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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has almost 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 design … More »

Communicating PMI With New SOLIDWORKS MBD

September 4th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

Remember a long time ago when the so-called “paperless office” was just around the corner. Well, we’ve all turned a lot of corners over the years waiting for the nirvana that still seems to be “just around the corner.”

Of course, strides have been made for a way to communicate design engineering information in a paperless manner, but one of the most promising developments has been model-based definition (MBD) and model-based engineering/enterprise (MBE).

We spoke with Aaron Kelly, SOLIDWORKS’ Vice President, User Experience & Product Portfolio Management about many things regarding the SOLIDWORKS 2015 portfolio launch, including a brand new offering called SOLIDWORKS MBD. It is designed to help improve communication between design and manufacturing teams by enabling them to communicate product and manufacturing information (PMI) in 3D. The intent here is to use Model Based Definition and to no longer use 2D drawings to define products.



Model based definition (MBD), also known as digital product definition (DPD), is the practice of using 3D models (such as solid models, 3D PMI and associated metadata) within 3D CAD software to define (provide specifications for) individual components and product assemblies. The types of information included are geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T), component level materials, assembly level bills of materials, engineering configurations, design intent, etc. By contrast, other methodologies have historically required accompanying use of 2D engineering drawings to provide these details.

CAD applications allow for inserting engineering information such as dimensions, GD&T, notes and other product details within the 3D digital data set for components and assemblies. MBD uses these capabilities to establish the 3D digital data set as the source of these specifications and design authority for the product. The 3D digital data set may contain enough information to manufacture and inspect product without the need for engineering drawings. Engineering drawings have traditionally contained this information.

In many instances, use of some information from 3D digital data set (e.g., a solid model) allows for rapid prototyping of product via various processes, such as 3D printing. A manufacturer may be able to feed 3D digital data directly to manufacturing devices such as CNC machines to manufacture final product.

In 2003, ASME published the ASME Y14.41-2003 Digital Product Definition Data Practices, which was revised in 2012 as ASME Y14.41-2012. The standard provides for the use of many MBD aspects, such as GD&T display and other annotation behaviors within the solid model. ISO-16792:2006 standardizes MBD within the ISO standards, sharing many similarities with the ASME standard. Other standards, such as ISO 1101:2004 and of AS9100 also employ MBD.

In 2013, the United States Department of Defense released MIL-STD-31000 Revision A to codify the use of MBD as a requirement for technical data packages (TDP).

SOLIDWORKS MBD is a completely new product with new tools found in SOLIDWORKS 2015. MBD provides an integrated, drawing-less manufacturing solution for SOLIDWORKS 2015. With these tools, you can define, organize, and publish 3D Product Manufacturing Information (PMI) and 3D model data in industry standard file formats. With SOLIDWORKS MBD, you can communicate product and PMI directly in 3D, bypassing time-consuming 2D processes, in other words, drawings.

SOLIDWORKS MBD sets data such as product models, dimensions, geometric tolerances, surface finishes, welding symbols, bills of material (BOM), callouts, tables, notes, Meta properties, and other annotations within the SOLIDWORKS 3D environment in 3D PMI. Because all the information needed to guide the operation is integrated with the 3D models, traditional 2D drawings are no longer needed (at least in theory). The interactive 3D PMI provided by SOLIDWORKS MBD serves multiple operational use cases, such as part and assembly engineering drawings, Request for Quote (RFQ), and Inspection Reports.

According to the company, the process is both intuitive and interactive and helps multiple people within the supply chain understand a design without the need for 2D drawings.

SOLIDWORKS MBD helps define, organize, and publish 3D PMI, including 3D model data in industry-standard file formats (such as SOLIDWORKS files, eDrawings, and 3D PDF). It guides the manufacturing process directly in 3D, helping to streamline production, cut cycle time, reduce errors, and comply with industry standards, such as Military Standard-31000A, ASME Y 14.41, ISO 16792, DIN ISO 16792, and GB/T 24734.

A big proponent of MBD/MBE is Jennifer Herron, owner of Action Engineering, a company that specializes in the promotion, process development, and standardization of 3D CAD Model-Based Design. She is also the author of Re-Use Your CAD: The Model-Based CAD Handbook, an excellent book that we reviewed earlier this year.

