An Interview with Louis Gary Lamit, Author of the Book “Moving from 2D to 3D CAD for Engineering Design”

Louis Gary Lamit is a CAD professional and teacher with several years of experience behind him. He is the owner of Lamit and Associates and the author of the book Moving from 2D to 3D CAD for Engineering Design recently published by BookSurge. The transition from 2D to 3D has been an hot topic for several years, and is once again back with rich discussions involving almost every single CAD blog. This timely book captures the momentum the transition is gaining. It also provides me with a perfect opportunity to ask Gary for his first hand qualified opinion about this transition, the reasons behind it, and the forces that have been holding it back for so many years. Here is the interview.

Gary, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your company?
I am currently a full time instructor and CAD department coordinator at De Anza College in Cupertino, CA, where I teach Pro/ENGINEER, Pro/SURFACE, Pro/SHEETMETAL, Pro/NC, Expert Machinist, and Unigraphics NX.
I started in Detroit at the age of 16 in 1966 as a drafter for the automobile industry doing tooling, dies, jigs and fixture layout, and detailing. Subsequently I spent a number of years doing design, numerical control (NC) programming, technical illustration, and doing engineering work in the firearms, aircraft, and piping industries. My education included a BS degree from Western Michigan University, Masters’ work at Wayne State UniversityMichigan State University and University of California at Berkeley and I hold an NC programming certificate from Boeing Aircraft. Since leaving industry, I have taught at all levels from Junior High School to University throughout the USA.
Starting in 1978 my publications include: Industrial Model BuildingPiping Drafting and DesignDescriptive GeometryPipe Fitting and Piping HandbookDrafting for ElectronicsCADDTechnical Drawing and DesignPrinciples of Engineering DrawingEngineering Graphics and Design with Graphical AnalysisBasic Pro/ENGINEER in 20 LessonsBasic Pro/ENGINEER and PT/ModelerPro/ENGINEER 2000iPro/E 2000i2, IX Design, Pro/ENGINEER WildfireIntroduction to Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 2.0Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 3.0.

3D CAD systems have been around for many years. Why do you believe this is a good moment for a book about the transition from 2D to 3D?

50% of design and documentation is still being done with 2D CAD

There is presently a huge push from AutoDesk Inventor, PTC Pro/ENGINEER, UGS Solid Edge, and CATIA SolidWorks to entice the last 2D users to move to 3D CAD as their primary design tool. A team from PTC told me that 50% of design and documentation is still being done with 2D CAD. I was very surprised since Silicon Valley where I teach has been involved in 3D Design since the early 80’s. When I met with four members of SolidWorks last summer I mentioned my project (book) and they flat out stated its 65% still doing 2D CAD and that they were deeply involved in every effort possible to get these companies as users of their version of 3D CAD.
With such a big push from all 3D CAD companies I would suspect that the use of 2D CAD will diminish to about 25% in the next 5 years. But, I was wrong in 1987 so I could be wrong now. I would have never suspected we would be having this discussion 20 years later.

How did your experience as teacher at De Anza College in Cupertino CA influence the content and style of your book?

why change to 3D, how to change to 3D, and what can you realistically expect to encounter in the process

I have a dislike for acronyms and sentences with long words and marketing catch phrases that when paragraphed do not sound like they should be uttered by people in real jobs doing real design work (no offense to marketing departments everywhere), but as drafters, designers, engineers, checkers, project managers, do we really speak like this? I have attempted to keep the book practical and focused on the subject; why change to 3D, how to change to 3D, and what can you realistically expect to encounter in the process.
Since my students are mainly professionals I have tailored my teaching to an educated and experienced individual who needs the mastery of the CAD tool to remain in the workforce. Writing textbooks on engineering subjects has been part of my life for almost 30 years (since 1978). The style of this book is straightforward and meant to engage the CAD or engineering design manager in their own way of seeing the world and what practical considerations they need to investigate and steps they need to implement in order to move their company from 2D CAD to 3D CAD with as little disruption as possible and with the maximum benefit at the end of the transition.

