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PMI modeling: – is Quebec’s manufacturing industry ready for this change?

May 19, 2017

For those who are familiar with conventional product and machine design methods, you or your engineering team convert a 3D virtual model of your product into a series of 2D drawings that are used to assess the production costs and/or transfer vital information for the quality of the parts produced.

Did you know that there is a much quicker and more economical method to achieve the same objective? It’s  Model-Based Definition (MBD). This method digitally generates and integrates Product Manufacturing Information (PMI) directly into the 3D model.

Quebec’s manufacturing industry, including manufacturers and suppliers, has  only timidly embraced the 4th Industrial Revolution. In fact, design methods and technical communications have hardly evolved in recent years despite the introduction of simpler tools and faster protocols for data exchange. It’s not unusual to send parts suppliers or manufacturers both 2D drawings and a 3D model for reference.

PMI modeling

With this method the customer can send all the relevant product manufacturing information at the same time: assembly notes, quality control criteria or tolerances on the 2D drawing, together with the 3D model for more specific information that the supplier wants (e.g. the set-up for manufacturing several parts on the same machining table or a way to view the part from different angles with 3D visualization software).

However, most modeling software like SolidWorks, CATIA or NX from Siemens integrate these functions in order to simultaneously meet both of these needs. With the MBD approach, all the information contained in the 2D drawing can be directly integrated into the 3D model. We then create preset views to make it easier to visualize the information while at the same time reducing the number of documents produced.

The MBD/PMI approach offers substantial benefits:

  • Reduces misinterpretation of designs
  • Eliminates the need for manual or semi-automatic updates of conventional production drawings when an engineering change order (ECO) is made
  • Significantly accelerates time to market of new products or new machines
  • Improves overall product quality and facilitates inspection

Transforming the production chain

In the coming years, factories will be joining the digital age, where information sent to the shop floor will be displayed in near real time close to numerically controlled machines. No more printing of customer drawings (or producing internal production drawings) in the production planning office and sending them to the machinists to answer their questions. With the MBD/PMI approach, machine operators will be able to obtain information themselves and better control production quality.

The complete integration of the entire production chain, from the R&D department to manufacturing, is a big challenge. We can understand why Quebec’s manufacturing industry has been slow to embrace this technological innovation. Those who make the transition first will be considered pioneers. This is the case for aeronautical giants Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed, which implemented the MBD/PMI approach several years ago, as well as the U.S. government, which now requires the use of this new technology when awarding engineering contracts. Some standards already exist, including one from the ASME established in 2003 (ASME Y14.41).

Clearly, this manufacturing revolution will not happen by itself. Major changes and investments will have to be made to improve the bidirectional flow of information between different departments, from the office that receives engineering drawings to the machine, and vice-versa, once production has started.

Merkur is there to assist you and to facilitate the transition to these new advanced 3D modeling concepts.


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