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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 »

Neutral CAD Files Have Benefits (Part 1)

March 6th, 2014 by Jennifer Herron

3D CAD and model-based ideas are fostered by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology).

Let’s start with defining a Neutral CAD File. A neutral CAD file is a CAD format, generally governed by a commercial, government or international standard and is “open source”. Many can write it, and many can read it. It is not a CAD specific, proprietary format.

Now, also bear in mind, that a Neutral CAD File, is generally a derivative of the Native CAD format. Meaning it is a copy of the original file. Consider how that derivative file is used downstream in the product development lifecycle, and what relationship, if any, it has back to the originating source data.

This is where I make YOU work. Which is the master? Do you have a feedback loop to the source design data? Do you need to feedback to the source data?

Now, I will do some work. The Department of the Navy has an introductory pilot program that uses CAD MBD approaches and 3D PDF (neutral CAD included) to deliver their product documentation.

In November 2013, a DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY, NAVAL AIR WARFARE CENTER AIRCRAFT DIVISION (NAWCAD Lakehurst, NJ), enumerated the benefits and challenges of CAD model-based documentation in the document designated “NAWCADLKE-DDR-486600-0010”.

If you are looking for data to reference regarding MBD and MBE (Model-Based Definition and Enterprise), this report documents MBD and MBE cost and schedule savings potential.

Here is my cliff-notes version of the data collected from the “NAWCADLKE-DDR-486600-0010” document. Included quotes and pictures are directly extracted from the “NAWCADLKE-DDR-486600-0010” document.

A brief description of NAWCAD (Lakehurst) products – “NAWCAD Lakehurst is responsible for the design and development of ALRE and SE. ALRE refers to the equipment on naval ships that is used to launch and recover aircraft. Examples of ALRE include catapults, arresting engines, barricades, and aircraft visual landing aids currently on aircraft carriers and air capable ships. SE refers to the equipment required to test, repair, and maintain the aircraft.”

The main findings from authoring solid models with 3D annotations (PMI) and converting those models into ubiquitously consumable 3D PDFs are as follows:

  1. Significant labor savings can be generated though the implementation of MBD, including: 30% reduction in complex part fabrication and 10% reduction in other manufacturing costs
  2. Development time of new equipment can be reduced by 30%
  3. 3D drawings are less ambiguous and provide more clarity to the end user

Additionally cited are published studies generated by Boeing, BAE and Toyota for costs savings in development, fabrication, and assembly due to MBD usage.


  • Boeing claims 50% reduction in fabrication costs and 30% reduction in assembly hours.
  • Toyota claims 50% reduction in development costs (Pezel, 2011).


  • 2D Drawings are only an estimation of actual geometry
  • 3D models contain exact geometry definition and can be digitally transferred with less product definition data loss than when utilizing a drawing-based product documentation approach.


  • Toyota shows a 33% reduction in overall developmental time
  • BAE Systems shows a 83% percent reduction in their time to market (Pezel, 2011)
  • NAWCAD Lakehurst’s predicts 25% reduction in developmental schedule

The Navy (NAWCAD) pilot program has much more forward work, but the following table depicts the expected savings. We hope the Navy will continue forward with such projects, to proliferate reuse of CAD model data and document the benefits of using 3D solid models.

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