Before computers, engineering designs where carried out by armies of draftsmen toiling over drawing boards in vast offices. Some may still express nostalgia for those days, but like all else, change came along. Today sophisticated computer programs allow engineering designs to be created in a full 3D virtual world with great degrees of precision. In the initial phases of the 3D modeling revolution there was a great debate over 2D vs 3D and because software vendors feared rejection over adoption, they included capacity to derive 2D drawings from the 3D model. The CAD programs essentially allowed the production of documents equivalent to what could be produced by a draftsman. But 3D CAD programs have continuing to improve in terms of functionality and capability; so much that all the information (and more) that used to be communicated via a 2D Drawing can be included in the single 3D model. Such an approach is far more efficient.
However, when asked organization after organization will admit to releasing and maintaining 2D Drawings for all sorts of purposes.
So, if technology has moved on beyond the 2D drawing, why are they still widely used in the industry?
If you dig into the reasons why 2D Drawings still exist, various technical reasons are commonly offered:
- Dimensioning and tolerancing cannot be fully completed on a 3D model
- Tabled parts are difficult to create in 3D
- Consumers of drawings do not have the capability to view 3D
- 3D models cannot be printed out
Current Technology has an answer to all these problems:
- CAD software has core modules that can create a fully annotated model in 3D with all information included
- Design tables or configurations can achieve this very easily
- All major vendors offer viewers for 3D formats; the most basic of these are normally free.
- Viewers remove the need for printing; beside printed copies are uncontrolled and can lead to errors
It can easily be demonstrated that any technical objection can be overcome with correct tool deployment.
So, why do 2D drawings still exist?
If you dig a bit further, other reasons start emerging from the shadows:
- We have always used drawings
- It would be difficult to retrain the shop floor
- Our suppliers don’t have the capability to use 3D models
- It would take years to redesign our processes
Finally, here are the true reasons why 2D drawings still exist and they are all cultural in nature. It is similar to the neighbor who trudges down the driveway in the snow and picks up a hard copy newspaper. Just sit up in bed and pick up a Smartphone!
So, how do you address the cultural issues?
Here is a high level journey from 2D to 3D
- Technology – Choose the best technology
- Best Practices – Figure out how to take information in2D to 3D
- Impact – Evaluate impact to downstream processes
- Strategy – Design a strategy to replace 2D Drawings
- Planning – plan the transition and the OCM (more on that later)
- Implement – roll out the transition and goodbye to drawings
Here are some more critical elements of the journey
Best Practices – answer questions like Current information on Drawings? Critical vs Non-Critical? Common standard for GDT information? Company Standards?
Downstream Impact – In a complex organization, there are probably many users of 2D Drawings both within and without the organization. It is important to identify all these users before suddenly removing drawings!
Strategy – the various strategy components that must be considered include how to convert 2D information to 3D; technology purchase; repurpose downstream systems; training courses required; Project Plan; what to do with legacy data
Planning – As noted previously, the biggest obstacle to converting from 2D to 3D is cultural resistance. A well prepared organizational change methodology (OCM) and plan is vital. Considerations include communication, training, support and identifying champions.