Solidworks: Engineering 4.0?

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Be sure to read the companion article

Solidworks: MBD - Model Based Definition

These comments are in reference to this original article.

Solidworks: Engineering 4.0

I was introduced to 3D CAD in 1982 after 17 years as a design draftsman creating manual “drawings”. In 1986 I was introduced to PC base 3D CADKEY and quickly became a dealer. I have been instrumental of the introduction of 3D CAD into the industry in the NW.

Have you notice that they is very little true critique of 3D CAD software. Websites like Engineering.com seem to cater to the major CAD vendors. Now there is nothing wrong with this but the industry is not getting a true view of the industry at least in the popular on line rags. The PLM/MBE pundits, like Lifecycle Insights are in the pocket of these folks and never say a bad thing. They tow the line for the major CAD packages, basically stifling any improvements in the 3D CAD world.

The industry is not running to the level it should be for all of the money and time that has been thrown at it. It is much, much more costly and chaotic then when it was based on the standard drawing only. We only added the 3D model and  it is only good for use as a pattern.

You pay $6,000 to $20,000 for a seat of 3D CAD and you need a myriad of 3rd party programs to make it work. From realistic rendering, to PDM, to PLM, to MBE, to Analysis, etc. Today's CAD world is nothing more that a money machine and the user is the golden goose.

Now, of course, this blog is self serving to Solidworks and there is nothing wrong with disguising interesting topics as marketing tools. I do it all the time. But you have to present it honestly.  

So, let’s take a look at what they wrote.

Engineering 1.0 – 1760 to 1970

Engineering and manufacturing have been around as long as the earliest inventions including the wheel. While papyrus (thin paper) was manufactured as early as 2550 BC, today’s modern design and engineering can be traced back to the start of the industrial revolution in the 1760’s. Incredible inventions were designed and manufactured through the early 1900’s using pencil and paper, vellum or mylar (and trial and error) such as the steam engine, cotton gin, telegraph, sewing machine the Model T Ford automobile and flying machines.

While materials and manufacturing methods became more sophisticated, the methodology of creating technical drawings did not change substantially until the computer age.

I am a Boeing trained draftsman and I usually relate to my experience at Boeing, since it had the best and most copied engineering standards in the industry along with the automotive industry.

Why didn't the engineering drawing change? It was based on a well proven standard that was used through out the industry. In the past, I could walk on to any job and be productive that day. Think about that today!

All the computer did was add the 3D model and move the documentation to the end of the process as basically reference information. Nothing has really changed. Some people think that it should by trying to reinvent the wheel. We will get into that later.

All airplanes from the 767 down were designed and documented with manual drawings. This was until 1980 when they started dabbling in 3D CAD.

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

Engineering 2.0 – 1970’s-1995

With the advent of computers, first expensive mainframes, then mini-computers and finally personal computers, engineers, designers and inventors were able to place circles, lines and arcs virtually on a computer screen. This revolution improved over 20-30 years and is still available and in use today by many individuals and organizations. Significant increases in speed could be realized, especially when making any changes as the need to erase pencil or ink was replaced by a simple electronic eraser. Computerized drafting tools advanced negating the need for performing mathematical calculations to find midpoints, areas, centers of gravity. In addition, problems that could only be solved using complex true projection calculations (such as in calculating true lengths of non-prismatic shapes) could now be solved using correctly drawn geometry with basic r drawing techniques.

What they seem to be describing here is the “Electronic Drafting Package”. 3D CAD was instantly adopted by all the large companies. I personally was introduced to Computervision CADDS 4 in 1982. In 1986, Boeing had settled on Catia 3. They had already experimented with other programs, like Computervision CADDS 3. So why did they settle on Catia, a French outfit, that was produced by somewhat of a competitor, Dassault? It ran on IBM and Computervision ran on their own, very undependable mainframe. No manager ever got fired for buying IBM. So the die was cast.

I was introduced to PC based 3D CADKEY while on contract with Boeing in 1986 in the 747 flight deck group. I was instrumental in expanding CADKEY's use in Boeing, when I left, flight deck had 35 CADKEY and ended up with 45.

I quickly became a dealer. CADKEY was the only viable PC based 3D CAD system until the turn of the century. Pro/e was introduced in 1988 and was the first solid modeling system designed from the ground up. So, the above Solidworks description is a bit incomplete.

The 1980's - 3D CAD - The Beginning

The 1990's - 3D CAD/CAM Moves to the PC!! 

Engineering 3.0 – 1995-2015

While some 3D capabilities existed for very well-funded companies in the aerospace and automotive industries, the mass market was not exposed to 3D CAD until the early 90’s. SOLIDWORKS mission to enable 3D on every Engineer’s desktop was started in 1995 and has since reached out to include over 2 million users in education and commercial endeavors.

