Before this high-value technical documentation fades away it must be upgraded into a digital format that not only allows the information to be shared and properly distributed, but preserved and backed-up before it is lost forever.

The least expensive way to accomplish this is to scan or photocopy the drawings and save in a PDF format.

For the vast majority of legacy technical documentation this is a perfect solution when there is no need to reference the information for any downstream processes.

For example: If the drawing defines a product or process that is unchanged of the lifecycle and uses conventional (non technical or manual manufacturing process) there is no need to convert the information into a 2D digital CAD format.

On the other hand, if the product or process is being updated or modified for any reason you should give serious consideration to using one of the CAD Conversion methods described in this article.

Each method of translation has advantages and disadvantages.

Understanding the fundamental difference between the two will save you a fortune!

Manual CAD conversions are just what the word implies.

The paper drawing is manually re-drawn in a digital 2D CAD format line by line, feature by feature.

Raster to vector conversions are created by scanning the original paper drawing or blueprint (raster image) and processing the scanned image through a cad converter software platform that can be read by a CAD platform.

The results are radically dissimilar.

While raster to vector CAD (R2V) conversions can sometimes appear to be less expensive up front, they often contain imperfect data that cannot be manipulated. Secondly, the results are not a true CAD translation.

In other words, the entities (lines and circles for example) are simply "dumb geometry" and non-associated.

This information has no downstream application and is therefore considered low value.

For example: In order to use the information for a CNC operation additional time and expense is required to repair, restore or re-draw the required entities before they can be used in other applications.

If you only want to digitally copy and store your aging drawings then a CAD raster to vector may be a suitable solution.

If you intend to use the new digital CAD file to make changes to an existing drawing or product, or if you intend to use the data for automated downstream applications then a raster to vector conversion is not your best choice.

When you need the precision and accuracy of a fully functional 2D CAD drawing than a manual Auto CAD conversion is your best and only choice.

Let's break this down a little further shall we?

Manual CAD conversion:

Beyond the need to simply preserve your legacy paper drawings and blueprints, some of the basic benefits of manual 2D CAD conversions include the ability to assign and control multiple layering information and create editable text for engineering change orders (ECO) or creating and documenting a traceable revision history.

The higher value reasons to convert paper drawings to 2D CAD are accurate line types with precise entry which enable true associative parametric dimensioning, hatch pattern functionality, use of standards such as symbols and blocks, and paper space title blocks with precisely scaled views.

More important is the added ability to migrate accurate 2D CAD data to downstream automated processes such as programming a part for CNC manufacturing.

Instantly you realize the real value of a manual CAD conversion.

When dealing with a CAD conversion service you should always demand that the 2D CAD file is delivered in a native digital CAD format that matches your in-house capabilities or those of your manufacturing service provider.

Ask your CAD service provider what platform they will develop the new CAD drawing in and DO NOT accept a translated file from one platform to your desired platform.

One more reason to use a manual CAD conversion...

Machine design and engineering documentation typically require industry standardization that includes GD&T (Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerance) and the application of ANSI or drafting standards.

For these reasons alone, a raster to vector CAD conversion is not suitable.

Get your quote here for manual CAD conversions by ICT

Raster to vector conversion:

Raster to vector CAD conversions are used to enhance the scanned image of the original blueprint or drawing.

This process is useful for old paper drawings or blueprints which have degraded over time from age, water damage or dirt and oil for example.

With a raster to vector scan you will have a new digital master of the drawing which can be archived and maintained without further loss of integrity.

Raster to vector conversions also allows a drawing to be cleaned up to some degree.

A scanned image of an old blueprint or sketch does not always result in a high quality copy suitable for printing.

Special software for automated raster to vector conversions is used to improve the visibility of the drawing and convert the file in digital format.

Automated raster to vector conversions sometimes appear to be less expensive than a manual CAD-conversion but buyer beware...

There are many factors to weigh out before deciding to use raster to vector conversion for CAD.

While the results are never perfect, the benefit of raster to vector conversions is in cost savings.

Think of a R2V CAD conversion as a highbred photocopy.

Great effort has been made to develop software to make the conversions easier; but your drawing will never be fully integrated into a functional CAD format.

The raster to vector CAD converter platforms are useful when you do not have a need to make changes or modifications to the original drawing.

Beware the pitfalls of raster to vector!

The software used for vector conversions will not recognize line intersections, circles, arcs or text entities for what they really are and the data cannot be manipulated.

