|Celebrating 30 years 1987-2017
Standardized Cloud Based
Engineering Document Control
This article was originally titled:
The Ultimate Blueprint Counter
What is a Blueprint Counter?
I chuckled when I first posed this question.
Today’s young engineer may not know what a blueprint is. I can hear
him/her now: “Why would they need a person or system to count
I searched for a “Blueprint Counter” on line and found a few images of
cabinets. In fact, I searched on line for blue prints and after
centuries of blue prints the above image was the only one relative to
My First 17 Years or "How did we do it without 3D CAD!"
For Boeing and all the industries, the engineering deliverable was the
drawing. We would draw on clear vellum, linen or Mylar so we could get a
print of the drawing. In those days, the released document was white on
blue print of the drawing. The original drawing was store in a vault,
yes, a real vault. This shows you how valuable this information was.
Called? Yes, the blueprint.
We would go the blueprint counter at Boeing, where there were shelves
filled with blueprints. These counters were always staffed with young
women, we would ask for the drawing number and they would get the
required blue prints. They were organize per drawing number. I am
probably one of the last draftsman that experienced this.
The drawing was the graphic representation of the part in separate
orthographic views. All engineering personnel were skilled in "Reading
the Drawing". Which meant we could see it in 3D from the views. No, they
did not include isometric views.
Did you notice I said "Drawing Number" not part number?
Secret of Part Numbers
These were not drawings, these
were prints! The drawings were stored in vaults. As a young draftsman,
the “Blue Print Girls” provided quite a dating pool. I got out of the
industry for a time and came back in 1975! No more blue prints. Boeing
had moved to microfiche machines.
We would go to the microfiche room, get the cards take them to a viewer
and get the prints that were required for the change, driven by
rejection tags, new design or investigations. And again these were
Life was good. It was a very simple process. We did also get computer
printouts showing the “used on” information.
So, what serves as the simple blueprint today?
Enter 3D CAD
The 1980's - 3D CAD - The Beginning
In the beginning of 3D CAD, the systems were sold as a way to create
faster drawings. But even though these documents looked like drawing and
were created to the drawing standards. They were hardly drawings. They
were views or instances generated from the 3D model
and dimensioned in a documentation module. All annotation was added. These were printed and
handled just like drawings and delivered as prints. I coined these the
AID (Associated Information Document). It wasn't until the release of
Acrobat did the AID move to the incredibly flexible and widely available PDF.
Today, we can print our AIDs directly to PDFs from all 3D CAD systems.
We can even create a 3D PDF.
The Death of the Drawing
The small manufacturing companies are now creating fully detailed AID
(Associated Information Documents) (drawings). They cannot afford the
incredibly convoluted PLM/MBE/MBE/PMI systems. They are probably stored
in folders and referenced in an Excel file.
They still send the 3D model and the AID (drawing) as a PDF to the
supplier. The 3D model can be a native file or any of the standard
neutral formats. All of my suppliers demand a 3D model and a completely
detailed AID. It is only Boeing and other large companies that can
dictate that the suppliers be compatible with their complex MBE/PMI
Many suppliers still demand completely detailed drawings. It shows that
the part design has been thoroughly thought through and reviewed.
But how do they deliver the 3D model and documentation?
Probably by email. Email??? That is a small step above snail mail.
The large manufacturing companies, such as Boeing, with the high-end 3D
CAD systems based on a convoluted failed PLM have tried to make the
native 3D CAD file the engineering deliverable. Which has created
complex Band-Aids such as MBE, MBD and PMI which have totally failed as
a effectively tool to manage, maintain and deliver the engineering
documentation. Yes, this incredibly convoluted, expensive and a fruitful
playground for Murphy is still delivered as an Email!!!
Why MBE/MBD/PMI Will FAIL
We have the internet and the best we can do is deliver our engineering
documentation as an Email? This is only one step above sending them a
print. How would we know we have the latest revision? Of course, we tie
it to the purchase order the best we can. But as soon as the 3D model
moves to the CNC there is no reference. It is quite strange that no
would would think of putting "title block" information directly on the
3D model. Some confuse the 3D model with the part. It doesn't become the part until it is manufactured. Until then it is still
documentation, no matter what format it takes.
Embedded Title Block!
