You have been hearing it for years:
“MBD will replace 2D drawings!”
“Drawings are dead!”
“Boeing has switched over completely!”
I thought it was strange that we keep hearing those words, yet I haven’t met a single engineer or a manufacturer that uses MBD.
So I decided to dive in and find out what the current state is. In this post I am going to share what I have learned so far.
MBD stands for Model Based Definition. It is being presented as the logical successor of 2D drawings. The idea is that the 3D model is leading in every step of the design and manufacturing process.
Detailing your design is done by adding annotations in the form of dimensions, tolerances and other remarks to your 3D model.
This annotated model is then exported as a native model, a 3D PDF or (using SOLIDWORKS) an eDrawings file. These files can be combined with other information that is required for manufacturing, support and life cycle management.
The goal is to go completely digital and ditch 2D drawings altogether. When all customers and suppliers work with these files, the need for translations between 3D and 2D and the usual paperwork should be gone. Of course it should save you time and money.
According to this image, even MBD is just a stepping stone towards MBE. Abbreviations are always confusing, so I think they should be avoided altogether. This is a list of abbreviations that I ran into while researching this post:
The American Department of Defense issued MIL-STD-31000A to define Technical Data Packages or TDPs. This standard includes both drawing-based documentation as well as 3D model-based packages.
There is also ASME 14.41 by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, which in turn was the basis for the international ISO 16792:2015 standard. The MIL specification focuses on the complete design package, of which drawings/models are only a tiny fraction. The ASME and ISO standards focus more on the representation of the 3D model, its geometry, its annotations and tolerances. They treat both drawing and 3D models.
The preferred way of sharing information with MBD is by sharing the native 3D model. Most companies are reluctant to share those with suppliers or even customers, so I think other formats will have a bigger chance of succeeding.
Since you want all CAD and CAM systems to read each other’s output, so you need a universal 3D file type. They chose STEP 242 for this, the latest and greatest version of STEP. It is ‘upward compatible’ with previous versions like STEP 203 and 214 and it is designed specifically with MBD in mind. STEP 242 can therefore contain much more types of information.
3D PDF is the second standard. You can create a company template and include not only the 3D model, but multiple views and extra information as well. You can supply notes, part numbers, material, stuff like that. The result could be something like this:
3D PDFs only work in Adobe Reader unfortunately. That piece of software has become so clunky and bloated that I use Sumatra PDF as my default PDF viewer. It’s a super fast PDF reader with a clean interface. The site looks hideous, but the product’s awesome.
SOLIDWORKS can also export annotated 3D models to a eDrawings files so you can share it with people that don’t have a full license to CAD software.
SOLIDWORKS, Inventor, Catia and Creo have all added MBD capabilities to their software. Some include the features for every user, some sell MBD as a plugin.
MBD for SOLIDWORKS is not included in any version, it has to be bought separately. It doesn’t matter whether you have a Standard, Professional or Premium license, it works with all three versions.
I could only find prices at the time of introduction in 2015, but SOLIDWORKS rarely changes their prices so I assume these are still valid.
The real cost of switching to a 3D-centric approach will probably be caused by the time it takes to learn new software and new ways of working. Your whole company has to switch over and it would be best if all of your suppliers can handle the files as well.
Those are some pretty big ifs.
Drawings have the following advantages:
Results from the 2016 CAD Trends worldwide survey also show that about 80% of companies use 3D modeling and this percentage grows by about two percentage points per year. The surprising thing is that about 70% of companies still rely heavily on 2D drafting and this percentage is actually increasing slightly. Apparently companies don’t ditch 2D for 3D, they just add another tool to their tool belt.
I see companies switching to minimal dimension drawings to save engineering time. This concept basically means they only add the most important dimensions to a drawing. The drawing and a STEP model are sent to the manufacturer. I think this approach can work for simple parts and known suppliers. There are a lot of underlying assumptions and if your assumptions don’t match the supplier’s, it’s easy to get into an argument. Manufacturers have also told me they just quote a higher price because it takes them more work to make the parts.
I have looked in a few places and found the following data points:
I browsed through Google Trends to check search volumes. In these plots, 100 is the maximum amount of search volume that occurred once, so the data is only relative.
The term ‘MBD’ doesn’t work well here because it looks like there is a shopping mall in India with the same name. This looks kinda ok:
That is until you compare it with the results on drawings:
These plots confirm my suspicion that MBD isn’t really catching on.
It seems that 2D drawings are here to stay. They are so ingrained in every engineering and manufacturing business. Everybody knows how to read them and you don’t need special tools to do so.
The data confirms that companies aren’t quick to change tools, probably because it’s a big change and everyone has to change at the same time.
I must add that I’m not against progress and innovation. I love the fact that we can design in 3D and that we are able to add projections of that model on a sheet. It’s hard to imagine how a draftsman would design complex machines and products by using just a drawing board and pencils. Hell, I even tip my hat to engineers that use only projections to design something in AutoCAD.
Maybe MBD just isn’t mature enough yet, it just doesn’t appeal to me as a simple alternative. The impact of switching is so large that it is hard to make that decision currently.
There are a few things that can be improved in the process of making drawings in SOLIDWORKS:
We are currently finalizing our SOLIDWORKS plugin Drew. Drew lets you create advanced templates that contain drawing templates, sheet formats, default views, allowed sheet scales and (soon) tables and annotations. It literally takes me a single click to create the drawing below from the 3D model of this random part.
The drawing that is created uses the default company style to create a drawing, places 2D views and an isometric 3D view and fits all of them on the sheet.
When you create tens or hundreds of drawings of simple parts (like I used to do), you spend most all of your time creating views and spacing them nicely across the sheet. I’d like to automate that. The next image shows the result after I change the orientation of the main view (one click) and add two views on the left (one click). Awesome 🙂
Finally, if you start working on a project for a different customer, it takes a single click to change the default company style. The drawing is updated accordingly and even the 3D view changes from an isometric view to a trimetric view according to your template.
Please leave your email address on the Drew page when you would like to try Drew somewhere in the comings months. I’d love to hear your feedback.