Leveraging 2D in a 3D World

In the 80s, I amassed a large collection of cassette tapes, stoked by the ability to record whatever songs I wanted in whatever order. We’ve all done it, created those infamous mixed tapes! Then along came CDs, which provided a much more efficient way to play and record music. Today, music has gone completely digital, making it even easier to purchase, store and share your favorite tunes with playlists. While each jump in technology provided additional benefits, what about all those boxes of treasured cassette tapes I’d hoarded over the years?

Some of you are clearly now wondering where I’m going with all this. Well, I think my music media conundrum is a good analogy for advances in CAD technology. At one point 2D drawing and drafting software was considered revolutionary. Then along came 3D CAD systems, which were better in terms of improving the overall efficiencies of product development, but what about all those drawings?


Merging the past with the present

Most leading companies have realized the business benefits of transitioning to a 3D design environment. With benefits including shortened time to market, faster design changes, less errors, better communication, and higher-quality, optimized products, it’s hard not to see the advantages of transitioning from 2D to 3D CAD tools. Despite this, there’s still a tremendous amount of 2D legacy drawings and data that resides within all companies today.

This bounty of 2D legacy data was created through years of hard work and sound engineering practices. This data still has value. And, let’s face it; most products are, in reality, modifications of previous products, so those 2D drawings remain an important asset and one you might want to reference in the future (like that awesome mixtape my girlfriend made for me in high school).

The question then becomes how do you leverage the value of that legacy data once you’ve transitioned to a 3D design environment? How do reuse 2D drawings to create new designs. The answer is that it’s not that hard, and there’s several ways to utilize these 2D drawings to maximize design reuse.

Devising a plan

Once you’ve implemented a 3D CAD system, you need to devise a plan outlining how your 2D data will be used moving forward. There are many compelling reasons to maintain that treasure chest of existing 2D legacy data, though in most circumstances converting every 2D drawing to 3D isn’t necessary or worth the time and expense.

If you want to maintain your 2D drawings and related information but don’t want to continue paying for an expensive license of your 2D software, SOLIDWORKS can provide you with a free product, DraftSight 2D design software, which enables users to maintain and edit existing 2D designs and save them in .DWG format.

There are some cases, however, in which you might want to convert your 2D data to 3D by either importing the 2D drawing to use in your 3D design tool or recreating it in 3D using the 2D information as a guide. SOLIDWORKS allows you to leverage your existing DWG and DXF files to do this. Once opened, SOLIDWORKS provides a simple workflow using a single toolbar, called 2D to 3D that aids you in transitioning the views of your 2D drawings into 3 dimensional geometry. It uses technology where you relate, or fold your views onto a 3D “glass box”, just like everyone learns in their first basic drafting class.  Then, you simply choose the geometry in one view, and the corresponding geometry in the adjacent views; everyone remembers Descriptive Geometry, right? This is all really just an extension of what you’re already doing in 2D.

Other times your existing 2D design will be the basis of a new product you’ll be designing in 3D. You can create 3D models directly from 2D data by importing them in DXF or DWG formats or AutoCAD blocks. Another tool, Design Clipart, allows you to drag and drop drawing views from DWG files into 3D SOLIDWORKS models and use them in any area of your designs.  This means you can copy existing legacy features right from a 2D drawing into a 3D model saving loads of time.

Communicating in 2D

With today’s extended supply chains and distributed design teams, there might be times when you’ll need to send design data in 2D, even if your new designs are being created in 3D. This is easily accomplished with SOLIDWORKS. The software enables you to output drawings and images in a multitude of 2D formats as well as documentation that is compatible with all of the common 2D formats, such as DWG, DXF, PDF and JPEG.

So what’s the bottom line? You don’t have to abandon your legacy 2D drawings in order to fully take advantage of all that 3D CAD has to offer. Companies implementing SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD will have multiple tools that will enable them to maintain, edit and reuse their legacy 2D data. Now if I can just solve my mixtape dilemma…


Image Credit: Wikipedia

Jeremy Regnerus

Jeremy Regnerus

Senior User Advocacy and Community Manager at SOLIDWORKS
CSWE, SOLIDWORKS Geek and connoisseur of all things geeky and nerdy.
Jeremy Regnerus
Jeremy Regnerus
Jeremy Regnerus

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