Moving to 3D: Tips to Consider During the Transition

December 20, 2004 | Comments

DonLaCourse[1]Don LaCourse,
December 20, 2004
reprinted by permission from

 Moving from 2D to 3D is a daunting task for both designers, who may be learning new applications and procedures, and for managers, who must conquer a new set of challenges. Here are some tips that I’ve learned over the years that may make the transition a bit more manageable. You can get more tips in this series at

    • Problem Solving

Interdepartmental conflicts frequently arise. Solve these at the executive level with the company’s business objectives in mind. Executive management cannot make informed decisions without at least a conceptual understanding of the 3D CAD system and how it benefits the company. Also, lower-level management will really get on board with the system only if executive management’s commitment is clear.

  • Balance Process and Product
    Never lose sight of the balance required between process and product. Investment in the process of design must be just as important as the end product.

  • In the Loop
    During the 3D CAD planning and implementation process, you should keep your employees informed and ask them for input. One of the best methods for aiding communication is to hold monthly internal user group meetings. These meetings should be across disciplines and include designers, engineers, and managers.

  • Support Systems
    The loss of productivity due to total reliance on external support systems can be significant. Develop an internal application support system. For medium to large organizations, dedicate a single person (full or part-time) to the task of becoming an expert in one or more applications to provide effective internal support.Warning: Don’t expect those performing this responsibility to be as productive as others not assigned this task.

  • Hard Disk Space
    Determine how much hard disk space you think you will need over the next three years and then double it. You will need it. Remember, the larger the hard disk, the lower the cost per megabyte of disk space. Be generous.

  • Preparation Checklist
    Here is a suggested checklist you can use during implementation phase to 3D.

    Develop target dates to implement key aspects early and actively enforce them.


Develop standards up front and modify them as needed.


Implement modules such as modeling, drafting, and NC in a logical and progressive manner until users understand the basics of the whole package.


Software and documentation, electronic and hardbound, should be kept up-to-date to ensure full support from your software vendor.


Model standard components as soon as possible to test your design standards.


Hold periodic meetings with key solid modeling designers to glean valuable ideas to enhance productivity.


The system administrator should be someone who communicates well with the system’s daily users.


Hold ongoing performance reviews to keep 3D modeling designers moving in a positive direction.


About the Author

Don LaCourse is principal partner of eDocHelp, which provides e-documentation, online help, technical writing and 3D modeling services for the CAD/CAM, manufacturing and other service-oriented industries. eDocHelp recently launched 3DCADTips, a 3D CAD resource site. Don has over 25 years of experience in design and documentation. He gained much of his experience during his 10 years as a tier-one automotive designer with Textron, Inc. He also helped NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) design and document their joint SpaceLab 1 project that flew on board several of the early space shuttle missions. Don also brings product and injection mold design and documentation experience to eDocHelp. Don had his first book published in 1995 serving as editor-in-chief for the McGraw-Hill publication “Handbook of Solid Modeling,” where he contributed, edited and managed over 25 industry-leading authors. He is currently a contributing editor for Cadalyst magazine.


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