3D CAD and the 757

I read this article stating that the 757 that was discontinued in 2004 is still in use. Why?

An airline pilot reveals why a plane Boeing discarded 12 years ago is the one they desperately need

"There's no denying the 757 is an old plane that was designed in the late 1970s, but the versatility of the plane is remarkable and unmatched," Smith, the author of the book Cockpit Confidential, told Business Insider in an interview. “It’s profitable on both short-haul domestic as well as trans-Atlantic routes."

The KC-135, 707, 727, 737 and the 757 all have the same basic airframe.

Today Boeing sells thousands of 737s. This airframe design is over 60 years old and is still viable. And as you see above many airlines are even updating their existing fleet of 757s.

I thought, how would they bring this airplane back in production?

Do they even have draftsmen to modify the drawings?

How would they mix CAD and manual drawings?

You know I don’t think they could technically or cost effectively do it!!

Here is another article suggesting that Boeing bring back the 767.

An NMA alternate: Boeing’s potential 767-X

(NMA - New Midsize Airplane)

You just have to look at the KC-46 tanker to see if this is a problem.

Air Force finds another problem with Boeing’s KC-46 tanker

Of course, the 757 was not designed in 3D CAD or any CAD. The first airplane designed in 3D CAD Catia 3/4 was the 777. But the engineering deliverable was still the drawing and delivered as a print. Yes, they did also deliver the model in IGES format to the suppliers. IGES was a good format since it was made up of 3D wireframe and surfaces. They were very dependable and rarely corrupt.IGES did release a solid translation, but it was short lived with the release of STEP..

Boeing 3D CAD History

747 started 1964, introduction 1970, No CAD (Pre-design for C5 project should be considered)

767 started 1976, introduction 1982 No CAD, Manual drawings only.

This is probably the most glaring example of the success of a newly developed aircraft manually designed.This was the last Boeing airplane that was designed completely on the board..

CADKEY or Catia? Boeing’s Billion-Dollar 3D CAD Mistake!

777 started 1988, introduction 1995 All 3D CAD with drawings and 3D model

This was going to be an electronic airplane. Yes, they still generated drawings from the 3D model and were delivered as prints. Boeing draftsman at the time called them the “Flat file”. One funny thing about the process was that engineering management said there would be no mockup made, it would be an electronic model. A mockup was a full-scale model of the airplane for verification of the assembly and used for design considerations. Nope, they didn’t have "one" mockup, but they had dozens of full sized model verifications. It just makes you chuckle.

We have to note here, the Catia 4 to 5 fiasco. Dassault released a 3D CAD program with the same name as the previous version yet it was a totally different program that was not compatible. This was a costly transition for both Boeing and Airbus. It was shocking that huge aircraft companies could be so short sighted.

787 started 2003, Introduction 2011 ALL CAD no drawings only the 3D model.

Yes, the 787 had other problems with the introduction of new revolutionary processes. But it will never be profitable, the advantages are not worth the true cost of the airplane.

After reading the above facts, you have to ask this question!

Why in the world when 3D CAD was added it took longer to design an airplane.

Shouldn’t it be significantly shorter??

Boeing now has a 3D CAD system that cost millions and millions of dollars, it is a complex design systems that can take a year to just get proficient, forcing Boeing and other companies to demand the engineer have Catia 5 experience. Thousands of new Infotech employees to maintain the systems. A high level of incompatibility with the suppliers and much more.

With the 787, Dassault added PLM with the Catia 5. Boeing got rid of the Drafting Group and Document Control with the promise that this new wonderful 3D CAD and PLM system could managed the complete engineering department.  

Highly experienced draftsman started disappearing without any provisions to get the engineers educated to fill the knowledge vacuum created. 3D CAD was now the tool of the new 3D CAD engineer. The engineer went from managing draftsman to being managed on the daily form, fit and function grunt design work. They were now required to create all the engineering documentation, check it, review it, release it and maintain it. I love to see the degreed engineer brag about their 3D CAD prowess, not even realizing how far they have fallen.

Educating the New 3D CAD Engineer - 2015

Catia 5 is nothing more than a poorly designed Pro/e (Creo) clone with the same dated separate part, assembly and drawing format. The PLM folks soon realized that the associated drawing was not easy to maintain. They started looking for solutions. They came up with MBE (Model Based Enterprise).

The Worst to Best 3D CAD System and Whyy

This is an interesting aside. Instead of the PLM folks looking to a more document management friendly 3D CAD system. Let's say one that had a single model environment and integrated drawings. They attempted to build a system based on the dated and convoluted Pro/e (Creo) clone with the separate parts, assembly and drawing. Their failure to effectively do this made them come up with the bizarre MBE and other solutions that companies like Boeing and Airbus are suffering under today.


The solution was to create a new 3D drawing format called the PMI (Product Manufacturing Information). These native 3D models with 3D annotation were now the design authority. Change went from an inexpensive added ADCN (Advanced Drawing Change Notice) attached to the drawing to having to directly revise the model and rerelease. You just have to laugh at the extra time and exposure to Murphy this costly process now allows.

Advanced Drawing Change Notice vs Model Based Enterprise

This all was done by those that had no applicable knowledge of the engineering process. Sadly, they are still in charge convincing everyone (no draftsman left) that this highly inefficient system is the new normal.

"I feel I have proven that the past system, when the engineering was based on the drawing, was a much more productive system. Draftsman did virtually all the work with high levels of experience. When I worked at Boeing 747 flight deck the lead draftsman was the go to guy. He was brilliant in his knowledge. Problems were solved with ease."

The Death of the Draftsman or “Where has all the talent gone?”

So, when you say “Oh that guy is old fashion” when he brings up going back to complete drawings from the 3D model, think again.

The Death of the Drawing

You cannot short cut engineering.

Every small mistake in engineering costs 10-fold down the line with incorrect parts and slipped schedules. It is quite odd that management is so inept they cannot even connect the dots. There is just no one with the necessary applicable knowledge in the industry to expose the vested interests that keeps this ineffective and costly system in place.

PLM has totally failed to manage our engineering documentation. Here is a very simple solution.

The Embedded Title Block! A PLM Solution!

If you have any questions or would like to discuss this subject, feel free to give me a call.

Joe Brouwer

My First 17 Years or "How did we do it without 3D CAD!"