Driving designers down the path to 3D

Posted on 12 Mar 2010 by The Manufacturer

In the current downturn many manufacturers are cautious about making major investments in new design solutions, says Jaime Herrero-Velarde, EMEA retail industry manager at Autodesk.

With resources tight and budgets scarce, many are focused on retaining their existing 2D design tools and the related skills and expertise that they have built up over time. Their priority is to ensure that they maintain their existing 2D design productivity so as to remain on top of existing workloads.

However, the reality is that 2D capability is not sufficient in itself for most manufacturing companies today. 3D is no longer a luxury for manufacturers; for companies that wish to remain competitive in today’s crowded global marketplace, it is increasingly a necessity. Organisations need to start experiencing the business and product development benefits of 3D design today. Yet their current needs may not warrant full 3D workflows. Fortunately, solutions are now available, such as the AutoCAD Inventor LT Suite, that allow them to retain their existing 2D functionality with AutoCAD LT software while taking their first steps along the path to full 3D functionality using Autodesk Inventor LT software.

Drawings are the Key
For many manufacturing companies, one of the key drivers for adopting 3D design functionality is the enhanced drawing capability and productivity that it delivers. The whole manufacturing world speaks in the language of drawings.

In 2D, however, the process of developing them can be complex. Designers create multiple views — from the top, front and side, for example, which help viewers of a 2D drawing understand how the final design will look. Each view must be manually drawn and detailed independently; a process which can be very time consuming and prone to error.

In contrast, manufacturers working in 3D have effectively carried out their design work when they have finished modelling the part. Creating a drawing is simply a matter of documenting that design. Autodesk’s Inventor family of 3D design products makes this process easy with view creation tools that automatically create the many different views of a design, and can automatically assign dimensions and other important documentation to those drawing views.

The process of updating drawings is also typically much easier in 3D. In 2D, if a change is made to a design, the user will typically have to manually update five or six drawing views — another process which can be time-consuming and inevitably prone to human error. The great benefit of 3D in this context is that when a change is made to the 3D model, the associated drawing will automatically update and those changes will be both instant and accurate. Effectively, users ‘get their drawings for free.’

Collaborating for Success
Also of critical importance is the ability to provide drawings in the DWG file format, the use of which is shared by AutoCAD, and which is among the world’s most common 2D design file formats. In fact, the popularity and usefulness of DWG files is such that as projects progress, downstream users are increasingly likely to want and need production-ready DWG drawings.

DWG interoperability found in products by Autodesk, the creator and owner of the format, allow designers to view and edit relevant drawings, reuse existing 2D data within 3D designs and share drawings with customers and suppliers in the DWG file formats they require.

Best Practice Benefits
Taken together, these capabilities have the potential to significantly streamline the whole product development workflow and help manufacturing companies to move quickly from conception to production

The best practice approach to managing design drawings, as demonstrated by a solution suite like Autodesk’s AutoCAD Inventor LT Suite, for example, enables manufacturers to not only use 2D in the 3D environment but also to generate production-ready DWG drawings that automatically update whenever a 3D part model changes — and then share them with their supply chain, customers, and entire manufacturing ecosystem.

So, as manufacturers consider how and when to start making their first steps in the direction of 3D and ultimately even full digital prototyping, they should reflect on the key importance of drawing interoperability. In line with this, they should look for tools that enable them to create high-quality DWG drawings quickly and easily but also to be able to drive productivity, efficiency and ultimately even competitive edge by being able to share those drawings across the whole manufacturing supply chain.