In other words, it all becomes "dumb geometry" and only as useful as the original paper drawing.

Some other problems associated with raster to vector conversions will become obvious when you want to do anything with the drawing other than print a new hard copy.

  • The digital conversion will typically result in a single layer output making the assignment of line types, line weights and layering very labor intensive and difficult if not impossible.
  • Lines that are not continuous will be converted to segmented or dashed lines that are unrelated entities.
  • If the original drawing has faded areas, the lines will be treated as broken segments as opposed to continuous lines and arcs.
  • Arcs and circles may be converted to short segmented lines with no association to existing entities.
  • Text recognition continues to improve but very dependent on the R2V platform being used. Inferior R2V platforms will convert text to segmented and non-associative lines.
  • Regretfully dimensions are handled in the same manner preventing attributes from being assigned and dimensions are un-associated.
  • Defects such as paper folds on the original drawing will be migrated into the R2V document as well and manual clean-up will result in higher costs.

Software developers are making headway in improving the cleanup of raster to vector conversion drawings but time is still spent manually cleaning up speckles, folds in paper and coffee stains from the digital scan.

How do you decide which methods is best?

When all you need is a visually enhanced digital copy of a blueprint or drawing for archiving and printing than a Raster to vector CAD conversions is sometimes the better value.

If you require accuracy and a fully functional 2D CAD file then a manual CAD-conversion is the obvious choice

Again, the only way to get a true 2D CAD file from paper drawings or blueprints is to manually re-draft them.

A high quality CAD file is very useful, particularly when used in creating multiple iterations of a product or when it is necessary to make adjustments for OEM equipment for example.

Contact ICT for information on state of the art CAD-conversions

How to save hundreds and thousands of dollars NOW on CAD conversions!

Old blueprints, manual drawings and new product concept sketches are all included in paper to 2D CAD conversions.

Save yourself the headaches and big money at the same time by making sure all details are included before requesting a quote.

Here are some tips to make CAD conversions easy!

Include any notes or change orders in your RFQ (Request for Quote)...

  • Specify what your expectations are for information missing from the original drawing.
  • Other things that will drive up the cost of the cad conversion is the re-creation of boarders and title blocks, bill of material and revision histories and of course, the complexity of the original drawing.
  • Be certain to discuss these topics with your cad conversion service provider in advance and provide a digital copy of title blocks and company boarders if you can.
  • Adding changes or new specifications to the project after the initial quote will result in an adjusted invoice.
  • When the draftsman is finished you should have the opportunity to check the drawing and note any errors which should be corrected before a final document is published. This is sometimes referred to as a "Mark-up" or "Red-Line" drawing.
  • Your service provider should be ready to make Mark-Up corrections at no extra charge.
  • Your CAD conversion service provider should also provide a method for reviewing the drawings.
Whether you need CAD conversions, manufacturing drawings or complete product documentation it is important to work with someone you can trust.

Contact Industry Centric Technologies now for further assistance

Home CAD Drafting Services CAD Conversion

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 Why People Use ICT

When it comes to complex mechanical systems, custom machinery, hardware or tooling, ICT delivers high-quality, high-value solutions. My first collaborative effort with Will Zeober was completed in 2008. I look forward to an ongoing professional relationship for years to come. If you're seeking a design and engineering expert who is committed to the objective - Will Zeober and ICT will deliver on-time, on-budget and on task.

Mike Page
Manufacturing Engineer
Goodrich Aerospace

When a project solution cannot be purchased off-the-shelf it becomes necessary to work with a creative expert who can quickly make the connection between an existing challenge and an executable solution. If a project carries a high risk for failure I can count on Will Zeober and ICT to develop a complete product design solution from inception through delivery. ICT has the expertise to successfully mitigate problems then execute and manage the project as a seamless extension of my organization that allows me to remain focused on my own clients needs. For customized integrated solutions, ICT delivers results.

Brian Cromer
Project Management Specialist

I am the Chairman and founder of GDK Technologies, Inc., a product design company. For the past three years I have had the pleasure of collaborating with Will Zeober on very complex analysis and design projects. Mr. Zeober is an industry expert who strives toward the final deliverable that is always accurate, complete, and right on target. He is an innovative visionary with in-depth knowledge of industrial/product design. His insightful expertise in manufacturing makes Mr. Zeober an exceptional high value asset to our design team. In short, Mr. Zeober is a creative problem solver who has made significant contributions toward the success of our company.

Gordon van Ekstrom
GDK Technologies, Inc.

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