The Millennial 3D MCAD Engineer

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As usual to explain the evolution of the degreed engineer as the MCAD industry transitioned to a 3D model-based system we must look where it transitioned from.

Definition as we relate to “The Engineer”

Industrial/mechanical Engineer: A person with a BSME degree, minimum?

Pre 3D CAD

Why do I reference it as 3D CAD.

Didn’t we have “2D CAD” with the electronic drawing first?

The Two CAD Programs that Set the Path to 3D MCAD Chaos!

Not really. The large manufacturers moved to 3D CAD in the early 1980’s. Autocad didn’t show up until 1983. But the AutoCAD was nothing but an extension of the drawing board. We have to assume the "CAD" in AutoCAD was "Computer Aided Drafting". Sadly, this ambiguous acronym CAD moved into our lexicon as "Computer Aided Design".

The large manufacturing firms bypassed the “2D electronic drawing” world.

The Pre-3D industrial/mechanical Engineer.

Why would this professional draftsman know about engineers? I probably worked intimately with more engineers than the engineer with my experience did. I worked with and for engineers extensively through out my career. As I moved into selling PC based 3D CAD, I was soon training many.

Engineering at that time consisted of Engineers and Draftsman.

Engineers designed and/or managed

Draftsman designed and created the engineering documentation “The Drawing”

Very, very few engineers did drawings in the larger companies. I only met one and he was a young contractor hired as a draftsman at Gates Learjet. He is now a principal engineer at Gulfstream.

Please understand we are talking about institutional engineers not the chief cook and bottle washer engineer in a small company or independent design engineer running his own consulting firm that did the complete job from design to documentation.

Enter 3D MCAD Draftsman 1982

I was introduced to 3D Computervision CADDS 4 in 1982, while at Williams International in Walled Lake, having been there before and working on the drafting board. The selling point of 3D MCAD was faster generation of drawings.  Only the draftsmen were on the system.

I became quite proficient and adding “CADDS 4” to my resume I moved on. I was probably one of the first draftsman to be hired only for my MCAD experience. I even jumped disciplines, from aerospace to plastics.

I went from CADDS 4 job to CADDS 4 job until I took a contract at Boeing Everett 1986. It was a board job and I took it just to get back home. I was very frustrated not to be on 3D MCAD. They were using Catia 2 and only “Prima Dona” draftsmen were allowed on the system. There was no way a contractor was going to get on the CAD system.

But I was introduced to PC based 3D CADKEY at Boeing, founded TECH-NET, Inc. and quickly became a dealer.

The 1980's - 3D CAD - The Beginning

The 3D model soon consisted of 3D Wireframe, surfacing or Solids

I sold virtually every Boeing supplier PC based 3D CADKEY. It was the only system that talked to the workstation based networked Catia 3 and then 4. We were using the 3D wireframe/surface models with IGES and then in 1995 we moved to IGES/STEP in solids.

But we have to remember that we didn’t start delivering the 3D model until the late 1980’s. We would then deliver a 3D model with a “Paper Print” of the AID (Associated Information Document) (drawing). We did this until 2000 with the introduction and wide use of Adobe Acrobat and the PDF. Then we would send both the 3D model in a native or neutral format and a completely detailed AID (drawing) as a PDF in an email. Yes, they were sending a paper print and a floppy to the suppliers before that.

But with the introduction of PC based 3D CADKEY, you didn’t need the expensive workstations that were so costly. Everyone of Boeing's engineering staff in 747 Flight Deck that was involved with design got a copy of PC based 3D CADKEY on their computer and were designing in PC based 3D CADKEY. Remember this was in 1987. When I left Boeing 747 Flight Deck they had 25 seats of PC based 3D CADKEY and soon had 45 and got rid of one of the Catia seats. They had 1500 PC based 3D CADKEY at Boeing being used throughout the commercial division. PC Based 3D CADKEY was the only system mostly used outside the commercial division. It was huge for TECH-NET!

The design and 3D modeling were still mostly in the hands of Drafting, but the design engineers were becoming quite familiar with 3D. Boeing settled on Catia 4 for their main MCAD system. But many of the engineers were still using 3D PC based CADKEY. In 1995, with the release of FastSolids for PC based 3D CADKEY, completely compatible with Catia 4, the world changed. I never worked with Catia 4 but it was a Boolean system (forerunner of Direct Edit) and both PC based 3D CADKEY could use the 3D Solid STEP file.

