MBD Dos and Don’ts: Don’t Overlook MBD over the Web

One of the Model-Based Definition (MBD) enablers is 3D PDF, viewable in free Adobe Reader that has been installed on 95% Internet-connected computers. One step further, in this online age, wouldn’t it be nice if 3D content could be interrogated on a webpage in a web browser directly, which wouldn’t even need an Adobe Reader? It’s not just uploading or downloading CAD data. It’s interactive MBD data in your browser. Another reason is nobody likes to send out bunches of CAD or 3D PDF files to every data consumer every time there is a design revision. What if there was a web portal where once 3D content is updated, all portal visitors would get the latest version?

Actually, we are not that far. If we call 3D PDF an offline document, then the center idea of MBD over the web is to get MBD online, or make the web MBD-enabled. We all know the importance of “online” in this day and age. I’m at Boston Logan Airport right now heading down to SOLIDWORKS WORLD 2016, but feel I’m missing something since Logan WIFI somehow refuses to connect. I admit I’m unhealthily addicted, but I’m not alone.

Unfortunately, MBD hasn’t played as significant of a role in the online world as it has on offline computers due to various barriers, such as expensive hosting infrastructure, slow internet speed, and clunky ActiveX controls. Fortunately, new technologies have made it closer to us. One great technical enabler is web graphics such as WebGL and X3D. One big advantage is we don’t have to install anything. A link on a browser leads you right away to rich MBD content (models, dimensions, tolerances, meta properties, part tree, saved views, etc.).

The image below shows several prototypes by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technologies) in the U.S. You may browse to page 7, click on the model, and start pan/zoom/rotate. You can also click on the 0.5 black profile tolerance and it will pop up a dialog telling you so, which indicates the content can be associative and interactive (Data source: NIST, X3D – 3D Web Content, Sandy Ressler, 2014). By the way, did you notice this image is a cell phone screenshot? You just need a browser and it shows up on desktops, laptops, or mobile devices. No more worries waiting for special Apps or upgrading to different versions.

On page 9 with the scooter example below, you can even further navigate with a searchable model tree, meta properties, online chat, comments, show/hide components, cutting planes, exploded views and other saved views.


Web graphics also solves a regulation problem where certain companies or organizations don’t allow CAD data to flow outside of an internal firewall. Online MBD powered by web graphics only sends out graphics data to external clients, instead of CAD data. A side benefit here is faster speed because you don’t have to load a CAD data set at all and only the graphics visible to your standpoint is loaded, instead of everything.

It’s important to note that online doesn’t mean open access in the public domain. One great example is the U.S. Navy, which would be the last to open their data to the public. However it did share its intranet web-based MBD experience. According to Alex Viana with Naval Facilities Engineering Command Engineering Service Center, they started a pilot back in 1996, which was to evaluate if web-based, 3D component models could be useful as a field training aid for the Navy’s Underwater Construction Teams. It turned out to be so successful that the work has since progressed to construction of virtual 3D waterfront facility models. Now they have established processes to produce virtual 3D waterfront facility models of the Navy’s built environment from paper drawings, existing 2D CAD files, and other geospatial data sets. (Data source: Navy Enterprise Web-Based 3D Model Visualization: Supporting Collaboration among the Naval Systems Commands, Alex Viana, 2014). The image below presents a port management tool on their intranet.


That’s a brief touch on MBD over the web and we will discuss more in future blogs. This post also concluded the second aspect of this series: Process. Next we will move onto the third key aspect Product starting with “Penetrate with one or two manufacturing documents.”

To learn more about SOLIDWORKS MBD, please visit its product page. Also, I welcome you all to discuss the topic with me on 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.