Solid Edge

Catching Up with Solid Edge

2 Nov, 2016 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

Event report: At Solid Edge University 2016, Siemens PLM talks about what's happening, and what's ahead, for the 2D/3D CAD software and its users.

Tony Hemmelgarn, new CEO, Siemens PLM Software

If you’ve been following the CAD software market for any length of time, you’ve likely heard folks refer to the technology as mature — that is, it has moved beyond any opportunity for significant improvement, comfortably planted on a technological plateau like a retired person in a La-Z-Boy.

Well, CAD vendors would beg to differ. One in particular is Siemens PLM Software, developer of Solid Edge, NX, and numerous other product-development tools. At Solid Edge University 2016 (SEU) in Indianapolis last week, John Miller, senior vice-president, Mainstream Engineering Software at Siemens PLM Software, told the 500 users in attendance, “I don’t think this market is done. I think there’s all kinds of room for innovation.”

An innovative push into the future requires a leader, and Siemens PLM has a new one. Miller introduced CEO Tony Hemmelgarn, who took the helm on October 1, moving up from his previous role as executive vice-president of Global Sales, Marketing, and Services following 15 years with the organization. He replaces Chuck Grindstaff, now the company’s executive chairman.

To bolster its established software portfolio, Siemens PLM has introduced new features such as cloud-based access to Solid Edge and is integrating new capabilities across the product line via recent acquisitions including Polarion (browser-based development of product-embedded software) and CD-adapco (design simulation).

Siemens PLM Software executive John Miller showed Solid Edge University 2016 attendees how the company is serious about continually investing in its technologies.


“Over the next 18 months,” Hemmelgarn said, “you’ll see us integrate new technologies across the board in our solutions, to help customers deal with the disruptive forces in the market.” He cited one customer who, thanks to new simulation capabilities, can create hundreds of design iterations in a few days, versus the three iterations in ten days that was the norm using older solutions.

Forces disrupting the manufacturing market demand new tools integrated across the product lifecycle, said Siemens PLM Software CEO Tony Hemmelgarn.


In his kickoff presentation, Miller told the audience that workflow challenges still persist for CAD users “after all these years.” In an industry survey in September, the company found that:

  • Problems persist in working with imported CAD data; in fact, it is the number one CAD challenge identified by survey participants.
  • 95% of respondents said they deal with late-stage design changes; one-fifth of users ranked responding to change a top challenge.
  • 49% of respondents said being able to rapidly create initial designs is a significant concern.

Presumably, survey participants were not Solid Edge users — as that solution is notable for its data translation capabilities; ease of design changes at any stage, thanks to its direct-modeling functionality; and now, the Catchbook app that captures true and refined sketches for export to Solid Edge.

Free Solid Edge for startup companies. Miller introduced a new program, Solid Edge for Startups, which will provide free access to the Solid Edge Premium software portfolio for product development, including 3D design and rendering, simulation, manufacturing, data management, and more. “We’re going to go out and get customers started using Solid Edge Premium design software, using professional tools,” Miller said. The program offers qualifying businesses one year of free access to engineering software and learning resources “to help them quickly innovate and launch ideas, turning concepts into prototypes and prototypes into successful products,” according to the company. It is available now in the United States and United Kingdom, with other countries to follow.  

New Catchbook sketching app. “Sketch with a purpose” is the slogan for the Catchbook drawing and tracing app that converts freehand drawings into 2D designs for direct export to virtually any graphic design or commercial CAD system. Introduced at SEU 2015 a year ago and launched this May in two versions (free and $5.99), it works with Android, iOS, and Windows tablets and smartphones. Consumers as well as professional users can sketch a simple idea, just as one would do using pencil and paper, then Catchbook creates precise, to-scale, editable drawings.

Solid Edge ST9 Revisited

Next, Dan Staples, vice-president, Mainstream Engineering, took the stage to walk attendees through the new features of Solid Edge ST9. Although this latest version was launched in June, Staples said, “I want to show you some new ways that you can use ST9, and not just keep using it like ST8 because you’re busy.” Following are some highlights of the new release; see the brochure, What’s New in Solid Edge ST9, for details.

New, optional cloud capabilities provide access to Solid Edge via cloud-based licensing and facilitate deployment, user access and collaboration across remote designs teams — for when you need CAD to follow you wherever you go, Staples said.

