Can’t open your 3D file?

10-20 years ago CAD design software was a relatively new technology but today there are so many different 3D CAD software packages out there it’s sometimes difficult to go from one to the other hence the need for file conversion. There are literally 100’s of different file extensions. Some of the basic file types that can be opened in virtually any 3D CAD package are STEP, STP, STL & IGES files. These can include a range of design types from basic 3 d renderings to patent drawings. The unfortunate thing is that these files have no intelligence and cannot be manipulated in the software it is opened in. With these types of files it is necessary to re-draw them in the native software or convert them to another software file extension.

Why is File Conversion of CAD Files Important?

A STEP, STP, STL or IGES file is no different than a word document being saved as a PDF. The PDF cannot be changed and has no intelligence in it. It is a READ-ONLY file and if you want to manipulate it, it must be converted back to a word document. The same thing applies to a STEP, STP, STL & IGES file. A CAD designer must convert the file back to a 3D software file. Only then can the part be changed and re-designed.

When you’re dealing with file types in the design/creative/inventor career you’re bound to share it with several colleagues who may not share the same programs as you.

So, for the sake of being able to share the files effortlessly, and with as few downloaded programs as possible, people use a converting system to make it possible.

For example, converting DWG to DXF and vice versa.

The DXF format is commonly used for sharing your drawing data between several CAD programs.

Usually, a DXF file will load with no problems in any CAD program. Unless the program doesn’t support a DWG, then you’ll need to convert it before you can view or use it.


File Types We Can Convert

  • Paper drawing to CAD
  • Convert 2D to 3D CAD Files
  • Convert PDF to DWG
  • Convert a JPEG image file to 3D CAD file
  • Convert OBJ files to STL for 3D Printing
  • Other standard 3D CAD file types we can convert are STP, STEP & IGES files

Software We Can Convert To/From

  • SolidWorks
  • Catia
  • Inventor
  • Unigraphics NX
  • Pro-E Wildfire
  • AutoCAD
  • Solid Edge
  • MicroStation
  • And more!

Why Using Free Online Converters Is a No-Go

The appeal of free online services has always been tempting, but is it really safe? For instance, when using a free online file converter software. Should you do it?

Well, ultimately you’ll decide for yourself, but before you do, here are some potential dangers ahead of you.

Safety issues

When using a free file converter you are asked to upload your desired file, wait for however long, then download the converted file. But, are you aware that you’ve already exposed yourself to several potential viruses and trojans?
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And, if you’ve given your email to the site you are at risk for spam emails and emails with potential viruses and trojans, as well. Plus, whatever financial info i.e. credit cards, taxes, Social Security card number, and possible family information. So please, please think before you use a free software!

Privacy issues

Once you’ve given your file to whichever site you choose it’s out there! You will never know whether that file may go elsewhere after that. It could be reproduced, or even submitted to other sites without your knowledge.

This can be especially dangerous if you work with sensitive or secret files that you don’t want others to see just yet. So, think about this as your making the decision to use a free site.

Large files, beware!

Free sites have a size limit for your files. It is usually around 50-100MB, and if you’re dealing with a larger file then you’re out of luck. But, that isn’t the only restriction you may face. Since free sites are in fact free they have certain regulations. Such as a daily file limit, certain file type restrictions, and service-level agreements. This is no good for anyone who may have several files a day to convert, as well as possible file types. No good!

Quality… yikes!

When you’re creating something you think of three things:

  • Time
  • Money spent
  • Quality

Well, with a free file converter you are unfortunately gambling your quality. The expression “you get what you paid for” applies here. Typically free converters encode the image in a simpler, lesser quality way.

Free sites don’t use raster-to-vector conversions, usually. Which means that they don’t have the added benefits that a raster-to-vector program has. Such as the ability to tell when it’s better to use arcs over bezier curves, how to optimize grab point numbers, etc.

Added features

While you may not be able to afford a ‘fancy converter software’ right away, it is definitely worth prioritizing. With a premium software you get the added benefits, or features, that they may offer such as:

  • Batch conversions
  • Optical character recognition
  • Cleaning and editing tools
  • Support resources

And with these added features you add the benefit of peace of mind knowing that your files are safe, of good quality, and unrestricted.

So, when you are shopping for a file converter and cringing at the price, remember that you’re not only paying for the program itself but the benefits that come with it.

Commonly Converted File Types from 3D Rendering Programs

CAD files are converted from one to another daily. There are several programs out there to achieve this, such as SolidWorks, SketchUp, and various others.

It is of course not recommended that you use a “free online converter” as they are often not very great. Not to mention the dangers lurking around the corner.

