A little-known PDF method can save your organization money and headaches.

You’ve been driving your car for years, and have accepted the limitations and frustrations of driving on land because there’s no other option. But what if someone told you that your car had wings? And that it’s had wings all along, you just never knew it, and now you can fly over all the traffic and fly the most efficient route? It would be a bit mind-blowing, right? Well, the same applies to 3D PDF. If you have Adobe Reader on your desktop system, you can read a 3D PDF.

Why does this matter? It can help you cut costs and be more efficient. Take, for example, the Department of Defense (DoD). It spends billions of dollars each year, so saving money is a big deal. The F-35 combat aircraft is expensive to build and maintain. The potential to save more than $140 million over the life of the program is significant. The DoD found that using the Model-based Enterprise (MBE) strategy offered them a way to save.

Interactive 3D PDF documents can collect and present multiple types of data (PMI, CAD models, etc.) in an easy to understand format.

MBE leverages the Model-Based Definition (MBD) of components or assemblies downstream of engineering. Typical workflows for MBE involve quote or proposal requests, first article inspections, maintenance/repair/operations, manufacturing engineering, and more. Much like PLM, MBE is a continuum or evolution of activity where one is constantly improving how things get done. The concept of MBE addresses inefficiencies in the product development process.

Instead of printing complex engineering documents, the DoD keeps them in digital form, often as a 3D PDF because of the variety of data types it can store in the common and lightweight format. This 3D PDF file is a big part of what created the F-35 budget savings. [Cit. 1]

Using a 3D PDF to communicate product information to a broad group of stakeholders means that the recipient doesn’t need to have a CAD application or CAD knowledge in order to open, view and read details about a product or design.

You can use Adobe Reader to view a 3D PDF practically everywhere. One of the main advantages of using PDF is that there is no need for a big system overhaul to incorporate the filetype into the MBE process – systems already know how to handle a PDF and 3D PDF is just standard PDF, there’s no difference as a file type. In addition, 3D PDF eliminates the complexity and expense associated with using multiple proprietary CAD viewers.

New technologies enable anyone to create interactive 3D PDFs quickly.

But, even with success stories like the DoD’s, organizations still find resistance when switching from 2D to 3D and implementing new tools. Not everyone can interpret or understand 2D drawings and this can lead to miscommunication of design intent, ordering of incorrect parts, scrap, or expensive re-work.

Multiple studies have proven the point:

One third of engineering dollars are spent on 2D drawings, yet 60% of them don’t match the 3D models, according to a Department of Defense study. –Source CAPINC

An Aberdeen study found that 30% – 40% of part non-conformances are due to inaccuracies and interpretation errors using 2D drawings. –NIST Technical Note 1820 Page 16

A study by LifeCycle Insights found that when it comes to suppliers or downstream consumers, 51% have to request additional clarification of engineering documentation; 41% don’t have the most current revision of the 3D model or 2D drawing, and 40% end up recreating the 3D model. –LifeCycle Insights, The State of Model Based Enterprise

Why 3D PDF is better

Research is showing that 3D PDF can improve how organizations manage complex information. Specifically in manufacturing, there are multiple types of information and documents (such as work instructions, part catalogs, maintenance or repair manuals, and technical data packages) needed to communicate to multiple users. Plus, there are specific file formats critical to communicating manufacturing information accurately.

3D PDFs are customizable to reflect a company’s own look and feel.

On the Boeing 787 Dreamliner project, for example, the company wanted to create a digital product development process. As part of this program, more than 5 million lightweight 3D PDFs of models were converted from their native CAD application. These documents have been widely used for final assembly work on the factory floor as well as used by thousands of suppliers and customers for their internal processes–75,000 to 100,000 3D PDFs are retrieved each week.

In addition to OEMs, suppliers such as B/E Aerospace also have adopted 3D PDF to communicate design and assembly information more efficiently to Boeing:

“Sometimes we’d be delivering drawings of our wiring designs that were in the tens of pages with a hundred or more views,” said David Ewing, former manager of engineering services at B/E Aerospace. Drawings that complex would often result in the client making several requests for more views before redlines could even be handed back to B/E. Tetra4D’s 3D PDF technology allowed us to open and handle incredibly complex models 99.99% of the time. Even the most minute elements of data were preserved in the PDF. “With three months work developing 3D PDF process, we were able to realize enormous cost savings and a significantly more efficient workflow with the team at Boeing,” continued Ewing.

Creating 3D PDF ‘apps’

3D PDFs demonstrate major benefits, but process efficiencies are seen when 3D PDFs are used as more than just a viewer. 3D PDFs can function as a container where you can bring in all the important data together, such as CAD files, data from other sources such as ERP or PLM, images, text, and so on, and create interactivity.

3D PDFs can be viewed by anyone who has Adobe Reader – just simply choose “Enable 3D” from the settings menu.

A 3D PDF that functions more like an “app” has all the data needed to support any workflow, including those related to the Model Based Enterprise (MBE). Plus, the PDFs allow anyone to view and interact with the data using Adobe Reader.

New tools and technologies on the market make creating interactive 3D PDFs easy – no programming expertise needed. Building interactivity between 3D models, images and other product information allows other stakeholders, even non-CAD users, to review multiple steps in a process in one document, as opposed to reviewing dozens or hundreds of static individual pages.

While the multi-million dollar savings reported by the Department of Defense is impressive, a company does not need to be as large as the U.S. Government to realize big savings by using a more intelligent digital document system. With affordable new tools and technologies now available, embarking on a model-based enterprise approach is not only very doable, but can also save small and midsize organizations time, hassle, and money.

Cit 1: http://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/TechnicalNotes/NIST.TN.1753.pdf Page 24 or 28, depending on how search reveals it.

Source: The case for using 3D PDFs (Did you know your car has wings?)