Zea Launches Cloud-Based Platform for Tech Docs

Canadian company aims to democratize 3D collaboration for equipment documentation.

Zea announced that its new Hub offerings have entered beta testing. This technology enables manufacturers to collaborate effectively with distributed after-sales teams that require secure access to 3D models to create deliverables.

Loading an assembly and preparing an interactive 3D technical illustration.

Loading an assembly and preparing an interactive 3D technical illustration.

Zea Engine

At the heart of the platform is the web-based (TypeScript) 3D Graphics Zea Engine, which is for developers who are building web applications that need to support large 3D CAD models. But its real claim to fame is its performance. The company reports that the platform is 10 times better than glTF with 10 times better framerates on large assemblies than Three.js (competitive formats used to deliver 3D models to the web).

For developers, Zea supplies full source code in the SDK for them to evaluate.

The Zea Engine is Industry 4.0 forward and allows manufacturers to use digital technology to improve operations, increase efficiency, and improve collaboration. Industry 4.0 is defined by the incorporation of modern digital technology into manufacturing processes and supply chains.

3D Cloud Platform

Looking for something more off the shelf?

Built on the Zea Engine, Zea’s Cloud Platform is a free cloud-based platform for manufacturers.

Using the CAD CLNR plug-in, you can publish your 3D CAD files as lightweight web visualization files and send them to the cloud server for processing. This secure format cannot be reverse engineered nor can it be loaded into another CAD application.

 

With the 3D model published, you can invite your team to view it. You mange the roles, controlling the level of access. As it is web-based, all the end users need is a web browser. The platform supports real-time collaboration, allowing multiple users to work on the same project simultaneously.

The platform lets you know when a new version of the CAD file is published. You can then compare the version to the older versions, explore where it has been used (documentation), and update the content.

The free Starter plan allows you to create up to five projects with three editors. Viewing is always free. When needed, you can transition to the monthly subscription Create plan.

Hubs

Zea offers specific Hubs that are tailored to the needs of various users and industries. This includes the Illustrations Hub (currently in beta) for creating 3D technical illustrations and the Parts Hub for creating 3D interactive part catalogs.

The Parts Hub, appropriately named, is for developing fully interactive 3D parts catalogs. As you publish parts, they are associated with a part number in the database, meaning that each time that component is used it is already documented. 

The new Illustrations Hub is one of several hubs in development and is “here to make your life easier.” It can be used by writers who need to create technical documentation, such as operator guides, repair manuals and instruction sheets. It supplies tools for managing 3D models, creating exploded views, and adding annotations and callouts.

“We developed this new platform with the vision to democratize 3D for equipment documentation,” said Michael Smith, CEO at Zea. “The process to create, publish, and maintain technical content hasn’t changed much in the 20 years since I first entered the technical field and is one of the most inefficient I’ve encountered in my career. We’re on a mission to change that.”

As opposed to the traditional method of working in the CAD application, you build the technical content in the web browser using the published lightweight models. When the technical illustrations are complete, you can share the content with others using the platform or export the illustrations to images for use in existing documentation.

Exploded view created in Illustrations Hub with hidden line rendering mode.

Exploded view created in Illustrations Hub with hidden line rendering mode.

“We are excited to open the beta version of the platform to the public. The response thus far has been overwhelming, to say the least,” said Smith. “We can’t wait to make the platform available this spring.”

High-quality product documentation is a clear differentiator for equipment manufacturers and a key driver for continued success—and more sales. Zea’s new next-generation Illustrations Hub creates, publishes and updates interactive 3D technical illustrations for equipment documentation.

An autosaved version history in an Illustrations Hub project.

An autosaved version history in an Illustrations Hub project.

Interested in beta testing? You can sign up here.

A Training Hub is also in the works, but not much is known about it yet. Intended for authors and technical writers, it is for creating training materials such as e-learning courses. In addition to the interactive 3D models, it would be helpful if it were to include quizzes and assessments and perhaps even track learner progress.

To summarize, the advantages of using the Zea platform:

  • Unlimited users, organizations, workspaces and projects
  • Remote team collaboration
  • Support for over 20 CAD formats
  • Illustration version history
  • Single-source 3D models across all technical illustrations
  • Workflows (hubs) for specific technical documentation
  • No need to email a 3D CAD file again

About Zea

Zea Inc. is a Montreal-based company know for the Zea Engine—a cloud-based 3D platform that was born to solve common product and technical documentation problems.

Instead of scrapping together pieces of information, this 3D digital platform supplies tools for managing and sharing 3D models. This includes capabilities for version control, access control, and collaboration. It is also highly customizable, allowing users to tailor the platform to their requirements.

Zea’s target is small and medium-sized manufacturers. The focus is on OEMs and service providers that want to create better documentation faster, including deliverables such as technical documentation, training material, and service instructions. And while the company is at it, why not sell spare parts directly from service documentation as well?

Zea’s vision is to “re-think product Information.” It needs to be fast, enhancing workflows to save time in creating and finding content. It needs to be simple to use yet scalable.