Moving production to 3D – even in smaller companies

With 3D PDFs, you can rotate, turn annotation on and off, and really see a design.

With 3D PDFs, you can rotate, turn annotation on and off, and really see a design.

For years, those in manufacturing have used 2D drawings to annotate and show critical product information such as tolerances, finishes, materials, etc. While 3D product design has been the norm for many years, the models were simply too challenging for manufacturing and non CAD-trained people to use effectively. Until recently.

Model-based definition (MBD) is not new, but it’s finally hit the mainstream of manufacturing companies. The small and mid-size companies I mean. As Geoffrey Moore would say, it’s about to Cross the Chasm.

How do I know? SolidWorks 2015 includes a new product for MBD, and it’s really intuitive and useful. For those of you who are not CAD mavens, Solidworks is so ubiquitous that nearly every company of every size has some Solidworks product or part models in it somewhere. The vast majority of Solidworks licenses are for less than five seats. This is the mainstream market.

One big driver for MBD and further indication it’s crossing the chasm is that the US Department of Defense (D0D) puts out MBD as best practice in MIL STD 31000A. There is an entire website devoted to non-commercial information about MBD!

Why should you consider adopting MBD? A few reasons:

  • You almost certainly waste a lot of time converting from 3D to 2D –
  • You also spend tons of time maintaining 2D drawings and file: a DoD Study suggests as much as 30% of your engineering budget goes to this non-value added activity
  • It’s important that product data is interpreted correctly. DoD research shows that 60% of 2D drawings do not match the 3D model of the item they represent!
  • Students in manufacturing engineering are no longer learning how to interpret 2D drawings – it is actually less intuitive than 3D. So the new workforce will push you into this move.
  • This could help end the disconnects and finger-pointing between product design and manufacturing – and let’s face it, corporate culture always benefits from improved trust and understanding.

The product manufacturing information you need to succeed can now be organized in a 3D format. Viewing it with Adobe 3DPDFs – using the free PDF viewer that nearly all computers already have installed – is also easy, and allows the effect of a 3D model you can manipulate in a window. Here is an example Pillow Block Housing_v3. Thanks to Oboe Wu of SolidWorks for sending this example.

Finally using the 3D model as single source of truth about products is hitting the mainstream. We know the 3D view is not everything to everyone, but it can certainly move forward the vision of coherent product understanding and collaboration. That can deliver progress to companies of any size!

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