Digitizing a Paper Template

With the right equipment, you can input a physical template as a computer file suitable for CAD work or CNC fabrication. March 9, 2008

The company that I work for gets lots of paper templates for arc trim - not a true radius or a true ellipse arc. Could the template be traced with a digital pen, then changed to a dxf file so it can be cut out by using a CNC router? It would be a real time saver.

Forum Responses
(CAD Forum)
From contributor B:
I use a 44" x 60" Calcomp digitizing board in conjunction with AutoCAD on a regular basis. I've tried many methods, including scanning templates in a wide bed scanner, and the digitizing board is far and away the easiest and fastest method.

From contributor T:
There are several options here, including the digitizing board. What is the origin of the templates? Is there a part or is it a tracing from an opening in a building?

From the original questioner:
It is mostly tracing from building construction.

From contributor T:
You might want to investigate one of the digital templating systems. It would help you to eliminate a bunch of steps and errors along the way.

From contributor B:
If your business is anything like mine, then customers are sending in templates that you have to digitize. The e-template system is indeed pretty slick, but it is also very expensive. I know of several shops that have looked into it and felt they could not justify the $10k plus investment. Even if you had it, you would have to send someone to the job sites to do the photo shots, which may or may not be a realistic option.

With a large format digitizing board you are going to invest $5k or less (last I checked... and Calcomp sometimes has factory guaranteed refurb units for much less), and you can work with any template anyone sends you.

Most of my templates come in on red rosin paper, tyvek and brown paper. All are taped easily to the board for digitizing. Even masonite and 1/4" plywood can be clipped in place. Heavier plywood templates get traced onto paper here in the shop.

The typical start to finish of digitizing a template is 2 to 3 minutes... sometimes even a matter of 30 seconds or so. And this is dead on accurate. Templates larger then the 44" x 60" board are easily and accurately brought into AutoCAD in sections with a match line. I have a Drawing Board III which has now been replaced with the newer Drawing Board IV.