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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »

Book Review: Re-Use Your CAD-The Model-Based CAD Handbook

March 5th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

Over the course of a year I read a lot of books — technical, non-fiction, hardcopy, and digital. Most of them I get through, although there are some I don’t even try to finish, and a few become favorites and are kept for future reading on my bookshelf. I just finished a book entitled Re-Use Your CAD: The Model-Based Handbook by Jennifer Herron. When I saw Handbook in the title, I thought it would be just a dry reference book, but I was pleasantly surprised that it was much more than that — it’s a good learning resource.

First, a little about the author and model-based engineering/model-based design (MBE/MBD).

I’ve known Jennifer for several years as we’ve crossed paths at software conferences. She is the owner of Action Engineering, a company that specializes in the promotion, process development, and standardization of 3D CAD MBE and MBD. She is an expert in multiple CAD packages, which she uses along with her practical design experience to hone standards and processes that optimize the ROI of all CAD systems.

She also offers model-based documentation education seminars, MIL-STD-31000A schema and modeling best practice training, as well as planning consulting services for Model-Based Engineering implementation. Keep in mind as you read the book that based on her experience, she is a stickler for standards, such as ISO, but you realize that’s probably a good thing.

Her company is a consulting firm that transitions government organizations and companies to effectively and efficiently implement Model Based Engineering. With a specialty in training organizations to document and tailor their business practices to be compatible with CAD, PDM and PLM software tools, Action advises companies in: CAD modeling standards and best practice, designer modeling efficiency, CAD configuration management, MBE training, team collaboration and CAD interoperability.

The concept(s) of MBE/MBD have received a lot of attention in the past few years because this approach handles product development using a digital master model, and not just necessarily CAD. All downstream activities can be derived from the master model to develop a product. The MBE/MBD approach replaces puzzling documents and can minimize the need for physical prototypes before an optimized design has been developed. In other words, engineers and designers can simulate and iterate as much as necessary to refine a model while also meeting requirements and adhering to design constraints.

Now on to the book . . .

Reuse Your CAD Handbook

The book is structured in a logical manner for those both new and experienced with MBE/MBD. Throughout, it stresses the importance of standardizing, centralizing, documenting, and reusing a CAD database. It’s written in a CAD-agnostic manner, so its principles can be applied in any CAD environment, regardless of vendor.

A sampling of some of the topics covered in the book include:

  • Explanation of the philosophy of designing products using CAD model-based life-cycles
  • Implementation guide to model-based commercial (ASME Y14.41), government (MIL-STD-31000A) and company standards
  • Model-based benefits, risks, and action plans
  • 3D MBD model organizational schema
  • 3D MBD model protocols to satisfy the schema CAD agnostically
  • Part and assembly modeling best practice
  • Mass property implementation methods
  • 3D model Data Exchange (DEX) methods
  • MBE support infrastructure requirements
  • Product data management (PDM) fundamentals and requirements

The author interestingly notes that MBE can take on multiple meanings — model-based engineering is a process and a model-based enterprise is an organization that implements it.

There is a lot of existing technology that supports MBE; what are poorly defined are the processes required to implement MBE, and a lot of space is dedicated in the book to address these processes.

Well-implemented MBE methods and protocols have been proven to save time, reduce risk, improve products — all of which save money with engineering and business benefits.

Like many things in the corporate world, moving and adhering to an MBE approach is as much a cultural issue as it is technological and the author discusses possible barriers and remedies for MBE implementation.

The book not only discusses MBE/MBD workflows, life cycles, and methods, it also covers the roles and responsibilities of the people performing the myriad tasks involved in designing, engineering, and manufacturing a product.

There are many graphic charts, tables, and illustrations throughout the book that supplement what is being discussed in the text. The two complement each other well and make the concepts easier to grasp, not to mention providing nice breaks on what could be dry material if text alone. The author also provides several real-world examples, rules, tips, and best practices throughout the book to reinforce concepts.

The author sums things up the reader to consider that model-based documentation become the rule, and drawing-based documentation become the exception. She says, “If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a 3D model is worth a trillion.” Well put.

If you are new to the concepts of MBE/MBD and want to learn about an innovative design approach that will probably improve your products and processes, then this book is definitely for you. It’s written in a manner that is neutral regarding software and hardware, so the concepts presented will resonate with all readers.

Re-Use Your CAD: The Model-Based Handbook is one that I’ll store on my bookshelf as a “keeper.”

The book is available in paperback and digital editions on and from Ms. Herron’s website Action Engineering.

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