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September 27, 2010
3D Model-Based Design: Setting the Definitions Straight
Please note that contributed articles, blog entries, and comments posted on MCADcafe.com are the views and opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the management and staff of Internet Business Systems and its subsidiary web-sites.
Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
Each MCAD Weekly Review delivers to its readers news concerning the latest developments in the MCAD industry, MCAD product and company news, featured downloads, customer wins, and coming events, along with a selection of other articles that we feel you might find interesting. Brought to you by MCADCafe.com. If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

Editor's Note: We were recently approached by Jennifer Herron, an enterprising mechanical engineer, with an intriguing idea of what really constitutes a 3D CAD design. She rightly posits that it's a 3D model, not a 2D drawing. Her thesis is the fact that there is a major disconnect between a perceived CAD workflow and actual workflow, largely due to a lack of standardized language, methods, and practices, regardless of CAD software used. In addition, she questions why are we still using 2D drawings to convey 3D designs when 3D models do a much better job? Below is her take on making standardization more practical through the use of a common language for interaction and collaboration throughout the design process with what she calls model-based design.

There is a lot of ongoing confusion among CAD designers on how to take advantage of CAD software capabilities and consequently, Model-Based Design (MBD) is not winning any popularity contests. Adoption of MBD is stalled by the lack of methods and practices that standardize the design engineer's workflow. Designers are stuck when setting up, creating and delivering CAD models. They need a comprehensive set of clear standards and processes to maximize their software ROI and to collaborate and communicate with other members of their team using CAD models.

To that end, I suggest that we, the CAD community, go back to the basics and re-clarify the language we commonly use. In doing so, my goal is to facilitate the transition using discipline and organization to span the gap between 2D detailed drawings for manufacture and the 3D CAD revolution.

I invite those involved in the CAD community, to help me edit the definitions for MBD, in hopes of developing clear language for building hardware from 3D CAD.

Instructions for editing a definition

To provide an edit or comment for a definition, click on the send comment link under each definition. This will generate an email and send it to me. Please make your language as clear and plain as possible.

Click here to edit and comment the MBD Definitions


Model Based Design (MBD)
- A development approach, for the design engineer, that declares the 3D CAD as the design authority as opposed to the 2D Drawings. The idea is to make the CAD models the source of the design database. This pushes a shift in the engineer's mindset to think of 3D CAD as THE deliverable document. 3D CAD models are no longer just a means to creating a 2D drawing. Rather, the 3D CAD model is the source of the design database and is the authority which all other outputs flow from (i.e. Finite Element Meshes (FEM), production drawings, bill of materials, etc.). While most will still use drawings for the manufacturing stage, the practice of MBD lends itself more readily to collaboration and interoperability, a future in digital prototyping and additive manufacturing and 3D digital work instructions.

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Model Based Enterprise (MBE) - NIST and the DOD define it as - A fully integrated and collaborative environment founded on 3D product definition detailed and shared across the enterprise; to enable rapid, seamless, and affordable deployment of products from concept to disposal. More information is available at the Model Based Enterprise website.

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Model - A mathematically correct three-dimensional representation of a person or thing or of a proposed structure.

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Computer Aided Design (CAD) - The use of computer technology for the design of objects.

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2D Drawing - Two-dimensional flat orthogonal representations of a three-dimensional object; used to convey detailed information such as dimensions, tolerance, materials, and construction techniques related to how an object is to be built. Both engineering and architecture organizations have standardized this communication method.

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2D CAD - The use of CAD software to create 2D drawings, resulting in either printed paper or digital PDF. In many engineering environments the 2D drawings produced by CAD Software are the official specifications (design authority or record of authority) for finished products and are often generated from and linked to the 3D CAD.

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3D CAD - The use of Computer Aided Design Software to create and view objects in three dimensions, i.e. a geometrically correct digital model of the object. The results of the process are saved in a digital computer file referred to as a 3D CAD Model. Most modern 3D CAD software applications are capable of generating the orthographic projections required for a 2D drawing and from the 3D CAD, changes can be pushed to the drawing as well.This model may or may not include PMI (Product and Manufacturing Information) data.

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Drawing Standard - A drawing standard defines how to translate 3D data into a 2D format in a standardized method, so that all members of the team can effectively understand the drawing. This communication method includes: orthographic views, dimensions, tolerances, materials, revision history, company information, etc. This standard is well defined and used across many industries as the ASME Y14.5.

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MBD CAD Modeling Standard - A standard that specifies procedures and techniques for building CAD models that enable effective implementation of Model Based Design to all forms of hardware products. The modeling standard is analogous to using ANSI Y14.5 for creating 2D drawings, but is instead applied to 3D CAD. In short, it is a standardized communication method for 3D CAD models, encompassing what to include in the model from fillets and threads to model translation techniques for analysis or digital manufacturing.

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Add Definition - Don't see a critical definition? Feel free to add one with recommended title and definition. Click on the Send Comment link below.

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Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor

We applaud and support Ms. Herron's effort for a consistent language that includes definitions of what 3D CAD and associated models are really all about. She's really only gotten started with it, but your input could prove invaluable to her effort and the larger CAD community.

A lot of what she proposes are extensions of efforts put forth by some of the standards organizations, such as NIST, as well as the DoD. Although it may seem a bit formal at first, it begins to make sense when you consider how vital communication is for collaborative design and engineering projects conducted by teams literally around the world.

