2D to 3D is a Trend, But…

2D to 3D… What is the trend?

 

Okay, what’s the trend?  According to almost every account or study I read, use of 3D CAD data is growing.   To some that means that everyone is (or will be) moving to 3D.  I don’t believe that at all, but I think 3D data should become the standard for key workflows.   I think that the reasons it has not are a combination of business and technical limitations that are being overcome.

Use of 3D data is growing.  Cambashi recently reported 13% 2007 growth in sales of engineering software world-wide (with the Asia Pacific region leading the way, which I think is very important to note).  While slower growth rates are expected through 2010, there is clearly something going on here.   You can assume that 3D data use/applications are growing proportionately, at least.  They are probably faster, because there are indeed many mid-size and smaller companies that have resisted, but are being driven to 3D by the large OEMs they sell to.   Then there are 3D Model Based Engineering/Design initiatives intended to take whole industries in that direction.

 

How fast is 3D usage growing?  The rates vary, depending upon whom you want to believe.  I’m not going to try to give a precise answer.  I’m not going to look at this question from the perspective of someone who has worked to develop PLM systems (broadly defined to include CAD, CAM, PDM, etc.), deploy them.  I am going to look at this from the perspective of what will benefit the enterprise mostly outside of today’s PLM focus.

 

I am going to ask you to look at this problem by starting with the end in mind.  We will then look at the product lifecycle in reverse, trying to identify where 3D data makes sense, and perhaps where it doesn’t.

 

So let’s get to it… click below to read on.

Let’s quickly look at the question in reverse

So what is the goal of a discrete manufacturing enterprise?  You Eli Goldratt fans are saying “to make money”.  Okay, so let’s not go that far to the end state, but let’s consider what is necessary to deliver a product say to a retail outlet.  For the sake of making this more concrete, let say a car dealership.  You are, of course going to need the product and a way to order and deliver it.  You will need marketing collateral – probably both print and web-based.  You will need service instructions for the shop (and inmost industries for the field).  There are also aftermarket needs, but let’s leave those out for the sake of brevity. 

Now, of course, if we step back a bit, there had to be a production manufacturing facility up and running near flawlessly to deliver the product.  Not only did the production tooling need to be right, but inspection and monitoring systems needed to be in place to ensure everything is right quality-wise.  Parts and systems had to be scheduled and delivered to meet today’s demands fro one-part flow and JIT delivery.

So where would 3D data make a real difference, and where would it be just nice to have or even irrelevant?   What were the process steps and systems that were essential to getting to this point to get everything up and running?   Which of those are just fine 2D oriented processes, which are best using 3D data and which could be either?  Go to 3D if the benefit outweighs the cost, but for goodness sake, don’t go to 3D just because you can or want to.  

Here’s my assessment of what systems and processes need to be/should be 3D:

2D and 3D Workflows – Many do not require 3D

Representative Manufacturing Workflows

Workflow

Key Activities

2D

3D

Mix

Product Planning

  • Scope (New-C/O content)
  • Features
  • Financial Targets

X

X

X

 

X

Concept Development

  • Product and Market Requirements
  • Design Concept
  • Product Concept (trade-offs)

X

 

X

 

 

 

X

Sourcing

  • Technical Packages/Requirements
  • RFQ
  • Source Selection & Engagement

 

X

 

 

X

 

X

Design

  • Product Design Inc. Mock-Up
  • System Design
  • Component Design

 

X

X

X

 

Test and Analysis

  • Prototype Build
  • Prototype Test
  • FEM/FEA

 

 

 

X

X

X

 

Manufacturing Engineering

  • Process Planning
  • Process Design (Line/Station/Operation)
  • Tool and Die Design

X

 

X

 

X

 

Release

  • CAD Data Model Revision
  • Production Approval

 

X

 

X

Purchasing/ Sourcing

  • RFx Process
  • System and Component Sourcing
  • Co-design
  • Design Integration

 

X

 

 

X

X

X

Change Management

  • Issue Management
  • Engineering Change Request/Notification
  • Manufacturing Change Request/Notification

X

 

 

 

X

 

X

Pilot Production/Launch

  • Quality Glide Path/Acceleration
  • Issue Management

X

X

 

 

Production

  • Procurement/Broadcast/Scheduling
  • Plant operations

X

X

 

 

Sales and Marketing

  • Sales Brochures
  • Advertising/Promotions

 

 

X

X

Customer Service

  • Service Manuals
  • User Manuals

 

X

 

X

 

Note, I have highlighted cells where which I believe represent the sweetspot…  the place top performers will end up.  So what’s the point?  Well the point is that while I fully support the notion of CAD everywhere, as a friend of mine at one of the largest automotive companies likes to say, don’t assume that everything needs to transition to 3D.    The best in class competitors seem to be headed toward intelligently blending 3D data into traditionally 2D workflows.  Notice how many of these are a mix or 2D and 3D. 

Many manufacturing workflows are, and likely always will be 2D.  Companies who do the best job of meeting business requirements such as quality, time to market and cost, simply do a better job of using 3D data where it makes sense.  Many strictly 2D processes can be enhanced with 3D data.  In general, 3D communicates better.   The issue for manufacturing companies is extending workflows and making them easy to engage with.  That is why growth in the use of 3D data has been slower than many have predicted.   The CAD everywhere idea is spot on, but it hasn’t been easy historically to extend 3D beyond engineering to effectively blend 2D and 3D.  That is changing.   I think that is the place we’re going to see tremendous growth in coming years.

What should you do?

Find out how to extend both your 2D and 3D workflows as necessary, to the entire enterprise and outside to suppliers and JVs.  That is where the battle will be won or lost.  Then adopt technology that will allow you to both mix 2D and 3D technology and even more importantly, share it securely.

Your Opinion? 

So, while I admit my table above is not exhaustive, I would like to find out what your experience has been.  Think about whether you have done the things you need to do to extend your workflows smartly across and beyond you enterprise.  Analyze where 3D would improve what you are doing, and then ensure your engineering/manufacturing tools support that need. 

I would like to see some comments on this.  What would be required in your company to improve workflows, regards less of whether they are 2D, 3D or a combination (which is really the holly grail for many firms).