Extending CAD Beyond Engineering

I have been working with many of our customers who have asked about how to get more out of their investment in 3D CAD and PLM.  This is going to be a “how-to” session on doing just that… I would like to show you how to better extend your 3D CAD assets outside of engineering and integrate the product development process across the extended enterprise.

 

Today we will pretend we work at a company called Global Corp. Imagine that you are the engineering lead for a project, and you must communicate technical information to suppliers.   I will show you how repurpose 3D content from virtually any CAD format, making it available cross-functionally, with suppliers and joint venture partners virtually anywhere.  In today’s scenario, I will show you how a technical specification created in an MS Office application can be combined with any 2D or 3D content and shared easily and securely across the enterprise.

I have been working with many of our customers who have asked about how to get more out of their investment in 3D CAD and PLM.

 

Top firms are addressing the issue.  Why?  Here are the top 3 reasons given in a recent Aberdeen study are:

  • First, getting work done as soon as possible clearly shortens lead times to market.  There is no waiting for engineering
  • Second, addressing things like serviceability and manufacturability earlier and in a much more robust way, dramatically improves quality and customer satisfaction.
  • Third, globalization.  3D content greatly enhances understanding and reduces errors.  That runs the gamut from manufacturing work instructions, to service manuals; to user manuals… you name it.

 

Here are the business challenges our customers are facing:

  • Most design today is done in 3D but there’s no easy and intuitive way of communicating in 3D
  • Often technical documentation has completed only after products are fully designed and engineered, very late in the product development cycle, so…
  • 3D designs are converted to 2D renderings, which are very limiting, and add time to the process of getting new products to market

 

Aberdeen says that firms who have done the best job of sharing 3D information downstream are meeting their target an average of 90% of the time, or better.  The laggards are way behind, meeting targets only 55% of the time, on average, or worse.

 

So the reasons are the obvious, better, faster, cheaper.  But how do you avoid the expense and complexity of CAD software to do the job? This is going to be a “how-to” session on doing just that… I will like to show you how to better extend your 3D CAD assets outside of engineering and integrate the product development process across the extended enterprise.

Lets get started…

Today we will pretend we work at a company called Global Corp. Imagine that you are the engineering lead for a project, and you must communicate technical information to suppliers.   I will show you how repurpose 3D content from virtually any CAD format, making it available to suppliers virtually anywhere.  In today’s scenario, the technical specification.  We are going to start in MS Excel. 

 

Figure 1.  Starting to Create the Specifications Document

 

We have added the technical parameters.  We are going to add some 3D content, some views and some buttons to easily direct readers to the views we will create.  We have Acrobat 3D installed, so we can use the Acrobat tools to search for and add the 3D content we need to the document.  Notice in Figure 1, we have selected the SolidWorks disc brake assembly we need.  We don’t even need SolidWorks installed to add the 3D content we need. 

 

Figure 2.  Our Specifications Document with 3D Content Added

 

Once we select “open” the 3D content is added.  We then resize the 3D pane to obtain the result in Figure 2.  At this point, however, we have just a static image. Our next step will be to convert to PDF.  To do that, we simply chose “create PDF” for the Acrobat Toolbar and off we go.  See Figure 3 to view our 3D PDF.

 

Figure 3.  Our 3D Technical Specifications PDF

Now we have real, interactive 3D.  Let’s go create some views to help our customers for this document. The idea is to make using the document really easy for the suppliers we are working with.  In figure 4, we have activated the 3D pane, rotated, panned and zoomed to the 3D design just the way we need it.  In fact, we even isolated just some of the parts. Then we have selected Views -> Manage Views to create named views that the user can easily navigate to…  but we’re not done yet.  Lets add some buttons to make navigation intuitive.

 

Figure 4.  Managing Views

Let’s look at Figure 5 to see the buttons we have added.  I am going to explain the steps I took in this article.  We will explore a little more deeply in a future article.  As a side note, I could have created the buttons and associated the necessary actions in LiveCycle Designer, which ships with Acrobat pro and Acrobat 3D, but for this simple case, Acrobat Forms is all I need, and is a little easier in this case. 

 

Figure 5.  Buttons Added to The Specifications

After creating three views I wanted, so that I can direct the user to specific areas of the design, I added buttons by first going to View -> Toolbars -> Forms Toolbar.  Then I selected the button tool.  Once selected, I simply sized and positioned the buttons where I wanted them.  I added border and fill colors.  I added labels in the Options Tab… for example “Complete Assembly”.  Then I moved to the  Actions Tab (see figure 6).  I selected “Go to a 3D View”, selected the view I wanted when prompted, for all three buttons and I was done.  So now you have it.  We have completed one simple example of extending the use of three dimensional data across the extended enterprze.  You can imagine all of the additional other things we could do, like adding call-outs, adding additional content from whatever file format or source it is saved in and even more 2 or 3D content.  We can make everything available to the receiver, with out worrying about the applications and formats they may have.  Everything will simply open and work in the free Adobe Reader. 

 

Figure 6.  Creating Adding the Action to the Button

Well, we’ll stop here today.  I would ask you to not only consider the ease with which we did this work, but I challenge you to find an easier way, anyway.

Comments are always appreciated, including what you would like to see next.