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 Re-Use Your CAD
Jennifer Herron
Jennifer Herron
Jennifer Herron is the owner of Action Engineering, a company that specializes in the promotion, process development, and standardization of a 3D CAD Model-Based Environment. Her career has been spent creating and building complex hardware systems for the aerospace and defense industry, her … More »

Measuring Digital Thread Value – NIST MBE Summit 2016

June 6th, 2016 by Jennifer Herron

dig·it·al thread
[dij-i-dl] [thred]

// the creation and use of cross-domain, common digital surrogates of a materiel system to allow dynamic, contemporaneous assessment of the system’s current and future capabilities to inform decisions in the Capability Planning and Analysis, Preliminary Design, Detailed Design, Manufacturing, Testing, and Sustainment acquisition phases

Source: Kraft, E. (2013). Expanding the Digital Thread to Impact Total Ownership Cost [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from:

Digital Thread isn’t just a marketing term. It’s real, it’s here, it’s tangible. What we’re missing are measurable results of the technology. You know, that stuff that will make your case to upper management. That nasty term… ROI.

The Digital Thread: Stitching Together the Next Industrial Revolution

Government and commercial entities gathered at the MBE Summit in April 2016 to discuss the digital thread and Model-Based Engineering. This annual event is hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The purpose of the MBE Summit is to identify challenges, research, implementation issues, and lessons learned in manufacturing and quality assurance where a digital 3D model of the product serves as the authoritative information source for all activities in the product’s lifecycle.

My overall impressions from MBE Summit week
I’ve been attending the MBE Summit for approximately 6 years, since before MBE and MBD (Model-Based Definition) were “the thing.”

  • The landscape of MBD/MBE adopters and users has shifted. Based on this year’s presentations, audience questions, and networking interactions, my impression is that the combined percentage of MBE/MBD adopters and those in the fact finding stage have increased significantly from approximately 20% to 80% over my 6 years of attendance. When I began attending, nobody really wanted to hear about MBD… and now that’s all we discuss.
MBD MBE Interest and Adoption

Action Engineering’s impressions of the MBD/MBE interest shift

  • The conversations have shifted from big picture, pie-in-the-sky to getting down to the brass tacks of researching and implementing the details of MBD.
  • Software technology and standards have reached a critical mass to support the big picture vision of MBE. Both are significantly better than they used to be just 6 years ago. One quick plug about standards from the ASME Y14.46 subcommittee chair (me!): if standards development sounds appealing to you, the various product definition subcommittees welcome your help — especially if you like to write process-based prose. ASME subcommittees meet regularly via conference call and twice yearly in person (next in Dallas in October 2016). These meetings are also an incredible way to gain a deeper understanding of product definition (such as GD&T, dimensions and tolerances, and surface metrology).
  • Digital associativity of annotations to features is still a mystery to most, but some are differentiating between human readability and software consumable.
  • Lesson learned: Adding full annotations is extremely labor intensive compared with embedding 2D views generated from 2D drawing programs into 3D PDFs, or just sticking with a 2D PDF.
  • I liked the emphasis that MBD is a communication method, and we should focus our design of such digital data with the end user in mind. Helping users “learn” the product through 3D visualization is a clear advantage.
  • For standards, we need to agree on the basics and need a map of standards and their inter-relationships.
  • You must come to “trust the process” that generates the data (because you may not know the person who gave you the data).
  • For n=1, when the drawing product definition yielded the wrong part and the model data yielded the right part, extending this process to n=100 may be more convincing. Think ROI. Check out the results from the n=1 NIST and Rockwell Collins project.
comparing MBD to drawings

Figure from “Testing the Digital Thread in Support of Model-Based Manufacturing and Inspection” in the Journal of Computing and Information Science in Engineering, June 2016, Vol. 16 / 021001-5. Image Source:

I captured a few high-level tips of the MBE trade from the collective presenting minds.

What is the biggest bang for your MBD buck?

  • Assemblies throughout the integrated supply chain
  • Closed loop, integrated, automated design through the manufacturing and inspection process using a minimum information model

Convincing upper management about MBE

  • Develop a clear statement of the problem.
  • Don’t try to win the battle all at once.
  • Money matters. Determine how to save money for your organization.
  • Determine your payback.
  • Create and evaluate use-cases.
  • Don’t try to transform the whole enterprise because most are not willing to take that kind of risk.
  • Don’t pitch the effort as developing a standard (leave that to the standards committees).
  • It boils down to ROI (that word again…).

And finally, my impressions from the MBE Capabilities Workshop  

Immediately following the MBE Summit, a one-day “Measurement Science for MBE Capabilities” workshop was held to evaluate the latest release of the MBE Capabilities Index and gather industry input for a guidebook that NIST is developing to help organizations assess their MBE capabilities, determine actions to take based on the assessment results, and outline a minimum set of requirements to be considered a model-based enterprise.