PC based 3D CADKEY was widely used throughout the late 1980's and 1990's. Boeing had 1500 seats and I had sold virtually every Boeing supplier many seats of CADKEY. I was instrumental in bringing a high level of compatibility between Catia and CADKEY due to my earlier experience. I finally became Boeing CADKEY dealer.

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

The above statement is a bit self-serving it doesn’t tell you that Solidworks was nothing but a poor copy of Pro/e on the PC. They were lucky that PTC was so slow moving to the PC, 2001. But they were the first and history based design was new and clever as compared to the rough Boolean design systems as compared to the feature recognition of the direct edit products today.

Solidworks was hardly the only 3D CAD package released for the PC in the 1990's but it was very successful. Why? They also don’t tell you that Solidworks was released with no copy protection until 2007 that allowed it to be passed around like hotcakes. I called this  “Perpetual Evaluation Marketing” taken form Autodesk that basically fell into it by accident, since in the early days of the PC copy protection was a bit tricky. This solves the mystery why an extremely complex and convoluted architectural electronic drafting package and a poorly designed Pro/e PC based clone are the most popular CAD packages today.

CADKEY had a dongle from the very beginning. IronCAD and virtually every product put on copy protection, Inventor, Solid Edge, SpaceClaim, ZW3D and all of the high-end systems. So Solidworks is hardly the best Pro/e Clone and I guarantee the Pro/e clone systems are hardly the best 3D CAD system. IronCAD, released in 1998 was miles above Solidworks and still is.

IronCAD vs Solidworks and the Pro/e Paradigm

The Ultimate 3D CAD System

3D Modeling Techniques Defined

The 2000's - The Age of 3D CAD Un-Enlightenment!

Engineering 4.0 – 2015 – ?

So, what is the next revolution in Engineering?

It is no longer acceptable to expect each department or employee to search for engineering data and recreate designs in order to accomplish their job when this can be automated in the early stages of design. Sharing data with everyone that needs access, but in the right format and is distributed using an automated delivery and update mechanism is the key to enabling Engineering 4.0.

Each stakeholder within the company and the supply chain should be able have access to the information they need in the specific format they need it 24/7 using a secure centralized vaulting system. By providing the right format info such as price quotes for sales, bill of materials for purchasing, renderings for marketing, animations and exploded views for documentation, inspection drawings for inspection, model based definition eDrawings, 3DPDF, STEP, IGES files, every department will have more time to do their essential jobs and spend less time recreating and re-interpreting data.

Engineers can leverage theirdesigns to provide renderings and animations (.jpg, mp4) to Marketing for web sites as well as exploded views and bill of materials (xlsx) to Technical Documentation. Quality assurance ballooned drawings and inspection reports can be created automatically from PDF and CAD (.slddrw) drawing files eliminating hours of manual labor. Complete electromechanical Bill of Materials can be shared with Purchasing to enable early visibility into inventory and external manufacturing requirements so projects are not delayed due to lack of materials or parts. Fully dimensioned 3D drawings (.edrw, .eprt, .easm, .edrwx, .eprtx, .easmx or .pdf) can replace the older 2D drawings prevalent for hundreds of years utilizing model based definition (MBD) concepts that enable large screen monitor or tablet viewing of engineering information, on the shop floor with an interactive capability that reduces manufacturing confusion and errors.

The key is to review the needs of every department with respect to engineering information and to provide a delivery mechanism for them to get the up-to-date information they need in the format most conducive to their task.

Using automated tasks, integrated CAD, Simulation and Technical Communication tools, the right data can be created automatically. Using a product data management (PDM) system as a delivery mechanism can ensure that every user in every department gets the information they need in a usable format saving them multiple hours by eliminating duplicate work.

The shop floor may need STEP, IGES, DXF, SMG, eDrawing or 3DPDF files to view shop floor instructions, feed CAM programs or setup tooling. The marketing team may prefer JPG and MP4 files where purchasing may need Excel XLS BOM files and Sales may want quotes in Word DOC format.

In each case where downstream information is shared correctly (format and delivery mechanism), the potential for savings is tremendous. Duplicate work eliminated by each department can create time and cost savings of at least 20% and in some cases 80%.

Getting each department the up-to-date information they need in the format they can most easily use is the key to the Engineering 4.0. This can be accomplished with an integrated product portfolio of Engineering Tools such as the SOLIDWORKS 2015 Product Portfolio in conjunction with our hundreds of Partner products to create the system that is most effective for your company.

The last topic is by far the most convoluted misunderstanding of engineering documentation I have ever seen. This concept is a massive complex system that must be maintained and coordinated. But this increases the dependence on Solidworks and, of course, is the plan and will keep costing you forever.

Checking, Design Review, Manufacturing and Data Extraction!

