Interactive technical documents made easy

By DavidChadwick


Long after designers release a product design for manufacturing, the 3D CAD models that define the product are used as references by many downstream operations. For example manufacturing, suppliers, and business partners often utilize the 3D models when putting together assembly instructions, parts catalogs, installation and maintenance manuals and many other types of technical documents.

However, utilizing your 3D CAD models in technical documents and publications has often been a painstaking process. It can require the CAD models to be converted to different 2D or 3D formats for use by technical documentation software, and then further work to manually create the callouts and exploded views that are often required for the final documents. And managing changes to the original CAD files and the associated converted files can take significant time too. This tedious work saps valuable time from your design team. An earlier blog post “Move towards digital maunfacturing – use your 3D CAD models to create excellent technical documents” looked at some of the challenges around communicating your designs to downstream users and the positive impact that using 3D digital models can have in this area.

 Knowing the business benefits that manufacturers could achieve if their designers could focus on their primary task of creating innovative, high performance products, Solid Edge has teamed with QuadriSpace to cut through the hassle and slash the time spent creating and updating technical documentation.

The Pages3D solution from QuadriSpace automatically consumes 3D Solid Edge models so they can be used within printed or interactive technical documents that are published as paper, PDF, or HTML files. Publisher3D, a technical illustration program from QuadriSpace, easily creates exploded views, step-by-step assembly instructions, parts lists, raster-and-vector illustrations, and other documentation based on the original Solid Edge part and assembly models.

pages3d_example_p3.pngPages3D enables 3D models to be used in the creation of parts catalogs and work instruction packets

“With Pages3D, our customers create complete multi-page documents with interactive 3D content,” says Brian Roberts, QuadriSpace president and founder. “Creating illustrated parts lists, online or PDF catalogs, and step-by-step instructions are common uses of the software. “

“Customers open a 3D model directly in a technical document format that can then be printed in manuals, and published with embedded 3D content to interactive documents. For instance, clicking on a 3D picture can bring up an explanation or other useful content,” Roberts continues. “So you can click on a part in a parts list and the 3D model for this part will be displayed, and this can include text bubbles or exploded views.”

 “Those interactive illustrations and exploded views are created with Publisher3D or Pages3D, through which engineers import their Solid Edge 3D CAD models, orient the models, take snapshots, set up the viewpoints, and add tables when required”, Roberts adds.

 A wizard, included with the unique smart template technology, automatically generates a step-by-step process from an exploded view.“The wizard helps create a package of 3D instructions for assembling products —first align this part, then bolt on this one—and each of these steps can be illustrated with a 3D animation and descriptive text as desired,” Roberts says.

 “The software automatically pulls features from the 3D CAD information so you don’t have to manually recreate that data,” he says, “for example, the Solid Edge exporter includes support for the hierarchical assembly and sub-assembly structure, metadata, exploded views, assembly configurations and more”.

When an engineer changes the original Solid Edge CAD file and imports the new version into Pages3D, changes are automatically updated while maintaining the original markups, call outs, and other illustrations. This is a huge time saver and ensures that design changes are correctly incorporated into technical documentation.

share3d_montage.pngShare3D is a cloud solution for delivering 3D-enabled HTML5 documentation created with Pages3D or Publisher3D

Another important piece of the QuadriSpace solution is Share3D. Share3D is designed to provide industry standard HTML delivery for seamless web viewing of interactive 3D documents. Documents delivered in this way are viewable with modern browsers on PC, Mac, iOS and Android devices without the need for plugins. This format is more universally viewable than 3D PDF which does not, at this time, support 3D with its mobile versions of Adobe Reader. When a document is published in this way, the 3D remains interactive and is viewable immediately on all common devices and browsers Share3D is available as a cloud version (hosted securely on Amazon servers), or as an on premise solution and adds tremendous capabilities for Solid Edge users who have been manually creating these types of technical documents or are looking for a way to add more interactivity to their delivered documents.

 From my perspective QuadriSpace software solutions appear to match up well with Solid Edge with affordable licenses and an easy-to-use interface with a short learning curve. What is your experience of using Quadrispace or other technical documentation software with Solid Edge?

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at