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CAD Files – Types, Formats, Extensions, and Viewers

CAD stands for Computer-Aided Design. CAD software is used for the digital creation, analysis, and optimization of a product design. CAD software is also used for digital prototyping and digital content creation. The use of CAD software improves productivity, quality, documentation, and manufacturing of a product.

CAD software is extensively used in Automotive, Aerospace, Marine, Construction, Industrial Equipment, Healthcare, Consumer Goods, Retail, High-tech, and Energy Industries. Examples of popular CAD software are AutoCAD, SolidWorks, CATIA, NX, Inventor, and Solid Edge.

Typically, CAD applications don’t require any special hardware to run and are available on all major platforms. However, for CAD applications to work better, high-speed CPUs, a modern graphics card, and large amounts of RAM are recommended. Due to the complexity of these applications, user training is also recommended. A CAD application is typically shipped and distributed using a license management software, that controls how users can use the software, and which features are available for use.

CAD applications save and output a CAD file, a digital file format. Design, analysis, collaboration, manufacturing, production, versioning, enhancement, and support for a product design is driven by this CAD file. It is the final output from a CAD application.

What is a CAD File?

A CAD file typically contains the technical specifications of the product to be designed, its geometry and feature details, product manufacturing information (PMI), attributes, assembly structure (for assemblies), and material and rendering information. Additionally, each CAD system typically saves additional information in its proprietary file formats.

CAD file formats include both 2D and 3D product designs. 2D CAD files are referred to as drawings. DWG and DXF are the two most popular 2D CAD file formats. 3D product designs are further divided into parts and assemblies.

CAD File Types

CAD file formats that are proprietary to a particular CAD software maker are called Native CAD file formats. Some examples include CATIA, SolidWorks, NX, Inventor, Solid Edge, etc. Not all file formats are interchangeable. Most of the native file formats can only be viewed in their specific CAD applications.

On the other hand, Neutral CAD file formats have a published standard and are used for sharing data between different CAD software or for collaboration. Some examples of neutral cad file formats include STEP, IGES, STL, and DWG and DXF files.

Glovius supports all the popular native and neutral cad file formats. For a full list of formats and extensions supported by Glovius, please visit the CAD file formats page. Some of the most popular CAD file formats are given below.

CAD File Extensions and Formats

Some of the most popular native and neutral CAD file extensions are given below. All of these files are supported in Glovius. Glovius also comes with a free 2D viewer to view DWG and DXF files.

Popular 3D Native CAD File Extensions

  1. CATIA – CATPart, CATProduct, 3DXML
  2. NX – PRT
  3. Creo – PRT, ASM
  4. SolidWorks – SLDPRT, SLDASM
  5. Inventor – IPT, IAM
  6. Solid Edge – PAR, ASM

Popular Neutral CAD File Extensions

  1. STEP
  2. IGES
  3. STL

Popular 2D CAD File Extensions

  1. DWG
  2. DXF

See also – A list of all CAD formats, extensions, and versions supported by Glovius.


How to open a CAD file?

Your use case decides which software application to use with your CAD files. For modifying the design, a CAD application is the only option. For native CAD files, you will need the CAD application originally used for creating the file (for example – CATIA for a CATPart file). Neutral CAD files can be imported into most popular CAD applications (for example – importing an STP file in SolidWorks). There may be some loss of data while importing or exporting to a neutral file.

For viewing and analysis of CAD designs, a CAD viewer is your best option. It costs less than a CAD application license, training isn’t required to use a CAD viewer, and it can run on regular hardware.

Use CAD Software to edit and modify CAD files

CAD files can be opened by CAD systems like CATIA, SolidWorks, Inventor, etc. Most of these software packages are licensed software and enable users to modify existing cad files and create new ones. CAD systems are expensive and require training and hardware.

Use CAD Viewer to open and view CAD files

Most users generally do not need to edit or modify the designs given to them in the cad files. Usually, they do not have access to CAD software. They may also use special software and processes that are not supported by the cad software. For these users, a CAD File Viewer is the most economical option to view and analyze cad files. A CAD viewer, like Glovius, helps users view and analyze CAD files, with minimal training, on their everyday work and home laptops and desktops, in an affordable manner.

A 3D CAD File in Glovius
A 3D CAD File (CATIA Assembly) open in Glovius
A 2D CAD File in Glovius
A 2D CAD File (CATIA Drawing) open in Glovius

Glovius – A modern CAD file viewer

Glovius is a modern CAD file viewer for Windows. View CATIA, NX, Creo, SolidWorks, Inventor, Solid Edge, Pro/ENGINEER, STEP, IGES, and JT files with Glovius.

  • Open and View CAD files
  • Take Measurements and Cut sections
  • Export and Print CAD files
  • Accurately measure CAD files with predefined tools and filters
  • Analyze CAD files with Collision Detection, Wall Thickness Analysis, Projected Area, Draft Analysis, and Compare tools
  • Convert CAD files to STEP, 3DPDF, STL, Images, and more.

Glovius is also available on iOS, Android, and Cloud.