Production drawings are an essential piece of the manufacturing puzzle for many products. These documents provide skilled machinists and fabricators with dimensions, material specifications, and other details essential to creating accurate parts. Of course, however, they can also look really cool.
Making your own detailed and precise production drawings is easy with tools like Blender, but how do you do it? Join us as we explore the steps you can take to turn any 3D model into a beautiful production drawing that will look as good on your wall as it would as a real-world product.
What do you need to create production drawings in Blender?
You need to gather a handful of resources before you can start working on your production drawings. Two Blender add-ons are needed for this project, although both are free and can be found online.
- Blender 2.8+
- TechDraw Blender add-on
- MeasureIt Blender add-on
- 3D model/mix file
Step 1: Install Blender plugins
Blender has a handy built-in add-ons repository that simplifies the first step. Go to Edit > Preferences > Additional modules and seek Measure the. You should see an add-on of the same name appear, and you can click the checkbox in the left corner to enable it.
You will need to download the GitHub TechDraw addon before installing it. Once done, go back to Additional modules menu in Blender and select Install at the top of the window. From there, select the zip file that comes with the add-on and open it to install. You’ll see the add-on appear in the menu once done, but you need to check the box in the top left to enable it.
Step 2: Importing/opening your 3D files
With your add-ons installed, it’s time to open your 3D model files in Blender. How you do this will depend on the files you have access to. BLEND files are opened by going to Case > Open so what by selecting the file you want to work with. Other file types can be imported by accessing Case > Import > Import as… (select your file type), then select the file in the window that opens.
You should check your dimensions before going any further. You can find and change the units you use by going to the Scene properties menu on the right of the screen; we chose millimeters for our project. Modify the dimensions of your model by going to the Article tab on the right of the screen and changing dimensions at the bottom of the list.
Step 3: Add background/camera
TechDraw adds a tab to the right of the screen once installed. To add a background, select the TechDraw tab and expand it Layout settings section to see the Sheets options you have. We’ve chosen an A4 format with a landscape orientation, but you should choose a sheet size that matches the size of the object you’re working with. You may need to change the dimensions of the sheet after pressing Add sheets.
You also need a camera in your scene to produce quality renders of your technical drawing, and that’s something TechDraw can do for you. In the camera section of Layout settings menu, add a collection for your camera and tap Add a camera.
With your camera and background sheet in the scene, you can switch to Render Settings in the Layout settings sign. Choose the main background object for the sheetand the camera you just added as camerabefore hitting Update settings to automatically resize your camera. If you were to render an image at this point, you’d notice that you can’t see much.
Go to the Scene properties section on the right of the screen and change the surface color to white, followed by going to Render properties section and turning on the freestyle option. This will make your objects appear as lined outlines when rendering your image.
Step 4: Create a layout with your 3D models
As you can see from the render above, this production drawing is very bland. It takes more objects before we can add dimensions to the mix, but that’s something the TechDraw add-on can help with. Head to the Parts Parameters and select the object you are working with like Target.
Below you will see a grid of checkboxes that creates duplicates of your object in different orientations. Our brick object only needs to be viewed from three directions to bring together all of its dimensions: top, side, and bottom. Check each box for the duplicates you want to create and press Add a room view to create them. You can change the Draw distance modifier if your pieces are too far apart or close together.
Step 5: Adding Dimensions to Your Production Drawing
It’s finally time to add some dimensions to your production drawing. Start by selecting the object you are adding dimensions to and go to Edit mode with vertex selection activated. Select two vertex points separated by a line, then navigate to the See tab on the right of the window. You should see a tab titled Measure the here.
Click on Segment in the Add measurements section to create a measurement between the vertex points you selected. You can find each of the measurements you added in the Items MeasureIt tools section, allowing you to change the color and positioning of your measurement annotations.
Besides line measurements, you can also add angles, arcs, labels, and other annotations to your designs. Our blocks are very simple, but you may want to get more creative with your production diagram.
Step 6: Add Materials and Other Specifications (Optional)
The sheet you added to your project in Step 3 contains a section for more details about your designs. You can change it by selecting the text in question and heading to Edit mode, as this will allow you to edit the text directly. You can also choose to completely remove the text or add new text in Blender to enhance your drawing.
Step 7: Render the Production Drawing
The final step in this process is here, and it’s time to create the image you wanted from the very beginning. Start by going to the MeasureIt tools To return tab and clicking To return. It will take a few seconds to complete, but you can track it by going to the main page Render menu > Render picture. Close the window that appears once the image has been rendered.
You need to overlay the two images you created (Blender saves them for you), and this is done from the Compositing workspace. Check the box that says Use nodes before performing the following actions to get the results in the image above. Using Blender nodes can be a tricky learning process, but you can find guides on the web to help you.
- Add one Alpha on color node and connect it to Render layers node.
- Add one Image input node and connect it to Alpha on node before binding it to an image called measureit_output.
- Add one Viewer exit node and connect it to Alpha on node.
Open the Image editor in a separate panel and link it to an image called Viewer node using the drop-down menu at the top of the editor. This will display an image including your background, objects, and dimensions. In the toolbar, click Image > Save as to create the final version of your production drawing.
Add style to your production drawings
The production drawing we created is great for manufacturing, but it doesn’t look great. You can do a lot to improve the visual appeal of your production drawings. Changing the colors of your templates is a good start, but you can also change the fonts you use or even find a new background for your design.
Using your production drawings
Production drawings like this are essential in the manufacturing world, but they can also make for great works of art when you devote enough time to them. Websites like Fractory and Xiometry require documents like this to create items using CNC machines and other industrial equipment. Of course, designs can also be perfect for your own work.