CAD importer block

This block allows users to analyse 3D CAD drawings (in .step / .stp) format and use it as a base to build their own airtable bases around this. There are many industries for which often 3D models are the bases of their day-to-day processes and administration. Getting this 3D data into a tool like airtable is often a slow and cumbersome job. This block solves this and in combination with the default features of airtable allows for some amazing solutions.


At the moment I work with a lot of factories that produce "made to order" product. This means they have to produce products their customer has designed and often have never existed until that time. The nature of these "made to order" businesses often turn simple processes as quotation and planning to tough subjects that are very dependent on the specific product that has to be produced.

At this point we see a lot of customers that manually enter data into Excel sheets organize some of this data. And on the other hand are the large production facilities that have expensive ERP systems that help with the above mentioned processes.

I believe the combination of airtable with such a CAD import block would allow to tailored solutions for various factories and engineering firms alike.

What it does

The tool currently uses the SmartPart API to process CAD models. Doing so allows one to store some of the extracted data and images to be stored in airtable records. At this point only some basic information is added to the records as an image, dimensions and volumes, there are however many more variables available from the API that could be used to further enrich the records. Currently, there are 3 main flows are implemented to interact with the block:

  1. Open a single .stp/step file and create a record from this
  2. Import all .stp/.step attachments from a record and add the results to a new record
  3. If a previous record indicates the part contains multiple parts (e.g. an assembly) one can request to process all sub-parts and add them as separate records to airtable.

Challenges I ran into

Getting attachments to and from airtable without having to expose them publicly seems impossible at the moment even using the block SDK. An example is the uploading of part images that currently has to be done using Imgur as a temporary file server. It would be great if we can get attachments to and from records/blocks without having to expose them.

What I learned

Using react was a first for me. Although the examples helped a lot in getting up and running with everything.

What's next for CAD import

I believe with the prize money we could fine tune this block and run some pilots with factories around the world. Only learning of airtable 2 month ago I already feel it would be an amazing tool for production facilities and engineering firms around the world.

Built With

  • axios
  • jsonpath-plus
  • react
  • react-dropzone
  • smartpart-api
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