Sooner or later, many engineers and managers get pulled into projects that reshape the way a company works. Sometimes that sort of thing is in your job description. Sometimes not. Regardless, you find yourself tasked with both implementing a new tool or process, and at the same time convincing everyone else to use it.
We used to see it a lot when companies went from 2D to 3D CAD, or when someone rolled out a PLM system. Everyone benefits from the hot new implementation, but they don’t always buy in right away. Ken Abbott, Global CAD Tools Leader – Drilling & Surface for GE, found himself in a similar position when his group decided to adopt model-based definition. His leadership team aimed to cut engineering time and costs by 30-50% using MBD, and Abbott’s job was to help bring that vision to life. “MBD is my number one priority right now,” he said when we spoke a few months ago.
Ken Abbott, Global CAD Tools Leader – Drilling & Surface for GE
What Is Model-Based Definition?
If you’re not familiar with MBD, it’s the practice of using 3D models within CAD software to define individual components and product assemblies. So the model may include details such as geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T), assembly level bills of materials, design intent, etc.
“Historically, [specification] information was captured on a piece of paper and hand drawn,” explains Purdue University in this video on PTC Creo and MBD
. “As CAD systems have evolved, the automation of creating these drawings became commonplace and a model centric approach was used. But, as we look at where we are today, an MBD approach means that the 3D digital data set may contain enough information to be able to manufacture or inspect the part without a need for 2D drawings.”
In short, MBD in some cases is cutting out the 2D drawing step in product development, as models go straight from 3D to manufacturing.
Bringing MBD in House
What’s all that mean to Abbott? “For the last two years, I have been involved with helping to drive my company to a full digital platform using a virtual environment from concept to end of life,” he says. When we spoke to him, the company was making progress, but they thought they could do better.
“We have several areas where we see room for improvement, including increasing the fidelity of our solid models so that they can reliably be used downstream as the basis for building the product,” he said. “We also want to improve our ability to train our people and monitor and validate our models to ensure that they are all created in a standard format so that, for example, we are able to automatically perform interference checks.”
Tips from Fellow Engineers
It turns out Raytheon has been implementing MBD too. Best of all, by last June, some of its technologists were willing to share what they had learned. At PTC Live Global (now LiveWorx), the Raytheon team presented this session called “Transition to a MBD Culture
Click the link to see Raytheon's full presentation. For Abbot, the most insightful takeaway from Raytheon was their approach to rolling out MBD. They encouraged attendees to start small.
Adoption goes smoother with a two-part approach, argued the Raytheon team. The first stage consists of small-scale projects that are designed to demonstrate return on investment. In this stage, evangelists who believe strongly in the project can play a leading role. As these projects become successful, the business value that has been demonstrated should take the forefront as the organization moves forward into the second stage, a large-scale implementation.
Download the Free eBook
MBD is quickly becoming the preferred approach to design as many of the hurdles to creating a single source authority model for every stage of product development are falling away. To learn more about model-based definition, check out the free eBook from PTC. You’ll find out more about the limits of 2D drawings, how MBD simplifies complexity, and where to get started. Download your copy today.
[Ed. This post has been updated]