If the transition from 2D to 3D is inevitable, what are the reasons for the huge delay?
I will quote from my book where in 1987 we wrote: €”In the near future, a solid model will form the master representation of a part in contrast to the current practice of using the engineering drawing as the master representation. The main output of the design/drafting office will be a solid model of the part together with all the associated information that is contained on the engineering drawing and the provision of the engineering drawing will be a secondary function. In particular, the drawings, if required, will be generated from the model. The combination of a solid model and the necessary tolerance and associated technical data will be called the product model. Functions downstream of the design office will take the product model as their primary input.”CADD: Computer Aided Design and Drafting“, by Louis Gary Lamit and Vernon Paige.
A mere 20 years after I wrote this with my coauthor, industry is still engaged in the debate, 2D or 3D, or both. I had spent time employed as a drafter and designer (1966-73), and teaching “drafting” (1973-1984) all “on the board”. In 1984 I took a job as the CAD/CAM instructor at De Azna College. I taught traditional drafting and design and descriptive geometry, but my primary class load was teaching ComputerVision. All work was done as 3D wireframe modeling and drawings were derived from the model. I thought I was in heaven, until, we added a new CAD system called AutoCAD in 1987. It was very difficult for me to understand why we would go backwards and do things similar to the drafting board – drawing in 2D, albeit with the aid of a computer.
I think that cost, concern over legacy design data, and transition implementation including training is the greatest influence. But, during the research for this book, there was one quote from a person I interviewed that really struck a chord: We simply could not be in business doing all the things we do if 2D were the only option.

Many believe that one of the major reasons we still use 2D CAD systems is because the current generation of designers have a strong background in 2D. Will the new generation of designers, having grown up with video games and the Internet, make 2D obsolete?

for the thousands of students my program has trained very very few ever want to do 2D design using a 2D CAD system

I suspect 3D games, HDTV, etc. will all have some effect in implementing a 3D world throughout engineering design. But I do not think we have to worry about people being trained to “see” in 3D like we had to train people to see and think in 2D. I have personally taught drafting and engineering graphics in Jr. High, HS, Technical school, Community College, Engineering College, and University. One of the most difficult things was teaching people to break down 3D objects into “6 standard views and an isometric”. It is so much easier to teach 3D design using a CAD system. The only reason we have views in 2D is because that with the exception sculpting and physical modeling there was no other method to convey a design.
As the years have rolled by I have seen a definite change in the type of person and their understanding of design. Fewer and fewer individuals have 2D training as their basis of engineering graphics. But, regardless of when you started in engineering design, very few people think or see in 2D. In fact those who do were trained to do so. It did not come naturally. When you think about your car do you see the top, front, and right side? (How about when you picture your mom or dad or significant other- TOP, FRONT, and SIDE view? OK let’s not go there.)  But, do you see the whole car- realistically in 3D, pictorially?
For the thousands of students my program has trained very very few ever want to do 2D design using a 2D CAD system. They realize that their career will be stunted if they get into a job that requires little or no 3D CAD and just getting them through the required AutoCAD series at De Anza is like pulling teeth. As a number have said- it’s really hard to use 2D CAD! Modeling in 3D is so much easier, as is generating drawings from 3D models. Design and innovation happens in 3D -in your head- not 2D. Hopefully no one is dreaming in 2D except very old drafters (OK so I am old also- but I now only dream in 3D- in color- with shading- and realistic rendering).

Who should read your book: end-users, CAD managers, or executives?
This book is written to assist managers in their decision to go 3D and to guide them through the process. The best approach I have found is to evaluate 3D CAD software in terms of learning curve, legacy data re-use, total cost including software, training and support, and future scalability.
For those in the design industry, eventually your company and design department will be faced with the inevitability of transiting your design tool from a 2D CAD to 3D CAD system, either now or in the near future. Instead of “why change?” there is a more important question; with so many of the competition already using 3D CAD, “can I afford to stay with 2D design?” So the question of changing from your existing 2D CAD design tool to a 3D CAD tool becomes; when to start, not if to change. In the end, the real question is not, why change, but how to change. The challenge is to have the transition from a 2D CAD tool to a 3D CAD tool be as seamless as possible, limiting design down-time, expensive missteps, and internal discord.

How long do you believe it will take before we can consider the transition from 2D to 3D complete?

within five years fewer than 20% of mechanical design would be done using 2D CAD

Though a vast majority of jobs for my students (most are degreed professionals) are in positions using 3D CAD (50% Pro/E and 30% SolidWorks) there is still a need for the use and understanding of 2D CAD (AutoCAD in our case). Many companies still have legacy projects on 2D, and some still use it as their primary design tool. This book is meant to guide and assist individuals and companies in their quest for productivity and competitiveness through the selection and implementation of the appropriate design tool for their needs.
I suspect that within five years fewer than 20% of mechanical design would be done using 2D CAD. But then again I did write-predict in 1987: “In the near future, a solid model will form the master representation of a part in contrast to the current practice of using the engineering drawing as the master representation.” Boy was I off by 10-15 years!

I would like to thank Louis Gary Lamit for taking the time to speak with me today. If you have any questions for Gary or for Novedge, please leave a comment below and we will be glad to answer.

Franco Folini

P.S. On this topic I would suggest an article I posted on this blog back in December 2006: Why the transition from 2D to 3D is taking forever.