Native CAD file cannot effectively be
used as a standard engineering
With that being stated. Let’s simplify and standardize “Document
Control” and make it easier than going to the Blue Print Counter sans
the blueprint girls.
Standardized Cloud Based Engineering Document Control
We look to Onshape. I have written a couple of articles on OnShape.
Onshape is today's perfect "Cloud Based Blue Print Counter". Now I
reference Onshape, since it is the only truly cloud based CAD system and
offers all of the features necessary to make a fully functional
standardized engineering document control system.
We now have another program available! Free GrabCAD Workbench!
Cloud Based Engineering Document Control
Solidworks has moved to the cloud. But does not offer the flexible, what
you can only call the "Documentation Bucket" that Onshape can
There are a variety of cloud based systems
that could be a model for this concept. The web based programs are not
very complicated. One that comes to mind is the
If also offers a good idea how this system could be set up.
You would release your engineering to a document control group, outside
engineering, in a standard format. They would upload and release the 3D
model and PDF and all pertinent documentation in an cloud based document. It
is truly a bucket for any type of information. You can completely view
the 3D model and review the PDF, word, excel, image or any other
Today, OnShape is struggling to make it a 3D CAD design system. But if
we could make it the standard “Ultimate Cloud Based Blueprint Counter”
they could provide a very cost effective solution. They could probably
eliminate most of the 3D CAD functionality. Maybe some measuring tools.
If you get a company like Boeing standardizing on this, you would really
have a huge demand for Onshape.
Boeing could save millions if not billions on a higher level of quality
documentation and interoperability moving to this system. They could
eliminate the engineer as a data manager by moving the document control
out of engineering and into a documentation control group.
the engineers would still have to understand the part/assembly file
management system of the company 3D CAD system. Which, of course, would
now be considered the vault as in the past. A company could have
multiple CAD systems using one as an accumulator for assemblies. Many of
today's CAD systems can actually import related parts or assemblies from
Even the engineers would use
this cloud based document control system first to see the latest
releases and changes. Plan for the changes and then check the original
out of the PDM system. This would be the native 3D file, AID, drawing
(electronic or scan of the manual drawing as a PDF). I assume if any
changes to the manual drawing would be a conversion to 3D.
You could keep a record of those that viewed the document and downloaded
Changes and revisions would be easily documented. Always having all of
the drawings and parts in any level of revision. Think how that is being
done today. Here is another little trick to keep track of revisions that
is "totally" Murphy proof.
The ADCN (Advanced Drawing Change Notice) vs MBE
Would my engineering information be safe?
You would set levels of access from viewing only
to 3D model download. But remember this information is in stone and is
created and maintained by a group that is separate from engineering. In
the past this was call the "Document Control Group".
But what if someone got access to the data. Well
it would be hundreds maybe thousands of parts. You would never put your
3D assemblies on line. You just put the assembly drawing delivered as a
PDF. Yes, on OnShape. (See Below)
We don’t manufacture assemblies!!! We assembly them!!
In the past, you needed the physical drawing, today you would only need
a computer (Apple or PC) and a browser. This would take very little to
set up. Imagine how much simpler than that huge, costly and complex PLM
system and the MBE and the MBD and the PMI, requiring expensive
translators/viewers. The overhead would be hugely reduced. One system
for all of your sites. Available from any location not requiring any
You can view the part. Yes, in 3D, rotate and review. What could be more
clear? You could view the AID or even just upload the PDF of a
drawing. All formats would be available. No limitations of
documentation. You could set standards in the the environment.
This is actual information in Onshape!
You could just as easy have inseparable assemblies, weldments, bonded
assemblies, riveted assemblies, sheet metal assemblies with fasteners,
And the drawing uploaded as a pdf "IN THE SAME DOCUMENT". You can upload
any file format and view it. No special software.
You could include any level of information. Today we do not draw the
drawings. The drawing standards are leftover from the past. We could
easily devise much more clear, concise and unambiguous documents.
Especially on the assembly level. Planning and other departments could
also use this system for planning orders, instruction, etc.
Manufacturing could include tool paths, more instructions. Remember you
do not have to have the 3D model. It will work with "any document".
