Tools for the Team16 Feb, 2004 By: Adrian Scholes
Solid Edge makes it easy for teams to work together in a virtual environment. Insight Connect, delivered with every copy of Solid Edge and also available as a stand-alone client, not only provides powerful design management functionality, but also allows practical collaboration to take place in a managed environment. Using these tools, your teams are always working with information that is up-to-date and accurate.
Packaged Collaboration Files
At the heart of Solid Edge’s collaboration capabilities are PCFs (packaged collaboration files). PCFs elegantly solve the problem of how to share multiple documents in a collaborative environment while ensuring that users are never working with out-of-date information. You can package multiple documents from different sources into a single file that contains all the information needed for effective communication and collaboration.
PCF files can include both CAD files (Solid Edge, DXF, DWG, STL, DGN, ME10, X_T, and Unigraphics, for example) and non-CAD documents such as Microsoft Office and PDF files. You can place PCFs in a shared, managed folder or send them by e-mail to anyone who needs to review the information. Unlike the cut-and-run approach of e-mail–only applications, the PCF file retains original links to CAD documents and contains all the information required not only to view the data, but also to execute and manage any changes resulting from the collaborative process.
Open and View Files
As it does in Solid Edge, the Edgebar in Insight Connect provides feedback at all times and allows you to move among the different types of information contained within the PCF. The first tab displays the contents of the PCF, listing its documents and whether any markups are associated to those documents. A document preview displays in the lower portion of Edgebar, and you can select a document to make it active in the main graphics window. The next tab shows the complete parts list for any assembly files, while the final Edgebar tab lists all markups, and who created them, for the active document.
As soon as you select a document for viewing, Insight Connect automatically updates the toolbars to display the options available for the document type. For example, 3D View and Markup options appear only when a 3D document is active. You use standard viewing commands for Rotation, Zoom, and Fit to take a closer look at the document. For clarity, you can simplify assembly models by selecting parts to turn on or off. You can also switch between any display configurations defined in the Solid Edge assembly. For an even closer look, dynamically create a section through 3D assemblies. Choose whether you want to section along the x-, y-, or z-axis. Clip either side of the plane or define a thickness for the section and clip both sides. Then use a simple slide bar to move the plane to interrogate the internal components.
Figure 1. Comprehensive viewing tools allow you to interrogate different files in the PCF. Use dynamic sectioning for a closer look inside the model.
Measurements and Other Design Information
When you package CAD documents in the PCF, you have the option to include accurate B-rep data for any of the models. This increases the file size, but enables use of Insight Connect’s dimension tools for precise measurements. 2D and 3D dimensioning tools help you better understand the size of components and features. It is also possible to measure between elements while parts or assemblies are displayed as a section. For assembly files, you can interrogate individual part names along with the hierarchy of subassemblies to which they belong. Because the PCF stores accurate CAD data, you can also extract physical properties, such as volume, surface areas, and centroids, from the model.
Insight Connect includes comprehensive markup capabilities so members of the extended design team can provide feedback and communicate changes, all in a closely managed environment. For clarity, use focus points to highlight a specific area on the model or drawing. You can also choose whether to automatically include part properties in any notes that are anchored to specific parts—for example, you may want to display the part name and the hierarchy of subassemblies for the part. You can continue to add markups to the file. Rotating the model makes previous markups disappear, so you can create multiple notes and dimensions without cluttering up the file. Each set of markups is stored in a group that is displayed in Edgebar, and you can easily get back to any of the markup groups by double-clicking on the one you want. Insight Connect automatically orients the view to display the markup in the same way it was created. Edgebar also displays the name of the user who created each markup group.
Figure 2. Focus areas improve communication by directing attention to the areas of the model that are referenced in the markup.
Saving Markup Files
When you finish interrogating and marking up a file, simply save the PCF. Any markups are automatically included in the PCF, and you can add other documents to help with the communication process. For example, you may want to add a specification to explain why you are suggesting certain design changes.
If you’ve implemented Solid Edge Insight, which is designed to streamline the review and release process for design projects, saving the PCF to a managed folder automatically sends alerts to the appropriate people and initiates the change order process that has been established in your company.
You can also use standard e-mail to send the PCF and any included markup data. Choosing Send To from the file menu creates an e-mail that contains text from a predefined template, with the PCF automatically attached. E-mail recipients can then open and interrogate the data using the same tools, add their own markup, and return the file to sender. If you don’t have Insight Connect, a link in the e-mail points you to the free Solid Edge viewer. Download this to view (but not mark up) all the information in the PCF.
Figure 3. Send the PCF using standard e-mail. Recipients can use Insight Connect to interrogate the contents, or download the free viewer using the included link.
Make the Connection
For each person who creates a design, as many as 200 others use the information associated with it. Collaboration is essential to achieving the business objectives of design organizations, but it is just as essential that collaboration take place in a managed environment. Solid Edge’s view and markup tools break down the barriers that keep organizations from sharing valuable information within a design project and, unlike more traditional cut-and-run approaches, demonstrate that visual collaboration need not result in loss of control and poor data integrity.
See you On the Edge next month.
About the Author: Adrian Scholes
In her easy-to-follow, friendly style, long-time Cadalyst contributing editor and Autodesk Technical Evangelist Lynn Allen guides you through a new feature or time-saving trick in every episode of her popular AutoCAD video tips. Subscribe to the free Cadalyst Video Picks newsletter and we'll notify you every time a new video tip is published. All exclusively from Cadalyst!