3D Drawings: Advantages of 2D Drawings Coupled with Interactive 3D

Many Companies are Transitioning from 2D Drawings 

You have undoubtedly heard of Model-Based Design (MBD) and the Model-Based Enterprise (MBE). These initiatives aim to make the 3D model the single source of truth and to migrate away from 2D Drawings - which are, of course, an abstraction.

Large companies like Toyota Motor Corporation are using 3D Drawings and transitioning from 2D. And this extends to their supplier network.

But initiatives like MBD and MBE aren't just for extremely large companies. If your company uses 3D CAD and your products are complex, it might make sense for your company to begin the transition. With XVL, you can ease into the new process.

This could be your first step along the path of Digital Transformation.


The Problems with 2D Drawings 

Have you ever looked at a 2D drawing, even studied it, and still had trouble interpreting it? Of course you have. 2D drawings are an abstraction and can be very confusing.  

  • Incomplete: Is there a dimension missing? Is a feature not documented?
  • Ability to Explore. There is no way to explore a 2D drawing - it is how it is. Have you ever wanted to view a 2D drawing from a different perspective, as if you were looking at it from underneath or from a different angle?
  • Time-consuming to create. The person authoring the 2D needs to anticipate the needs of those downstream. And even with modern 3D CAD systems, they still take time to create and maintain.

3D Drawings: 2D Coupled with the Power of Interactive 3D 

Imagine all of the documentation expected to be on a well-produced 2D drawing, but it is actually interactive 3D with a 3D toolset to explore. 

  • The annotations stay visible, regardless of orientation.
  • New annotations can be added.
  • Semantic PMI (Product Manufacturing Information) is transferred from the originating 3D CAD system. 

Use Interactive 3D Drawings to replace 2D Drawings to Increase Understanding and Increase Efficiency


Here are just 3 Capabilities 3D Drawings Provide: 

  1. Measurements: Something not included already? The underlying Virtual Product Model is XVL and has CAD-level precision. Downstream users can add their own detail. 
  2. PMI: Clearly see PMI annotations including Semantic PMI (for CATIA V5, Creo Parametric and NX ) and be able to explore the model to completely understand the PMI documentation. 
  3. Cross-Section: If you really need to explore, dynamic cross-sections can be added by the downstream user. 

 In general, they are just easier to understand because they are interactive 3D.

3D Drawings 

By distributing XVL 3D drawings containing PMI and other manufacturing information to downstream processes, design departments are freed from the traditional bottleneck of 2D drawing creation. Furthermore, downstream processes that do not have 3D CAD can work more efficiently with the XVL 3D drawings they receive. In addition, 3D data from each department can be reused across departments to improve the efficiency of the entire manufacturing process. 


3D Snapshots 

A 3D Snapshot initially looks like a 2D drawing. The initial view is set by the author and captures the model in a specific state (e.g., orientation, assembled, not assembled, etc.).  However, that is where the similarity ends - each 3D Snapshot is actually live interactive 3D that can be explored as a 3D Drawing.

So, if a company is transitioning from 2D drawings to 3D drawings, a logical first step would be to produce a 3D Snaphot for each 2D drawing that would normally be created. In this way, nothing is lost but there is much to be gained by the downstream user. 

For example, here are 3 possible views of an engine block. 

The person who authored the drawing can include all of the important information they wanted to convey in the 2D view. But then the person receiving the 3D Drawing can actually explore it interactively.

3D Snapshot - Connecting Rod Cap

Read our blog post on 3D Snapshots.


In summary, there are tremendous advantages to reducing or even eliminating 2D drawings.  Leverage 3D drawings to streamline processes, improve communication, reduce errors, and ultimately enhance the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the manufacturing workflow. 

XVL for Creating 3D Drawings and Much More 

3D CAD is great for the design department, but not for the rest of the company. 

XVL takes off from where your 3D CAD leaves off.

Complete Virtual Product to Support the Complete Product Life Cycle

With XVL, any stakeholder throughout the product lifecycle can access the complete virtual product with intuitive and easy access. You probably have a PLM or PDM system that contains the design data, but it is easy and intuitive for stakeholders to access.

XVL Across the Product Lifecycle Benefits Medical Device Companies
XVL Provides Complete Data and Fast Performance

XVL Scale

With XVL, all 3D CAD data (even different formats) are combined into a SINGLE Virtual Product Model. XVL retains CAD-level precision and all metadata from the originating CAD system.

And with XVL, function-specific information can be added (for example assembly work instructions and service instructions).

And data can be pulled from XVL, for example, to create technical illustrations.

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