Building a Photo Storyline of Your MBD Data with 3D Views

In 2014, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the United States concluded the first round of a product and manufacturing information (PMI) validation and conformance testing project. One of the project team members, Rich Eckenrode, who is the cochair of the Military Standard 31000 manufacturing subcommittee, commented that while SOLIDWORKS 2012 software was good at creating 3D PMI with DimXpert, the application of the model-based definition (MBD)viewing schema was hard to accomplish.

A gap analysis revealed that the 2012 release lacked a way to quickly and easily capture and retrieve comprehensive MBD variables, such as models, annotations, configurations, display states, annotation views, orientations and zooming scales.

Targeted at this gap, SOLIDWORKS MBD 2015 developed a tool called 3D View as shown at the bottom of Figures 1 and 2. Simply put, 3D View is a visual bookmark that captures a comprehensive combination of all the MBD variables noted above. In other words, you can take a photo of your MBD design using a 3D view.

The view thumbnails are designed to help users get a quick visual of the content. Each of these thumbnails has a pop-up balloon with the view’s name and properties, which can help users easily grasp the various view settings. Going one step further, a series of created 3D views build up a visual storyline that conveys the design requirements step by step to downstream manufacturing teams.

image001Figure 1. A panel of 3D views captured in a shaft part model.

image002Figure 2. A panel of 3D views captured in a gear box assembly model.

Let’s dive into an example to see how these 3D views can be created. We will start off with a shaft with three configurations(130 mm, 150 mm and 200 mm) as shown in Figure 3.

image003Figure 3. A shaft with three configurations.

The green arrows at the top and bottom of Figure 3 indicate the buttons to capture 3D views. Once you click either one, you will see the property manager on the left and a preview of your 3D view on the bottom panel as shown in Figure 4.

image004Figure 4. The property manager (on the left) to capture a 3D View.

You can select the desired configuration, display state and annotation views on the fly before a capture is finalized. For example, Figure 5 shows that the 150-mm configuration is selected on the property manager on the left. The model in the main viewport is updated automatically to this configuration. With a longer shaft, you may need to zoom out and pan the model a bit to fit the shaft into the viewport.

image005Figure 5. A 150-mm configuration is selected in the property manager.

Similarly, you can adjust the visibility of multiple annotation views for this upcoming 3D view. For instance, if you include the Notes Area annotation view, the notes will be visible as shown in Figure 6. If you deselect the Notes Area annotation view, the notes will be hidden as shown in Figure 7. One caveat here is that the active annotation view can’t be excluded. In this case, the Right annotation view is active and will remain on, unless you activate another annotation view through the model tree or the DimXpert tree.

image006Figure 6. The Notes Area annotation view is included on the property manager.

image007Figure 7. The Notes Area annotation view is deselected on the property manager.

You can turn on multiple annotation views as needed. Figure 8 shows that the section annotation view is included. Therefore, the callouts to a tilted hole are visible on the right side.

image008Figure 8. Include multiple annotation views on the property manager to display additional callouts.

Once you are satisfied with the view settings, you can press the green checkmark at the top of the property manager to finalize the 3D view. Or you can simply double-click on the viewport area to finalize the creation. By double-clicking on the viewport area, you can save yourself the trouble of moving your mouse all the way to the upper-left corner. Plus, you don’t have to click exactly on the small green checkmark. Double-clicking anywhere on the viewport area will accept the creation as long as the click doesn’t select anything else.

In the same way, you can create as many 3D views as needed as shown in Figures 1 and 2. There is no limit to the number of 3D views that can be included in a document. You can retrieve a certain visual bookmark in the viewport area by simply double-clicking on its thumbnail. If you want to edit a 3D view, right-click on the view and select “Recapture View” as shown in Figure 9. You will be able to further refine the view by following the steps noted above.

image009Figure 9. Further refine a 3D view by recapturing it.

As introduced in a previous post, “What’s New in SOLIDWORKS 2017: MBD,” you can now drag and drop 3D views to easily resequence them and fine-tune the design storyline using MBD 2017. Also, 3D views can be sorted automatically by multiple orders, such as history, name, configuration and display state.

It’s important to highlight that although it’s called 3D View, the tool is very flexible and is not limited to capturing models. It can also capture tables, notes or other 2DPMI. Figure 10 shows a bill of materials (BOM) captured in a 3D view.

image010Figure 10. A 3D view dedicated to a BOM table.

If a team member or a supplier doesn’t have a SOLIDWORKS MBD license, they can still see these 3D views in the software. These 3D viewscan be viewed, but cannot be edited without a software license. Of course, all 3D views created in MBD can be reused in 3D PDF and eDrawings.

With the above technical briefing, it’s worth sharing how 3D views are used in the actual manufacturing process. As Casey Gorman with Sparton noted in a presentation that shared MBD implementation experiences, Sparton recommends capturing the first 3D view for notes, so that downstream teams can first read the key requirements such as materials and finishes in the notes. Then the second 3D view is typically an isometric view to provide a straightforward look. After these two views, a series of orthogonal views, detailed views and exploded views are created where necessary. Then these 3D views, along with models and custom properties, are published into 3D PDF documents for other team members who may not have SOLIDWORKS installed. Figure 11 shows a 3D PDF published by Sparton.

image011Figure 11. 3D Views published in a 3D PDF by Sparton.

Now let’s circle back to the comments in the NIST PMI study noted at the beginning of this article. Regarding the 3D view tool, Eckenrode confirmed the level of compliance to Military Standard 31000 Appendix B viewing schema for SOLIDWORKS. I hope that you find this tool useful, too. To learn more about how SOLIDWORKS MBD can help you with your MBD implementations, please visit its 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 and smart manufacturing.

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