A couple of weeks ago, I attended a very interesting event called the 3D Collaboration & Interoperability Congress 2016 (3D CIC) that was hosted by our colleagues at Action Engineering. The actual conference event was two days, but was preceded by a SOLIDWORKS user group meeting that focused exclusively on model-based definition (MBD) for an entire day. Myself, along with about 60 other attendees got a good look at MBD, not just SOLIDWORKS’ perspective, but a broader view, as well.
I was fortunate to sit next to Oboe Wu, product manager at SOLIDWORKS who is a huge proponent of MBD. 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).
With MBD, 2D drawings become less necessary and meaningful. Instead of having a 3D model and a 2D drawing in a traditional workflow, the model is the drawing in an MBD workflow. The MBD approach provides a direct connection and single digital data thread from design to engineering to inspection.
SOLIDWORKS MBD 2017
In our conversations, SOLIDWORKS’ Wu was quick to point out that while MBD promotes more clear communication, it is not yet a total replacement for 2D drawings for many customers, but rather a peaceful coexistence between model and drawing. In other words, MBD is not just going paperless, it’s much broader than that. With MBD, he said that the full potential of 3D models is just now beginning to be realized by a wider customer base, with a younger workforce being more accepting of 3D models and MBD. In his opinion, he said that some of the biggest drivers for MBD and its direct design-to-manufacturing connection are additive manufacturing, as well as conventional machining.