Action Engineering and 3D MBD Example

With regard to SOLIDWORKS MBD, she said, “In usual SOLIDWORKS fashion, the 2015 release includes updates requested from users that enhance the user’s capability and efficiency when creating and delivering 3D solid models,” said Herron. “I expect many users to appreciate SOLIDWORK’s attention to detail regarding the usefulness of 3D model-only data sets. The ability to directly publish into a 3D PDF may be an industry game changer. Further, SOLIDWORKS 2015 meets MIL-STD-31000A requirements with a user-friendly interface that facilitates data set creation inherent to the Model-Based Enterprise (MBE) model schema.”

SOLIDWORKS is certainly no stranger to the concept of MBD, but until now, left its implementation to partners, such as Anark and CAPVIDIA. SOLIDWORKS’ initial foray into MBD is a big step and one that we will watch with great interest.

SOLIDWORKS MBD is a standalone product and priced at $1,995 (US). Availability is scheduled for October.

So is a paperless engineering office possible? Yes. Practical? Maybe, but that remains to be seen based on how well SOLIDWORKS MBD implements the concept, as well as how widely it is adopted and accepted by its user base.

In the coming weeks and months, as products in the SOLIDWORKS 2015 portfolio become available, we’ll evaluate some of them (hopefully including SOLIDWORKS MBD) to see how they stack up with previous releases, and for new offerings, the competition.

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6 Responses to “Communicating PMI With New SOLIDWORKS MBD”

  1. Kevin De Smet says:

    I’m really glad to see this initiative but why is this a separate product? It would have been valiant for Solidworks to have just included this as an enhancement enticing companies to upgrade. I understand TolAnalyst was a Premium feature. Is it still? is that included with the now stand-alone Solidworks MBD?

    How does the MBD integrate with TolAnalyst and STEP AP242 or AP238 to directly drive machine tools. Why does Solidworks still not offer an official Solidworks branded CAM solution?

    Many, many questions…

  2. Joe Brouwer says:

    There is no such thing as 2D drawings in mechanical 3D design and there hasn’t been for decades. Paperless is a straw dog. We create digital PDF’s that give you the option to view or print. Trust me, viewing a document on your desk or sharing it in a conference room is much more productive than gathering around a monitor.

    What we have today is the AID (Associated Information Document). MBE is here for one reason: to have one document that describes the part/assembly. Sadly it is based the unique native CAD file that is almost impossible to standardize. Boeing has implemented the PLM Catia 5 system and is using the MBE PMI format. With the PMI they have at least 2 AIDs that travel with it. Adding Band-Aid after Band-Aid, totally violating the original purpose of the MBE concept and adding chaos to the process.

    The Death of the Drawing

  3. Norm Crawford says:

    SolidWorks already does a good job with 3D annotation. So, I am looking forward to seeing how SolidWorks MBD, as a added option (or is it a stand alone product to add PMI to existing solid models) enhances the overall the overall application of MBD throughout a product lifecycle.
    Overall, it is just good to see that companies to build on MBD process development.
    I for one prefer to sit in a movie theater with an entire team doing a design review than to slide paper drawings around. :-)

    • Norm Crawford says:

      I thought I should though, that I wish that all examples of MBD models would stop using those ridiculous +/- linear dimensions to somehow locate or define something that does not makes sense.
      MBD will not work with poor tolerancing practices.
      Poor tolerancing practices do not work on drawings. They won’t work in 3D either.

  4. Ryan says:

    My guess would be that this tool is standalone because it is an attempt to build out the “Drafting tool” that is currently missing in the Daussalt Systems SOLIDWORKS MECHANICAL CONCEPTUAL (Sorry about all the upper case but that is how it is branded.)

    I like Norm, am glad to see this tool being offered. But I’m curious as to why they didn’t decide to stick with the JT format for viewing. After all it is an ISO standard.


  5. Kevin De Smet says:

    This is for the large majority of potential customers, that need to deliver to the DoD. And the DoD says 3D PDF.
    I suppose that’s PRC data embedded inside?

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