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How to Modernize Your Paper Engineering Drawings
A White Paper From the Paper to CAD Experts

Integrating Paper With CAD

The earliest implementation of CAD was conducted in the 1950s to solve one simple problem: Modify existing drawings electronically. A flying spot scanner converted microfilm data into an electronic image. While scanning remained a cost-prohibitive option, interactive computer graphics and CAD evolved into an enormous tool for creating newer designs.With the emergence of standards for storing drawings in raster format, and the emergence of cost-effective scanning hardware and services, the raster environment came of age in the early 1990s. Today, there is a number of available options to obtain paper archives or "BC" (Before CAD) designs into the design and drafting environment of a CAD system.

Manually Redrawing

Manual redraw means exactly that: just place your drawings on the desk by your CAD system and redraw them from scratch. A complete redraw of the original drawing is, and will always be, the most accurate method of conversion. It requires little capital outlay and can be useful to convert small numbers of simple designs. However, it is extremely time-consuming and a poor use of the CAD system as the investment in CAD will be used to create designs which already exist


Digitizer tablets are a common CAD peripheral and involves placing a drawing on the tablet and using the puck to trace over the original design using a CAD system. This method is faster than just redrawing the design, but it is prone to errors and is still labor-intensive and slow.

Using a Service Bureau

Outsourcing to service bureaus is a common method for handling small jobs, pilot projects or quick turnarounds. There is a savings on resources and little to no capital outlay for equipment. Bureaus typically use one or all of the methods listed here. These services, however, may not meet the security or design needs of a company. Be sure to choose a partner based on their experience and knowledge of your design practices and needs. Remember, the cost of conversion is directly related to the quality of the end result.


Scanning paper drawings to work within the proven environment of CAD and the emerging environment of EDM or workflow offers the most control in the transition from paper. The scanning process can be customized to fit the individual drawing or its application. Scanning has been successfully implemented in both large and small companies to solve integration problems between paper and CAD. Once drawings have been scanned, their value increases because of the three principal ways to use the newly scanned design in a CAD system. The following section outlines three revision methods available:

Re-engineering the Paper Trail

Seven to ten percent of companies’ operating expenditures are spent on manual document management processes, re-engineering the flow of information or paper trail. An organization will realize tremendous savings by re-engineering the paper trail. Not only is design production more efficient, but customer support is expanded and rightsizing demands are met through leverage of information assets and reinvestment strategies.

The Archiving Advantage

Through the implementation of a managed engineering archive, searching time as well as re-engineering time becomes past history. This translates into real dollar savings. Substantial savings can also be realized in a managed revision process. The reliance on manual drafting and control of drawing revisions on older documentation can be put to rest.

The CAD Advantage

CAD has already proven itself as a tool to design and maintain product and service documentation. Applying this tool to archived resources allows the CAD advantage to be applied completely. These electronic drawings can then be quickly revised, modified, plotted or copied in a fraction of the time it takes to modify paper designs. The design process can become highly streamlined, providing substantial cost savings, improved product quality and faster time to market.

The Document Management Advantage

Once files are in electronic format, document management can be used to further increase and enhance productivity. Options range from a simple file storage system with limited revision tracking to a system that securely controls viewing, editing and distribution of all engineering-related information. Many organizations are required to comply with standards and regulations that virtually necessitate electronic document management. According to the British Standards Institute, 47 percent of ISO certification failure is due to poor documentation control. Cost and time justification can be realized by improving the ECN/ECO process and achieving ISO 9000 certification. In addition, AEC firms are feeling regulatory pressures for process safety management, and OSHA 1910 regulations are demanding improved management of document control processes.

The Workflow Advantage

Workflow tools provide even greater value in meeting OSHA and ISO demands. Cost benefits of workflow products are far greater than those provided by document management tools alone. Workflow is the final enhancement to a paperless environment, enabling company-wide document management from scanning the document, to viewing, redlining, tracking and archiving.

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