Modern Engineering and Manufacturing Part 2: Integrating Model-based Definition Practices and 2D Drawings

In my last blog I explored why in a digital world, where 3D data is the primary source of communication, are we still using 2D drawings During my research I came to the conclusion that even though technological advancements, such as 3D models and CAM systems, have transformed the engineering and manufacturing landscape, 2D drawings continue to hold significant value in the modern manufacturing environment.

With that in mind, it’s valuable for companies to be able to provide both 2D and 3D data. In this blog I will discuss how you can incorporate 2D and 3D approaches for seamless processes, and how companies are already doing it.


To harness the benefits of both drawings and 3D models, organizations are adopting integrated approaches that combine the strengths of each medium. This integration enhances machine readability while maintaining the benefits of human-readable drawings.

In this integrated workflow 2D drawings serve as a reference and complementary documentation to the annotated 3D model. They provide a familiar format for additional notes, details, and instructions that may be challenging to represent solely within the 3D environment ensuring clarity, context, and human-friendly representation.

In this dual approach the 3D model serves as the primary means of conveying geometric information, a practice called model-based definition (MBD), since 3D data is dominantly used for the actual manufacturing processes, and 2D drawings are often used out for backup or familiarity.

By seamlessly integrating drawings and 3D PMI, engineering and manufacturing teams can streamline processes, enhance collaboration, and improve efficiency. The drawings provide stakeholders with a familiar and accessible format, while the 3D models serve as machine-readable references that can be leveraged by CAM, robotics, and business systems like ERP, MES, quality, and other automated manufacturing technologies.

In the transition to MBD practices, it is crucial to recognize and accommodate the workflows and preferences of suppliers. While MBD offers numerous benefits in terms of efficiency and automation, it is a relatively new technology that may not be universally adopted across the manufacturing industry. Many suppliers, particularly those with well-established processes and expertise, may still rely heavily on traditional 2D documentation and may not be fully familiar with or equipped to handle MBD.

Maintaining strong relationships with suppliers is essential for successful manufacturing processes, and disruptions or delays caused by a sudden shift to MBD can be costly. Therefore, during the transition, it is important to ease suppliers into the new approach by providing both 3D models and 2D drawings, catering to their specific needs and preferences. This approach ensures that suppliers can continue their existing workflows without major interruptions or slowdowns.

By supplying both forms of documentation, engineering teams can leverage the benefits of MBD internally while preserving the established practices of their suppliers. This dual approach allows suppliers to continue using familiar 2D drawings for quoting, tooling, and manufacturing processes, while also receiving the annotated, data-rich 3D models for improved accuracy and automation. This way, suppliers can gradually adopt MBD at their own pace, benefiting from the advantages it offers without overwhelming their existing capabilities.


Overall, the combination of drawings for human consumption and 3D models for machine readability facilitates a comprehensive and efficient engineering-to-manufacturing workflow. It bridges the gap between human interpretation and machine automation, enabling streamlined and automated processes in today’s digital manufacturing environment.

Additionally, this approach allows for flexibility in the supply chain and preserves your existing supplier relationships to avoid costly delays. Not all suppliers have the same level of readiness or capability to work solely with model-based definition. Some suppliers, particularly smaller ones or those specializing in certain manufacturing processes, may rely on 2D documentation due to their equipment, software, or expertise limitations. By accommodating their preferences and providing the necessary documentation, 3D or 2D, organizations can maintain a diverse and collaborative supplier network, avoiding potential bottlenecks or restrictions in the manufacturing process.

Now you are probably thinking sounds great, but doesn’t this mean more work up front for the engineering team? Not exactly, an annotated model is no different than a drawing, except everything is in 3D instead of a disconnected 2D drawing document. The front view of a model, is exactly the same as a front view on a drawing. Annotated model views, can easily just be copied directly to a drawing sheet when a 2D format is needed. Traditionally, though this will break the single source of truth and can often expose discrepancies between each form of definition.

Here at SOLIDWORKS we recognize that flexibility in today’s digital world is critical to your success. A dual approach is exactly that and caters to each individual’s needs, preventing delays, or additional work. So, we questioned why do drawings and MBD need to be different solutions or formats? Why does it have to be disconnected? Its all the same information just displayed differently.

This is the inspiration behind our fully browser-based role, Manufacturing Definition Creator.

Manufacturing Definition Creator combines model-based and drawing-based capabilities in one integrated solution. Any view, dimension, annotation, or tolerance created in 2D or 3D is always up to date and in sync. It’s a single source of truth for all product definition fostering a successful hybrid approach. The combination of 2D and 3D definition capabilities delivers next-generation flexibility, empowering you to choose the best output for the job and meet stakeholders’ needs

Stay tuned for Part 3! I will discuss more of the features and benefits in Manufacturing Definition Creator.

If you missed part 1 you can read it here. Also, look out for next update to the SOLIDWORKS browser-based design roles, including Manufacturing Definition Creator, which drops early November. Learn more about these roles available in the SOLIDWORKS Cloud Offer and other offerings in the3DEXPERIENCE Works portfolio.





Chris Pagliarini

Chris Pagliarini

Chris Pagliarini is a Product Portfolio Manager for SOLIDWORKS. Chris has been a dedicated SOLIDWORKS user for 8+ years with exposure in several areas from research, sheet metal design, Equipment packaging & enclosures, Model-based design, and aerospace & defense design. During his free time he enjoys exploring new technology, golfing, skiing, and fishing.