Esri: adding a fourth dimension with ease

The challenge: putting the place into 3D

We have all come to rely so much on instant geographic data that it is hard to recall when it was not at our fingertips. A sense of location not only delivers immediate understanding, it enhances communication and collaboration.

Integrating information into a common spatial language, geographic information system (GIS) technology is widely used to address social, economic, business and environmental concerns. At local, national and global levels GIS is a proven and powerful decision making tool.

Since it was founded in California in 1969 Esri has been developing GIS solutions. These include off-the-shelf technology, customized enterprise systems, implementation services and training. Esri software is now used by more than 350,000 government and commercial organizations worldwide and has become a standard for many public bodies.

Esri’s world-leading product, ArcGIS, lets users easily author data, maps, globes and models and serve them out for use on a desktop, in CAD, in a browser or via mobile devices. ArcGIS gives developers the tools to build their own applications.

In order to develop its range of solutions Esri needed to read .dwg/.dxf files so that it could abstract CAD geometry as native GIS data; it also needed to write .dwg/.dxf files from its ArcGIS data.

The solution: cost effective collaboration

A Founding subscriber, Esri uses the Teigha® platform so that it can read and write .dwg/.dxf files including its own non-graphic entities. These effectively create and maintain GIS formatted data within the .dwg/.dxf file and are Esri’s own form of extended attribution, called the Mapping Specification for CAD (MSC).

“Engineering the technology to read and write another company’s proprietary data format is difficult and costly,” observes Don Kuehne, Product Manager, Esri. “It is good business to share the cost of such an effort as the ODA does with its Teigha technology.”

He goes on to explain: “At the time we joined the ODA, we probably had one person working part-time to parse .dxf files for useful content. Working with .dxf files was relatively easy for what we needed to do at that point. However, we did not even attempt to read .dwg files, which is orders of magnitude more difficult to do.”

"Ultimately, Teigha opens up possibilities for our own development efforts. It has freed us to follow new potential that we probably would not otherwise have attempted." Don Kuehne, Product Manager, Esri

The result: opening the door to potential

He adds, “Other sources for reading and writing .dwg files are available, however the ODA provides the technology we need, and Esri is happy with the way the ODA keeps up to date with the .dwg/.dxf formats.”

Esri set out to provide GIS technology to people working on different computing platforms, and this resulted in the extension of the .dwg file to contain attributed GIS data. Don explains the benefits of this: “When working between ArcGIS and AutoCAD the .dwg file is now a better interchange format than Esri Shapefiles. This is because there is no longer any need for translation, and because the enhanced .dwg file can contain attributed feature classes that contain annotation and circular curves (not supported with Shapefiles).”

Esri went on to publish the specification for MSC and published samples showing how to manipulate this data within any Teigha-based application using .dwg/.dxf files. In addition, Esri provides a free plug-in that allows developers to create and edit this form of .dwg data when working in AutoCAD.

The dissemination of this key information enabled companies with Teigha-based applications to read/write Esri ArcGIS data in .dwg files, enter the GIS market with minimal effort and provide big benefits to their customers. Recognizing the advantages, other ODA subscribers quickly began to adopt this technology in their applications.

Don concludes, “It’s a win-win situation that expands the market for GIS. By focusing on stability the ODA fosters collaboration and creativity for the benefit of all its members.”

All Customer Stories