What’s New in SOLIDWORKS 2017: MBD

The SOLIDWORKS 2017 launch site went live on Sept. 12, 2016. There are close to 30 fresh features and enhancements dedicated to the model-based definition (MBD) workflows in this new release. All of these additions are based on practical feedback from manufacturers worldwide. I’d love to hear your feedback too in the comment area below. In this article, let’s quickly browse through several examples. At a high level, four main themes stood out to me:

  1. Define 3D product and manufacturing information (PMI) with greater flexibility
  2. Organize 3D PMI more efficiently
  3. Publish 3D PDF with better ease of use and closer regulatory compliance
  4. Streamline enterprise-level processes

Now let’s drill down.

1. Define 3D PMI with Greater Flexibility

In a previous article, “Design for Manufacturing: How to Define Features Directly,” we illustrated that SOLIDWORKS MBD was focused on annotating comprehensive features rather than basic geometries. While defining features matches the actual manufacturing processes more closely, many engineers would also like to define supplemental geometries besides features.

For example, one designer told me that they need to call out the distance between the center of mass on a robot and the ground level in a factory where the machine is to be installed. The higher the center of mass is, the more likely the robot could tip over; and so, the stronger the mounting structure needs to be. However, center of mass is not a feature. It’s a theoretical geometry. The ground level is an external reference plane, certainly not a feature on the design either. So, clearly there is a need to dimension to reference geometries. Another consideration is to follow 2D drawing conventions. In the 2D world, we can dimension to centerlines or reference planes very easily. Many engineers want to carry over this flexibility into 3D PMI definitions.

Now MBD 2017 includes this flexibility. As shown in Figure 1, you can select the center of mass and a ground-level reference plane to call out the vertical height. Similarly, you can call out the horizontal offsets between the center of mass and the center of the supporting base mount. These are all insightful indicators of an object’s risk of tipping over. Of course, as the robot arm moves, these distances update upon a model rebuild, so that you can monitor these parameters dynamically and optimize the design accordingly.


Figure 1. The vertical height and horizontal offsets of a center of mass.

Another challenge many engineers experienced before was defining drafted parts that are very common in casting and forging processes. As shown in Figure 2, the tricky point is that the 2-degree draft angle generates different diameters at different lengths from left to right on the highlighted extrusion. In other words, one size doesn’t fit all here. To address this challenge, MBD 2017 now assists you in creating intersection circles between the drafted cylinder and reference planes at selected section locations. Then these circle diameters and locations can provide accurate and context-relevant measures to describe a drafted part. The animation in Figure 3 illustrates these quick steps.


Figure 2. Define the diameters and locations of intersection circles on a drafted part.


Figure 3. Steps to create a reference plane and an intersection circle to describe a drafted extrusion.


2. Organize 3D PMI More Efficiently

As we discussed in a previous article, “How to Present the MBD Data of a Gear Box Assembly,” people do judge a book by its cover. So it’s extremely important to present MBD data in a consumable, actionable and professional fashion. In MBD 2017, more tools are available to help organize 3D PMI.

For example, a blog post summarized a handy tool, 3D View, released in MBD 2015. In this new release, 3D View has been enhanced and can now be resequenced by a simple drag-and-drop operation as shown in the animation in Figure 4. The benefit is that you can first capture a group of random 3D Views and then easily adjust their order later. Because of this freedom, you don’t have to be overly concerned about their initial sequence. It also allows designers to fine-tune a storyline inside MBD to guide downstream consumers in a more concerted and structured way.


Figure 4. Resequence 3D Views.

In the 3D PMI presentations between multiple revisions, the most actionable insight is the changes. A tolerance change can drive many critical decisions. For instance, a 0.05-inch tolerance can probably be achieved in house, but a 0.001-inch tolerance probably has to be outsourced at 10 times the in-house cost with many scraps. PMI changes, or essentially requirement changes, affect many areas of the manufacturing process such as the resource planning, the production routing, the tooling and fixtures, speeds and feeds, the inspection setup and reports, costs, the cycle time and so on.

