Reading a drawing is a requirement for engineers and is the skill of a drafter. I personally have created hundreds maybe thousands of clear concise complex drawings from which parts have been made. We didn't have 3D solid models to work with. We had complex installation drawings made from full scale layouts of aircraft structure, mechanical and kinematic assemblies. We had to define 3D parts in 2D. This article made me realize that many out there have never defined a 3D part in a 2D drawing and never will. I am going to write an article for my customers (I have been selling CADKEY for over 21 years, and a Design Drafter for gulp!! 40 years) about the history of the drawing. One more point: Engineers rarely made drawings, but they seem now to be put to work creating 3D models, which I consider is a total waste of his skills. Boeing had 5 or more drafters under one engineer.
There are a few places where the drawing can get by with a few dimensions. I find plastic parts basically need limited drawings, since the model provides a direct tool path to generate the mold core and cavity. And many times the parts are check by a stl model prior to final design acceptance.
But when you get to large complex hogouts of interrelating static and kinematic aircraft parts, you are not going to make stl models. A drawing in a pdf format doesn’t need the original software to view the part, can be reviewed by many eyes (I will not bore you with the many times I would be taking a break with a fellow working, and see a mistake on his drawing). So as I said before, creating a drawing now is more of a checking function. Maybe we can have a new discipline: PART AND DESIGN CHECKING. Ooops, hey didn’t we already have those guys. I will send you my final article, Norm, or you can go to www.tecnetinc.com and check to see if it is posted.
It is much easier to inspect a part with a nice concise detail paper drawing with a yellow or red marker. I think from all the specific software (undoubtedly expensive and complex) that is required in your article, drawings would be cheaper and simpler too. Of course as I said in the beginning you would have to be able to read a drawing.