Alfresco and AutoCAD integration
In the recent weeks, we have received a few queries about the possibility of integrating CAD (Computer Aided Design) software with Alfresco. So we thought it is probably a good time to share our experience on an Alfresco and AutoCAD integration solution provided by Formtek.
AutoCAD has been at the forefront of the engineering drawing world for decades now. AutoCAD content is widely available everywhere and whenever there is engineering drawings involved, it is likely the company is using AutoCAD to produce their drawings. Therefore, it is important that any ECM solution you consider can support AutoCAD drawings.
Formtek, an organisation specialised in providing content management solutions to mainly engineering, aerospace and manufacturing industry, created an Alfresco-AutoCAD integration solution called Engineering Data Management (EDM).
This solution allows drawing authors such as engineers to use important document management services, such as applying drawing metadata, versioning and security while maintaining links between files that make up a drawing on checkout/checkin. These features can be used from Alfresco Share or from an AutoCAD Plugin that connects to Alfresco. Once drawings have been uploaded to Alfresco a preview rendition is created. This is very beneficial for organisations with many consumers of the end drawings as they can view the drawings without need for an AutoCAD installation.
Another function that we feel is valuable is the ability to download a downloadable PDF rendition of the drawing. This allows the drawing to be shared within the organisation or third parties in a format that is easily accessible.
Engineering Data Management (EDM)
The Formtek Engineering Data Management (EDM) Solution for Alfresco consists mainly of the following 2 separate Formtek products:
• Formtek EDM Module
• Formtek EDM Connector for AutoCAD
Formtek EDM Module
The Formtek EDM Module is an extension to the Alfresco data repository and Alfresco Share application. The EDM Module defines the ‘edm:engineeringdatamanagement’custom content model for Engineering Drawing and Engineering Document content types. This model also defines metadata fields that can be used to associate data with engineering documents and drawings stored within the Alfresco repository. The Formtek EDM Module provides the following functionality;
• Upload a document as either an Engineering Drawing or Engineering Document.
• View or Edit forms from within Alfresco Share so as to enable engineering metadata to be displayed and edited.
• Use Advanced Search forms from within Alfresco Share to efficiently search engineering documents and drawings.
• Create PDF rendition of drawing or document.
Formtek EDM Connector for AutoCAD
The Formtek EDM Connector for AutoCAD works in conjunction with the Formtek EDM Module for Alfresco to allow a synchronized interaction between the AutoCAD software and the Alfresco content repository.
The EDM Connector adds the following functionality to AutoCAD;
• Upload a new engineering drawing or another version to the repository and store the AutoCAD drawing properties as repository metadata.
• Browse the repository to download an engineering drawing from the repository to your local machine and open it in AutoCAD.
• View or edit the repository metadata for a drawin.
• Lock/unlock a drawing and View the revision history for a drawing.
• Synchronize your local copy of a drawing by checking the repository for a newer version and downloading it if one exists.
• Automatically maintain the integrity of a drawing’s externally referenced files, which can include DWG drawing file (XREF), DWF file, DGN file, PDF file and Image file.
Formtek Optional Extension
Formtek EDM Data Extractor product is an Alfresco extension designed to extract AutoCAD drawing properties and block attributes and store them as EDM properties in the Alfresco content repository. The EDM Data Extractor is preconfigured to work with the Formtek EDM Module product and supports extraction from both DWG™ and DXF™ file formats
The Formtek EDM solution provides an elegant way for engineering organisations to securely manage engineering documents, drawings and AutoCAD files within Alfresco. Although it is not as feature rich as Autodesk Vault, Alfresco and Formtek provide a solution that allows drawings to be managed effectively by engineers whilst providing a low cost option for organisations that have many consumers of drawings. Furthermore the visionary approach of Alfresco will mean that your organisation can effectively manage all of their content and take advantage of standard Alfresco features such as Mobile access, workflows, cloud synch etc. For a further understanding of how others are using Alfresco to manage their drawings go to the use cases on the following link.