Addressing Data Migration Challenges when Changing CAD Tools

One of the biggest concerns among companies changing 3D CAD tools is what to do with their mountain of legacy design data created using their previous CAD tool. After all, years of effort and lots of money were spent creating all of those legacy files so having some way to re-use these files and drawings is often of paramount importance.

In the Tech-Clarity white paper, “Are You Changing CAD Tools; What you Should Know” author Michelle Boucher explains how the 192 companies surveyed approached this challenge when transitioning to a new 3D CAD system.


When starting the transition, it is essential to set expectations for the change among those in your organization, both at the management or executive level as well as the designers and engineers whose daily productivity will be impacted in the short term. Catch up on this topic by reading “What to Expect When Changing CAD Tools.”

According to the white paper, learning curve was the number-one concern cited by over half (52 percent) of survey respondents when changing CAD tools. Closely following the required employee education was concern regarding companies’ ability to reuse and or access legacy data with 46 percent of respondents.

How and What to Convert

So let’s explore this a bit further. As with all business decisions, it is important to first consider the return on investment (ROI) potential of your existing legacy data. CAD data conversion often requires that you estimate its potential future returns. In either case, it’s important to try to establish the value of the data that you are considering converting and the scope of that effort.

Once you have determined what data you would like to convert, the next decision is how to much accomplish this. Despite the advancements to support multi-CAD data, by far, the most common approach to legacy data is recreating it. Over half of respondents (53 percent) recreate their design data in the new CAD tool.


Converting to a neutral format, such as IGES or STEP, comes next with 32 percent of respondents indicating this this is the method used to deal with legacy data. Nearly a third, (28 percent) of respondents use multi-CAD tools inside of the new CAD tool, while nearly the same number (27 percent) utilize third-party translation tools to convert the legacy data.

Though the lion’s share of respondents say they re-create their legacy design data in the new CAD tool, only a little over half of that data is actually converted. Factors that determine whether legacy data is converted are typically based on its complexity. According to the white paper, 64 percent of the complex legacy data is converted, while only 35 percent of the simply legacy data is converted.


The rationale behind this is simple: very complex models take a long time to recreate so it is worth the effort to convert them. On the other hand, very simple models can be easily recreated, making it harder to justify investing time for conversion.

As a mechanical engineering manager at a communications company commented, “The odds are you do not need to move all your legacy data into the new CAD tool. Keep one seat of the old CAD tool and move legacy data as needed. Odds are that most of the legacy data will not be needed in the future.”

In our final post on the how to transition to a new CAD tool, we’ll cover the benefits that await those who commit to making the change. Click on the banner below to download and read the Tech-Clarity white paper “Are You Changing CAD Tools; What to Expect” in its entirety.


Barb Schmitz

Barb Schmitz

Senior Marketing Communications Manager at SolidWorks
Barb Schmitz is a Senior Manager in Marketing Communications with BA in Journalism and over 30 years of experience in the CAD software industry. She started her career as a journalist covering technology and served as an editor for several leading industry publications for over 20 years. Besides being a sleuth of tech, she is a loyal dog owner, travel bum, mom, lover of hoppy IPAs, red wine, and alternative music lover living in the great city of Chicago.