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

3D MCAD Engineer

So, the Boeing engineer moved to the world of 3D MCAD in the mid 1990’s. These were the 3D CAD engineers. More than likely the 3D CAD engineer was not on the Catia 4 system. It was still hugely expensive, so it was probably a mixture of PC based 3D CADKEY and Catia 4 that were very compatible (more compatible than Catia 5, that was on the horizon). Again, the AIDs (drawings) were still being delivered as paper prints.

1998 the 3D MCAD world changed.

Dassault released Catia 5.

What made Catia 5 different from Catia 4?

Catia 5 was a completely new PC based 3D MCAD system designed from the ground up. It was not compatible with Catia 4 which caused and still is causing huge problems. It is funny, if Boeing would have settled on PC Based 3D CADKEY, they would have moved into 3D solid modeling in 1995 and not had this compatibility problem. Boeing will have to have Catia 4 available for the foreseeable future. Actually, both IronCAD and ZW3D can be used as Catia 4.5 to read and write both Catia 4 and Catia 5 files. The weak link: Catia 5 with its lack of direct edit functionality in the design process with each face modification as a step in the history.

Good Gawd Joe! What the hell has this got to do with “The Millennial Engineer”?

Patience please!! This transition didn’t happen in a day.

Catia 5 didn’t not just come in and replace Catia 4. I was a much more complicated 3D MCAD system. It introduced history-based design with complex constrained sketching. Hey, we have had that for years with Pro/e and Solidworks. Oh yes, we did. And how is that working out? This added huge amounts of engineering hours and an error prone design process as compared to the easy operations of Catia 4.

But it just wasn’t a replacement.

Dassault talked Boeing into basing their engineering on a non-proven complex PLM system. I have researched this and have no idea who sold this concept to Dassault and Boeing.

Again, back to the AID (drawing). Boeing and the industry were still releasing AIDs (drawings) as paper prints. This, of course, was quite expensive and time consuming as compared to a single electronic file. So, some hairbrain came up with MBE (Model Based Enterprise). This was one of the least thought though processes that ever-graced engineering. They developed the PMI which can only be called a 3D drawing. Sadly, they have to be released in the native MCAD system since the "native" 3D model was now the authority.



I will not go into this here because I am sure many of you are anxiously waiting for the introduction of the Millennial 3D CAD engineer.

With the introduction of PLM and MBE, Boeing decided the new 3D MCAD engineer could do the engineering and documentation and there was no need for the draftsman. Also, with Dassault Catia 5 PLM taking care of data management there would be no need for document control.

This was a devastating move. Those that were responsible for the engineering documentation: Drafting was not consulted.

The native CAD model as a PMI now became the released engineering document.

While I focus on Boeing, the complete MCAD world was heading this direction. Degreed engineers are mostly now doing the design and documentations. While only the large manufacturing firms are experimenting with MBE the newbie engineers are facing similiar challenges in the smaller firms. I expect the introduction to go a bit smoother, since they are still basing their engineering on completely detailed AIDs.

Whew… okay, okay we’re are ready to describe the creation of the:

The Millennial MCAD Engineer

This is the first engineer to be introduced to engineering not through the draftsman. In many cases there is not a professional draftsman around. Maybe a few lingering engineering technicians (What Boeing renamed the draftsmen).

This fresh newbie walks into a room of cubicles. Everyone is siting at a PC with a large monitor. On these monitors are 3D parts and assemblies manned by the 3D MCAD engineer. They sit down to the computer and then what?

The Questions:

What 3D MCAD system do you know?

Well, he/she must know 3D MCAD.

What is their job going to be?

More than likely they will do what the newbie draftsman did, simple part design.

Do they know form, fit and function design?

Do they have their own copy of the Machinery's Handbook?

Do they know DMF (Design for Manufacturing)?

Do they know drafting and detailing (dimensioning and annotation)?

Do they know how to design assemblies?

The Real Question?

How did the schools prepare this new Millenial 3D MCAD engineer?

They will now be responsible for creating the engineering documentation.

