What’s New in SOLIDWORKS MBD 2018: Build a Bridge Between MBD and 2D Drawings

Let’s start with a story at the beginning of PayPal in early 2000. In an Elon Musk biography by Ashlee Vance, Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, Vance wrote that the PayPal founding team wanted to encourage customers to deposit cash into their PayPal accounts. But how did they achieve that? Counterintuitively, PayPal issued a debit card to make it easier for customers to withdraw cash. Why did they do that? Because you can’t force people in. However, the easier it is to get money out, the more comfortable and open people will feel about putting money in. Nowadays, PayPal has won the trust of close to 200 million users globally.

The same strategy can be applied to Model-Based Definition (MBD) implementations. Let’s face it. 2D drawings are not going away anytime soon because most manufacturers’ production processes are based on them. Internal guidelines, recommended practices, employee trainings, shop floor communications, supply chain collaborations and software customizations area few examples that may be tightly tied to 2D drawings today. Most manufacturers cannot force their teams to stop using 2D drawings right away.

Accordingly, especially at the start of an MBD implementation, please don’t position it as drawing less or getting rid of 2D drawings. These may be catchy phrases, but are far from reality for most of the manufacturing industry.Rather, let’s position MBD as a complementary approach to 2D drawings that can further automate manufacturing procedures, reduce ambiguities and simplify processes.

A sensible transition strategy from 2D drawings to MBD is to encourage defining 3D content first. When 2D drawings are needed, the 3D content should be easily reused in 2D drawings to minimize the time and effort in 2D detailing. The goal is to gradually shift focus and effort from 2D to 3D. Similar to the PayPal debit card strategy, the easier it is to reuse 3D annotations and MBD views to create 2D drawings, the more comfortable and open engineers and designers will feel about MBD.

In this context, SOLIDWORKS MBD 2018 built a bridge to reuse the 3D model views in 2D drawings. Figures 1 and 2 illustrate an example.

Figure 1. A 3D model view is captured in SOLIDWORKS MBD from the front perspective.

Figure 2. Reuse the front 3D view captured by SOLIDWORKS MBD in a 2D drawing.

First, you can create comprehensive 3D model views to bookmark the configurations, display states, display styles, annotation views, position, orientation and zooming factor. A prior blog post shared more details: Building a Photo Storyline of Your MBD Data with 3D Views.

Then in the 2D drawing environment, you will see these 3D views listed after the annotation views and several frequently used pre-predefined perspectives on the view palette on the right side. To differentiate them, you may notice that the 3D view names start with (3D) and annotation view names start with (A). The advantage of 3D views over others is its comprehensiveness, which means that it remembers more settings as listed above than other views. As a result, the 3D views on a drawing sheet can match what you captured in the model environment and help you minimize further manual adjustments.

Now you can simply drag and drop a 3D view to the drawing sheet. To import the 3D annotations, you can select a view and check the newly added “3D view annotations” box on its property manager on the left as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Import annotations to a 3D view on a 2D drawing sheet.

This check box is a handy shortcut to match what has been presented in 3D views regardless of the annotations tools such as DimXpert, Reference Dimensions or sketch dimensions. Of course, you may choose to bring in annotations by the types listed above this new option. A nice handling here is that checking multiple boxes won’t introduce duplicate annotations.

By the way, to learn more about the differences between various annotation tools in the software, please refer to Table 1 in a previous article, Detect and Correct Model Quality Issues with SOLIDWORKS Design Checker. Now to tie these steps together, Figure 4 shows a more complete workflow in a quick animation.

Figure 4. Reuse captured 3D views with imported annotations on a 2D drawing.

I hope that you find this new feature relevant and helpful to your practices during the transition from drawings to MBD. Aker Solutions in Norway shared its transition experiences in a blog post, Compared Drawing-Based and Model-Based Workflows.

Meanwhile, it’s important to note several limitations of this bridge in the 2018 release. The reused 3D views cannot display annotations if the views are not orthogonal. The common 2D perspectives such as Front, Top and Right are fine to present annotations properly, but Isometric, Trimetric or other axonometric projections are not able to yet. SOLIDWORKS drawing does not yet have a mechanism to support this combination of axonometric views and annotations. Similarly, 3D views that capture cross sections are not supported, hence not listed on the drawing view palette. A workaround is to reuse the annotation views that do support section cuts in both 3D and 2D.

In short, this new enhancement comes with several compromises toward the ideal outcome: what you capture in 3D should show up exactly the same in 2D. I hope the software can keep improving in future releases. Speaking for improvements, it may be interesting to take a look at the track records. SOLIDWORKS 2018 brought the bridge to reuse 3D model views, but in prior years, SOLIDWORKS has built other vehicles to reuse the 3D content. For example, you can import DimXpert or Reference Dimension annotations, reuse sketch or feature dimensions, and reuse annotation views. Therefore, bridging 3D and 2D seems to be an ongoing strategy of the software, which makes good sense to me.

Now let’s recap. 2D drawings are not going away anytime soon. Therefore, it’s more practical and less risky to position MBD as a complementary approach to drawings. It’s encouraging to see that SOLIDWORKS 2018 keeps the strategy of bridging 3D and 2D by reusing the 3D model views in 2D drawings. However, from the MBD implementation’s standpoint,although drawings can be easily created as a derivative from models, please take the models as the master if there is any discrepancy between 3D and 2D. Don’t rely on 2D drawings as the authority any more.

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave the min the comments area below. To learn more about how SOLIDWORKS MBD can help implement your Model-Based Enterprises, please visit its product page.

About the Author

Oboe Wu is a SOLIDWORKS 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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