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SOLIDWORKS MBD 2015: A Big Deal?

References Cited

Dassault Systèmes, Mechanical Computer Aided Design (MCAD)

Is the demise of the 2D manufacturing drawing just around the corner? I’m sure engineers hope so. Model based definition (MBD) may be helping to do away with drawings, but it’s still not used across the board. And many engineers using MBD to annotate models with  3D product manufacturing information still have to learn a separate application, which takes time.

In the MBD module of SOLIDWORKS2015, the company’s newest release of that system, engineers can annotate 3D SOLIDWORKS models with PMI such as dimensioning and notes. While annotating 3D models already saves time formerly spent creating 2D manufacturing drawings, this new release saves engineers who design in SOLIDWORKS even more time because they don’t need a special authoring application for 3D annotation.

This post looks at what’s new and notable in SOLIDWORKS MBD 2015, the impact it has for 3D PMI annotation, what the application isn’t, and where we might see it go in the future.

 Capabilities provided by Solidworks MBD

Most notably, this offering provides the capability to add Product and Manufacturing Information (PMI) to 3D models within SOLIDWORKS. This includes things like notes, dimensions, GD&T and more.

This is a fundamental improvement that needed to occur. If you compress all of a drawing’s dimensions, which are spread across different views, onto a single space, it gets messy quickly. You suddenly have a confusing star of notations you can spin around. The model can even become obscured. Locking the display of these annotations to specific views is a big step towards addressing this issue.

Commentary and Analysis

Commentary and analysis by Chad Jackson

So, is this new SOLIDWORKS MBD offering a big deal?

MBD and design time

Well, first off, let’s talk about some drawing issues in general. The Lifecycle Insight’s Model Based Enterprise Study conducted last year, revealed some eye-opening findings. For example, engineers on average spend 21 hours a week working on drawings. Furthermore, they spend another 11 hours a week answering questions to clarify drawings and generating additional documentation. That leaves far too little time to design… even if engineers do put in a 50- or 60- hour work week. Use of Model Based Definitions can cut the time spend on engineering documentation overall down dramatically.

A module, not a 3DEXPERIENCE app

Per the same study, we found that only 60% of respondents were creating MBD deliverables through CAD applications on desktops and laptops. The remainder used specialized 3D authoring applications that opened 3D models and allowed users to add PMI. This extension of functionality in SOLIDWORKS allows those users to stay in the same application instead of learning a new one.

Another point of note is how this offering was delivered. Dassault Systèmes is creating 3DEXPERIENCE apps right and left. Frankly, this could have been another one. Much like Mechanical Conceptual or Industrial Conceptual offerings, there could have been a new MBD app that works with SOLIDWORKS, CATIA or other 3D data. Perhaps we will see that in the future. However, for those longing to see SOLIDWORKS stay on the desktop and as an independent software application, this is a positive sign.

The takeaway

So, what does this really mean for SOLIDWORKS users? To be frank, other CAD applications have provided this kind of functionality for over a year now. SOLIDWORKS isn’t being innovative in the market here. However, it is providing functionality that can help engineers save time spent on product documentation without going to another software environment.


  • Engineers spend about 32 hours a week working on and answering questions about drawings. For them, MBD would cut documentation time dramatically.
  • SOLIDWORKS MBD 2015 saves time for engineers already designing in SOLIDWORKS, who will no longer need to move to another environment to create MBD deliverables.
  • For clarity, annotations are shown based on views, a much needed improvement.
  • The offering is a module of desktop SOLIDWORKS, not a 3DEXPERIENCE app.

Would SOLIDWORKS MBD 2015 be useful to you? How do you feel about MBD in general? Let me know. And thanks for reading.

For the past 15 years, Jean Thilmany has been writing about and following the computer-aided engineering technology industry, which includes PLM. She’s written for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Chemical Society, among others.

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  • Ryan

    So, with the first point, does this mean that we actually need to get the Detailer position back into the organization- to remove the communication burden from the Engineering groups? Last time I checked most colleges offer a one semester course on Engineering Drawings and those classes, these days, focus more on “how to use CAD” than how to properly communicate requirements effectively and efficiently on a drawing or PMI.