The biggest problem of the above concept is that you have to create special files and make sure the recipient is well versed on how to handle those files. Everything depends on the CAD system. It gets much worse as you go up the 3D CAD food chain with Catia, NX and Creo. They have to make you dependent on their CAD product. But trust me. You just have to basically understand how to handle the internal PDM. Hopefully they provide an effective system. One idiot is trying to sell a BOM add-on. Okay, pay $6000.00 plus on a system then have to buy a BOM add-on to make it work better. They have to think we all a very stupid, hmm, obviously some are.

PL or BOM?

I can eliminate the need for you to be dependent on any CAD system.

No, you do not have to switch your CAD system. You just need to establish a document control system that is easy to access. I can tell you, all you need is the model in a native or neutral format and a drawing as a PDF. These two files should be available to any that need it.

You could even use a standard MS explorer folder system easier than the Solidworks PDM/PLM/MBE solution. Engineering documentation is not a live system. It is actually better the faster it dies and gets put into a vault (secure file storage area, under a special document control group.

Large companies like Boeing used the blueprint in the past. It really doesn’t have to change today. After the design is released it should only be available in a format outside the CAD system. Even engineering should look to this documentation then move to the CAD system for any changes or new products.

The native file should never, never, ever be used as the engineering deliverable.

Boeing and very large companies need the documentation readily available to all that need the information. In the past, they put the blueprints at a blueprint counter where you could get the required prints. They moved to Microfiche in the 1970's, but it served the same purpose. You would have thought the PLM gurus would have studied how engineering documentation was done in the past. But the truth is, as much as I blame them for the chaos, it was because they came on board too late. By the time, they showed up the Pro/e paradigm of 3 separate documents that had to maintained was well in place, the part, the assembly and drawing. This was the source of the failure.

OnShape: The Ultimate Document Control System

This was where they started adding Band-Aid after Band-Aid to try and make the process more streamline. This is where they came up with the idiotic MBE (Model Based Enterprise) and the incredibly stupid PMI (Product Manufacturing Information). It has always amazed me that they used “Product” instead of Part. Same with PDM, Product Data Management instead of Part Document Management.


But Solidworks is not run by professional practicing engineers or draftsman they are just following suite. They are basically run like all other major CAD vendors, “Marketing” driven by the latest buzz words. Not really understanding why. Just trying to keep themselves relevant to their users. Which is coming to an end. You can only enhance the limited Pro/e paradigm so much and it comes to an end. Their users are starting to wake up and realize they are not being delivered any more productivity.

You will see the above on blatant display in the next article at the end.

Sadly, there are no bachelor’s or master’s degrees or PHD’s in drafting. I am sure if there were things would be much different. But drafting was a concise standard that could be taught in a relative short time. Personally, mine was a 12 week 480 hour Boeing supported government drafting training program.


Is there such a thing a engineering 4.0.

Hardly! It is a BS concept to create a higher dependence on the CAD system and costing you much more money.  In truth engineering proper has never changed, we still design parts that fit into assembly. Yes, 3D CAD is very easy unless, of course, you are using Solidworks or any other Pro/e clone. We still have to get documentation to manufacturing. The solid model and associated documentation makes it a bit better for machining and sheet metal, but you still need documentation for fabrication, like weldments and other inseparable assemblies.

What has Engineering 4.0 have to do with any specific CAD system. If the industry was smart they would base Engineering 5.0 on a standard system that the CAD systems would have to conform. Trust me, this is not rocket science. It just needs those that do the engineering to take charge.

We need to put engineering back in charge of engineering!

The total purpose of engineering is to produce concise, complete and unambiguous documentation to manufacturing.


I really don't know where they get the Idea that there is such an integration with manufacturing. Even the largest companies have a minimum of onsite manufacturing. It is much more cost effective to have an outside supplier. If you look around the Detroit area you see thousands of large and small suppliers or venders servicing the automotive industry. This reduces their work force by thousands and allows them to get inspected parts from smaller companies with expertise on their manufacturing area.

The Space Between Engineering and Manufacturing

So tell me who is using all of this integration?

I have sold CADKEY and worked with virtually all of the Boeing suppliers. But many do work for other customers. None of the customers have the same CAD software so my CAD solutions allowed them to work with them all.

Free PMI Importer?

So all of this stuff is pie in the sky. All you have to do is make the model available in the native or neutral format and concise, complete and unambiguous documentation in the form of a PDF.

That is all they need to make your parts!

So if you set up your document control system outside your CAD system you can have all you information available without all the above convoluted solutions. And it is much, much easier to maintain.

SIMPLE? Of Course.

Now this leads me to this article.

SOLIDWORKS: Model Based Definition 

Why TECH-NET Sells IronCAD and ZW3D

With 50 years of experience in engineering, 17 years in manual board design as a contract engineer, 33 years in 3D CAD sales, support, training and providing engineering services, I have a high level of understanding of today's 3D CAD engineering world. For many it is in chaos. If you are having problems or just interested in this subject please feel free to call and we can discuss them. There are so many simpler solutions available that will save you time and money.

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

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Joe Brouwer
Skype: tech-net-inc