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New Paperless Environments with Model Based Definition

Sometimes I like to sit back and reflect on how much more we utilize our 3D models throughout product lifecycles, compared to let’s say a decade ago. We use our 3D models for renderings, analysis, communication, documentation, inspection and so much more. And why not? With the amount of engineering time it took to put into the design and careful 3D CAD creation of the product, it would be a shame to only use it to create a 2D print. In my opinion, this has been the single most important reason why companies choose SOLIDWORKS for their designs. The question becomes, can we utilize the 3D CAD data and do away with 2D prints? I believe the answer is finally, yes!


Model Based Definition (MBD) is a term used to describe the creation of 3D models that have all the information typically described on a 2D print, specifically how a part is to be manufactured and inspected. Even the ANSI Y14.41 standard has been updated to define how 3D models are to be created with annotations that complete the model definition.

Let’s take a look at some basic ideas required to get true MBD:

  1. 3D annotations in 3D space, which match the same shorthand methods used in 2D space. This includes treatments, finishes, and tolerances.
  2. Easy communication for manufacturing and inspecting, as well as vendors and customers. The file format must be easily shared and viewed.
  3. Quicker than 2D detailing. If it takes longer, then companies will be hesitant to adopt the process change.

SOLIDWORKS has developed a new product offering called SOLIDWORKS MBD to help with these concepts. This change will be coming in the very near future.

So my question is this… What will it take for you to take a paperless approach? Is there a reason 2D drawings are still necessary? I know we have all relied on 2D drawings, in some form for a very long time, and that this change will not happen overnight. But with these tools, I think we can look closer at this becoming a reality.

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