Bridging Complexity and Creating Clarity Through Better Illustrations

Written by: Deb Williams

Read Time: 10 min

If you’re wondering whether to make the move from manual, paper-based drawings to 2D and 3D illustrations, we’ve got all your questions covered. In this blog, Deb Williams, Sales Director of PTC Arbortext, spells out the benefits, customer examples, tips and tricks and insights from customers already benefitting from these high value, low disruption tools. 

1. How are customers using 2D and 3D illustrations to enhance their technical documentation and visual communication?  

Model-Based Engineering (MBE) leverages digital models to design, analyze, and manage complex systems, providing a single source of truth for customers. It captures requirements, designs, simulations, and other critical information. In this context, illustrations play a pivotal role in conveying intricate engineering data to various stakeholders in three key areas:
  • Providing Visual Complexity: MBE models can become intricate, especially in domains like aerospace, automotive, and manufacturing. Illustrations simplify these complex structures, making them accessible to engineers, service teams, and partners. Whether it's depicting assembly sequences, part interactions, or system architectures, illustrations provide clarity.
  • Ensuring Effective Communication: Engineers often need to communicate their designs to non-technical audiences, including service technicians, managers, and customers. Illustrations bridge this gap by presenting information visually. A well-crafted illustration can convey more than a thousand words, aiding comprehension and reducing errors. 
  • Build Training and Documentation: Service organizations rely on accurate documentation for maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting. Illustrations enhance technical manuals, making them user-friendly. When a technician needs to replace a component, an annotated illustration can guide them step-by-step.

2. What unique features or capabilities of Creo Illustrate/IsoDraw are customers finding most valuable in their workflows?

Creo Illustrate stands out as a powerful tool for our customers in five key areas.
  • Integration with Creo Parametric:
    • Creo Illustrate seamlessly integrates with Creo Parametric, a leading 3D CAD software. This synergy allows engineers to create and manage technical illustrations directly from their 3D models. The tight coupling ensures consistency and reduces manual effort.
  • Rich Illustration Capabilities:
    • Interactive 3D Animations: Creo Illustrate enables the creation of dynamic animations. Engineers can demonstrate assembly procedures, part movements, and system interactions effectively.
    • Exploded Views: Engineers can generate exploded views, revealing component relationships and assembly sequences. These visualizations enhance comprehension.
  • Smart Annotations and Markups:
    • Automated Callouts: Creo Illustrate intelligently places callouts, labels, and annotations on parts. This streamlines the documentation process.
    • Bill of Materials (BOM) Integration: Engineers can link annotations to BOM data, ensuring consistency between illustrations and parts lists.
  • Reuse and Maintainability:
    • Illustration Libraries: Creo Illustrate allows users to create reusable libraries of symbols, labels, and annotations. This accelerates the creation of consistent illustrations.
    • Update-on-Change: When design changes occur in Creo Parametric, associated illustrations in Creo Illustrate automatically update. This ensures accuracy and reduces manual rework.
  • Collaboration and Publishing:
    • HTML5 Output: Creo Illustrate generates interactive HTML5 output, making it accessible across devices and platforms.
    • Service Manuals and Training Materials: Engineers can create detailed service manuals, training guides, and maintenance instructions using Creo Illustrate.

3. How has 2D and 3D illustrations helped customers improve the clarity, accuracy, and effectiveness of their technical illustrations?

2D and 3D illustrations have brought tremendous clarity and comprehension to the process of technical illustration in a number of ways. By simplifying complexity, model-based drawings often represent intricate designs, systems, and components. Illustrations break down these complexities into digestible visual elements.

Illustrations also provide visual aids so that engineers can quickly grasp spatial relationships, assembly sequences, and part interactions through well-crafted illustrations.

On the communications side, 2D and 3D illustrations empower cross functional teams to work together in synch. In collaborative environments, engineers work with diverse teams—designers, manufacturing experts, and service technicians. Illustrations facilitate communication across these disciplines.

Likewise, client and stakeholder interaction has far less friction.  When presenting designs to clients or stakeholders, illustrations enhance clarity. A picture truly is worth a thousand words.

4. How has Creo Illustrate empowered customers to create visually compelling and engaging technical content for various audiences?

Illustrations from model-based drawings serve as a universal language, transcending technical jargon and fostering efficient collaboration across the engineering landscape. They provide a powerful bridge between technical and non-technical audiences. For example, executives and managers may lack technical expertise. Illustrations allow them to understand critical aspects without diving into intricate details. Likewise, compliance documents often require visual representations. Illustrations fulfill this need succinctly.

5. What lessons or insights can other users learn from the experiences of those achieving amazing results with Creo Illustrate?

Our customers are very collaborative and we’ve benefitted from their insights, recommendations and best practices around driving value with our technologies. Recently I had the opportunity to connect with customers at two major events. In April, we joined customers at a Customer Exchange in Munich, Germany and in January, we connected with customer experts at the PTC User conference in Orlando, Florida.

At both events customers shared lessons learned as they work to transform engineering data into instructions for manufacturing and service content. The Service Technical Information needs to be done before the aset ships from the manufacturing floor.

I've heard how change management is key, for example the team needs to identify the impact of BOM (Bill of Materials) / CAD changes and incorporate updates into service materials. Oftentimes this includes the BOM, the parts catalog, the parts list and the illustrations. All of these updates should be programmatic, expected and documented. The more our customers can get all stakeholders to commit to a programmatic approach, the less impact on their go to market timeline and the more value they see in the software.

