This is accomplished by using dedicated file
names for the images. Both the Word document
and the CAD rendering tool reference the same
file for the image. CAD writes to that image file and
Word reads from that image file.
Here’s a Word tip: Insert pictures into the docx
file using the Insert and Link option (see Figure
4). Since the Word docx must open a specific file in
order to display the image, every time the docx file
is opened, it automatically updates to show what
changed in the CAD-produced images.
Here’s another CAD tip: Keep track of the file
names that the docx is linked to. When you need to
update an image in the brochure, just open the CAD
model, switch to the saved camera view, and render
the image to overwrite the previous image file. The
final step is to open the docx file to refresh the brochure with the updated images.
Illustrating the Parallel Way
Resuming my tale of shop ownership, I once had
a very nice machine that had an interactive programming console. The operator’s convenience of
programming the machine on the spot was offset
by the downtime. This machine could either make
product or it could be programmed, but not both.
Investment in CAM software allowed offline programming for the next job while the current job was
being completed. That separation of functions allowed for simultaneous instead of sequential completion of work.
Similarly, with the right tools, the final product
documentation can be prepared in parallel with the
refinement of the product’s design. No need to wait
until the bitter end of modeling work to start on the
We’ll continue to use the 3-D CAD software for developing the 3-D geometry, preparing photo-realis-tic images, and demonstrating mechanical motion.
The preparation of product documentation—web
pages, illustrations, and step-by-step instructions—
is an opportunity for teamwork, even if the “team”
is just one person switching from one user interface
Figures 5a and 5b resemble each other. One
was created entirely with 3-D CAD software. The
other shows 3-D geometry that was created from
the 3-D CAD model.
If you could open Figure 5c with a browser, you
would find that it is interactive. When the mouse
clicks on a part, it lights up along with the balloon
and the line item in the table. You may click either in
the table or in the graphics window to make a selection. It is as easy to generate as printing a PDF.
Figure 5d is a scene with several actors. A couple
of them are arrows; most of them are 3-D geometry.
The red arrows required less than a dozen clicks,
and they are very easy to resize and configure.
3-D CAD is vital to engineering and design. Using
those models to directly control fabrication machinery is a competitive advantage to manufacturing.
Using those same models to create the product’s
fab drawings is routine; we all love PDFs.
Design software has grown beyond the task of
just making 2-D drawings. Plenty of software offerings now use 3-D models to document how the
product is used. Some tools are more efficient than
Gerald Davis uses CAD software to design and develop
products for his clients at www.glddesigns.com. Please
send your questions and comments to dand@thefabri
This model is positioned for a glamorous shot. It may
be important in the future to re-create this image using
updated 3-D geometry. The 3-D CAD workstation can
save the position of the camera by dedicating a camera
to a view and keeping that camera’s position locked.
The workstation also can save the scene to recall the
lighting and environment.
These are specific examples of saved camera positions.
The list of saved cameras appears on the left. Switching
between cameras is just a simple click. Recalling the
matching scene, in this software, requires another click.
Word documents can be used to prepare product literature with illustrations. Insert those illustrations into
Word using the Insert and Link option. The document
will always refresh the images from the linked files every time the document is opened. 3-D CAD writes to the
linked file to update the image. Word reads from the
linked file to update the brochure.
In this composed product illustration, perspective,
ground reflection, shadows, and point of view were all
saved with one click. The actors in this scene were created from 3-D geometry imported from 3-D CAD.
Rendered with very accurate reflections in 3-D CAD,
this image emphasizes the various materials used in
the product. Dozens of mates are used to position the
components in this assembly. Those mates make it
possible to demonstrate the motion of the mechanism
in real time with a mouse drag. 3-D CAD is great for engineering, but tedious to use for illustrations.
The creation of this interactive SVG file began with the
composition of an exploded view of geometry actors.
Then collaborative actors (BOM table and callouts)
were added. Finally, the view was saved as a technical
illustration in SVG format. Click to highlight the matching pair of BOM table-3-D model. This can be very useful in creating an online owner’s manual.
This is an example of something that is hard to do in
3-D CAD. This view was composed with geometry actors (imported from 3-D CAD) and collaborative actors
(the red arrows). Once created, the arrows are easy to
resize, recolor, and reposition.