3D has made great strides, but developers, designers and manufacturers do not yet use it as a mainstream technology to communicate online. Why?
3D is an efficient and inspirational technology – and can be a legitimate and universal language. It can present design, visualize engineering analyses, or present and explain problems in a way that words simply cannot describe. But are there limits for 3D? How can organizations collaborate efficiently using 3D and non-3D information? Let’s examines basic types of design communications and their implications.
Here users are presenting a camera in an immersive 3d environment. The advantage of showing a product model visually, such as this camera, is important in design.
3D has made great strides, but it is not yet a mainstream technology used by developers, designers and manufacturers to communicate online. The questions this observation raises are: Do PLM vendors have the right technologies to easily communicate? Is it an oversight? Or is it not really preferred or important as a communication tool? We will look at typical uses where 3D data is involved or represented: presenting the design of a product, describing a problem or discussing a particular solution.
Describing a design
These scenarios, though partial, provide a context for analyzing the advantages and disadvantages of 3D data usage:
Presenting the design of a product: 3D technologies can be used to help locate, select and present the design of a product. Within organizations, there is often a large amount of information to search through to find the right design (version, configuration, product) and access the relevant data. One may need to find 3D information within the context of other information, or may need to access 3D information without accessing the design system through a viewer or related feature. Products that do this and enable a lifelike experience have a significant advantage, as they present a model of a product visually.
Describing a design or engineering problem: They say a picture is equal to a thousand words-but just seeing a 3D model often isn’t enough. To accurately and efficiently use 3D to communicate throughout the product design process, you need to be able to collaborate on the development of 3D content, work together to update the information about it and speak in the context of a particular 3D environment.
3DReview allows multiple users to view the same model, like this axle assembly, so one can review specific features for the others.
For example, you can all be connected to the same 3D product model and one user can review a specific feature for the others connected-easily explaining a problem and showing a particular zone or feature in the model to illustrate what he/she means and what needs to be worked on as a team. This can lead to better communication, better collaboration and faster problem solving.
Discussing a particular solution: The deciding factor on whether designers adopt 3D as a valid communication tool can be summed up in one word: productivity. If 3D helps improve productivity, then without a doubt, it will be used as an instrument in daily work.
In general, the idea is that product designers like you need to present various reviews and presentations throughout the course of regular duties. To make you more productive in doing so, technologies that can generate various presentations directly from a 3D model of a product will save a great deal of time and effort. In a best case scenario, these models and presentations, once created, could be shared and used by several throughout the company-as well as with key stakeholders outside of the company’s walls, such as partners and consumers, enabling them to review and discuss a product, giving real-time feedback before a product is manufactured and available.
Basic 3D technologies may not be a perfect fit for every situation. 3D technologies do need to be advanced enough to circumvent the following potential issues that you could face when using them.
Searching for a specific design or part: The majority of the time, using 3D technologies to search for a particular design or assembly part is advantageous, because you can see what you are searching for-which helps in getting it right the first time. However, without intelligent search functions, several parts and matching items could show up as the result from a search query-making it difficult and time-consuming to find the right part. To be successfully used, 3D data and designs must be easily searchable and have good search engine technologies integrated within the system.
Search screen allows a search for a particular design or part so you can see what you are searching for.
Collaborating on a specific problem: In most cases, 3D is an advantage here as well, because you can use 3D to actually see the problem visually-and show within the 3D model exactly what the problem is, and different fixes can be used in the model to correct the issue. However, there are some cases where the problem can’t be represented visually. That is why any 3D technology integrated and adopted within your company must have the right balance of 3D together with textual information-to ensure that descriptions of complex issues can supplement the 3D model as needed.
Search grid illustrates how multiple assemblies with similar names can be evoked in a search.
Co-design: Collaboration is an important part of any product design process. Using 3D technologies to collaborate requires the right combination or visual and non-visual capabilities in whatever tool you’re using, to keep records of discussions. If 3D is not combined with these non-visual communications tools-such as an instant messenger technology-then those designers involved risk losing the chance to refer back to important discussions or planned changes-which is often needed if you have to reverse a decision or re-trace your steps. Organizations that adopt 3D technologies need to make sure that their chosen tool enables designers to collaborate in a messenger-like atmosphere and share or send pictures in real-time. All parties involved should be able to look at the same screen of a design, perform impact analyses and then review proposed changes to parts of the design. Designers can then propagate the screens and save the changes.
Having a single platform for multi-disciplinary collaboration puts everyone-marketing, design, engineering, manufacturing and purchasing-in touch in a constant, dynamic information space. Products are imagined, built, and shared in “real time” in a concurrent development stream, meaning issues are detected earlier and solved before they become too advanced. By using 3D technologies to drive collaborative design and share the product creation process, decision making is immediately accelerated, creating more room for innovation and keeping everyone in the value chain up-to-date.
Collaboration on a specific issue can stumble when the problem can’t be represented visually, requiring a balance of 3D and textual information.
Communicating with the customer: Building your product and managing your design process with 3D technologies is only the first step-organizations also need to be able to share this information and show off their products to customers. The biggest problem in working with customers is that they rarely have access to expensive 3D systems and may not have the time or ability to learn complex 3D tools. In some cases, too much 3D information creates an information overload and destroys the efficiencies of the tool.
Organizations need to make sure that whatever 3D technology they use can incorporate both the visual and non-visual aspects of a product design simply and easily and make it able to be seen by customers or others outside of the company infrastructure. 3D can become a universal language, but only if the needs of both designers and non-traditional users such as marketers and consumers are met at the same time.
3D technologies have been evolving over the last thirty years, coming a long way from a technology used exclusively by teams working on defense projects and aerospace programs. As with any technology, 3D needs to be used appropriately-and any 3D tool used within an organization has to take into account both the 3D and non-3D function needed to make everything work efficiently.
Dassault Systemes ENOVIA SmarTeam
Filed Under: Software • 3D CAD, ENGINEERING SOFTWARE