Working in a multi CAD supply chain

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3 mins

In today’s engineering and manufacturing environment, products, especially large complex ones such as planes or cars, are not made by one manufacturer. Companies have to collaborate and very often that means that your CAD and PLM data has to be shared. Nearly all products involve complex and multi-continent supply chains, which often use different CAD and PLM tools for design and manufacturing.

Different CAD systems may be used by different companies which can cause incompatibility issues when it comes to sharing data from one system to another. But those who manufacture many different parts for many different products can’t be expected to have the same CAD system that everybody else in each of their supply chains have.

To overcome the problem of sharing incompatible data, some companies will buy a specific seat of a different CAD system, just so they can access the data being sent; but this can be expensive, and require a member of the team to be specially trained. So it’s not always the best option, especially for smaller companies.  And even if you’ve spent the time and money on doing this, the data still might need to be accessed in another different CAD system further down the supply chain.

Data Exchange

CAD/PLM data exchange is the process which supports the movement of 3D design data, metadata and supporting documents between collaborating design, engineering, and manufacturing companies. It is often a bi-directional process, where data iterates between collaborating partners, but in some cases may just involve the creation of data for the manufacture or analysis of parts.


The obvious option is to be able to simply translate your 3D CAD data from one system to the other. Data translators are available that enable data exchange and sharing of incompatible data formats. They are a high quality, cost-effective method of exchanging data between CAD or visualization systems and remove the need to buy additional CAD seats, as they can be used interactively from within your vendor specific application.

If using a translator, especially a bi-directional one, there are a few points to think about in relation to the sending and receiving of data to make sure the translation is as seamless as possible.

When sending data

  • Send only high quality data
  • Know what your data will be used for and only send lightweight data if possible
  • Send only the data that the recipient needs
  • Think about whether features and history are definitely required.

When receiving data

  • Know what you expect to receive and check it when you get it
  • Understand what you have received
  • Treat incoming data with care
  • Only translate what you need


The ideal solution would be the removal of the process altogether to remove the need for data translation. However, just as it is unrealistic to expect the whole world to speak the same language, for all CAD data to held in the same format is very unlikely to happen.

There is no one size fits all solution for Data Exchange, so thought needs to be given to the type of data and its content, whether it’s for manufacturing, viewing only, or if it needs simplifying to protect intellectual property and to what data exchange solution would fit that purpose.

Theorem’s Translate products offer a range of data exchange solutions:

CADverter- traditional uni and bi directional translation between CAD systems

Lightweight 3D- translation between CAD and Visualization formats (such as JT and Creo View)

Multi-CAD- Enables CATIA V5 and CATIA 3DEXPERIENCE users to work interactively with Creo, NX and JT data inside of a design session without the need for external translation.

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