Being able to access and share 3D CAD data is an integral part of design and manufacturing processes.
When data needs to be shared between engineering and manufacturing departments within the same organisation, or with the supply chain translation between different CAD systems may be required.
However, translating large amounts of engineering data can cause problems as some data can be lost in translation or not replicated properly due to differences in CAD systems. Many who could benefit from interactively viewing and working with product design data do not currently receive it digitally because access can be difficult and expensive.
Another issue with sharing entire CAD models, especially with an external contact, is the vulnerability of Intellectual Property (IP).
The use of lightweight data formats is a way to optimise manufacturing processes in relation to sharing engineering CAD data. The formats were originally created to provide optimum graphics performance and that generally meant a lighter file size than that generated from a CAD system. This made these types of formats better suited for use over the internet- which these days is how the majority of data is shared. Organisations that can make the best use of lightweight data formats are those that need to share data with their extended enterprise which could include large manufacturing firms and their supply chains.
What makes these formats lightweight is that typically the format only includes the design data that is required, with content such as features, history and constraints being removed. This also protects the IP of the original designs. The formats are rich in 3D content, but don’t give any intelligence away and are able to support a rich enough data set so that suppliers have the information they need. These lightweight formats maintain the CAD file as the master version but provides a synchronised representation for users.
There are a number of lightweight data formats available on the market including Siemens’ JT, Dassault’s 3DXML, PTC’s Creo View and 3D PDF.
Using a lightweight data format allows an organisation to easily share their design geometry, both internally and externally, without giving up any of their IP or having to send large CAD files containing unnecessary and irrelevant data.
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