IGES files.

IGES is a Computer Aided Design (CAD) program file format. Engineers and designers use CAD software to create different types of images, like drafting and blueprints. Find out more about IGES, its strengths and limitations, and how to open an IGES file.

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What is an IGES file?

The IGES drawing file saves vector image data to transfer 2D and 3D information between different CAD applications. Manufacturers and designers use CAD to help plan, price, and specify construction and design projects details. With the .igs file extension, the IGES file can store different types of information for a blueprint, like wireframes, solid models, and circuit diagrams.

IGES stands for Initial Graphics Exchange Specification, a standard that saves information in the ASCII format.

History of the IGES file.

In 1980, a United States Air Force project called ICAM (Integrated Computer-Aided Manufacturing) brought together all the disparate software pieces and processes involved in its aerospace manufacturing to improve efficiency and cut costs. The result was IGES, which soon went beyond military applications to other types of manufacturing.

Despite its age, many people still use IGES today — even though it hasn’t changed a lot since 1996. Newer formats like STEP are also popular.

How to use an IGES file.

Decades ago, IGES was one of the first computer-aided breakthroughs for US military design. Here’s how you can use it today:

Engineering drawings.

IGES files specify the geometry needed to construct components. Drafters use IGES to create technical drawings with multiple views and their given dimensions.

Surface translations.

For simpler designs, engineers use IGES to share surface translations of a particular file, as opposed to a solid model. This works well for 2D components, although it can be limiting compared to other CAD file types — like DWG or STL.

Discover more vector file types

Pros and cons of IGES files.

Get to know the IGES advantages and disadvantages before deciding to use them in your next project.

Advantages of IGES files.

  • The ASCII text format stores IGES files, making them small and easy to share.
  • Because IGES is one of the oldest CAD formats, many CAD applications support it, making the files simple to open across compatible software.

Disadvantages of IGES files.

  • IGES hasn’t been standardized since 1996, meaning the format is not as up-to-date and innovative as other, newer formats. CAD has come a long way since the first applications of IGES, and even by the 1990s there were far more sophisticated ways of storing CAD data.
  • It can be challenging to convert IGES files to different file types and back again. ASCII data is the basis for these files, which means there isn’t a lot of room to convert them. Any changes in the data during conversion may lead to errors that need to be repaired.
  • IGES handles surface geometry well, but most CAD applications work better with solid models. This can cause errors, which could affect product design if not corrected in time.

How to open an IGES file.

Most CAD programs and any text editor will open an IGES file, both on Windows and Mac. Locate and double-click on your file. Then, choose the program you want to use to open the IGES file from the list of options.

You can’t use a web browser to open an IGES file, although Android and iOS offer some apps that can help.

IGES files: frequently asked questions.

Is IGES the same as IGS?

IGES and IGS are relatively interchangeable. IGES references both the file type and the wider format, while .igs is a specific file extension.

How do I read an IGES file?

There are many CAD programs available, some paid, some free, which you can use to open an IGES file.

What are the differences between IGES and STEP files?

IGES files define surface models, whereas STEP files display solid models. For that reason, CAD users tend to prefer STEP files when a project is a little more complex. IGES is still widely used within manufacturing because the files tend to be smaller.

Are IGES files raster or vector?

IGES is a vector file — that is, it’s based on mathematical equations that allow for infinite scalability. The other primary image file type is raster, which creates images based on pixels.

Learn more about similar file types to IGES.

STEP file image

STEP files

Learn more about one of the early CAD file formats.

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JT files

Find out more about this flexible 3D model format with ISO standardization.

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DXF files

Get to know DXF, a CAD file type from Autodesk.

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STL files

Discover more about this forerunner to 3D printing, similar in many ways to IGES.

Compare IGES with other file types.

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Compare these two file formats and see which will work better for your next project.