3D PDF Enhancements in SOLIDWORKS MBD 2016

In a previous article, we shared three long-awaited enhancements in SOLIDWORKS MBD 2016 regarding product and manufacturing information (PMI). In this post, let’s continue exploring some practical 3D PDF enhancements in the 2016 release.

Multiple Viewports in One 3D PDF Document

A 3D PDF is a great tool to present rich design information. All we need is a free Adobe Reader. In the 3D content viewport of a PDF document, we can pan, zoom and rotate a model in a similar way as in a CAD application.

However, one viewport isn’t enough in many cases. For example, we may want to present multiple perspectives of a product all together as an overview or arrange several viewports of different configurations side by side for easier comparison. And as I stated in an earlier article, model-based definition (MBD) doesn’t mean paperless. In the actual production, we oftentimes need to print out digital documents as hard copies. Similar to printing a regular drawing, we want to be able to hit the Print button in Adobe Reader and have all the necessary views come out in a professional fashion, including orthogonal views, detailed views, exploded views, cross-sections and so on.

From the perspective of MBD implementation, 3D PDF documents may need to be reviewed and approved by many internal or external key stakeholders. Some of them may still prefer the look and feel of 2D drawings. Therefore, if 3D PDF view arrangements closely resemble what was on 2D drawings, it will require fewer examinations, speed up the review and approval process and hence make the transition to MBD easier.

Now, using SOLIDWORKS MBD 2016, we can insert as many projected viewports or independent viewports as needed in the template editor and publish them as a 3D PDF (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Projected viewports and independent viewports in the template editor and 3D PDF.

Project viewports are associated with the primary viewport. Upon any model rotation in the primary viewport, the projected views will rotate automatically according to predefined perspectives, such as back, top and so on, relative to the primary viewport. The intention here is to imitate the 2D drawing of automatic orthogonal projections.

An independent viewport is more flexible because it can be populated with any predefined views independently of other viewports. More importantly, these view selections can be remembered and saved into the 3D PDF document using Adobe Reader. This means that in one document session, we can assign a group of views to a group of independent viewports. These assignments are maintained as we scroll up and down the pages or interact with the 3D content so that we don’t have to make the selections repeatedly. In addition, even if this document is closed or the Adobe Reader application is ended, we can still reopen this 3D PDF and have all the viewport assignments preserved if we have saved this document using Adobe Reader. That’s right. We only need the free Adobe Reader to save the viewport assignments.

The benefit of saving view assignments in Adobe Reader is that the consumers of 3D PDF documents can adjust which view should be displayed on which page according to their job requirements. For example, the manufacturing team may want detailed views with key tolerances on the first page so that a shop floor planner can quickly decide whether a part should be manufactured in house or has to be outsourced. The assembly team may care more about an overview, exploded states and detailed views on the interfaces so they can choose to give these views higher priorities.

By the way, an independent viewport can not only display models, but can also host 3D views of notes or tables as shown in Figure 2. There is no limit to the number of 3D views or independent viewports in a 3D PDF. You can learn more MBD implementation experiences in Casey Gorman’s presentation from SOLIDWORKS World 2016, “Oh! The Trauma of MBD: What Will Happen to My 2D?

I personally like independent viewports better because they’re flexible and can cover the use cases of projected viewports.

Figure 2. An independent view to show a 3D view of notes. (Image courtesy of Casey Gorman and Sparton.)

Multiple Sheets in One 3D PDF Document

Once multiple viewports are in place, the next natural question is how to fit them into one document. Furthermore, besides viewports, there are many other types of content such as the 3D view panel, notes, custom properties, images and tables. A long bill of material (BOM) table, a detailed note or regulatory statements themselves may take up an entire page. Also, in the context of hard copies, some companies require that all the texts and tables must be visible in their entirety. Unlike digital files, printouts don’t allow a scroll bar in a text field or a table list scrolling up and down to hide and show information. Therefore, the extensive content in a 3D PDF document requires multiple sheets. This enhancement has been implemented in the MBD 2016 release.

Adding a new sheet is very simple. Just click on the + sign at the bottom of the template editor and the end of all tabs as shown in Figure 3. We can add as many as we need. Each and every sheet can hold its own independent viewports, tables, notes and images. Deleting a sheet is simple. Just click on the red X sign next to a tab name.

Figure 3. Multiples sheets in the 3D PDF template editor and a published 3D PDF.

The support of multiple sheets in MBD 2016 can greatly ease the transition from 2D drawings to MBD. It enables richer content in one document, better content organization and printer-friendly layouts.

Here is a video blog post sharing more details on the editing and publishing of 3D PDF templates. To get a first-hand feel, you can also download some free 3D PDF samples at the SOLIDWORKS MBD forum. Adobe Reader is recommended to open these documents because other applications such as the Google Chrome browser may remove the 3D content inside. Also, in the Adobe Reader application, you may need to enable the 3D content, as explained in this Adobe Help article.

To recap, we looked into two handy 3D PDF enhancements in the SOLIDWORKS MBD 2016 release: multiple viewports and multiple sheets. To learn more about how the software can help you with your MBD implementation, please visit the SOLIDWORKS MBD product page.

About the Author

Oboe Wu is a SOLIDWORKS MBD product manager with 20 years of experience in engineering and software. He is an advocate of model-based enterprise (MBE) and smart manufacturing.  

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