In order to take advantage of the many benefits of CAD, users with many existing manually-drawn paper drawings have had to manually transfer them into their CAD systems, in essence, redrawing them from scratch on the CAD system. The extreme cost of this labour intensive process has prevented most users from automating the filing and maintenance of their existing drawings when installing a CAD system. Rather, they have made new drawings on the CAD system, but maintained the old drawings manually. A system which automatically converted these paper drawings into CAD databases would be a great benefit to these users.
In addition, upon installing a CAD system, the purchaser must usually spend a great deal of time entering commonly used symbols and drawing details before being able to realise the full benefits of CAD. The ability to enter these symbols automatically for immediate use by the CAD system would save users much time and deliver immediate productivity gains.
Autodesk developed CAD/camera to satisfy both of these needs. CAD/camera allows users to automatically transfer their paper drawings to CAD databases. Taking an image scanned with an electronic scanning camera, the CAD/camera software package translates the scanned page to the vector form usable with CAD systems. Existing systems which perform this function are based on mini and mainframe computers and cost more than $100,000. CAD/camera, by contrast, runs on personal computers and is sold as a software package alone for $3000. When CAD/camera is run on an IBM PC/AT, conversion times for drawings range from 15 seconds for small symbols to more than five hours for complex engineering drawings. This is usually at least ten times faster than manually redrawing the drawings on a CAD system.
CAD/camera is implemented using rule-based expert system technology, which is responsible for its much greater price-performance, and its ability to run on smaller, less expensive computers. In addition, this technology allows Autodesk to continue to enhance CAD/camera, adding recognition of more complex drawing elements.
Databases created by CAD/camera may be directly read by AutoCAD, but CAD/camera may be used to generate databases for any CAD system. Its output format is fully disclosed by Autodesk, facilitating its interfacing with other systems. In addition, CAD/camera is entirely written in the C programming language, allowing it to be moved to other computer systems, including other CAD systems should Autodesk decide to do so.
Editor: John Walker