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Posts Tagged ‘MBD’

Measuring Digital Thread Value – NIST MBE Summit 2016

Monday, June 6th, 2016

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

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

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.


SOLIDWORKS World 2015: Focus on MBD

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

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.

MBE Organization Spruces-up it’s Website

Monday, June 16th, 2014

MIL-STD-31000A is released, but now the creators are focused on pushing out the message of MBE. Vendors are developing great presentations that circulate around how their software products support MBE. And now, the original Model-Based Enterprise creators, have put together a slick new website. This information is all software tool agnostic.


New website launched to increase understanding and compliance with MBE standards.

Download MIL-STD-31000A here


Native CAD to Neutral TDP Workflow

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Generally, you create your model using a Native CAD software tool (SolidWorks, Inventor, NX, Catia, Creo). You may have the challenge that in order to share your data with a customer or manufacturer you must convert it into a “neutral” format.

What method do you use?

Native CAD to Neutral CAD Workflow


A neutral CAD format is informally known as a digital file format that is readily viewable on a variety of computer desk and mobile platforms without spending a large sum of money. A cost of “free” makes it even more “neutral” — as in the case with Adobe Reader.


Neutral CAD Files Have Benefits (Part 1)

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

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?


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