Product developers often caught up in the latest wiz-bang technology on the horizon and often let the simplest and most fundamental things slip between the cracks. Are you busy pondering the infinite possibilities of cloud computing? Or perhaps you’re imaging what will be possible with 3D printing of prototypes? Or thinking over how your company or technology might play into the Internet of Things trend?
Either way, while it’s fun to talk and think about these burgeoning technologies, there’s still work to be done. While there’s no industry buzz on the topic, CAD standards are still important, and if your company is not strictly enforcing the use of these standards, chances are a whole lot of time is being wasted.
While CAD standards at large established companies might be well managed, at smaller companies the management of CAD standards is commonly neglected. This becomes an issue as companies grow and new employees come on board, each with their own unique way to doing things, such as how they name files.
Another common scenario is that companies establish standards initially but as the company grows, priorities shift to meeting the increased need for output and no one watching to ensure the continued adherence to those standards. In either scenario, chaos can ensue.
The introduction of a new CAD standard can be a disruptive and time-consuming process, but the risk for companies is that the longer they continue with an inefficient system, the more disruptive, time consuming, and ultimately costly it becomes to replace it when they later have more staff and project work attached to it.
What are CAD standards?
CAD standards are unique standards created specifically by a company or engineering department that dictate how things are created and documented. Areas that should be defined by CAD standards and corporate templates include: naming schemes, file locations, text styles, line types, units, preferred CAD program, dimensioning schemes, drawing organization, title blocks, archiving, and network location.
One very important area to enforce standards is in file naming and drawing organization. Companies should create a standardized directory structure for saving drawings and a consistent naming convention that dictates how engineers and designers name files.
Keep in mind that CAD standards must be periodically updated, preferably annually, often as a result of the implementation of new technology. Create a CAD committee or appoint one person with sound CAD knowledge and experience to review standards. Also be sure and listen to the users. If one particular standard is being consistently not adhered to, there may be a logical reason why that standard should be revised.
Why standards are still important
They save time. In the era of ever-shrinking time-to-market product development schedules, there’s no time to waste. By adhering to CAD standards, users are not trying to guess what to name files, can easily find files, and enables others to quickly retrieve files created by others.
Make training easier. By creating a standardized company CAD manual, new employees know exactly what is expected and have an instant roadmap of how to adhere to company standards.
Make outsourcing more efficient. By sharing your CAD standards with subcontractors and partners, you can determine upfront what is expected from them in terms of deliverables.
What to include in CAD standards?
The following is a list created by Robert Green, author of Expert CAD Management, writer and CAD consultant. It provides an example of what a common CAD standards list might include:
Start with a high-level list of things that should be addressed by CAD standards. They might include:
* Implement vendor CAD standards
* Implement standardized block/detail libraries
* Revise/implement title blocks to new standards
Once those high-level objectives are set, you can expand the list to address the technical issues for each item like this:
Implement vendor CAD standards
* CAD file versions and formats
* Policy on use of object enablers for DWG products
* Creation of template files for vendor usage
* Define acceptable delivery formats
* Implement standard transmittal letter forms for vendors
Implement standardized block/detail libraries
* Organize paths
* Create PDF documents with block pictures/names
* Create tool palettes to insert standard blocks/details
* Conduct user training
Revise/implement title blocks to new standards
* Reformat for metric compliance
* Relayer to allow for better visual control
* Conduct user training
Software can help
Some 3D CAD software, such as SolidWorks 3D CAD, offer functionality that automatically checks drawings (or models) to assure that they adhere to company CAD standards.
With SolidWorks Design Checker, users can: verify designs against company standards; automatically correct nonconforming design and drafting issues; build checks/set up and save specific design and drafting checks; validate document (drawing or model) against the requirement; validate the active document against design checks created from existing files; retrieve design checks based on attributes from an existing part, assembly, or drawing document; check specifically for fonts, dimension arrows, units, and other documentation details; and compare drawing to past results from reviews of other drawings.