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2D to 3D digital transformation - Why all communication should be recorded in 3D

We chatted with the experts in digital engineering at The Design Technology Company (DTCo.) to learn why ensuring an entire production process from conception to build should be recorded as 3D information.

Acquiring a single source of information, improving technical efficiency, and achieving a holistic understanding of engineered products are just some of the benefits of transforming 2D to 3D information.

“Why do we take 3D content, build it in CAD, then revert it into 2D communications? Humans learn and see the world in 3D. So, with the technology available to us, why is the traditional output still flattened?”  
Jonathan Bannister, Managing Director at DTCo.

It’s a great question! Traditionally, we communicate designs by handing a piece of paper or emailing a PDF around. And, until recently, specialist software was required to view such information in a 3D format.

It is easier for a designer to design without error, resolve unknowns, and give better outcomes in 3D than in the alternative. We know that 3D methods help solve spatial and functional problems. However, after the design step, the process traditionally reverts to 2D, in outputs such as manufacturing drawings, assembly instructions, parts lists, and web pages (to name a few).

“Legacy is one of the key factors holding many firms back. Even in a world where we may no longer share physical paper drawings, we're very likely to see 2D drawings on a screen. The irony of having a powerful computer running an HD monitor to put a black and white two-dimensional drawing onscreen is quite absurd when you think about it.”
Jonathan Bannister, Managing Director at DTCo.

3D files are still sometimes printed on physical paper and hence flattened back to 2D format

3D information enhances communication

Technical drawings, quality control inspection sheets, assembly instructions, and manuals are all traditional 2D communication tools. They need to be correct (of course), but at their core, they serve to communicate very complex pieces of information that enable people to perform processes accurately. And they are almost always shared in 2D simply because it is familiar.

“We (at DTCo.) want to break down the barriers and shake off the legacy methods. If there is a piece of technology that enables us to communicate the things we need to communicate better, we’ll jump on it and bring our customers with us.”
Jonathan Bannister, Managing Director at DTCo.

The recent breakthrough in the view ability and accessibility of 3D data has led to greater ease of access to 3D information for anyone, regardless of whether or not they have access to or experience with expensive CAD software. These modern and easy to use tools enable quick communication and understanding of complex 3D models.

JigSpace, for example, allows scale, material colour, and the object name to be carried over into any 3D model. This occurs instantly when importing a CAD file from the original software. This saves time formatting 3D information so that users can focus on animations and instructions that are core to making compelling presentations or “Jigs” as they are also known. Jigs are instantly sharable via a simple link, or a QR code, and can be opened with nothing more than a web browser.

Converting 2D information to 3D automatically makes communications easier, faster, and more efficient because all the necessary information can be accessed at a glance or acquired with a simple click.

Example: Efficiency gains with 3D & AR

Efficiency and enhanced cognition are just two of the tangible benefits of utilizing 3D information in communications and instructions, but here is a real-life example almost anyone can relate to: Imagine looking at a machine, like a printer, that has decided to stop working. You’ve probably already kicked it twice.

Using Augmented Reality, instructions to fix the machine can be accessed by the operator using a simple QR code. These target instructions can be delivered in a spatial context instead of trying to interpret written instructions on the printer screen. Augmentations would appear on the printer, via your device, which provides a visual guided troubleshooting experience.

Companies such as Swoop Aero are using JigSpace in such a way as to provide product training to people in remote locations. They educate remote users on their drone technology using Augmented Reality training courses, that are available even without an internet connection.

A simple change in how we provide information along the entire production process has many benefits, such as:

  • Reducing the cognitive load required to process instructions
  • Adding real-time, contextual information for fewer misunderstandings
  • Fewer technical resources are required.

“3D information gives us infinite ways of looking at how something fits together. When we are trying to present the same thing through a single, or even multiple views in 2D, if we don't capture everything in those views, the receiver doesn’t get the full context. They have to then make assumptions or best guesses about how things go together.”
Jonathan Bannister, Managing Director at DTCo.

3D information makes communication and work easier, faster and more efficient

Making 3D information the single source of truth

We are heading toward the 3D version becoming the single source of truth for every consecutive action around a product. Tools like JigSpace enable this information to be housed within an easy to use 3D Knowledge Management system, where 3D models can be stored in an easy to access team library.  

“We should be able to tie everything back to the original 3D model. Everything that may occur to this product in its lifetime should be founded on the 3D model and the data attached to the components within it.”
Jonathan Bannister, Managing Director at DTCo.

There is a big shift coming in the CAD world, which is already prevalent in aerospace. Model-based definition (MBD), brings all of the technical information, such as tolerances, geometric dimensioning, comments, surface finishes*, and other annotations that typically only get added to a 2D drawing.

CAD tools are increasingly enabling the use of MBD, where information is attached to the 3D model in the first instance. If a person needs to build a part and has access to the model, they can view it in 3D and access the highly technical information attached to it.

It is an exciting paradigm shift between the drawing being the source of record and the 3D model being the NEW controlled source. It digitally transforms the entire process from the beginning. Anything from design, to QA, through to sales, production assembly, transportation, dispatch, and maintenance can be drawn from the original 3D.

Using this technology and software in tandem could beat the “cheap, fast, or good, pick two” triangle. With the right technology, we can shift the triangle such that we quickly create 3D models that support faster and lower cost downstream processes with a higher level of accuracy and quality.

Cheap, fast, and good model applies to JigSpace

Tools like JigSpace are enabling users to achieve a single source of truth by providing a 3D Knowledge Management system that saves all the required data into one easy to access 3D model and to your team model library.

We don’t think it will be long before there is no need to convert 2D information to 3D. We are fast approaching an age where communications are created in 3D from the outset and we can throw the printed instruction manuals away!

*It is worth noting that JigSpace is not currently set up to filter through such a level of MBD detail, but we are working on it!

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Hennika Kestilä
Hennika Kestilä
Hennika Kestilä
Head of Marketing