Are You Ready for These Shifts in Technical Documentation Delivery? Interview with Jeff Coon

When 2D and 3D illustrations in your technical manuals aren’t consistent with the part that your technician has in their hand, it’s frustrating and costly. If your technical documentation doesn’t show the current iteration of the part, the technician wastes time and money deciphering the task at hand.

Recently, we provided some tips to help improve your technical documents, boost your organization’s productivity, and lessen errors for your field technicians.

Today, we’re going to shift gears and take a look at how the delivery of technical documentation is changing.

Who’s better at providing insight into shifts you’ll see in documentation delivery than Creo Illustrate Product Manager, Jeff Coon. Not only has Coon been working in the technical documentation space for over 30 years, he started his career as a helicopter repairman in the U.S. Army. Coon knows firsthand just how important it is to have accurate documentation.

Given that his background makes him uniquely qualified to talk about the changes that are happening in this field; here are changes Coon says you’ll see in the next few years:

Integrating CAD changes into documentation can happen in minutes. If you can’t easily integrate engineering’s changes into your documentation, you have to weigh risks associated with having manuals that don’t match the actual parts being manufactured.

In an effort to lessen the never-ending, labor-intensive task of updating technical illustrations, solutions like Creo Illustrate allow you to derive illustrations directly from your CAD models. Coon said, “This type of integration means your field technicians will see accurate content that’s consistent with what’s actually coming off the manufacturing floor.”

With solutions like Creo Illustrate, in just minutes, you can use controlled automation to push changes from your 3D CAD software into the documentation your technicians are using to perform repairs.

Technical illustrations will be delivered in multiple formats (raster, vector, and 3D). Coon said that moving forward it’ll be increasingly important for your systems to allow illustrations to be presented in multiple formats:

  • Raster: These are lightweight 2D pixelated, dot matrix structure images. Enlarging this type of image can result in a low quality illustration.
  • Vector: This type of graphics file is arranged mathematically into lines or shapes. When you enlarge the file, the quality of the image stays intact.
  • 3D: These files are bulkier, but they’re very useful for training purposes. 3D illustrations make training more robust, with animated models/tutorials and augmented reality (AR) options.

In some situations, a 2D drawing of a part just isn’t as effective as a 3D rendering. Since your novice technician can see a more accurate representation of the part with a 3D illustration, they’ll have a better idea whether that widget in their hand matches the one in their technical documentation.

The use of 3D illustrations is growing in popularity. After all, they allow manufacturers to deliver more effective and detailed information with less text. But, how do you deliver 3D illustrations to technicians?

Solutions like Creo Illustrate offer a dedicated environment with the capabilities required to create rich, 3D technical illustrations and also 2D illustrations.

Coon said, “There are clear benefits to delivering both 2D and 3D illustrations. 3D illustrations (and AR) help with training new technicians. But, once the novice becomes more experienced, they’ll likely need a simple 2D sketch as reference material, rather than complex 3D images.”

2D and 3D illustrations will be delivered differently as web browsers eliminate plug-in support. Coon said that, historically, 2D and 3D content has been delivered via web browser using compatible plug-ins.

This will be changing soon as browsers (including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari) eliminate support of plug-ins. In preparation for this shift, PTC has been working to develop 2D and 3D delivery methods.

For delivery of 2D files, PTC is recommending the use of SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) files, rather than CGM (Computer Graphics Metafile) files. Coon said, “We have the ability to convert CGM to SVG to help companies make that switch. This route is supported by all HTML 5 compliant web browsers, both mobile and desktop.”

PTC’s 3D delivery solution will be available at the end of 2017. This new solution is a 3D viewer that operates within a browser window. It is fully HTML5 compliant based on WebGL technology.

Want more tips on how you can improve your delivery of technical illustrations? Continuously providing up-to-date, accurate service content can be challenging. However, there are proven, concrete steps you can take to improve your technical illustrations and make the creation process more efficient than ever before. To learn how, download our infographic, 7 Steps to Better Technical Illustrations.

 Creo Illustrate Technical Illustrations


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