A raster drawing from a scanner can be converted to a vector format for later use, such as finite-element analysis. Raster drawings can be compressed to store in less disk space than the same drawing in vector format. Standard compression techniques can reduce a raster drawing by a factor of 30 or more. Often, the compression method is called CCITT Group 4 and is the same format used by fax machines.
Once the drawing is cleaned and ready for archiving, other software is used to add company-required information such as drawing number and title. Other descriptive information can include data, such as drawing size or revision dates, that can prove valuable in a wildcard search.
A wildcard search, hunting for a drawing with an incomplete description, is a major benefit of drawing management systems. For instance, suppose an engineer needs an older drawing that is remembered as a C-sized print of speed-reducer details. Even without a drawing number, the recollections are often sufficient to pull a dozen drawings that fit that profile from a file of thousands. All in a matter of minutes. In addition to speedy drawing searches, newer forms of electronic storage save a considerable amount of space when compared to that required to file hard copies.
Directing the Drawings
Once the drawings are in an electronic format, other management tasks are more speedily dispatched. Computers transmit and track the images around an engineering organization. Most drawing management systems provide for a company-preferred routing through an engineering department. Engineers can redline the drawing on separate layers, without changing it. The redlining, a function needed by drawing reviewers and managers, refers to placing red circles, clouds, and comments around details to capture the next viewer’s attention.
When engineering is finished with the drawing, it is sent to the project engineer for approval. Recommendations can be reviewed and the part changed as necessary. The advantage is that only an electronic image is moved from office to office. And by limiting station functions on the network, drawings are less likely to be changed by unauthorized users.