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Publishing Model-Based Documentation – File Types & Examples

What is SOLIDWORKS MBD?

SOLIDWORKS Model Based Definition (MBD) is a 3D documentation process for manufacturing information. Instead of documenting all manufacturing information in traditional 2D drawings, MBD can define and organize all the same PMI (product manufacturing information) directly in 3D CAD models. The manufacturing information can be output to industry-standard 3D file formats such as eDrawings, 3D PDF, and STEP 242 files. SOLIDWORKS MBD is the first step in pursuing a drawingless workflow for manufacturing.  

Publishing SOLIDWORKS MBD Documentation

Once the 3D Views are created and organized, this information needs to be output for any downstream operations. SOLIDWORKS MBD provides three methods of outputting all information while maintaining the 3D format of the model and dimensions: 

 

STEP 242 MBD

A STEP 242 file is a specific type of STEP file which can embed 3D PMI information into the file for viewing purposes. This file as the same file extension as a traditional STEP file (*.STP). Like traditional STEP files, a STEP 242 file is a type of generic CAD file. There is no history tree available. The 3D PMI is visible, but cannot be modified, edited, or adjusted in this file type. The 3D PMI is considered a type of graphical data in a STEP 242 file.  

 

The STEP 242 file can be output on its own through SOLIDWORKS MBD. A common workflow is to have SOLIDWORKS MBD automatically export a STEP 242 file and attach it to either the 3D PDF or eDrawings publication.  

 

To publish a STEP 242 file individually is done through the MBD tab in the SOLIDWORKS user interface.

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The user is prompted to rename and save the STEP file. SOLIDWORKS MBD then compiles all 3D View information into the STEP 242 file. The file can then be opened in any software that can read the specific STEP 242 data.  

 

An example of the output is below. Please note that the example is shown with the STEP 242 file opened in the eDrawings viewer to allow the reader to see the 3D PMI output in this format. This result is export is specific to the STEP 242 file. Publishing directly to eDrawings is fundamentally different and provides many additional benefits discussed in the section below. 

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3D PDF

SOLIDWORKS MBD can publish all 3D View and dimensions directly to a 3D PDF. The 3D PDF output only requires a PDF viewer, such as Adobe Acrobat PDF Viewer. The output is directed by templates with the SOLIDWORKS MBD software. Many basic PDF output templates are provided with the MBD software. These templates can be customized and edited to many company needs and specifications. For additional information on MBD output templates, please visit the following video on this topic: SOLIDWORKS MBD Tech Tip: Templates and Outputs. 

 

 

Publishing to a 3D PDF provides the following options: 

 

    • Select a specific output template 
    • Create an HTML file from the PDF for posting a website 
    • Choose which 3D Views are to be included in the publication 
    • Copy model Custom Properties to all pages of the output document 
    • Decrease accuracy to help maintain intellectual property 
    • Attach a STEP 242 or any other files to the 3D PDF for a singular distribution 
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The published 3D PDF can be viewed on any computer with a PDF viewer application. The main preview area can be zoomed, panned, and rotated in 3D. The 3D Views are provided along the bottom. A left click will allow the main preview area to automatically show the 3D View.  

 

Built into the 3D PDF output is the ability to section the model, adjust the lighting, adjust the rendering modes, access the PDF tree, toggle through the views, and access all attachments.  

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The STEP 242 file and any other attachments will be available for downloading or extraction on the left. In this way, SOLIDWORKS MBD creates a single package for all deliverables while maintaining all information in 3D. 

eDrawings Output and Example

eDrawings as a free viewer for native SOLIDWORKS files and is installed by default with SOLIDWORKS software products. eDrawings allows the recipient to view models in 3D while maintaining intellectual property. Only graphical data is viewed. The modeling methodology and design tree is not available in eDrawings. 

 

SOLIDWORKS MBD has an option to publish directly to the native eDrawings format. 

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  • Selecting specific configurations 
  • Attaching a STEP 242 file to the eDrawings file 
  • The STEP 242 file can be extracted for use from the eDrawings file 
  • Setting up a password that the recipient needs to open the file. 
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The publishing process can take a couple of minutes depending on the size of the project. However, SOLIDWORKS will go through each 3D View and each configuration to output the desired contents. The published eDrawing file opens automatically. 

 

eDrawings provides a 3D environment to access all the 3D PMI, the 3D Views created in SOLIDWORKS MBD, and includes feature highlighting when a dimension is selected to add further clarity to the PMI. This can be seen in the green annotation below.  

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The eDrawings publication also provides access to the STEP 242 file attachments directly inside of the eDrawings interface. The paperclip ‘Attachment’ icon in the bottom right corner provides this access. 

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All attachments are shown in a list. Each attachment can be either viewed directly in eDrawings or extracted into a standalone STEP 242 files for downstream use. With the inclusion of attachments, the eDrawings publication allows for a single file to be distributed with all necessary data. This distribution can also be done securely due to the ability to provide password protection on the files.  

 

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