I am sure many of you are familiar with Model Based Enterprise (MBE) and Model Based Definition (MBD). I explain MBD as a Technical Data Package (TDP) which contains all the information (3D Model, 3D/2D Views, annotations, PMI, GD&T, etc.) needed to accomplish one’s task. Using this TDP over traditional 2D Drawings and various other files is definitely better but I always felt that using any sort of disconnected uncontrolled “package” limits the full potential of collaboration. I even wrote about it in one of my previous blog posts Model-Based Enterprise Summit 2014. However, when I started to think of the MBD not as a file based package but as a representation of your product definition it really expanded my thinking that for a Model Based Enterprise you do not need to have any files or “packages” whatsoever.
Why did I Think a Filed Based Package was Required?
The Model Based Enterprise website defines MBD:
The Model Based Enterprise (MBE) is made up of many related processes. At its core is the product definition which we refer to as the Model Based Definition (MBD). Another way to define MBD is an annotated 3D CAD Model that contains all the information needed to define a product. This annotated model replaces a traditional drawing. Thus, a drawing is created by exception not as a standard process.
It says nothing about file based Technical Data Package (TDP) or capturing your product definition in a file. It does refer to a model but a model does not necessarily require a file. However, when you look at the page How MBE Works it states:
During the production stage the annotated product model must be effectively communicated to the supply chain. This is done through the 3D Technical Data Package (TDP).
This TDP will be delivered digitally through a supplier portal linked to the OEM’s PLM or ERP tool
In this definition I interpreted package as a file based package. I think this is not necessarily correct.
I do not think I was alone in this thinking since at several conferences and summits I have attended mostly everyone talked about MBD by using files such as JT, 3D PDF, STEP, etc. These conferences and discussions strengthen the idea that files are required for any MBE. I do not recall anyone talking about a MBD or MBE environment without files, or at least I was too blind to see it.
After reading a blog post by Ed Lopategui I realized that my concept of MBD being a file based package was incorrect. He talked about the lost potential opportunity of new modern cloud CAD+ providers which did not support a model based representation and are instead going backwards by supporting 2D drawings. The idea that a pure cloud solution can provide a MBD without files was what really started me down the path of realizing that a MBD does not need to be a file.
The main reservation I had with MBD which I have mentioned in previous blog posts is that with most MBE environments you are sending a snapshot file based technical data package. It does have much better information than a 2D drawing which means you can communicate efficiently with less misinterpretations but it does not facilitate improved collaboration and is susceptible to the same issues of “what is the latest version?” I know you can use an enterprise system to store the MBD which will ensure you always get the latest release, but the idea that the primary data is still in a snapshot file based package is my main issue.
However, if the MBD is not required to be file based, that opens up many possibilities of communicating the contents without relying on native applications which need to be installed to view the package contents.
Why does this matter
Many companies are investing or have invested in an enterprise solution(s) that contain all or most of the information produced and consumed. These solutions usually contain files but also have features to display the contents of those documents without a requirement of sending files. For example, these solutions show you the contents of pdf, doc, dwg, JT, etc. without the requirement of downloading any files. They even can display an interactive view which allows you to interact with the data with just a browser.
If we combine the fact that MBD is just a representation and the fact that these enterprise solutions can represent data as well as allow you to interact with it, then there is the potential to have a solution where we do not need to pass the TDP but the solution still satisfies all MBD requirements. These solutions can provide representations of the data for each stakeholder with only the information that is needed for that user, exactly what an MBD was supposed to do.
This solves the two main problems I had with MBE:
- We no longer need to pass proprietary files packages containing open file standard files (eg. STEP) which requires us to download a free viewer to view the data.
- We can actually collaborate on the data since we do not need to pass files back and forth which I loathe as a method of collaborating
I totally understand that files are still required for some of the end stakeholders and that that is not going to change. Fortunately, if they are needed, I note that a file based package can be generated by the system and then downloaded if/when necessary. However, the requirement for files should not be overstated. There are many activities such as review that not only can be done without files, it is better to not use them at all. Modifying a model is a better because it allows a means of collaborating and not just communicating.
Here is an example of a MBD package which is generated and always up-to-date. In this representation there are no tolerances or dimensions because the were already handled upstream. There are three views which you can cycle through at the top.You can select items and get its properties as well.
Model Based Enterprise is definitely gaining in popularity which means there is much more information relating to it. I luckily came across Ed’s blog which opened my eyes and allowed me to realize that the limitations I thought were related to MBE were actually a limitation of my interpretation of the actual implementations not the methodology.
I am not saying that we should implement MBE without any file based technical data packages, just that we can.
By lifting the constraint of files in MBE I see new potentials for virtual reality or augmented reality which will be the representation of the data. However, this does mean that there may need to be an update to the following description:
At its core is the product definition which we refer to as the Model Based Definition (MBD). Another way to define MBD is an annotated 3D CAD Model that contains all the information needed to define a product.
I would really like your comments and thoughts as I evolve my thinking.