In order to quickly identify the 3D PMI changes in a consumable and actionable way, MBD 2017 provides a new tool called 3D PMI Compare as shown in the animation in Figure 5. The changes can be reported in a separate HTML file for data consumers who may not have SOLIDWORKS installed, such as inspectors, sourcing managers or suppliers.


Figure 5. Compare 3D PMI differences between two revisions.


3. Publish 3D PDF with Better Ease of Use and Closer Regulatory Compliance

3D PDF lowers the communication barrier and so is an important communication tool in MBD processes. MBD 2017 greatly enhances the 3D PDF template editor so that you can produce more professional documents more easily. The animation in Figure 6 shows several handy tools such as alignment, grouping and display order. Please check out the new release to look into more nice additions such as richer text formatting, the format painter and rectangles to organize texts.


Figure 6. Edit the alignment, grouping and display order on the 3D PDF template editor.

It’s also worth noting that you can now resequence sheet orders with a simple drag-and-drop operation. Furthermore, the first sheet doesn’t have to contain a 3D viewport anymore. For companies that must show certain regulatory statements, disclaimers or warnings on the first page of a 3D PDF, this enhancement is exactly what is needed.


4. Streamline Enterprise-Level Processes

With all the above setup, including PMI definition, organization and PDF publishing, now it’s time to visit the model-based processes at an enterprise level. MBD 2017 brings along several key improvements in this regard. First of all, the 3D PDF publishing step has been added as a SOLIDWORKS PDM task as shown in Figure 7. Now you can simply pick a 3D PDF template and the views to include and then kick off the automatic publishing for multiple files, rather publishing individual files manually one by one.


Figure 7. SOLIDWORKS PDM 3D PDF publishing task.

Second, MBD 2017 can now publish the STEP 242 neutral format with 3D PMI based on the ISO 10303-242:2014 standard as shown in Figure 8. Even better, when publishing a 3D PDF, you can check the box “Create and attach STEP 242” so that you don’t have to worry about missing or mismatched attachments in a 3D PDF package.


Figure 8. Publish STEP 242 (left) and automatically attach STEP 242 to a 3D PDF (right).

Last but not least, eDrawings 2017 can display 3D PMI from STEP 242, Creo (Pro/Engineer) and CATIA V5 formats as shown in Figures 9 and 10. Many suppliers to the aerospace and defense enterprises such as Boeing, Airbus and Gulfstream can benefit from these enhancements. In recent years, these large enterprises are sending out 3D models with PMI to replace 2D drawings, so the small manufacturing firms in their supply chain urgently need a tool to read the critical PMI and requirements from the models instead of 2D drawings.


Figure 9. STEP 242 3D PMI display in eDrawings 2017.


Figure 10. Open Creo (Pro/Engineer) and CATIA V5 formats with 3D PMI in eDrawings 2017.

We touched upon several new features in SOLIDWORKS 2017. Table 1 lists a quick summary. To learn more about how this new release can help you with your MBD implementations, please visit the SOLIDWORKS 2017 launch site.

Table 1. Examples of SOLIDWORKS 2017 new features.

Theme Feature Benefits
Define 3D PMI with greater flexibility Define DimXpert to reference geometries Support center of mass use cases and improve ease of use
Define drafted parts Support casting and forging use cases and improve ease of use
Organize 3D PMI more efficiently Resequence 3D Views Capture 3D Views with more freedom and fine-tune a storyline
Compare 3D PMI differences Identify and report 3D PMI changes in a consumable and actionable way
Publish 3D PDF with better ease of use and closer regulation compliance Edit 3D PDF templates with more controls and richer formats Produce more professional 3D PDF documents more easily
Resequence 3D PDF template sheets Comply with regulatory requirements
Streamline enterprise-level processes Automate 3D PDF publishing using SOLIDWORKS PDM Save time, convert a large amount of models and maintain consistency in 3D PDF publishing
Publish STEP 242 with 3D PMI Support downstream 3D PMI consumers and comply with the new neutral format standard ISO 10303-242:2014
Automatically attach STEP 242 when publishing a 3D PDF Avoid missing or mismatched attachments
Read 3D PMI from STEP 242, Creo (Pro/Engineer) and CATIA V5 in eDrawings Read critical requirements in the 3D PMI from clients to replace 2D drawings

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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