Below you will find a list of common file types with a small description.
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  • STEP – Widely known, and recommended. Most softwares support its import/export. ISO 10303-21 Standard.
  • IGES – Short for Initial Graphics Exchange Specification. An older standard, used to exchange product data models by way of circuit diagrams, wireframe, etc. Not recommended due to missing features.
  • PARASOLID – Geometric modeling kernel developed by ShapeData, currently owned by siemens PLM Software. Can be licensed by other companies for 3D computer graphics software. Not all software supports it.
  • STL – Or Stereolithography (Standard Triangle Language, Standard Tessellation Language). Universal format for pure 3D info created by 3D systems. CON: Only describes the surface geometry of 3D objects. Fine for 3D printing absent slicer manipulation.
  • VRML – Or Virtual Reality Modeling Language. Standard file format that represents 3D interactive vector graphics superseded by X3D.
  • X3D – Royalty-free ISO standard. XML-based file format. Successor to VRML. Features extensions such as CAD, Humanoid animation, NURBS, etc. Giving VRML the ability to encode using an XML syntax and the open inventor-esque syntax VRML97.
  • COLLADA – Or Collaborative Design Activity. Originally created at Sony Computer Entertainment, and adopted by ISO as a publicly available specification. (ISO/PAS 17506) An open standard XML. Supported by popular gaming and 3D modeling software.
  • DXF – Or Drawing Interchange Format (Drawing Exchange Format). Pure 2D format, technically a Native format. It is AutoCAD’s native 2D format.
  • DWG – One of many commonly used design data formats. Used for storing 2D and 3D design data and it’s the default format for several CAD programs such as AutoCAD.

Keep in mind these are just the common file types, there are literally hundreds of file types, both independent and software based. Some may not be available on all programs either, so do your research!

Now that we are a little familiar with some of the common file types, we should move on to the 3D programs commonly used to do such file conversions.

Just like file types, there are several various programs to choose from. You should make sure to do research!

3D Rendering Programs for File Conversion:

  • SketchUp
  • AutoDesk 3DS MAX
  • AutoDesk Revit
  • ArchiCad
  • Bentley
  • SolidWorks
  • Catia
  • Inventor
  • Solid Edge

There are many, many other programs, these are just several of the “most popular”.

There are two common file formats, Native and Neutral/standard. Neutral is the preferred type because it’s more flexible. Native is a more singular type, and therefore cannot be used for everything.

Native: Are proprietary of a specific software/software maker.

Neutral/Standard: Encourages file exchanges between different programs.

Bonus: Proprietary; This will almost always have “funny” aspects that will create errors.
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Examples of file each file type:

  • STL – Neutral
  • OBJ – ASCII variant is neutral, binary variant is proprietary
  • FBX – Proprietary
  • COLLADA – Neutral
  • 3DS – Proprietary
  • IGES – Neutral
  • STEP – Neutral
  • VRMLTX3D – Neutral

3D file conversion is used so that you may view your file as a text document, encoding the file model’s geometry, animations, etc.

3D file type STL will only store the geometry, and will ignore everything else.

3D file type COLLADA will store everything.

If you use AutoCAD to convert you will get a DWG file.

If you use Blender to convert you will get a BLEND file.

These are several of the most commonly converted file types.

  • KML to SHP
  • KML to DXF
  • KML to GeoJSON
  • KMZ to KML
  • KMZ to CSV
  • KMZ to GPX
  • SHP to KML
  • CSV to SHP
  • CSV to KML
  • TAB to KML
  • GeoTIFF to AAIGrid
  • AAIGrid to GeoTIFF
  • HDR to JPG Online
  • ENVI to GeoTIFF
  • GRD to GeoTIFF

There are literally hundreds of file-to-file conversions, especially with programs creating their own specific file types. The most commonly converted CAD file type, however, is DWG.

How to Convert DWG Files to PDF and Vice Versa

Converting DWG to PDF!

If you convert your DWG to PDF you can effortlessly show your work to your colleagues. It may be worth it to look into metadata, a feature that will give you the ability to add a title, keywords, etc. so your PDF file is searchable for anyone you may want to see it.

Converting PDF to DWG

If you are given a PDF file with instructions to edit it, you will need to convert it before you can begin, as PDF files are not edit-friendly.

Does the file contain raster or vector info? This is an important question to ask yourself before converting.

Vector information is easy to extract, whereas raster information is not. When dealing with Raster, the software must convert images to vector.

Not all file conversions can be perfect. Sometimes when you convert a file it can have negative effects such as loss of quality, errors, incompatibilities, loss of work, etc.

For example, when you continuously edit a .jpeg file it will lose its quality due to the lines becoming more pixelated. So, it isn’t advisable to use poor quality jpegs or gif images when you are converting to DWG.

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