I have also heard some customers share how they gained value by automatically generating callouts and hotspots in 2D and 3D illustrations as a part of their parts list illustrations.

6. Have customers shared any success stories or testimonials highlighting the impact of Creo Illustrate/IsoDraw on their productivity, efficiency, or bottom line?

Toro, a leading provider of outdoor maintenance and landscaping equipment, is using Creo Illustrate to increase efficiency. The company reduced the time to create an illustration from an average of 1 hour down to just 15 minutes. Using CAD data to populate illustrations saved significant time, which is now invested in Toro’s forward-looking vision for its technical documentation and user manuals.

Global wind turbine leader, Vestas, is using Creo Illustrate to build its next generation, eco-friendly solutions to ensure a sustainable future. The company has gained significant efficiencies by moving from paper-based detailed work instructions to Creo Illustrate, reducing reliance on paper-based manuals, providing easy to digest visual directions which improve first-time build rate and overall product quality, and facilitates easy knowledge capture and transfer.

7. Why do most customers choose to add Creo Illustrate to their suite of tools in the product lifecycle and service lifecycle process?

Most engineers already have a very high-powered 3D engineering tool that allows them to create anything they want. So why would they use a tool like Creo illustrate? The answer we get the most is because it's so easy to use.

Engineering tools can be very powerful, but a lot of times that very powerful means very complicated even to do something relatively simple. Having an easy-to-use rapid way to get your point across has value even in an engineering department.

And it prevents bad behavior. We’ve heard stories from our customers about the ‘exception handling’ that they saw before adding us to the mix, the kinds of things they want to avoid. For example, we’ve heard of teams that have a thoughtful, measured way to enact most product changes, but somehow the plans on how to update illustrations for service isn’t a part of that approach. As a bandaid, teams might take screenshots of the finished product. Or they are marking it up in MS Paint. Or they have the right service data, but there is no relationship back to the CAD data. When they use Creo Illustrate, updates in the product and the CAD data will flow in automatically.

Likewise, when a customer has 2D and starts using Creo Illustrate, they can start bringing 3D data to create 2D illustrations. At this point, they realize they have a 3D illustration now which can be useful across a number of service use cases.

8. How does Creo Illustrate/IsoDraw integrate with other software tools or platforms to support customers' broader design and documentation workflows?

Creo illustrate and IsoDraw are low disruption, high value tools. You can install these tools in your current process today and not really change anything else that you're doing because they can consume CAD data from almost any CAD platform and output to all of the expected formats in the documentation processes.

A customer can start their journey with these tools for very low disruption, and they’re  immediately getting value from the more advanced workflows. With both of these tools, you can have associativity even without Windchill, but by the same token, both of these tools are much better together with the rest of the digital thread. On the downstream side, the content can then start flowing into other tools, such as Arbortext and ServiceMax to get out to the field. On the upstream side, if it's connected into Windchill, and you're getting managed change from the engineering department, you know what's being impacted as these changes come down. This that just leverages more value - but you can start with just that one smaller piece and grow as required at your own pace.

9. How can experienced Creo Illustrate and IsoDraw users maximize their benefits (any tips, tricks, or best practices)?

It’s important to think about the medium in which you’re creating these illustrations. For example, with Creo Illustrate, you can communicate different things within the way it is built, and as you create your illustration from a 3D source, you might think it looks different to when you were creating it manually by hand on paper. Thinking about the perspective that the tool can provide is important, and then obviously being able to communicate that effectively.

A lot of people use IsoDraw because they have nearly infinite control of that 2D space and can create anything they want. Whether there’s a CAD model of it or not, you quickly understand that you could just deliver the 3D model. All it takes is a republish.

One of the best practices I say to customers to consider when changing your illustration tool is to take a strong look at the other possibilities that come into play. Many companies look at changing their tools just to improve the process. It’s fine to focus on that, but also look at what you could be doing better in the scope of the illustration work as well.

The other tip I give customers is to create a better graphical representation. A lot of companies don’t have an in-house illustrator anymore, but rather subject matter experts creating the illustrations. They don’t need to draw; they just need to understand how to assemble or disassemble a product. I’d urge them to look at their graphical representation, because you have to consider how people interpret what they see. A good graphic is much more powerful than just a page full of information.

Finally, it is important to have the right instructions at the right time. Best practices show connecting your illustration to your digital thread, creates a collaborative environment for the team, so they do not work in a silo. Every service update, every product development update can flow into this process. And your illustrations can be much more powerful and uniform. What they find in the manual, in the assembly line work instructions, in the CAD data, it’s all one and the same. Finally, take the time to invest in training for your team, to focus on change management for Creo Illustrate and IsoDraw. Once your team understands the power you are putting in their hands, they’ll be on board and they’ll start adding value quickly.

Find out more about 3D technical illustrations

With Creo Illustrate, you can create rich 3D technical illustrations, 2D drawings, and interactive animated sequences that accurately reflect current product configurations and support formats from hard copy to augmented reality. Click Here
Tags: CAD Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Arbortext Creo Windchill Engineering Collaboration

About the Author

Deb Williams Deb Williams, Global Sales Director at PTC's Arbortext, leads a dynamic team driving global sales and fostering partner relationships. With a BA in Accounting from Georgia State University and further studies at Michigan State University, Debbie combines education and experience to excel. She oversees Arbortext Sales, focusing on Service Lifecycle Management solutions and targeting manufacturers of durable assets. Her leadership is vital to PTC's success in Aerospace & Defense, Industrial, Heavy Equipment, and other sectors.