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Distributing CAD Drawings with SwiftView
Novatec needed a new way to manage the distribution of their CAD drawings. The plastics production machinery manufacturer found that keeping track of vital technical drawings was virtually impossible. "We used to plot out drawings," says Rian Sparks, Novatec CAD Administrator. "We’d release a project, put the original drawings in a drawer, and they’d disappear. It was very difficult to manage."

Baltimore-based Novatec, Inc., designs and manufactures custom and turnkey drying, blending, and pneumatic conveying systems for the plastics industry worldwide. Each system or configuration is unique, requiring complete sets of new drawings for each customer order. To get the job done, Novatec relies on two ethernet LANs, a design network for an ten-person CAD department and a second LAN for the remaining 100-plus connected business users in the company.

"Manufacturing requires a hard copy to build the product," Sparks says. Even so, blanketing all departments with drawings on paper was not an option.

The mandate for Sparks was simple and direct: replace paper as the primary method of distributing drawings. Finding a workable method for the electronic distribution of CAD drawings to desktops throughout the company could be a daunting task. The matter was complicated by the CAD department's use of two different engineering software packages, Pro/ENGINEER and MEDUSA.  What's more, each package used its own proprietary file format, severely limiting their flexibility in heterogeneous computing environments.

The ideal solution would be viewing software that could display --and print as needed-- drawings from either CAD system, on any other desktop anywhere in the company. Not only would that viewer have to be affordable to own and easy to use, it would have render complex drawings accurately on all user systems. And it would have to do so using a common-denominator file format.

After investigating available options and products, SwiftView proved to be the obvious choice.   Because it displays HPGL, the print stream data used by plotting devices, any CAD system could produce a viewable, transportable, printable file at no additional cost to the user.

The Pro/Model.View companion to Pro/E proved not only to be expensive to implement, but limited.   It displayed 3D model information from native Pro/E files only; Novatec needed a viewer that would show actual diagrams with dimensional data.  Another third-party viewer, Myriad, from Informative Graphics Corp., was overly complex and costly.

"Everything else was cost-prohibitive," Sparks says. "All the other vendors' software was sold on a per-seat basis, not enterprise-wide.  When I found SwiftView, I thought, that’s really the tool for us."

A Novatec designer wrote shell script programs that automate the file translation and distribution for both the Pro/E and Medusa CAD systems. The distribution program automatically identifies the sent drawing's type and deposits it in the appropriate directory. As Sparks puts it, "We push a button and it’s done."

"Before we got SwiftView," Sparks noted, "I used to be inundated with print requests.  That's been eliminated.  It's saved a lot of time for both the CAD department and the end users."

"Now, we have one common depository and control [of all drawing distribution]. With printers in every department," says Sparks, "they have control over their hard copy output." All Novatec departments use SwiftView, including field sales representatives.

Sparks sums it up succinctly: "It’s really changed our company and the way we do things.   It's enabled us to become more productive."

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