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I wrote in my previous posts about the various aspects of a model-based enterprise. In case you missed this post you can find it here: Model-Based an introduction. In this post I will zoom in on the aspects related to the 3D model, probably in the context of PLM, the most anticipated approach.

3D CAD vs 3D CAD Model

At the time 3D CAD was introduced for the mid-market, the main reason why 3D CAD was introduced was to provide a better understanding of the designed product. Visualization and creating cross-sections of the design became easy although the “old” generation of 2D draftsmen had to a challenge to transform their way of working. This lead often to 3D CAD models setup with the mindset to generate 2D Manufacturing drawings,  not taking real benefits from the 3D CAD Model. Let’s first focus on Model-Based Definition.

Model-Based Definition

We talk about Model-Based Definition when the product and manufacturing information is embedded / connected to the 3D CAD model, allowing the same source of information to be used downstream for manufacturing, analysis and inspection. The embedded information normally contains geometric dimensions, annotations, surface finish and material specifications. Instead of generating easy to distribute 2D drawings, you would be using the 3D model now with its embedded information.

According to an eBook, sponsored by SolidWorks and published by Tech-Clarity: “The How-to Guide for Adopting Model-Based Definition MBD”, Tech-Clarity’s research discovered that 33 percent of design time is spent on drawing generation. Imagine you do not need this time anymore to specify manufacturing processes and operations.  Does this mean the design activities can be reduced by 30 % ? Probably not, the time could be used to spend on design alternatives too, at the end contributing to better designs.

Still this is not the reason why companies would move to MBD. Companies that have implemented MBD report fewer manufacturing mistakes/less rework (61 %) – here is where the value becomes visible. In addition, improved communication with suppliers was reported by 50 % of the companies. More clarity in the communication, however as some of the suppliers are not used to MBD either, this excuse is used not to implement MBD. Instead of creating a win-win situation a status-quo is created.

Read the eBook to demystify Model-Based Definition and realize that although it might look like a complex change, within 8 to 9 months the company might have gone through this change, assuming you have found the proper trainers / coaches for that.

When discussion a roadmap towards a digital enterprise, this is one of the “easier” steps to take as it does not force the organization to change their primary processes. They become more efficient, lean and integrated, delivering rapid benefits within a year.

In the same context of MBD, in my post: Digital PLM requires a Model-Based Enterprise I referred to two articles in written by Dick Bourke with the support from Jennifer Herron.  The first article: How Model-based Definition Can Fix Your CAD Models digs into more detail and provides additional insights into benefits realizable by implementing MBD. As I am not the expert, I would recommend if you agree on the benefits and necessity for your company’s future, find the right literature. There is a lot of information related to MBD coming from vendors but also vendor-neutral sources. Technology Is not the issue. You just have to study, digest and implement it  with your suppliers.

Beyond MDB using a 3D CAD Model

Although the post gets long, it is crucial to understand that the 3D CAD model should also be built in a more sophisticated manner. Using parameters in the model instead of hard-coded values allows the model to be used and interact with other disciplines in a digital manner.

A parametric model, combined with business rules can be accessed and controlled by other applications in a digital enterprise. In this way, without the intervention of individuals a set of product variants can be managed and not only from the design point of view. Geometry and manufacturing parameters are also connected and accessible. This is one of the concepts where Industry 4.0 is focusing on: intelligent and flexible manufacturing by exchanging parameters

The 3D CAD Model and Simulation

The last (short) part related to the 3D CAD Model is about its relation to simulation. If you do no use simulation together with your 3D CAD Models, you are still designing in the past. No real advantage between 2D and 3D, just better understanding?

In engineering we often talk about Form, Fit and Function – the three dimensions to decide on a change.  With 2D (and 3D without simulation) we manage Form and Fit disconnected from Function. Once we use 3D combined with Simulation we are able to manage these three parameters in relation.

For example, when designing product, first simulations can provide direct feedback on shape and dimension constraints. Where to save material costs, choose from another design solution? The ultimate approach is Generative Design where the Functional constraints and the Fit are the given constraints and the Form is optimized based on artificial intelligence rules.

In case a company has a close relation between 3D Design and Simulation, the concept of Design of Experiments (DOE) will help to find the optimal product constraints. The more integrated the 3D CAD model and the simulation are, the more efficient alternatives can be evaluated and optimized.


In this post we focused on model-based in relation to the 3D CAD Model. Without going to the expert level for each of the topics discussed, I hope it creates the interest and enthusiasm for further investment in model-based practices.  One commonality for all model-based practices: it is about parameters. Parameters provide digital continuity where each discipline (design, simulation, manufacturing) can build upon in almost real-time without the need for people to convert or adjust information. Digital Continuity – one of the characteristics of the future digital enterprise








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