As strategic product-development improvement initiatives such as Industry 4.0, the digital twin, Model-Based Definition (MBD), and the Model-Based Enterprise (MBE) have taken hold across an ever-increasing number of industries, engineering software companies have been on the front lines, propelling these movements forward via technology. Thanks to their tools, manufacturers have been able to create fully annotated 3D models that include all of the product manufacturing information (PMI) necessary to define, manufacture and control a product.
|Digital model containing product manufacturing information (PMI) necessary to define, manufacture and control a product .|
However, it’s no longer enough to enable engineers to create a single master model. People need an efficient way to share that information downstream of engineering and have it be easily consumed by a wide range of audiences for a host of different uses — such as the machinists who are making the product, the suppliers who want to bid on supporting it, the technicians who will be servicing it, and so on.
Simply put: if you’re an engineering software vendor, making product information available for consumption outside of your application is now a critical part of your application’s value proposition —and it’s where customers will be won and lost.
Room for Improvement
People have been improvising ways to share engineering data downstream for years. Unfortunately, the results have been less than ideal, often requiring information to be dumbed down or otherwise degraded. For example, CAD models might be transformed into screenshots —and while this might give users an idea of what the part looks like in one orientation, it offers no way to interrogate the rest of the model. In other scenarios, information attached to 3D models, like a parts list, might be exported as an Excel spreadsheet — resulting in a separate document to manage and update throughout the product lifecycle.
These approaches to sharing information frequently introduce inefficiencies into the manufacturing process. A study by Lifecycle Insights reported that on average, per week, engineers spend 21.3 hours creating drawings; 6.4 hours answering questions or clarifying drawings; and 5.5 hours generating additional drawing documentation. Meanwhile, on average, per week, machinists spend 8.3 hours creating manufacturing or quality documentation; 4.7 hours answering questions or clarifying documentation; and 4.1 hours generating additional documentation.
Clearly, there is room for improvement. But how best to achieve it?
Multiple Outputs Unlock Your Data
To unlock their engineering data for downstream consumption, today’s applications need the ability to publish 3D data in a variety of outputs that can serve different use cases and workflows:
- Output 1: CAD standards for interoperability and archiving
Publishing a 3D model in formats such as STEP, JT, 3MF, or other industry standards is very useful for archiving purposes: if you have a product with a long lifecycle, publishing out to a standard ensures that people will still be able to consume the design information decades later, even if the original design vendor is no longer around. This type of output is also very useful for interoperability purposes, enabling downstream users to leverage the model data in other applications.