I am assuming they are on a 3D MCAD system and not (God forbid) Autocad or another electronic drawing package. Can you imaging the learning curve there?

Since there is no need for the 3D MCAD draftsman there is no documentation training.

What is the engineering documentation standard for the company?

An Model/AID (Associated Information Document)?

A PMI (Product Manufacturing Information)?

The Millennial 3D MCAD engineer will now have to learn how to set up and detail an AID or apply minimized GD&T to a PMI, both require many notes. More then likely they had no engineering documentation at all in school since they probably started with 3D MCAD. So, they will have to learn it on the job. It took me a 480-hour class to learn the basics of drafting and dimensioning. Can you imagine how confused that newbie engineer is?

Who is going to be their mentor?

Another Millennial 3D CAD engineer that has a couple of more months on the job?

Or will there be a few 3D CAD Engineers with the pertinent experience to mentor them.

I think not.

So, there you go. The Millennial 3D MCAD engineer is twice removed from the original engineering system that was based on the manual drawing made up of unassociated orthographically projected views. This system was staffed by highly experience professional draftsmen that assured that engineering ran smoothly and were responsibly for engineering's only product.

Concise, complete and unambiguous engineering documentation.

Documentation his now in the hands of this this newbie! Can he become effective without being familiar with the history of engineering documentation that was developed over a few centuries.

How long will it take?

Welcome aboard Millennial 3D MCAD engineer, it looks like you are pretty much on your own.

The Millennial MCAD Manager

We can't stop at the Millennial 3D MCAD engineer, they have been here for 18 years. I have talked to a few of these engineers that have been promoted to engineering management.

It reminds me of those Pro/e sketched based CAD systems where the designer and only design in constrained sketching. Never realizing there may be a faster and better way. They go along wasting huge amounts of hours working in this overly complex design system.

Why would they change? They have never seen a different way of design. I have watched as these folks struggle with the simplests of design. I have shown a new way, actually it is quite old, much older than the sketching world they are in. I call it Streamlined Sketching and Feature Based Modeling. Could they change? Not without some stimulus from upper management.

3D Modeling Techniques Defined

Engineering management is in the same boat. The system they are using, even though hugely overly complex will never be looked at if it is effective. None even know about the incredible simple standard process of the past. Again we ask them "Could they Change?" And again, we answer, not without any investigation by upper management. But upper management won't investigate until they realize, how much engineering is costing them in design time and incorrect parts.

Don't believe me? Go ahead Mr. CEO, Engineering VP, Engineering manager, et al if you dare. Or you can keep wearing those opaque glasses. The waste is enormous. 737 Max come to mind?

Engineering Documentation Today!

The Death of PLM

Sadly, the engineering world is now in the hands of the PLM guru and the major 3D MCAD CAD systems. These folks have a vested interest in keeping upper management stupid. Sadly, it is relatively easy!!

Just develop a system based on obscure acronyms. Have you ever read a PLM gurus blog.
Their motto:

 'If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.'

What chance does the Millennial Engineering Manager have to operate efficiently?

What change does upper management have to be educated?

It is relatively easy to let go of responsibility. You freely give it to a group that acts like it has the answer, never realizing they are the wolf in charge of the hen house.

Trust me engineering to manufacturing is relatively easy. We even did it successfully without the computer?

So what "HAS" gone wrong with Engineering? Part II


So there you go. We don’t have 3D CAD engineers, we now have the Millennial 3D MCAD engineer. Not depending on my past, that was based on a smoothly operating standard engineering process, but a completely convoluted and chaotic non-standard past. Twice removed from a functional standard engineering process and not even knowing why a standard would exist.

So how do we educate these Millennial 3D MCAD engineers? Well, we can't look to those that just came before them. Sadly, they threw out all of the experienced draftsmen.

I have a few old draftsman associates I worked with 30 years ago, now working in this environment. You should hear their experiences of this new Millennial 3D MCAD engineering management.

One associate said to one Millennial MCAD Manager:

"We can't do that, it is not a company standard procedure"

His answer: "Standards are only Guide Lines"


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

Educating the Millennial 3D MCAD Engineer

Should the Millennial 3D MCAD Engineer Learn Drafting?

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