Amazing!! Think it through! Actually, you could offer its use to any
department in the company. Easily accessible engineering information in
the cloud without any special setup of the cost of the expensive
If you need the assembly in 3D, you really need to get the original file
in the native system. Now if you wanted to have the complete assembly on
line, it is no problem, just upload it.
Here is the assembly PDF uploaded to Onshape. No, we do not include the
3D model. Why in the world would you do that??
I suggest you create an AID (drawing). You can include any level of
detail. Yes, yes, you could use PMI. At this time OnShape does not
support PMI. With any demand I am sure they could make it available. But
a completely detailed AID (drawing) is a much better deliverable than
the obscure PMI. GD&T can be much more clearly defined (Minimized GD&T
seems to be bastardized for PMI). It also gives the designer a second
look for errors and maybe a new design. It is a much better format to
review, check and use for manufacturing.
PMI vs AID (Associated Information Document
I can tell you from 50 years of experience in the industry as a
"If it is difficult to detail it will be equally difficult to
For the life of me, I cannot understand how this simple fact has been
The Death of the Drawing
You could even scan manual board drawings as PDFs and upload them. Here
is an interesting article about bringing back the 757. I wonder if
today's Boeing engineers can even read the board drawings. It would be a
great place to start the new 3D CAD engineer, turning drawings into 3D
models. Imagine what they would learn?
3D CAD and the 757
I was just offered a job to convert a few old Boeing drawings to 3D
models. Funny how fast they throw out the "3D model is the authority"
when things have to be expedited. It shows that Boeing engineering based on Dassault Catia 5 PLM has so many holes.
Example of the state of the industry!!
I was offered another job to review a board drawing from Boeing by one
of my CNC associate working for a local machine shop. He described the
problem that his modeler actually found un-machinable cavities inside
the part after the part was mostly done. I asked if it was a sand
casting? He said no.
I got the drawing and the 3D model and sure enough right on the drawing
in huge letters "SAND CASTING".
I have worked with this fellow for 20 years. I was shocked that he
obviously didn't look at the drawing before calling and wasting my time.
I was supposed to 3D model it. It only took about 30 minutes to review
the drawing and the model in IronCAD. Sadly, the model was not correct
and the error stood out like a sore thumb.
It seemed like no one looked at the drawing. From engineering at Boeing,
Boeing purchasing, the supplier and the 3D CAD modeler.
Makes you wonder about the state of Boeing today. Do they even know what
a sand casting is and that it cannot be machined?
Educating the New 3D CAD Engineer - 2015
The Millennial 3D MCAD Engineer
There are no limitations on the level of communication that this system
could deliver. All with a computer, Apple or PC, and access to a web
You cannot shortcut engineering. Do I really have to tell you why?
Sadly, all these decisions are being made by those that are not
engineers and do not design and have never delivered an engineering
document to any supplier.
I just saw an article ‘Use Right CAD Techniques from Concept Design
through Fabrication to Launch Products on Time”. This guy has a Master’s
degree in Thermal Engineering? I can’t imagine a fellow with these
credentials writing this article when we used blueprints. I never saw a
MSME or PHD in the drafting room, and there were very few engineers on
the drafting board. Now they are telling us how to create the
Again, I will restate and conclude.
The Native CAD file cannot
effectively be used
as a standard engineering deliverable.
I have written article after article on this subject and one day there
will be someone with the responsibility to at least consider this
concept and say.
OH, I GET IT!! Our engineering is costing us a fortune!
But I believe there are not enough people with the necessary applicable
knowledge to make this happen. Plus, the vested interests of the major
3D CAD systems are heavily invested in the failed PLM, MBE and PMI
system that puts a company’s dependence on the 3D CAD system to manage
their complete engineering department. It is like renting and being
stuck with the same drafting board forever. Sadly, those that should
have been involved in the implementation of 3D CAD into the industry
should have been the draftsman, whose job was to create, check, release,
revise and maintain the engineering documentation.
The Death of the Draftsman or “Where has all the talent gone?”
Quoting Tools: CAD Dimensioning - Another
Band-Aid for MBE!
How long can the industry be fooled? I had to write this article before
I wrote this next article.
Catia? Boeing’s Billion-Dollar 3D CAD Mistake!
Of course, none of my articles would be complete without referencing:
The Worst to Best 3D CAD System and Why
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