Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »
The Care, Feeding and Openness of the DWG Format
August 24th, 2017 by Susan Smith
In 1998 the Open Design Alliance (ODA), then the OpenDWG Alliance, was formed as an independent, non-profit corporation dedicated to making the DWG file format an open standard for CAD software much like the DXF format. It was renamed the Open Design Alliance in 2002.
This effort was designed in response to the need by third party developers to be able to develop their software in .dwg format, the proprietary platform of Autodesk software. The Open Design Alliance (ODA) focuses on software development and provides customers with a development platform for engineering solutions. There are many free tools and converters on their website, as well as subscription based offerings. Their product range includes Teigha Drawing, BIM, Visualization and Publication, Architecture, Civil and Mechanical.
Historically, in the 1970s, the .dwg format was developed by programmer Mike Riddle who was dissatisfied with current CAD offerings. He developed the software Interact CAD which was acquired by Autodesk in the early 1980s. Riddle was a part of the fledgling Autodesk and Interact CAD formed the basis for AutoCAD.
As Interact CAD, the software had only sold a few copies, but as AutoCAD, it became the world’s best selling CAD software. By 1998 there were more than 2 billion .dwg files in the world.
Every few years, .dwg goes through some file format changes called “versioning.” New versions of AutoCAD are able to open any .dwg files but old versions of AutoCAD are only able to open files up to and older than that version. The last version of AutoCAD DWG was released in 2013.
When the Open Design Alliance, whose members include many competitors to Autodesk, began to reverse engineer .dwg so that reading and writing of DWG could be done in other unlicensed software, in response Autodesk introduced TrustedDWG, a format, which had the ability to identify if a file had been created and saved in Autodesk software.
The U.S. Patent Office refused to register DWG as a trademark specifically residing in Autodesk software in 2011 as was their claim, and did so once again in 2013. I think this is interesting in light of how many technologies are developed on the DWG platform. Yet other file formats such as DXF, remain open to development.
Currently a new version of DWG has not been released by Autodesk for 2016 or 2017. Some industry watchers speculate this may be because of Autodesk’s desire to move customers over to a cloud-based subscription offering that doesn’t need the DWG foundation.
According to the ODA company materials, Teigha® was launched in 2010 as the new name for the ODA software development platform for CAD and other technical graphics applications. The Teigha brand encompasses all products and is the unifying concept for an environment that goes far beyond the reading and writing of .dwg and .dgn files. Teigha enables ODA subscribers to design and build applications for their customers.
This January, the Open Design Alliance (ODA) announced the availability of Teigha BIM for general licensing. Teigha BIM is the world’s first stand-alone SDK for working with Autodesk Revit files. Prior to this announcement, Teigha BIM was only available to top-tier subscribers. Now the product has import and visualization available for production use and broadens its reach to a greater public.
ODA customers are committed to open industry-standard formats for the exchange of CAD data and to the maintenance of valuable data stored by design systems. Building on their collective expertise and experience in data analysis, drafting, design, solid modeling and rendering, customers develop and use engineering applications across all areas of business, science and education
The ODA has 1,250 subscribers who are benefiting from the up-to-date technology provided by the ODA and integrating Teigha in their solutions. These customers are licensed to distribute their solutions according to their level of subscription.
Customers have a vital role in the running of the organization, which is governed by a board, nominated and elected each year by Supporting and Founding Subscribers. Customers can also participate in Special Interest Groups and cooperate on special projects.
Customers include well-known software companies such as Bricsys, Caddie Software, Esri, Graebert Gmbh, IMSI/Design, Informative Graphics, IntelliCAD Technologies, Consortium, Knowledge Base, Xinet and ZWsoft.
Sergey Vishnevetsky, Development Director at ODA, said, “Feedback from early adopters has been quite positive. A number of our customers are already shipping importers and visualization solutions based on Teigha BIM.
“Our focus this year has shifted to parametric entity creation, a feature that is in high demand from users looking to streamline their automation processes. We expect rapid progress in this area in 2017, and interested parties can register on the Open Design website to receive real-time progress updates.”