Solid Edge

On the Edge: Stream XP, Part 1 of 3

15 Jun, 2005 By: Russell Brook Cadalyst

Learn 3D design faster with help from Stream XP's Apprentice Mode


Many engineers who try to model in 3D find that they don't always see the time-saving benefits 3D can deliver. Why? Engineers still need to design, and much of that time is spent inputting data into the system. To gain the most from a 3D design system, the system must be able to capture and interpret user interaction as efficiently as possible. Vendors address this problem with Windows-based 3D CAD systems, such as Solid Edge's Stream XP.

In this first of three parts, I will discuss how Solid Edge Stream XP uses applied ergonomics to reduce fatigue and how the Apprentice Mode helps new and casual users remain as productive as full-time counterparts.

In the second part, I'll discuss how process-orientated workflows speed up the design process by automating common tasks. And finally, the third article will cover Solid Edge's situational interface and how it speeds up user input and captures design intent.

What is Stream XP?
Solid Edge Stream XP is a proprietary built-in user interface designed to increase design productivity. A dynamic situational inference engine, clear process-orientated workflows and Windows-based ergonomics speed up the execution of daily tasks and capture design intent.

Solid Edge complements this user interface with Apprentice Mode -- a collection of tools designed to help new users learn Solid Edge quickly and helping casual users are productive.

Applied Ergonomics
Stream XP works in the background to help users work with Solid Edge. Microsoft Windows is the standard for industrial desktop computing, so Solid Edge adopted this look and feel so users feel comfortable with the program. The screen layout (figure 1) brings all the important tools, user input, prompts and feedback to a centralized location. As a result, the EdgeBar, SmartStep ribbon bar and Prompt Field are now in closer proximity to one another, which reduces fatigue and mouse miles (movement).

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Figure 1. Stream XP's centralized layout.

Apprentice Mode
Solid Edge's Apprentice Mode is designed to shorten the learning curve for new users. The Solid Edge Apprentice Mode constantly works with a new user offering help, hints and advice about what to do, command cross referencing or how to fix a problem should anything go wrong. As users become acquainted with Solid Edge, the helpers start to switch off altogether. Expert users may still find some elements of Apprentice Mode beneficial, like the startup screen and command finder (figure 2).

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Figure 2. Apprentice Mode includes tools like the startup screen, Command Assistant, Command Finder and Feature Error Assistant.

The startup screen is a stepping stone for users to choose their next task (figure 3). Quickly choose the kind of Solid Edge document to work on, start an interactive tutorial to gain further experience, give an advisory tip or choose/create favorite links to commonly used Web sites and network places.

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Figure 3. The startup screen offers quick-start options.

Many users already have prior CAD experience and often understand a modeling concept, but are not sure of the equivalent commands in Solid Edge. Command Finder helps users quickly find and compare familiar commands from other popular systems with Solid Edge commands (figure 4).

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Figure 4. Command Finder shows familiar commands from other design systems.

Command Assistant helps by explaining critical components within Solid Edge (figure 5). Users are advised on relevant commands as they use them. For example, if you start the Protrusion command, SmartStep is explained with advice on choosing a reference plan. If you start to draw a sketch, the drawing tools and the relevance of parametric relationships are explained. As the tasks are performed, Command Assistant begins to provide less information as the user becomes more experienced.

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Figure 5. Command Assistant offers help with command options.

Command Tips work in conjunction with the Command Assistant. They offer tips on the different options within a command -- for example, after choosing the Protrusion command a Command Tip gives advice about choosing the reference plane. Also if a user highlights or hovers over four or more icons without choosing anything, Command Assistant assumes that the user is trying to figure out what to do, and it offers tips on what to do next. Once dismissed, the particular tip won't return. Solid Edge Steam XP is designed to assist users throughout the design phase by speeding up user interaction but still leaving the user in full control.

Error Assistant constantly monitors design input. If conditions are not met to generate either a valid feature or profile, the Error Assistant informs the engineer of this problem and offers advice about what is wrong and how to fix the problem (figure 6).

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Figure 6. Error Assistant monitors design problems and offers advice about how to fix them.

Summary
Applied ergonomics ensure users are more productive and free from fatigue. Apprentice Mode offers help and advice for new and casual users, and helps experienced users of other systems quickly become familiar with Solid Edge.

Next month we'll look at process-oriented workflows, tools which speed up the design process by automating common tasks.

See you On the Edge next month.


About the Author: Russell Brook

Russell Brook

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