Overcoming Design Review Bottlenecks with Augmented Reality and MBD

Written By: Dave Martin
  • 2/26/2019
  • Read Time : 4 min.

Many of the engineering and product development organizations I’ve worked for have had issues completing design reviews in a timely manner. The whole point of design reviews is to release new objects or approve changes to existing objects so that manufacturing, procurement, or other downstream functions can work on them. If the objects aren’t getting reviewed and released, the schedule is delayed and you’re not getting to market as quickly as you could.

Waiting for feedback and reviews

Why don’t design reviews happen as quickly as they could? Often many reviewers are overloaded with other assignments, and the design review might not be a priority. Or the reviewer might not have enough information to approve or reject the objects.

However, I would suggest there’s a more basic reason: the process is hard and boring. It takes significant time and effort to pick up someone else’s work, figure out how it works in the context of a larger system, evaluate whether it meets its requirements, and determine if the design approach works or has flaws. Reviewing 2D production drawings feels outdated like bell bottoms and disco, but many companies use that approach or something not much more advanced.

There are two trends in mechanical engineering that can help with the problem of getting people to complete design reviews: model-based definition and augmented reality.

Model-Based Definition

Have you ever had to review a drawing for a part that you’re not familiar with? It takes skill to convert a traditional six-view layout on a sheet of paper into a three-dimensional object in your mind.

Are you trying to review a complex multi-sheet drawing? Good luck. You’ll be flipping back and forth between section- and detail-views on different sheets trying to make sense of things. This geometric tolerance calls out datum E. What page is that on?

With model-based definition (MBD), your important dimensions, tolerances, symbols, and notes - known as the product and manufacturing information, or PMI - is documented on the 3D model. Then during the design review process, the approver can pull open the 3D drawing in the original authoring application (like Creo Parametric) or a lightweight viewer (like Creo View), either on a computer, tablet, or even a phone.

When the reviewer needs clarifying information, he or she can interact directly with the model in ways including:

  • Create a cross section on-the-fly to get more insight.
  • Perform measurements on quantities not captured in dimensions.
  • Evaluate interferences.

Reviewing assemblies, especially those containing routed systems like cables and pipes, is much easier in a 3D assembly than in a 2D drawing. Creating a drawing that explains complex routing can be arduous given the number of necessary views. MBD drawings allow you to “fly through” an assembly to understand the routing.

Model-based definition

Augmented Reality

Reviewing 3D models on a computer screen has a significant disadvantage: a lack of size perception. I admit that I have placed electrical connections behind access holes that are too small for an adult hand.

When an object is displayed using augmented reality (AR), we can interact with it—move around it, look at it from different angles, put your hand up to or through it. You can’t get this kind of insight from a computer screen.

With AR, users can view designs at actual size, superimposed over the real world. AR also supports object recognition, so that what you want to view “locks in” on existing product geometry in the real world to locate it properly. If you were reviewing a new car door, for example, it could “snap into” the existing frame so you could see it in its eventual context.

Let’s be honest: reviewing objects using augmented reality is fun. People love playing with it, as evidenced by Pokemon Go and selfie filters on Facebook and Snapchat. Incorporating novelty and fun into design reviews will incentivize your approvers to complete their tasks ahead of schedule.

Augmented reality in the factory


By making design reviews easier to accomplish and more fun with MBD and AR, you can eliminate unnecessary delays in the development cycle. When it comes to evaluating engineering designs, 3D, especially when it’s superimposed over the real world, is always better than 2D.

Download the eBook, Augmented Reality: New Opportunities for Product Designers

  • Augmented Reality
  • CAD

About the Author

Dave Martin

Dave Martin is a Creo, Windchill, and PTC Mathcad instructor and consultant. He is the author of the books “Top Down Design in Creo Parametric,” “Design Intent in Creo Parametric,” and “Configuring Creo Parametric,” all available at amazon.com. He can be reached at dmartin@creowindchill.com.

Dave currently works as the configuration manager for Elroy Air, which develops autonomous aerial vehicles for middle-mile delivery. Previous employers include Blue Origin, Amazon Prime Air, Amazon Lab126, and PTC. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and is a former armor officer in the United States Army Reserves.