My impressions from the workshop:

  • Good domain (e.g., SME) expertise was represented, as well as a good mixture of government, commercial, and contractor representation.
  • Topics desired for the guidebook: How to do an assessment? What does it mean? How do you know you’re done? What are the minimum requirements?
  • Level 6 is designed to be impossible!
  • Implementations are too unique for the index to cover all situations.
  • It’s not an instrument to rate company A against company B.
  • The understanding and interpretation of the standard is infinite and not common. This will only come through education.
  • The key is to work collaboratively with your suppliers.

AIAG brought their graphical interpretation of the MBE Capabilities Index. This is an improvement in the understanding of the evolution of MBD. See the wall chart here:

One day we’ll look back on these notes and realize just how far we’ve come on our MBD journey. For now, calculate your ROI to pitch your case for MBD to upper management.

MBE Summit 2016 presentations can be found here:

Find out more about the Digital Thread for Smart Manufacturing here:

Digital Thread Information Framework

Source: Feeney, A. B. & Hedberg, T. (2016). Model-Based Research in Smart Manufacturing [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from:

STOP Re-inventing and Re-modeling Nuts, Bolts, and Washers

April 13th, 2016 by Jennifer Herron

Attempting MBE without Standard Parts in your Tool Box is just STUPID!
In order to turn your Model-Based Enterprise (MBE) or Digital Enterprise dream into reality, you must eventually come to the realization that a robust and best-in-class strategy for catalog parts is imperative. We’re talking about a certified standard parts library, not just something that Joe Blow modeled one day after lunch and a beer.

What is meant by “certified standard parts library”?
Ah, here we go. Gear specs. Orange tab. That was easy.

Paper AIA bolt catalogue

No, silly. Throw out your old paper catalogs. We’re talking an electronic catalog (or directory, if you will) from which an organization can download and reuse standard industry parts. For simplicity’s sake, think nuts, bolts, and washers. Your favorite rocket scientist has better things to do than dimension off-the-shelf bolts for the propulsion system.

Read the rest of STOP Re-inventing and Re-modeling Nuts, Bolts, and Washers

Using CAD models in the Digital Thread

October 19th, 2015 by Jennifer Herron

We are operating at a stage in design and manufacturing where 3D models are used for direct tooling, or used to generate injection molds, but still need to be supplemented by 2D drawings for PMI (dimensions, tolerances and notes). In addition to creating extra work, 2D drawings are fundamentally flawed because the interpretation is limited to 2D, rather than real hardware which is 3D.

 We see in 3D, We Should Document in 3D

I realize we have grown accustom to 2D drawings in the workplace, but these orthographic projections of 3D data are limiting both in creation of un-ambiguous product definition and will castrate the performance of high-tech manufacturing processes, such as Additive Manufacturing (AM).

3D Collaboration and the Digital Thread requires all stakelholders to partipate in the descision making process.

3D Collaboration and the Digital Thread requires all stakelholders to partipate in the descision making process.

So… what is on the engineering horizon, and how can you step out of the 2D inertia spiral of death (a little Halloween humor for you)?

Read the rest of Using CAD models in the Digital Thread

3D / MBD / MBE Continuing Education at CIC-2015

September 4th, 2015 by Jennifer Herron

Fall sparks memories of school days for me. Remember cracking open a new textbook, turning to a crisp page of your composition notebook, and advancing the lead in your mechanical pencil (OK, maybe it was your iPad)? You gazed in rapt anticipation to the front of the classroom as the professor launched into a course lecture and you were a sponge soaking up every morsel of information. Education is powerful.

Recharge your skill sets again this Fall: register to attend one or more of the many congresses, conferences, and exchanges that will kick your core knowledge of 3D/MBD/MBE up several notches.

While not a complete syllabus, here are some of the continuing education topics slated for discussion that intrigue me:

3D Collaboration and Interoperability Congress
October 28-29, 2015  

Washington DC (Dulles)

MBE supports large integrations and systems of systems engineering.

MBE supports large integrations and systems of systems engineering.

Read the rest of 3D / MBD / MBE Continuing Education at CIC-2015

Understanding the Hard Work of MBE

July 27th, 2015 by Jennifer Herron

Creating a Model-Based Enterprise (MBE) with Model-Based Engineering (also MBE) is no small task. When executed well, there is clearly a tangible benefit for small and large companies as well as government organizations.

By the way, there are at least three independent definitions for the three-letter-acronym (TLA) of MBE; here is my take on each of those definitions.

