The title of today’s post is a not-very-subtle pun on the word quixotic, which WordNet defines as meaning “romantic, wild-eyed…not sensible about practical matters; idealistic and unrealistic”.

Don Quixote’s quest came to mind while I was reading Deelip Menezes’ post entitled “Acrobat 3D and Data Exchange“. As we’ve written here many times, we just don’t think that file translation is anywhere near “data exchange.” Further, the quest for the “perfect” file translator — one that costs less and works perfectly — is a mega-distraction for the CAD and PLM industries, which should instead be focused on delivering real value to all parts of the company.

We think data exchange means what the words say on their face: Somebody, somwhere else in the business gets value from shared data. File translation, OTOH, is the desire to convert from one file format to another without a specific purpose necessarily in mind.

While it’s nice to know you can do that (and there’s no mystery to file translation in the CAD business any more), it’s the ultimate definition of not being sensible about practical matters…it’s the ultimate quixotic quest. It’s one hand clapping.

By contrast, the concept of data exchange is all about delivering usefulness and capability to users. Most users who need 3D design information don’t care about format. They care about content.

It’s almost amusing to see the relish with which the CAD community is, once again, descending into a debate about the importance of Acrobat 3D’s file translation capabilities. With all due respect to Deelip, other than the pricing implications, so what? Will one user be able to make better use of 3D design data because they can have a file format? Obviously not…they need the file and the application. Focusing on file translation does not solve the data exchange needs of manufacturers.

5 comments to CAD-xotic

  • Deelip Menezes  says:

    “File translation, OTOH, is the desire to convert from one file format to another without a specific purpose necessarily in mind.”

    You sure have a funny way of looking at things. Please give me an example of why someone would want to convert a file from one format to another and not have a purpose for doing so. Each and every person who has purchased a file converter or import/export plug-in from me has a very important and urgent need for it. I cannot think of a person who would pay 195 USD for one of my translators without having a purpose in mind.

  • Alex Neihaus  says:

    Hi, Deelip.

    I think the best analogy is the difference between buying a car and buying wheels. The car has a purpose (locomotion); the wheels contribute to that, but don’t necessarily mean the user is going to drive on them.

    You assume that everyone who buys wheels mounts them on the car and drives on them. I don’t. Some may use them for spares…others many use them simply to enhance the appearance of their cars.

    In fact, in the US, many people put larger wheels on their cars than the cars are designed to accommodate, thus messing up everything from the odometer to safety considerations.

    For me, buying file translation is like putting the cart before the horse (sorry for all the locomotive analogies). If you have a business purpose in mind that requires import of other formats, you can expect that translation to be integrated inside the application. If you are force-fitting the business purpose, then you need separate file translation.

    So, a key indicator for me is that someone is looking for just wheels, not a car.

  • Franco Folini  says:

    In my opinion, both of you, Alex and Deelip are right.

    CAD Data Translation is a technology, not a solution, while data exchange is an activity not a technology.

    Nobody needs data translation because of data translation. Designers need to communicate technical information, and data translation is just one of the technologies supporting this activity.
    As we know, in every design activity, a significant amount of technical information is usually stored in a CAD file using a specific file format. In an ideal world, designers should be able to perform their professional activities without the need to be aware of the aware of the file format of their data. E.g., I don’t need to know the file format used by this blog to post this comment! I believe that designers should enjoy the same level of abstraction when they share a design with a colleague. They should not be concern about the file format he or she is using. When designers are sharing or exchanging design data, they should be able to work on some sort of infrastructure that hides the details and let them focus on their job (they are designers, not data translation gurus).

    Our ideal communication infrastructure should take care of the file formats, performing all the required translation if and when required. But this is just the theory of an ideal world. The reality is more complex and less exciting. If we want to communicate effectively our technical data we still have to take care of a lot of details, including the file formats and all the problems that come with CAD data translation.

  • Deelip Menezes  says:

    “If you have a business purpose in mind that requires import of other formats, you can expect that translation to be integrated inside the application”.

    That is precisely the problem. The translation IS NOT integrated inside the application. That’s why people like me (and Adobe) have to create file translation software and people who need tto convert files have to purchase it.

  • Alex Neihaus  says:

    I appreciate that both Franco and Deelip are continuing the conversation here. It’s an interesting topic, no?

    I still think that if you are talking about applications — what I define as “data exchange” — the translation of data should be integrated.

    That’s what we do with Seemage Importers, and frankly, it’s what the competitors do. In fact, Acrobat 3D’s mega-claim-to-fame is that it includes file translation relatively inexpensively.

    I am not saying there’s no need for translation — far from it. I think today it doesn’t matter any longer what the original file was. But as I’ve said before, the CAD industry’s focus on the “micro issue” (file translation) prevents it from being a source of important, positive change in manufacturing because it obscures the “major issue” (data exchange).

    Lots of this behavior is legacy habits: it used to matter VERY MUCH what file format you lived in. Vendors wanted you to be locked in and tried hard to make it so. It’s become a habit to equate file translation and data exchange.

    My point is simply they aren’t the same thing. Not at all.

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