Model-based product definition (Model-Based Definition)

Is the old way still better?

Digitalization is progressing, but production paper drawings or at least PDF drawings are still a persistent part of the whole industrial production. The same information could be obtained more clearly and up-to-date from a 3D model, but we are so accustomed to two-dimensional mechanical drawings that we don’t know to ask for better ways. 3D design has been with us in our everyday life for a long time, but the output of the modeling is still often published as a 2D drawing. The designer themselves gets to enjoy the illustrative 3D model, but after that, the great model can only be viewed from a few angles: front, side, top, and with good luck, from an isometric view. To top it off, the designer often spends half of their working time creating the 2D drawing, thus diminishing others’ ability to benefit from the clarity of the 3D model. To correct this distortion, there is an approach that focuses on utilizing the 3D model throughout the entire product lifecycle, from design to manufacturing and maintenance.

What on Earth is MBD? (Model-Based Definition)

In model-based product definition (Model-Based Definition), the 3D model contains all the necessary product information, such as dimensions, tolerances, material information, assembly instructions, and other technical details that are traditionally presented in separate documents. Dimensions, tolerances, and other technical information are integrated directly into the 3D model, making 2D drawings unnecessary. Metadata such as material information, manufacturing methods, and product testing requirements are attached to the 3D model. Additionally, manufacturing-related information, including surface treatments and assembly details critical to the manufacturing process, can be attached to the model.

The benefits of MBD are undeniable, but we humans are used to reading paper, which hinders the method’s faster adoption. MBD reduces manual work and potential errors in information transfer. It speeds up the product development process as changes update immediately across the entire organization and stakeholders. When all information is accessible from the 3D model, misunderstandings are better avoided. For example, a circle on paper can be interpreted as a through-hole much more easily in a 3D model where you can see through the hole. Also, collaboration between design teams, manufacturers, and suppliers improves as the model can reside in the cloud. From a quality management perspective, dimensions and tolerances integrated into the model reduce manufacturing errors, as do clear and detailed instructions.

Why Isn’t MBD More Widely Used?

MBD requires investments in new software and training so that all members of the design team can effectively utilize 3D models. This slows down the method’s adoption, as does resistance to change. MBD necessitates a significant cultural and process change within the company, which can cause resistance from the staff. Additionally, MBD requires efficient information management systems to ensure that all 3D models and related data are up-to-date and easily accessible.

Model-based definition is expected to become more widespread in the industry in the coming years as companies strive to improve product development efficiency and reduce costs. Advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning can further enhance the utilization of MBD by providing intelligent analyses and automated design processes.

Utilizing MBD in Complex Products

Configurable models can also benefit from MBD. The advantages gained are at least as significant as in mass production. Customer-specific customized products are always unique, and their information and definitions must be correct to ensure error-free delivery. An advanced product configurator can produce a 3D model that can be directly used not only in sales and design but also in production, procurement, installation, and maintenance.

I recommend bringing MBD to the table at the next strategy meeting to at least assess the benefits, drawbacks, and input/output ratio. Once the change is implemented and the dust has settled, I believe no one will miss the paper drawings, which often have outdated revisions.

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