Connect design and business

Collaboration software vendor eRoom Technology Inc. in November rolled out a thin-client viewer for CAD (computer aided design) files commonly used by manufacturing, engineering, and pharmaceutical companies to develop products and share technical data.

The eRoom Viewer for CAD visualization supports more than 200 engineering and business file formats, allowing distributed design teams to view and mark up different files within eRoom digital workplaces.

Based on technology from partner vendor Cimmetry Systems Inc., the CAD viewer is a thin-client Java applet that allows viewing and annotating of CAD design files without the need for any client-side software, according to Bryan House, product marketing manager at eRoom, in Cambridge, Mass.

The add-on product is designed to improve the collaboration process for manufacturing and engineering firms, which often rely on mail, e-mail, or express delivery services to share CAD files with partners, customers, and suppliers. Moreover, folding CAD projects within the larger eRoom collaborative environment allows workers to inject business process and workflow into the design process, according to House.

“Typically [in the CAD design process] there is a functional specification document, technical specs, and design files that all need to travel through a process and through the lifecycle of the design phase,” House said. “eRoom provides a way to connect all those and manage that process from a single location in an integrated environment.”

Furthermore, one of the biggest challenges in technical design is the lack of interoperability due to multiple CAD file formats. Often a company’s partners or suppliers can’t view CAD files due to incompatible formats, House said.

“This viewer lets you bridge those gaps in interoperability so everyone can view and annotate the product in order to collaborate on design,” he said.

One eRoom customer, apparel manufacturer and retailer William Carter, plans to deploy the CAD viewer to improve collaboration around product licensing, contract negotiations, and approvals for new designs, according to Mark McSwain, director of business systems and data warehousing at William Carter, in Atlanta.

Specifically, Carter’s will use the eRoom Viewer for CAD Visualization to share Adobe Illustrator files over the Web.

“Today, Adobe Illustrator is used to create art work and designs on a Mac Platform. Sharing this content requires an end-user to have the native application to open a file,” McSwain said. “The CAD viewer will allow these end-users to view Illustrator documents over the Web without requiring the native application to view the design files.

“It facilities the sharing of designs and collaboration on those designs without having to print out a hard copy, FedEx, or fax it. It can do real-time collaboration,” he added.