If you work with CAD software, you would most likely be familiar with the French CAD development company, Dassault Systèmes. They’re responsible for big names in the CAD and computer modeling industries such as Solidworks and, the subject of this article, CATIA. A common yet nonetheless troublesome requirement for CATIA and any other 3D modeling software is the conversion of raster source materials into workable, editable 3D models. In this post, we’ll discuss some of the most efficient ways to do so.
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What types of images can you convert for use on CATIA?
An important distinction to get out of the way before delving into more specific topics is the difference between raster images and vector images. Any bitmap-based image that’s made of pixels and gets more “blurry” the lower the resolution or the more far in the zoom is a raster image. These include any JPG, BMP, PNG, GIF, and TIFF images. Vector images, on the other hand, are images made of editable “vector” lines, instead of being made from pixels, and are made of specific mathematical instructions and data.
As a rule of thumb, vector files are easier to convert into usable files for any CAD software because more often than not, CAD files are vector files in and of themselves – this includes any files handled by CATIA. The processes to convert raster images into usable vector files for CATIA are slightly more complex to handle and will be the main points of discussion in this post.
What are your options when inserting and converting an image for CATIA?
Option 1: Using either a built-in conversion tool or a third-party app
– Efficient and time-saving
– Accurate with quality images
– Can handle larger volumes of conversions
– Can output several vector types and can open different input file formats
– Output will only be as good as the quality of the input
– Paid (for quality software)
Some software have built-in raster conversion tools that will automatically trace over any imported raster images with their vector tools. Unfortunately, CATIA is not one of those programs that have a built-in conversion tool. On the bright side, there are amazing third-party apps that can handle that conversion and output vector files that can be easily opened on CATIA.
One such program is our very own Scan2CAD. Scan2CAD can handle both raster and vector source files and is specifically designed to output the best quality vector files that can be used in all standard CAD and modeling programs. That includes CATIA. Here are the steps to convert an image into a DWG or DXF file using Scan2CAD for easy manipulation on CATIA:
- Open up the raster image you want to work with on Scan2CAD. The software can handle most standard raster and vector formats.
- Clean up the raster image to make it suitable for conversion. You can go ahead and use the Clean Image button at the top left. You’ll want to use Threshold to turn it black and white, and depending on the image, you can play around with the different tools under the Clean Image menu.
- Scan2CAD also has some nifty editing tools on the left side of the interface. For editing, the erase tool will be your best friend.
- You can go ahead and click the Convert Raster Image button next to the Clean Image tool. Different types of drawings will work better with their own conversion settings, but the default settings are usually good for your typical technical drawings. You can cycle through the Vectorization presets to find the setting most suitable for your drawing.
- You can also opt to use Vectorize and OCR to use the OCR function of Scan2CAD that aims to convert any raster text into TrueType text – text objects that are editable.
- Click on Run to generate a preview and OK to finalize the conversion.
- You can once again use the tools on the left to do some final edits on your converted vector file.
- Click on File > Save As > Vector. Locate the location you want to save your new file in and pick the vector format you prefer (DWG and DXF work best for CATIA).
Option 2: Manually tracing over the image
– Highly accurate (depending on the individual drafter’s ability)
– Tried and tested method
– Prone to human error
Before the advent of CAD, the main way to reproduce and edit any existing technical drawings was tracing over them with tracing paper. In the digital age, CAD users emulate that by overlaying vector lines over any source raster image they choose to use. As it was was before, the process can be painstaking and tedious but some users prefer using this tried and tested manual method over automatic conversion processes.
The main reason these users opt for manually tracing is the belief that a high degree of accuracy is not possible with conversion software. This stigma against automatic conversion is probably exacerbated by the results you can get from free automatic conversion software available online. However, dedicated apps used for conversion have the advantage of continually developing technologies used for CAD and can compete with almost any manual tracing when it comes to accuracy at a fraction of the time. This makes it a better option in the majority of cases.
However, they do have limitations when it comes to source images with low quality. Either the scan wasn’t done properly or the resolution is simply too low. In these cases, manually tracing will have to suffice when it comes to recreating these low-quality images.
In this case, if you’re dealing with a 3D object you need to model on CATIA the steps would be the following:
- You’ll need to procure suitable images for tracing. If it’s a 3D model, try to get technical drawings of the top, front, and side views of the model. These will make tracing and modeling much easier in the long run.
- Click on Start > Shape > Sketch Tracer. In the new window that opens up, choose the first view which you want to import a drawing in. For example, if you want to insert your front view image first, open up the Front View plane. You can access this by clicking on the View pop-up menu typically at the bottom of the screen that has a blue cube icon.
- While on the plane you want to work on, click on Create an Immersive Sketch to the left of the viewing port. Locate and open the image you want to import.
- Move and edit the green Model Axis tool that pops up over the inverted image. Use this to scale and size the imported image just right.
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 with all the views you have image references of.
- At any point, you can open up the properties of these imported images to edit their Transparency or lack thereof to make things easier when you start tracing the images.
- Once you have all your images all scaled and lined up with a transparency level you’re comfortable with, all that’s left is to use CATIA’s drafting and modeling tools to create your model.
CATIA is a wonderful piece of software that can be more easily used when using software such as Scan2CAD to streamline the process of conversion. Not only do the two programs work well individually, but they also work amazingly well when used in tandem.
Save time and effort by opting to use software specifically designed for CAD file conversions.