I’m gonna bet a box of matches and some dry cedar that many of you work for companies who enjoy shoveling a fine mush of paper stacks and file cabinet dividers toward smiling documentation specialists. Who blames them… PAPER IS GLORIOUS!

Especially, those first sweet sounds of the day sipping vodka coffee to the whirring of copy machine and paper shredders. Glorious, I tell you… but NOT if you’re a company that has vowed to do away with paper through the entire engineering and manufacturing process.

How could one even fathomed that, you ask?

Well, it usually starts with several very traumatic experiences inside a paper compactor. After reconstructive surgery and a quick rewrite of company policy, it’s simple. However, our design and engineering process has been catered to the paper path for years, particularly where drawings are concerned. You know, digital drawings, the type we now create… and view… on our widescreen LCD monitors?

Think of this. We create and view our models and drawings on widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio monitors, so why don’t our templates match? It’s due to print size, but that could be changing as quickly as LCD monitor prices drop. There is a stack of computer display standards, but the top screen resolutions among computer users recently shows an increase in monitors that have a 16:9 or 16:10 (WXGA) aspect ratio. If you take a standard 11 x 17 (B-size or A3) sheet of paper and hold it up to your screen, it doesn’t match up so well.

This is a problem of epic proportion, I tell you! It doesn’t match the screen size! Launch the secretary’s cat! Christopher Mueller was faced with the same problem when his company went paperless. He talks, on the SolidWorks Forums, about how he solved it by creating an ‘HD’ drawing format.

Almost all of the designers, and even our workshop are using 27 inch 16:9 screens. The problem is that showing an A2 drawing on such a screen wastes some of the screen space and beckons for the shop worker to “print me out” so that it is easier to see… I’ve calculated dimensions for two formats, one to fill a 27″ screen, and one to fill a 40″ screen.

After seeing images of the template he created, I thought I’d create a SolidWorks template myself. Using a handy 16:9 screen size calculator, I put in several common screen sizes. Since I use 34 x 22 (D-size or A1) for my typical drawing dimensions, I thought I’d use the closest to that size which turns out to be a 40″ screen (measured diagonally) which gives you a 35″ x 20″ resolution. Yep, you basically move one inch from one side to the other. The next step up would be for 42 inches at 37 x 21.

Here’s the new sheet format viewed on my 24″ monitor:

green arrow Download SolidWorks HD40″ (35 x 20) Drawing Template

I get to use the full area of the screen when the drawing is maximized. Nice. Now it’s time to convince (or confuse) everyone else in design and manufacturing.

Will paper sizes change to match screen resolutions?

That’s the more interesting topic out of all of this. Paper sizes, print sizes… they don’t match screen resolution… especially on the wee iPhone! (or the other less aesthetic mobile device.) Thanks to many printer manufacturers getting in on the photo-quality print scene, you’ll find a few capable of printing on both standard sizes and 16:9 photo paper, but I’ve not come across any that have 16:9 as a standard printing option or a company shipping out reams of paper in matching sizes.

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see what kicks off a transition to new ways of viewing drawings (or if we’ll go completely away from drawings and simply refer to the 3-dimensional models. Please let that be so.) Will it be from a desire to go paperless, a frustration at display resolutions or a paper scare that has shop workers trading the organs of engineers for a taste o’ the pulp? Frankly, if it removes the need for someone to print a drawing in order to redline it, scan it and send it back to another person to print, I’m all for it.

Thanks Charles Culp for the heads-up!


Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.