10 DOs and 10 DON’Ts of MBD Implementations: Automate Workflows

In a previous post on Model-Based Definition (MBD) Implementation, “Don’t hesitate Part 1,” there was a comment posted by Kevin De Smet regarding legacy data: “3,000 models with drawings. You are going to re-do all that?” This raised an important point: Automate workflows in Table 1. Modern manufacturing has become increasingly more complicated. For example, a SOLIDWORKS user in Europe mentioned they have millions of parts, assemblies, and drawings in their data management systems. Automation is indispensable not only because of the large amount of data, but also because it can help enforce consistency, company standards, and quality.


There are many areas to automate. Let’s look into several examples of MBD workflows.

   1. Product manufacturing Information (PMI, such as 3D dimensions and tolerances) Definition and Organization.

To Kevin’s concern, defining 3D PMI to large numbers of legacy models could be challenging, but automation can help save lots of time. SOLIDWORKS MBD provides an intelligent tool called Auto Dimension Scheme that can quickly create cohesive 3D dimensions and tolerances according to ASME Y14.5 or ISO 16792 standards. Users just need to define Part type, Tolerance type, Datum features, and Scope of PMI creation (Entire model or Selected features). Press OK and often in less than a minute, you will get results automatically such the image below. This tool supports part, assembly and even imported solid bodies, which means suppliers have fewer limitations and are better enabled when working with clients on different CAD platforms. Before you ask, yes, default tolerance levels can be preset as document settings.


Furthermore, Auto Dimension Scheme also automatically organizes 3D PMI into appropriate annotation views. New annotation views are created by this tool as needed. Even better, once a 3D PMI scheme (PMI, Associated DimXpert features, Annotation Views, Layout, etc.) is created, it can be copied to other configurations so that you don’t have to duplicate efforts, which again, can save time and ensure consistency and quality.

There are also other automation tools to create 3D PMI based on legacy models and associated 2D drawings. For instance, according to DrawToPMI benchmark test by ITI TranscenData, this engine block in CATIA format below contains 6 drawing sheets, 58 views and more than 1,000 PMI entities. Manual PMI recreation took 50 Hours while DrawtoPMI only needed 4 Hours (1 hour automatic process and 3 hours manual optional completion).


   2. MBD data management

Many enterprises find it impractical to manually manage each individual file and revisions, such as publishing 3D PDF for every model, because there could be millions of them. Workflow automation is the answer here. SOLIDWORKS PDM automated workflows can manage MBD data such as multiple assembly revisions with PMI or 3D PDF updates. Specifically, SOLIDWORKS MBD 2016 release added new MBD API calls to support custom automation applications. We are also working on further integration between SOLIDWORKS MBD and PDM. The goal is to enable designers to focus on specifying design intension. They don’t have to worry about managing approval process or publishing 3D PDF. Once their design with PMI is complete, a background server should automatically generate a corresponding 3D PDF and related members should be notified. Same applies to design revision or engineering change orders (ECOs).

   3Downstream manufacturing applications

With 3D machine-readable PMI, there are many downstream manufacturing applications that can be automated, such as CMM and 3D Scanning inspection reports mentioned last time, or manufacturability verification and derivative validation that we will discuss in future blog posts. One last example to conclude this section: U.S. Hill Air Force Base A-10 aircraft program explicitly required 3D part reports and tube bend data to be created automatically (Source: Draft Performance Work Statement (PWS) For Automatic 3d Part Report Generation and Associated Engineering Services (A3DPRG), Hill Air Force Base, 2014).

To summarize, automation can not only save time and money, but also ensure consistency, standards, and quality. If there are commercial automation applications off the shelf, great. If not, some enterprises chose to build up in-house software development capabilities such as GE Power and Water. It depends on each company’s goals and resources. Next blog will move onto a controversial topic: “Don’t send only 3D PDF to supply chain.” I’d love to hear your comments. To learn more about SOLIDWORKS MBD, please visit its product page. Also welcome to discuss with me at Twitter (@OboeWu) or LinkedIn (OboeWu).

Oboe Wu

Product portfolio manager of SOLIDWORKS MBD, passionate about smart manufacturing opportunities, Keen listener to customer challenges, Sharp problem solver with 20 years of experiences in engineering, Sleepless father trying best to take care of a baby daughter.