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Streamlining CAD Deliverables for Digital Transformation

Model-based definition can substantially increase the efficiency with which documentation is created from computer-aided design projects.

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While it’s been around since the 1990s, model-based definition (MBD), a technique for semantically documenting the information necessary to manufacture and inspect parts and assemblies produced via 3D computer-aided design (CAD), still isn’t in widespread use, says Dave Martin, former senior learning consultant at software company PTC. Currently, many engineering companies are still passing deliverables to manufacturers in the form of 2D drawings accompanied by written product manufacturing information (PMI) pertaining to dimensions, geometric tolerances, and other important parameters. Manufacturers are then required to manually transcribe this information into their own software.

By contrast, MBD can provide a standardized technical data package containing the CAD model in its native format, a bill of materials in Microsoft Excel or CSV format, and other related electronic data such as notes, schematics, and first article inspection documents. In addition, MBD deliverables include annotation planes to define the placement and orientation of details to be placed in the model, 3D annotations containing PMI, and combination states to organize the 3D annotations for the sake of clarity.

MBD’s ability to streamline the communication and exchange of data is in line with a common trend that characterizes much of digital transformation. Consider that, once upon a time, plant personnel carried around clipboards on which they manually recorded data points such as temperature and vibration at regular intervals to determine whether or not equipment required maintenance. Now, that data is communicated in real-time using an array of intelligent sensors. The efficiencies attained by using MBD to communicate CAD parameters are not so different.

Moreover, while product design and engineering has typically occurred on premise in the past, remote work arrangements are becoming increasingly common, as in so many other fields. In fact, industry analyst firm IDC predicts that by 2022, 70% of manufacturers will be using cloud-based platforms and marketplaces for development purposes. In response, several companies have begun making cloud-based CAD and other design collaboration software available.

For instance, Siemens Digital Industries Software’s Xcelerator portfolio offers TeamCenter Share, a design collaboration tool that uses cloud storage to allow multiple remote end-users to synchronize changes to a file in real-time while they work. In addition, the software enables them to view, measure, and markup CAD files, share projects, and review designs via augmented reality on tablets and other mobile devices. OnShape, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) development platform acquired by PTC in 2019, offers users similar functionality.

   Read more about PTC's OnShape.

With so much of the product development phase of the manufacturing lifecycle moving to the cloud, Martin says MBD could play an important role in streamlining the communication of information across the enterprise. According to a study conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, MBD can reduce the design-to-manufacturing-to-inspection process by 78.4%.

“That’s like completing all your work for the week before the end of the day on Monday,” he said.

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