Manufacturing Engineering: What does 3D PDF technology offer manufacturers today?
Steve Prast: Manufacturers like Boeing, General Dynamics, Goodrich Aerospace, who were early-adopters of 3D PDF, immediately saw the value in the technology as a document management and visualization tool. As the ISO-32000 open standard for document management, the PDF format performs exceptionally well as a secure format for sharing, retrieving and eventually archiving manufacturing data. Now combine that with the ability to improve visual manufacturing processes with a 3-D model instead of a conventional 2-D drawing or photograph, and manufacturers have a powerful tool to create more efficient processes at every stage of the manufacturing process.
Just think about how work instructions for the shop floor are conventionally done. You’ve got highly skilled designers or engineers spending time taking multiple screenshots of a 3-D model in their CAD system and then copying that into a PowerPoint to eventually create work instructions. Obviously, there are a lot of resources committed to creating that. At the end of the day, you have a 2-D drawing that can still be difficult to understand. With 3D PDF, manufacturers can generate step-by-step animated 3D work instructions directly from the 3-D CAD model and to enable a better visual manufacturing process. You can even create processes with 3D PDF to automatically update 3-D work instructions as changes are made to the product or manufacturing process. It’s really important for manufacturers to understand that aside from the value of that 3-D visualization, a 3-D PDF is accessible through free Adobe Reader, which is installed on 98% of Internet-connected devices worldwide—that ubiquity is incredibly valuable. This is just one application of 3D PDF technology in the manufacturing industry, but overall I’d say there are five reasons why it’s important:
- Universal access—3D PDF documents can be shared using free Adobe Reader. Even though a 3-D CAD model is embedded in a 3D PDF, it can still be quickly sent downstream because the technology reduces the native CAD file size by 95%.
- Compound document—3D PDF provides a framework for important manufacturing data that would typically come from multiple sources. This technology allows you to create one document with 3-D and 2-D data, text, audio, video, etc.
- Infrastructure availability—Existing systems already support PDF, so there is no need to integrate more software applications.
- True neutrality—PDF is the ISO-32000 standard for document management, which assures your investment in 3D PDF will be protected.
- Value—No other 3-D data exchange and visualization platform offers as much for such little risk.
ME: What industries can best leverage this technology to improve their manufacturing processes?
Prast: 3D PDF technology can improve efficiencies at every stage of the manufacturing process. From an interactive 3-D bill of materials for suppliers to generate quotes from, to 3-D work instructions with step-by-step animations for workers on the shop floor, I think this technology can benefit any industry. However, I would point out aerospace, defense and energy because successfully improving visualization and creating more efficient documentation processes can have a profound effect on business. You look at what Boeing has done with 3D PDF on its 787 Dreamliner program, creating a global repository of 3D PDFs from their CAD data. There are approximately 75,000 3D PDFs downloaded every week at Boeing. That speaks to how valuable of a collaborative tool it can be in the aerospace industry, where visualization and documentation is so important.
ME: Your company offers 3D PDF e-learning systems
for manufacturers. Describe these and what they offer manufacturers.
Prast: Along with being the exclusive distributor of 3D PDF Converter in North America, we are the preferred provider of training, support and services. To the best of my knowledge, there isn’t anyone else in the world publishing learning material for 3D PDF. Our experience working with organizations like BAE Systems, General Dynamics Land Systems and the US Army to configure 3D PDF solutions to their manufacturing processes provided us with a deep understanding of what users really needed to know to maximize the technology. The 3D PDF e-Learning material we offer delivers a scenario-based learning experience. So we don’t just give our clients in the manufacturing community a book to download and say good luck. Our 3D PDF e-learning is a series of modules complete with actual CAD models and real-world scenarios that manufacturers actually encounter on a daily basis. The material not only helps users understand how to convert CAD into 3D PDF, but also how to make that 3D PDF dynamic and robust enough to be truly valuable to each phase of the manufacturing process.
ME: How much CAD/CAM interoperability issues still pose for manufacturers today?
Prast: Model-based Enterprise (MBE), which addresses the process by which data from the 3-D CAD model is shared or reused, throughout the entire enterprise to enable a more rapid, seamless and affordable product deployment, that is what a lot of manufacturers are trying to accomplish. In my experience implementing MBE solutions, CAD interoperability issues still bog that process down. All of the different CAD applications out there make it impossible to standardize 3-D data exchange, so manufacturers end up with cumbersome processes for sharing or re-using their valuable 3-D downstream. Even if a company invests in a CAD viewer for their specific application, which is still expensive, that doesn’t mean other vendors and suppliers will have that same viewer. Another thing to consider when you’re talking about CAD interoperability issues in manufacturing is how much 3-D functionality can you send downstream? Can you easily and securely collaborate on that data still? These are all MBE issues you can solve with 3D PDF.
ME: EOS Solutions also offers 4-D simulation of processes for oil and other industries; describe this and what it can offer companies seeking to improve their business and digital manufacturing processes.
Prast: EOS 4D Simulation is a set of analysis validation tools applicable to virtually any manufacturing scenario. EOS 4D Simulation solutions allow key decision-makers within an organization to develop and test new ideas and processes, validate existing plans and procedures, and estimate future costs and project budgets—all within a virtual world.
Of particular interest to manufacturers is our 4D Simulation Process Modeling, which delivers the ability to quickly and accurately develop and validate processes in a virtual environment. EOS Process Modeling not only allows for new procedures to be developed and tested, but also for those procedures to be documented and communicated. Detailed 4-D Instructions can be developed from process models by communicating exactly how to perform a procedure in a rich and immersive environment. These 4-D Instructions can be tailored to multiple audiences and even delivered in multiple languages—all within a single PDF file viewable through free Adobe Reader. EOS frequently engages in projects with our clients where the end deliverable is not only a validated procedure, but also a set of highly detailed 4-D Instructions prepackaged on a tablet PC or other mobile device. ME
Edited by Patrick Waurzyniak; for more info, contact him at (313) 425-3256 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Investment Firm To Acquire
ERP Developer Plex Systems
Francisco Partners (San Francisco), a technology-focused private equity firm, has announced its pending acquisition of ERP software developer Plex Systems Inc. (Auburn Hills, MI) from a group of shareholders that include the equity firm Apax Partners.
Apax, which acquired a majority share in Plex in 2006, last year bought ERP developer Epicor Software Corp. in a stock purchase valued at $976 million while also buying another ERP supplier, Activant Solutions.
Plex Systems’ flagship product, Plex Online, is a cloud-based ERP solution that is said to focus on all aspects of manufacturing, from the shop floor to the top floor, providing functionality for virtually every department within quality-driven manufacturers. Plex Systems has a broad customer base in the automotive, aerospace/defense, food and beverage, and electronics industries, where manufacturers are turning to the cloud to streamline and modernize their global operations.
Francisco Partners was advised by Pacific Crest Securities, and Plex Systems was advised by Lazard. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
This article was first published in the July 2012 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.