Inventor In-Depth: Ease the Transition to 3D

6 Jul, 2006 By: Amy Bunszel

Tips to make the switch from 2D to 3D design.

Welcome to my first online column for Cadalyst. I look forward to sharing with you what I've learned from manufacturing customers all over the world. To begin, let's look at where many companies are in their move from 2D to 3D design. When I talk to customers who've transitioned to Autodesk Inventor, most tell me they can't believe how stubborn they were about making the change. Now, they say they would never go back and are amazed at their initial reluctance.

Beyond Feature Comparisons
A key success factor for many people moving to 3D is that they don't have to go cold turkey. It's possible to ease into 3D, while keeping AutoCAD software for the things it does well, such as quick updates to older designs and new work in areas such as electrical controls design or wire-harness design.

These days, 3D solutions are so sophisticated that it can be ineffective to make a decision simply on a feature-by-feature comparison. It's better to think about the company you are about to partner with and how well its solution will serve you today and in the long run. Here are some other good questions to ask when evaluating a 3D tool:

  • Can the solution be deployed incrementally, so I can move to 3D at my own pace?
  • Can the solution meet my 3D CAD needs now and my data management needs in the future?
  • Does the toolset address only mechanical engineering? What about design tools for electrical designers and industrial designers?
  • Will I still have access to the latest version of AutoCAD for maintaining my 2D designs?
  • How well are 2D processes integrated with 3D processes?

Get Ready for a Successful Transition
Today's 3D design tools are easy to use but that doesn't mean you can skimp on the planning. Our most successful customers and installations start with a training and implementation plan. Here are a few things to consider:

Pick a project that is representative of the work you do. Choosing a representative project gives you experience using 3D tools for familiar tasks you need to accomplish on a typical project. Work with your users and reseller to create best practices based on your design work. Some customers pick a design on which they are currently working, and others use drawings of a previously completed design.

Identify key areas for improvement. Spend some time understanding your key business processes and looking for opportunities to improve them as you move to 3D. Your new software also provides opportunities to improve how you work with others and what type of information you can share. Consider how you'll interact with sales teams, suppliers and other cross-functional groups. A clear and frank understanding of your current design-to-manufacturing challenges helps you get to the future processes you desire.

Develop a training plan. Take inventory of who you need to train and when they need training. It's not very productive to train everyone many weeks or even months before they need to use the software. Instead, consider when staff actually needs to use new skills, so that you can make their training timely and relevant. Your reseller can help you create a plan.

One technique that works well is to do training on consecutive Fridays. That way, users have time to experiment between classes and don't have to be out of the office for an entire week.

Don't set out to migrate all your existing data. You don't need to move your data from 2D to 3D right away. In fact, much of your existing 2D data can stay right where it is -- especially if you use a product such as Autodesk Inventor Series, which includes a current copy of AutoCAD software.

Don't go it alone. In addition to your reseller, several helpful resources are available online.

In future columns, I'll discuss some of the unique benefits of moving to 3D with Autodesk Inventor as they relate to real-life problems you need to solve to get your job done.

About the Author: Amy Bunszel

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