Naturally we must not hide the fact that 3D models do bring some problems too. But what are they and how can they be managed? The two most serious issues are the security problems associated with 3D models. As 3D models contain metadata, they can be exploited as starting points for industrial espionage. For example, the data may contain the names of the people who designed the device, who can then be targeted through social hacking attacks. Or the metadata could record the tolerances of the components, a coveted piece of information for product pirates. So before 3D models are used, you need to make sure that all the metadata that are unnecessary for the documentation are deleted.
However, the 3D model itself can also be a starting point for industrial espionage and reverse engineering, as it contains the complete outline of the product. The dimensions of the product must therefore be made unrecognizable to prevent a competitor from simply reading out the relevant data. Modern M-CAT systems are able to randomly rewrite geometries within certain limits in order to protect against just such a danger. The advantage of this approach is that the data are not merely hidden, but completely destroyed. These 3D models are thereby rendered completely unsuitable for a reverse engineering attempt; it would frankly be easier to get hold of one of the machines and physically examine it instead.
There may also be some other minor problems that arise, such as not all parts of the end device being modeled in the R&D department that provides the 3D model data. Purchased standard parts such as hydraulic hoses or plug connections are often missing. As a technical writer, you should check this before deciding on a 3D model and whether you can do without these parts or need to model them retrospectively.
The problems of using 3D models are thus manageable, but how does a technical editor actually get hold of the data in the first place? We reveal all in our next post.