When CADMATIC's 3D viewer (eBrowser) was launched in 2000 it was well ahead of its time. The Internet Explorer based 3D viewer was not even considered to be an essential tool since CAD 3D modeling had not been implemented in many companies. 2D drawings were the final products of design and engineering then, and part of a well-established process. We believed in innovations and the central role of the 3D model, therefore, our goal was to provide access to the 3D model to people outside the CAD department.
The immediate reaction from customers was astonishing. Some even indicated that they were able to reduce the number of drawings they needed to make for construction by 30%, simply by showing the 3D model to workers on site, instead of making detailed drawings. After a few years, a tool that was initially considered not to be essential became the standard. Many of our customers now use eBrowser site licenses to provide access to 3D models for all their employees, or even customers such as ship owners who exclusively use eBrowser.
In late 2010, we started a research and development process to consolidate project information into a single entity. We wanted to provide added value not only for engineering but also for management, construction, maintenance, operations and production. Together with selected partners, we researched the need to benefit more widely from 3D design and a new product – eShare. The first prototype was presented at the 2012 Users’ Meeting in Malta. In 2014 we officially launched eShare as a product in Budapest.
eShare uses eBrowser technology for 3D viewing and provides ”one window” to access all project-related information, be that a 3D model, 2D drawings, object attributes, additionally defined data, or external data stored in various maintenance and procurement or asset management databases.
As mobile technologies rapidly develop, it was an obvious direction of development to provide eBrowser for tablets. At the 2014 Users’ Meeting in Budapest, we presented eGo for the first time – a version of eBrowser for Windows tablets. The first users have already benefited from using eBrowser on the go and we are continuously adding new features to it. With eGo, it is easy to see the 3D model and navigate in it with touch gestures. It can also be used in combination with eShare. A model can, for example, be loaded from eShare to eGo, after which data can be added on-site. This way it serves as the easiest tool to make all engineering data mobile.
We live in the information era where information is key to almost any process. Building a vessel or erecting a factory involves many companies that produce a large amount data, which changes and increases during the lifespan of the project. Different studies consistently show that as the amount of data increases, the time spent finding relevant information also grows. In a nutshell: the more scattered your data – the more time you spend searching for relevant data. The research shows that regardless what type of the knowledge work people do, they spend up to 20% of their time searching for information. This applies also to engineering and design work. This translates to having 5 engineers in your team, of which only 4 are doing real work.
There are several reasons for this:
All these factors increase the risk of expensive errors if decisions are taken based on incorrect, outdated, or irrelevant information. Depending on when the error is detected, one might end up just wasting working hours, or in the worst case, the error flows into production before it is noticed and requires a costly intervention.
With proper information management users have access to the required information in different systems and databases and reliable search tools at their disposal. This reduces the risk of errors and avoids unnecessary costs.
Traditionally complex engineering and design projects were split into parts: process systems, building blocks, compartments, electrical design etc. Different teams or even departments produced a range of data with the goal of ensuring that the project is completed and that the target can be constructed.
Quite often cooperation between project teams is the most important issue, for example, between hull and outfitting designers or between process engineers and electrical engineers. Due to the divergent nature of the work, different types of documentation are sometimes produced and stored in different systems. Together, all these factors lead to information being distributed in different bits and pieces, sometimes in files, sometimes in databases. Occasionally, this data is stored in document management systems, or simply in file directories in shared drives or an intranet. Some project information can be classified as ”silent information”, which exists only inside people's heads because they have no time or means to ”attach” it to the project.
eShare provides access to the various types of information via one window: 3D model, 2D drawings, overlaying layers of data such as data that is added to objects (status of installation or tracing weld information). The data is linked and can be easily accessed, searched for, and visualized.
Simplifying access to data reduces the risk of uninformed decisions. For example, one can estimate the impact of planned changes and make sure that the same part of the model is being discussed. For processes, it may look simple in the diagram when making modifications, but adding a visual check in the 3D model ensures the feasibility as the size of objects and their locations can be clearly seen. An additional check of the installation status shows what parts are already installed on site and might need reinstalling. All these checks can be done in one window with a few clicks: search for the object in 3D, click on the link in the diagram position ID, visualize the status by changing the color scheme.
Finding information is never an easy task, except with eShare. Advanced search technology for simple search lets you find any item in the model, drawing, or external data that corresponds to the search criteria. In advanced search the user can create a search case using different parameters: type of value, edit time, or any other criteria. The search list is extracted and can be exported to an Excel list. This allows construction staff to get an up-to-date list of the status of the installation or items to be changed.
Having access to information is important while the possibility to see it provides additional benefits. In eShare users can visualize any data available in the 3D model, external databases, or information that was added by users.
Data from a 3D model can, for example, be used for visualization: thickness of hull plates or pipes, type of insulation, the standard of the parts used, time of modification, and fit parts for installation – all this information can be shown using different colors.
Data added using predefined status tracking cases, such as isos or spool installation statuses, or welds check results can be shown to provide the easiest access to it. At a glance, you immediately understand what the status of the project is.
This possibility provides tools for management to check whether certain areas are ready for installation, or whether the workshop has received all the parts from procurement. It can also be used to schedule maintenance tasks.
External data can include, for example, data loaded from sensors on site or results of periodical pipe thickness checks. This way the user can see a graph of changes of any parameter at the facility, or access risk evaluations.
A lot of project information is added on top of the engineering model. This information can come from installation teams or be ideas for process improvements that could be used for similar projects. Adding smart points to the model helps store and show this information in eShare.
Sometimes you are not at the office, but still need the engineering data with you. This is where eGo helps you. It allows you to take the 3D model and attribute data with you on-site. You can browse the model, check attribute values of any object, navigate with a model hierarchy tree or search for any attribute values.
You can use an eBrowser file or load the model from eShare. In the latter case, you can benefit from the connection between eShare and eGo. The best part is that you can also update item statuses with eGo and sync them easily with eShare.
eShare also offers the possibility to print 3D images with attributes to give to sub-constructors as hard copies of the work task.
This way the team on site stays up-to-date with the latest changes in the model and can feed data into eShare. For example, the installation team can check the 3D model on site as they proceed with the installation. The 3D model can be rotated and is more readable in many cases that documents – thus less time is needed to interpret installation documents and fewer errors are made during the installation.
Sometimes different types of data are stored in different systems and databases. For example, procurement, data can be stored in a separate system that is linked with accounting, another system used for building process tracking, and yet another for storing project documents. Altogether this increases the risk of information inconsistency in addition to having many different places to find the needed data. Some of these systems are used less, which means that users need to learn the interface and way of working again in every new project.
eShare offers many possibilities to make integrations, extend out-of-the-box functionality, and provide access to different data. The easiest integrations can be made by just configuring the ready-made adapters to show, visualize and search for data from third party systems.
This can usually be done, if the following conditions are met:
Another easy and popular way to configure integrations between eShare and third party systems is to create a hyperlink from objects and groups in eShare to the respective pages in the third party system. This is usually possible if following conditions are met:
If existing adapters cannot be used a custom integration can be created to show, visualize and search for data from third party systems.
Traditionally engineering departments produce a large amount of project information that increases when additional information is added from procurement, construction, project management and other processes. This information is stored in various files and databases. eShare offers users the unique possibility to access all this data through one window where the 3D model is linked with all related data.
Pictures are taken from the project courtesy of Wärtsilä Ship Design Norway AS.