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by Jonathan D. Kriek, July 10, 2015

Compelling Use Case for Autodesk Design Web Format (DWF) on the manufacturing floor

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It’s no secret that despite all the technology in Engineering your shop floor most likely still uses paper drawings. Engineering has Autodesk Vault PDM ensuring you get the latest revision, Non-CAD users can retrieve the drawings from the Vault web client, and there’s integrated ERP and Autodesk PLM360 to keep the rest of the organization abreast of the most up to date information about those designs, but ultimately you still see a stack of paper drawings being distributed in the shop to various centers complete with weld slag, grease, and hand written notes.

Why is this? Because paper is portable beyond the workstation and it was used long before computers were widely used. It’s also one of the hardest elements to coax into adapting. Technology has offered some pretty cool alternatives like flexible and rollable displays based on Organic field-effect transistors (OFET) or “Digital paper” as I like to call them, but I think it will be a long time before that type of technology is affordable or even usable for today’s manufacturing floors. For a smaller shop a few rugged tablets running Autodesk 360 would be a neat solution, but again it’s expensive to scale the hardware up for hundreds of users.

LG Display

LG Display

Going Paper-less

A customer KETIV is working with is weighing all these options and has decided to make drawing images available to a series of remote monitors on the shop floor for the majority of their users and they’ll also incorporate a handful of tablets for more mobile personnel – think hanging from the ceiling. The images are generated from the latest revision of the drawing file managed by their PDM in real-time and the content is specific to the build task for that area. The main solution is accurate, scaleable, and affordable, but best of all entirely paper-less.

But there’s always a request to better visualise the design or task to be performed beyond what the 2D drawing can provide. Engineering liasons at the shops with direct access to Autodesk Vault and Inventor exist for some locations in dimly lit back offices, but the 3D visualization is generally not available to the users on the floor. So how can we provide that functionality to those floating screens and the rest of the personnel?


Autodesk Design Web Format (DWF)

Last year Autodesk made it clear that their highly compressed 3D portable file format “DWF” is here to stay. We needed a more robust platform for viewing and sharing large DWFs and the result was the cloud solution A360 which replaced Autodesk Freewheel and it not only meets the needs of DWF, but an array of other design files from countless other systems. In the future private clouds and containerization may provide even more flexible options for our customers. 

It’s easy to understand images, PDFs, and Videos being embedded into web pages, after all you’re seeing that technology right now on this site.  But did you know you can also embed DWF files? 

Go head, play with it for a minute:


The original direct method is pretty straight-foward, but essentially is limited to MS Internet Explorer’s ActiveX, so if you ran Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox for example you’d need to use something like the IE Tab extension that provides access to ActiveX controls by adding the IE rendering engine to those browsers. A360 provides a more flexible method (seen above) and also automatically generates the necessary code for you that is compatible with all browsers. 

Final Thoughts

3D on the shop floor for this customer could be as simple as replacing the image used with a DWF file on those monitors. Several sources and methods of creating that “view” exist, but they all incorporate a light-weight 3D visualization solution.

As always I’d love to hear your feedback on the subject. Untill next time keep your eyes on the stars, head in the cloud, and your feet on the ground.

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