  • Licenses and user preferences can be stored on the cloud, enabling access to your personal environment any time from any Internet-connected device.
  • Software updates happen when you want (not automatically).
  • Data can be stored and backed up locally or via cloud-based services (such as Google Drive or DropBox).

In addition to the cloud licensing option, Siemens PLM continues to offer node-locked and floating licenses. Customers can purchase a perpetual license or subscribe monthly or yearly. “It’s all about you choosing, not about us dictating” how you license your software, Staples said, likely referring to Autodesk’s migration this year to subscription-only licensing.

3D modeling updates include an improved user interface “that people seem to actually like,” Staples said. The UI now offers:

  • improved consistency with Microsoft Office UI behavior.
  • tabbed documents for more efficient multi-document work.
  • high-resolution monitor support.
  • academic themes to simplify the learning curve for students.

The Solid Edge hybrid  modeling experience (a combination of history-based/direct modeling, or what Siemens PLM calls ordered/synchronous) is improved, but continues to allow users to choose which works best at any given time. Specific design improvements include:

  • enhanced multibody, in context, 3D sketch, mirror, and design intent modeling functionality;
  • threaded hole feature creation  from threaded-shaft Booleans;
  • multiface replace lets you replace multiple assembly occurrences with a single surface;
  • sheet metal contour flange creation from edges of multiple parts;
  • enhanced materials library management; and
  • the new Solid Sweep feature lets you sweep a solid body along a 2D or 3D path, simulate machine tool operations like milling, and create complex protrusions.

Matt Lombard describes these new tools in greater detail on the official Solid Edge Blog.

“We know drawings have been going away; they’ve been going away for 30 years,” said VP Dan Staples, as he reviewed the updates to 2D functionality in Solid Edge ST9.


SOLIDWORKS fully associative drawings, brand new in ST9, deliver intelligent 3D migration, including custom properties, materials, configurations, mates, assembly features, hole features, and more, saving hours of imported drawing rework. Migration tools also are available for PTC Creo and Autodesk Inventor.

Updated 3D printing functionality introduces tools including:

  • Send to 3D Builder to prepare the model for in-house printing or export to a service bureau;
  • Solid Print Preview with tolerance control; and
  • drag-and-drop sketch blocks (for example, to facilitate logo or text reuse).

Enhanced simulation tools include:

  • suppression of boundary conditions for easier what-if scenarios,
  • maximized quad elements for more accurate surface meshing, and
  • meshing performance that’s as much as four times faster than the previous version for a variety of models.

“Solid Edge is not just design, it’s an entire portfolio of products,” Staples continued. Simulation, linear statics, buckling, thermal analysis — “it’s all there.”

Flow simulation (computational fluid dynamics, CFD) is now embedded in Solid Edge FloEFD from Mentor Graphics. Feeling like an extension of the familiar Solid Edge environment, it runs simulations on native CAD models. “We have this nice utility that will isolate [the fluid space] for you,” Staples said. “Then if you change the design, fluid space will be modified to reflect that” when you run a new simulation. FloEFD can be used in aerospace, automotice, electronics, consumer goods, process and manufacturing, HVAC, and other applications.

FloEFD from Mentor Graphics, built into Solid Edge ST9, runs simulations on native CAD models.


Solid Edge ST9 portfolio advancements also extend to CAMWorks 2016 and CAM Express 11 computer-aided manufacturing software for Solid Edge.

Scalable data management, integrated in all Solid Edge ST9 versions, supports the smallest to the largest companies. Built on standard Microsoft Windows operating system, it quickly scans and indexes file names, file links, properties, and “where used” data for instant search results — as well as easy revision and release management — all without the need for additional software installation and maintenance. Growing organizations can expand to full product lifecycle management (PLM) capabilities via the company’s Teamcenter platform.

“Best mobile CAD.” Staples wrapped up by touting Solid Edge ST9 as “the best mobile CAD experience available.” Fully functional on Windows-enabled mobile devices, ST9 supports comprehensive, multitouch finger gestures as well as stylus use. Free Solid Edge Mobile Viewer apps are available for iOS, Android, and Windows mobile operating systems.

Looking Ahead to ST10

At the wrap-up session on Day 2 of Solid Edge University 2016, Jeff Walker, director of Solid Edge Products, gave a sneak peek at Solid Edge V10, due next summer — including reverse engineering (available very soon for beta testing), mesh-based modeling (based on Parasolid), . “This is a small part of what’s coming,” he advised.

This video captures his presentation.

About the Author: Nancy Spurling Johnson

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