Read the rest of Understanding the Hard Work of MBE

SOLIDWORKS World 2015: Focus on MBD

February 15th, 2015 by Jennifer Herron

Now at home in sunny Denver, CO after attending SOLIDWORKS World in sunny Phoenix, AZ held February 8-12, 2015, I reflect on the week.

There were cookies, coffee, countless training and educational sessions, cute 2-wheeled jumping robots to drive, a mini 4-rotor helicopter to fly, methods for controlling a 3D model with just your hand in front of a 3D camera, and 1 very funny theoretical physicist. But coursing through every day in SOLIDWORKS World was a pulse focused on Model-Based Definition (MBD), and the newly released MBD Module from SOLIDWORKS.

Released on Thursday (February 12, 2015), SOLIDWORK’s new MBD Module (add-in with a cost of approximately $2,000) is a method to save presentation views, use a format-type template and translate your 3D SOLIDWORKS model into a 3D PDF. Which means, keeping the good stuff on the drawing and adding in the capability to rotate, zoom, pan, section and inspect from your product from all directions along side its geometric dimensions and tolerances (GD&T or PMI).

If you have an assembly, it will capture different configurations, all to be viewed, rotated and manipulated inside a single viewable and lightweight digital file. A 3D PDF is a great container to hold pertinent TDP (Technical Data Package) information that defines all the information needed to manufacture, or just communicate your product design. It can be used for both parts and assemblies.
Read the rest of SOLIDWORKS World 2015: Focus on MBD

MBD and CAD Re-use Workshop at SolidWorks World

January 27th, 2015 by Jennifer Herron

J.B. Herron Presenting at SolidWorks World 2015

Do you use 2D flat drawings to communicate your product designs? Does it make sense to hand over a 3D model to your manufacturer? Do you know how to take advantage of the SolidWorks software suite to enable your organization to leap into a model-centric product definition world?

Do you need more educational support on MBD and MBE and how it might affect your design world? This is a great place to ruminate on the topic, and ask specific questions from someone who has used the tools in her own designs, and also has a big picture strategic view of MBE.

On Wednesday February 11th, 2015 1:30-2:30 at the Phoenix Convention Center, Jennifer Herron will be sharing the vision on Model-Based Definition (MBD) and CAD Re-use within the SolidWorks and Enterprise PDM software suite.

Read the rest of MBD and CAD Re-use Workshop at SolidWorks World

Neutral, Native, Inter-operable CAD? Is it time to get down to business?

December 30th, 2014 by Jennifer Herron

There is a-lot of technology out there to create and utilize your CAD models. But how DO YOU use it?

If 2015 is the year you will get down to the business of improving your design process by finally achieving your return on investment (ROI) from your CAD tools, then kick-off your efforts with new courses from Action Engineering.

Offered late in January, these Live interactive workshops, immerse the members of your organization in understanding all the trials and tribulations of leveraging CAD models to improving your design to manufacture process.

Come and focus on the process, rather than anyone particular CAD tool, and walk away with a plan to set your vision of model-based processes into play.
Read the rest of Neutral, Native, Inter-operable CAD? Is it time to get down to business?

MBD Models? Need to know more?

November 18th, 2014 by Jennifer Herron

Are you thinking of increasing your use of your 3D solid models? Do you know what’s different about documenting your product efficiently with a 3D model, rather than with a 3D drawing? It doesn’t mean you don’t have to provide manufacturing details that define the way your product design is communicated, but creating an MBD model, can save you time.

It’s true that MBD standards are still evolving that define the 3D MBD model, but it doesn’t mean you have to wait for them.

Get ahead! Learn more about MBD and MBE now.

Check-out the Re-Use Your CAD training series. The first course is FREE and can be accessed on demand from the web. As your needs and level of MBD model implementation increase, more detailed webinars and live face-to-face, human-being to human-being contact is well worth your bang for the buck.

Definitely rely on your CAD software providers and resellers to provide pick and click training, but getting non-biased, user-based assistance is critical to successful MBE implementation.

Action Engineering offers MBD and MBE Training and how to define MBD models. Here is a summary of the courses.

Read the rest of MBD Models? Need to know more?

MBD Modeling in SolidWorks and Enterprise PDM

November 4th, 2014 by Jennifer Herron

Is this your current design workflow?

Design products using 3D CAD, then create 2D drawings, release those drawings, share the drawings with other departments and the supply chain…  Why do we work the way we do?  Why do we model parts and assemblies in 3D, and then create 2D drawings, and use them through the rest of the product lifecycle?  Why do we use 2D drawings as the master authority when we create the product in 3D? Why do we work today like we did more than 50 years ago?  Have you been spending time trying to make this process work, or maybe just make it work at all…?  Isn’t there a better way?

Read the rest of MBD Modeling in SolidWorks and Enterprise PDM

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