Contrary to what we've been hearing for the past 10+ years, drawings (whether digital or on paper) aren't going totally away any time soon. But, isn't it about time that we exploit and capitalize on 3D models for what they are - the true end product from the 3D design process on the way to manufacturing that product in 3D.

Of the above concepts and definitions, I find one of the most interesting to be the Model-Based Enterprise (MBE) that is based on a product definition referred to as the Model-Based Definition (MBD). The MBD can be viewed as an annotated 3D CAD model that contains all the information needed to define a product. This annotated model is what replaces a traditional drawing. In this context, then, a 2D drawing is created as an exception not as a standard byproduct of the 3D design process. This makes even more sense in the context of collaboration and communicating a design further upstream as part of the comprehensive product manufacturing information (PMI) package.

So, whether you agree or disagree with Ms. Herron's definitions, comment on them. Consistent understanding and common language are huge steps forward for the CAD industry as a whole and its millions of practitioners. After all, in the end shouldn't the deliverable of a 3D design be a 3D model, and not a 2D drawing? Will these concepts and definitions take hold in the CAD community at large? It's really hard to say, but I definitely think it's a step in the right direction and a long overdue one at that - 3D in and 3D out.

The Week's Top MCAD News

At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the news items that were the most viewed during last few weeks.

Dassault Systèmes Forming Americas Campus in Greater Boston Area
Dassault Systèmes has signed a long term lease for 320,000 square feet of new office, technology lab and data center space in 175 Wyman Street and 185 Wyman Street, Waltham, MA. This is the largest lease transaction in Greater Boston in 2010. Dassault Systèmes will move here to create its new Americas corporate campus. Dassault Systèmes, whose software brands include CATIA, DELMIA, ENOVIA, SIMULA, SOLIDWORKS, 3DVIA and EXALEAD, has outgrown existing facilities in Concord and Lowell, MA and will be expanding into this showcase campus for its combined workforce. They are scheduled to move into all of 175 Wyman Street totaling 211,741 square feet in mid-2011, and may grow into 185 Wyman Street thereafter. The Waltham location will initially accommodate 800 employees. Dassault Systèmes' current real estate portfolio consists of its global corporate headquarters in Velizy, France, approximately 40 locations throughout North and South Americas, and numerous other offices around the world.

Siemens PLM Software's New Machine Design Solution Provides Comprehensive Mechatronics Design Capabilities
Siemens PLM Software announced a new integrated machine design solution aimed at creating value for companies that develop and market machine tools and production machines. Mechatronics Concept Designer represents a paradigm shift for the industry with a new systems engineering approach to machine design that captures and, manages early requirements and facilitates the simultaneous definition and simulation of the complex mechanical, electrical and automation software found in today's machine tools. With an interactive simulation capability based on “gaming” technology, Mechatronics Concept Designer can help significantly reduce development time and improve product quality for the machine design industry. Mechatronics Concept Designer, which is based on Siemens PLM Software's flagship computer-aided design application NX software and works in conjunction with its Teamcenter, was announced at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS).

SME to Acquire Tooling U to Become Worlds Leading Provider of Manufacturing Knowledge
Creating a powerhouse in manufacturing work force development, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) and Tooling University LLC (Tooling U) announced they have signed a definitive agreement for SME to acquire all outstanding shares of Tooling U, a leading provider of online training for the manufacturing industry. The move is an important step in SME's strategy to become the unquestioned leader of content development and delivery, addressing the global and growing need for skilled labor. The substantial resources of SME's certification products, in-person training and webinar offerings will be combined with Tooling U's online training platform and more than 400 courses to provide the global manufacturing community with a comprehensive source of manufacturing knowledge. Educating the current and future manufacturing work force is critical for the health and growth of the manufacturing industry. The closing of the transaction is expected at the end of September, and at that time, SME will be the sole shareholder. Tooling U's online training complements SME's highly regarded in-person training and certification programs to create a flexible, on-demand, customized and content-rich blended learning solution.

Dassault Systèmes 3DVIA Introduces 3D Model Viewer for the iPad
Dassault Systèmes announced 3DVIA Mobile HD, an interactive 3D model viewer for the iPad. With 3DVIA Mobile HD for the iPad, users can access, view and interact with thousands of high-quality models hosted on the 3DVIA.com content warehouse with the swipe of a finger. Unlike other 3D model viewers, 3DVIA Mobile HD allows users of most 3D modeling software packages to connect to 3DVIA.com and share their work on the iPad platform. Users follow a simple three-step process: create a free 3DVIA.com account, upload 3D assets to the site, then connect with 3DVIA Mobile HD to showcase assets on the iPad. 3DVIA.com accepts content in over 30 formats, including 3DXML, .dae (COLLADA), .3ds, .obj, IGES, STEP and .kmz. Select modeling applications from Dassault Systèmes, including 3DVIA Composer, SolidWorks and CATIA, now publish directly to 3DVIA.com, making the process even easier. 3DVIA Mobile HD for iPad is available on the App Store for a limited time at $1.99 USD. After this time, it will be available for $4.99 USD. For more information, visit http://www.3dvia.com/mobile/. Key features of 3DVIA Mobile HD include:

Jeffrey Rowe is the editor of MCADCafé and MCAD Weekly Review. He can be reached at Email Contact or 719.221.1867.

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Blue Ridge Numerics Launches CFD-University

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MSC.Software Donates Multidiscipline Simulation Software to Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

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Corporate Newsletters

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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.