    • syklystt

      I know that I am late to the party here, but…
      I’ve been in this buis. for 30 years now. Started at the lowest drafting level and worked my way up. As an engineer, I have reviewed hundreds of other’s designs. What I see mostly out there is a lot of engineers that don’t know how to document a drawing (correct usage of datums and tolerances for form, fit and function). I really think that either the engineering schools need to teach this or we need the lower design levels back in place (I opt for the latter as it’s a better bang fro the buck). I see at least 90% bad drawings in Medical design and military stuff that i’ve reviewed. So, how does removing the drawing help this? How can it be faster (above article refers to this being a time saver) if all the same data needs to be attached somewhere/somehow? Also, I do work with seasoned machinists (manual machines) a lot, how are they to interpret a 3d PDF (they will beat you down for even attempting it). They need a paper in their hand to hold, observe and annotate. How do these questions add into this new system?
      I am currently writing the 3d Cad standards for my company, I don’t think that they would even consider the MBD methodology at this point in time.

      • Kevin De Smet

        Datums and tolerances are a complex matter because it crosses engineering, manufacturing and testing stakeholders.

        I don’t believe coming up with some sort of “drafting level” for new people and them needing to “work their way up” is in any way motivating or inspiring. It’s not because you can do menial work that you somehow better prepare yourself for non-menial work.

        If people simply worked together and explained things to eachother with trust and dignity, you don’t have a problem. By treating new people like simple worthless tools, you create a problem.

        • syklystt

          Kevin, There are multiple issues here. One is the training that an engineer gets is terribly insufficient in these matters. As I stated, I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing work from newbies to seasoned veterans and 99% of them cannot dimension a drawing correctly. Tolerances are not even a thought I believe (yes, I know some might dabble a bit). I am not saying that a degreed engineer should start at them levels, just that there are other folks without the degree that can fulfill a lot of duties.
          The lower levels are great because an engineer gets paid too much to do remedial tasks. These tasks are excellent for younger folks looking to get a decent job and work their way thru school in an engineering environment(not everybody can just go to college). I was one of those that had the opportunity to do exactly that and I can tell you that I can and do way better work than everything I’ve been exposed to. I do this because I took the time to listen to some very good engineers and designers, not just from school. Most of school is just filler until you get to advanced degrees anyhow (too many useless classes). Experience and some knowledge goes way further. Thinking that CAD was the solution to downsize the engineering department was foolish, but as everything else in industry, it’s driven by folks that don’t know nor do they care.

        • syklystt

          Kevin, By the way, I wasn’t treated that bad as I came up thru the ranks. Of course there is always some playing around when your in a manufacturing environment or they will eat you. The menial work has to get performed, are you doing it? I’d like to know what the folks that work under you feel like?
          Sounds to me like you look down on folks. Typical engineer, you’ll never get it.

          • Kevin De Smet

            The threat of “getting eaten” kills trust. In my experience this mentality is exclusive to poor workplaces. It does attract a certain type of individual that likes that kind of thing and by all means who am I to disapprove of that?

            Nobody cares about tolerances unless they are easy and transparent to both apply and understand. To this end only investments in knowledge management will be the path toward continual improvement.

            Menial work should be eliminated and if not possible, it should be automated.

  • Hey Ryan. Thanks for the comment.

    Unfortunately, I don’t see roles and responsibilities changing anytime soon. Executive management often look at a 3D model and use that as a gauge of project ‘completeness,’ when in reality it doesn’t reflect the documentation effort.

    I’m planning to include this issue in some upcoming research on engineering responsibilities and how they spend their time. But my first take? I’m not positive in my outlook.

  • Ryan – A mature organization must have a detailing or documentation process to capture the design, manufacturing, and inspection intent in order to sustain quality repeatability of the manufacture of the product. If this step is missed, then non-conformances will occur downstream. Whether documenting the product is a separate FTE (Full Time Equivalent) or not is up to the organization.

  • The “big deal” of the MBD Module in SolidWorks is the ability to publish native SolidWorks content into a fully associative annotation to feature 3D PDF (mostly neutral format). To date this capability was nicely offered using the Anark SolidWorks plug-in. Semantic GD&T has been in SolidWorks through DimXpert for the last several software versions.