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CAD-Trans: Computer Assisted Translation of AutoCAD Drawings

Note: I no longer offer this service. This page has been retained for historical purposes. Suggested alternatives:



When AutoCAD drawings need to be translated into different languages, conventional methods are slow, expensive, inconsistent, and prone to error. CAD-Trans can produce translations of AutoCAD drawings, rapidly and efficiently.

Conventional translation

1. Open each drawing using AutoCAD.
2. Search for text elements, using pan, zoom.
3. Manually select and edit each TEXT and MTEXT entity.
4. Save the translated file.


Each translator must be proficient in AutoCAD.
Text can be difficult to find on complex drawings, easily overlooked.
Complications with BLOCK entities containing variable ATTRIBUTES.
Possible shortage of project-qualified translators. Reassignment can cause delays in other projects.
Different translators will use inconsistent terminology, styles.

CAD-Trans objectives:

Allow the translator to concentrate on the text.
Let the machine handle repetitive tasks such as searching, pan/zoom, text replacement, and file handling.
Use translation memory is to store and reuse previously translated sentences, terms, and phrases.
Results: improved productivity and consistency.

CAD-Trans advantages:

The translator does not have to work in AutoCAD.
Fewer qualified translators are needed to translate large projects.
Depending on the amount of text and other factors, a set of translated drawings might be produced in hours, not days.
Graphic elements are not affected by translation. If modifications are needed to eliminate interference between the next text entities and graphic elements, this work can be done by an AutoCAD operator, who does not need to know the language.

Translation Memory

Leverages and reuse previously translated words and phrases.
Only the sentences and portions not found in previous translations need to be translated.
The translator is still in control.
New translations are sent to database for future use.

NOT the same as
“Machine Translation”

“Machine translation” attempts to produce target text without human intervention.
The technology is improving, but results are usually not suitable for presentation-quality work. By contrast, “Translation Memory” uses and reuses translations entered by a human translator.

Case Study

A major engineering and construction contractor need to supply drawings in Spanish as part of the project deliverables.

Phase 1:
100 drawings translated by hand. Average time: 2.5 to 3 hours per drawing.

Phase 2:
Approximately 1500 drawings to translate
Manpower required: 1500 drawings x 2.5 hours/drawing = 3750 hours = 94 weeks

Customer estimated that the task would require almost 2 years full-time translation effort.

Actual delivery:

Working part-time, average production beginning mid-February, 2001: 110 drawings per week.

Time to fully translate 1500 drawings, using only one translator-AutoCAD operator: 4 months

Subsequent assignments:

Since that first job, this method has been used to translate thousands of drawings, including assignments into Russian, German, French, Italian, and Portuguese, and from German and Italian into English. Subjects include:
  • Offshore production platforms, drillships
  • Refineries, chemical and petrochemical plants
  • Equipment parts and layout drawings
  • Machinery layout and foundation requirements
  • Process diagrams, P&ID's
  • Wiring and logic diagrams, electrical schematics, one-line drawings
  • Pneumatic and hydraulic piping systems
  • Hazardous area classifications, fire & gas detection systems
  • Safety zones, muster lists, station bills.
  • Static and dynamic load analyses
  • Architectural and interior design
  • Gas turbine controls, installation drawings
  • Water treatment plants
  • "As-built" drawings

Other Capabilities:

Multi-language drawings, by addition of translated text.
Example: store English, Spanish, and Russian text in same drawing.
AutoCAD operator users layers or layouts to select which language to display, print, etc.

Other uses:

1. Change the title block in all drawings from:
John Smith Engineering   to   XYZ Corporation

2. Technical drawing inventory and management

3. Revise and reuse drawings created for a previous project. Quickly convert:
  • Client name, location, job title, numbers, dates, notes, abbreviations, etc.
  • Bulk revision and correction of product descriptions, part numbers, drawing notes, etc.
  • Convert English / metric dimensions
  • Change text attributes: colors, fonts, layers, etc.


CAD-Trans produces translations of AutoCAD drawings rapidly and efficiently.
Permits consistent terminology across many drawings in project.
Allows previously unfeasible translation or conversion projects.

For more information:

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Last revised: February 4, 2006