Displaying Complex Designs need not be Complicated

15 Dec, 2004 By: Russell Brook Cadalyst

Configure Solid Edge to rapidly create the drawing views you need

In last month's article we looked at getting the most system performance when working with large assemblies. (Click here for that column.)

This month, I'll complement that feature with a look at how to make the most efficient use of Solid Edge Draft using some of the tools and settings available to optimize performance, and to lay down drawing views of those large 3D assembly designs.

As with any large assembly design, having good hardware with sufficient resources is the key to getting the best performance. A fast processor and main memory are the two key components when dealing with 2D drawings. Windows XP (32 bit) by default addresses 2 GB of memory; there is a switch that can be set in the BOOT.INI file that tricks XP into addressing 3 GB of virtual Memory. So if your task manager reports that the system is using all available memory, look into turning on this switch to give your system more resources to work with.

So What is a Large Drawing?
This is a bit like asking, "How long is a piece of string?" Drawings that reflect several thousand components are not uncommon. Usually designs with many parts tend to have complex assembly structures in addition to their sheer number of components. With drawings of this size, it is impossible to see, when the drawing is printed, all the details of each component that the computer is capable of processing. Imagine a drawing of a large machine -- a snow blower, for example (figure 1) -- all the components, subassemblies, everything including the last nuts, bolts, and washers. If we consider just one of those bolts, there is a lot of detail being processed that is not going to be seen, printing at this scale. We just see lines on top of lines, or a dark blob on the drawing -- a waste of computation that can add time to drawing creation.

Does this sound familiar? Read on and I will discuss some of the technologies Solid Edge deploys to help you to eliminate these issues.

Figure 1. A 3D snow blower model and the associated snap shot view. The 3D model has 1,533 parts, but Solid Edge displayed the drawing view in less than 10 seconds using techniques described in this article.

How Can Solid Edge Help?
In last month's article, we looked at how to use Solid Edge's powerful and unique approach to saving valuable system resources when creating large assembly files. It is no coincidence that Solid Edge Draft takes advantage of this technology. With a little forethought on creating a 3D assembly as discussed, a good starting point for producing the fastest and most understandable layout and assembly drawings can be established. Consider filtering out all small parts in an assembly, hiding all parts that are not going to be seen, saving the configuration, then choosing the same configuration within the Drawing View Wizard. In most cases simplified parts are more than adequate for top-level assembly drawings; simplifying them during the 3D modeling will be of great benefit when the drawings are produced later.

Use Snap Shot Views
The fastest way that Solid Edge can lay down a drawing view is to use the Snap Shot option to quickly create plot quality drawing views. Based on the view quality you desire, select from levels of 1 through 5, with 5 being the best quality, 1 being the fastest (figure 2). Snap Shot views are ideal for pictorial representations such as isometric and exploded views. Although snap shot views cannot be dimensioned, they can be ballooned and used for parts lists, today.

Figure 2. Snap shot options for drawing views.

Shaded Views
Solid Edge lets designers spruce up their drawings with shaded views -- and why not, given modern printer technology, especially if those drawings are to be used to impress a client to win an important contract? Solid Edge goes a little further with this approach and allows designers to produce not only full-color views, but also black-and-white, with or without VHL (visible hidden line) display, which is the hard edge that outlines the components. Black-and-white is useful if the view is for an instruction manual, for example, which will not be printed in color to keep printing costs down.

To use the shaded view options, toggle on the one required using the various options on the Smart Step ribbon bar (figure 3). If you are going from a normal unshaded view you will need to update the view the settings have been applied to.

Figure 3. Shaded view options, selected from the Smart Step ribbon bar, shown left to right: shaded, shaded with VHL, black-and-white shaded, and black-and-white with VHL.

Drawings with Control
Features that not only give Solid Edge an added degree of control but also can have a significant impact on the time it takes to produce a view are found under the Display tab in the Drawing View Properties dialog box. Right-click on any view and choose Properties from the shortcut menu to activate this dialog box (figure 4). Once you're there, Solid Edge gives you full control over how components are displayed in the view. These settings can be configured previously and saved in a template file, or they can be adjusted on demand per view.

Figure 4. Display options in the Drawing View Properties dialog box.

Hidden detail can be toned down or turned off all together on both orthogonal and isometric view types, providing a degree of control that most other systems ignore. This lets designers filter out all hidden edges, as well as providing them with an additional option to turn off all hidden lines except edges hidden by other parts, which is useful when a drawing needs this detail but also must be legible (figure 5).

Figure 5. Drawing view display options, illustrated left to right: all hidden detail, adjacent part hidden detail, no hidden detail.

Quick Sheets
We have looked at some of the options that help speed up drawing production. It's not the intention of this article to cover them all, merely to get you thinking about what you asked of your workstation and the options you can set to help your system perform better while still producing accurate drawings with sufficient detail.

One last thing to consider is Quick Sheets, which will speed up drawing production once you have your drawings looking and performing the way you want. Use this option rather than just saving a template, where some of these settings would be lost. Once you have all the settings and views just the way you want them, save your drawing, then under the File menu, select Create a Quick Sheet. You will be warned that this will remove the geometry, a nice safeguard if you forgot to save the file in the first place. Now whenever you drag a 3D file into any of the view boxes, the project will be quickly displayed with all the settings from the original, including all the drawing view settings, text and dimensions, section views, details, annotations, and so forth (figure 6) -- very handy.



Figure 6. A quick sheet with predefined views, and the drawing views.

Most engineering companies still require 2D drawings as their main source of communication, and the development team for Solid Edge recognizes this. The flexible capabilities outlined in this article come together so engineers can rapidly create the drawings they need.

See you On the Edge next month.

About the Author: Russell Brook

Russell Brook

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