Solid Edge

On the Edge: Stream XP, Part 2 of 3

14 Jul, 2005 By: Russell Brook Cadalyst

Process-orientated workflows

Last month's article described how applied ergonomics reduces fatigue and how Stream XP's Apprentice Mode helps both new and casual users work as productively as their full-time counterparts.

In this month's article, I will discuss how process-orientated workflows can speed up the design process by automating common tasks. Next month I will discuss 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.

By incorporating process-orientated workflows, users are only presented with relevant tools needed to complete their task, whether that is creating a digital mock-up (assembly modeling), creating parts (using the SheetMetal tool) or documenting a design for manufacture (2D drawings).

Stream XP's SmartStep workflow keeps users focused by displaying the process-driven features (like the vent or boss tools), streamlining complex tasks and ultimately keeping design engineers more productive.

Process Oriented Workflows
Constantly searching for tools and input fields becomes tedious and time consuming, meaning users are unproductive. Solid Edge's intuitive interface ensures engineer work is uninterrupted. It is designed to guide users through their design process by enabling relevant tools, steps and commands as required. Process-orientated workflows provide the cornerstone of Solid Edge's usability advantage, allowing users to concentrate on their design intentions and not operating the CAD system. Whether engineers are assembling parts, adding detail to 3D models or creating a drawing, the interface dynamically adjusts to provide users with relevant tools and options as they are required (figure 1).

Figure 1. Solid Edge's different toolbars for Assembly, Part Modeling, SheetMetal and Sketching. Smart Step offers only relevant options depending on task.

Smart Step
One of the main components of Solid Edge's process-oriented workflows is the SmartStep ribbon bar. SmartStep coaches users through the critical steps of any Solid Edge command, predicting the next step and offering tailored steps and options to complete the task.

Constructing geometry in Solid Edge is a simple step-by-step process. Users choose where to apply a feature (a face or a plane), and then they define a 2D shape or profile and finish by inputting a depth or distance. The SmartStep ribbon bar will step the user through a design task gathering all relevant input. All the commands in Solid Edge follow the SmartStep philosophy, so once a user is familiar with this approach in one command, they can apply a similar principle to other commands, further speeding up the learning curve.

Let's examine the Protrusion command, which constructs a solid by extruding a profile along a straight path (figure 2). First you are prompted to select a face or a plane to construct a profile. Once selected, Solid Edge automatically places you into sketch mode. The tool bars change and offer new tools to draw a profile. Once the desired profile has been drawn, you are automatically returned to the solid modeling step and asked for the distance of the protrusion.

Figure 2. The Solid Edge SmartStep ribbon bar -- the top options are for the Protrusion command, and the bottom are for the Hole command.

As you continue, additional conditions are given. In our example, feature extents and keypoint snaps will appear so you can control how the model will behave if previous features are updated. If you set a "through all" condition, it will honor the condition no matter what happens in subsequent changes to the model. The result is less editing, eliminating the need to change parameters on every subsequent feature.

Easy Editing
As parametric models are constructed, users will often need to adjust and optimize their designs. SmartStep is used to make detailed edits to any Solid Edge design. By simply selecting a feature to edit, you are presented with the same steps used to build the feature in the first place. Solid Edge will recalculate the feature and rebuild the model accordingly, adjusting subsequent features to suit the new design.

If an incorrect decision is made, such as which side of a profile material should be added, you can quickly correct the error. All you need to do is back up to the previous stage on the SmartStep and change the input, without having to undo your work and start it again. This is a process-specific workflow, ensuring designers work in an organized manner.

SmartStep offers options that filter out unnecessary selections (figure 3). The options are easily accessed allowing Solid Edge to pinpoint a selected set. You can use selections independently or in combination by adding or removing from the selection, providing a quick and convenient method of adding treatment and detail.

Figure 3. SmartStep selection filters enable you to make only one selection in order to select multiple edges. In this example all internal fillets have been selected.

Without this ability, you would need to select every edge individually, even on a simplistic model. This is one way that Stream XP allows engineers to speed up design tasks.

Advanced options also dynamically change depending on which options have been chosen. Let's look at an example of the Hole Options dialog box (figure 4). You can see the differences between the two hole types (counterbore or plain threaded). You can save these settings as the default set, saving even more time.

Figure 4. The Hole Options settings dynamically adjust depending on the hole type.

Process-driven features
As designs become more complex, 3D modeling systems add more and more features to describe geometry, resulting in poor design intent. Designers need to use multiple features to describe everyday details like holes and vents, which are unpredictable and hard to edit.

Solid Edge provides process-specific commands -- such as the Rib network and Lip and Groove for part modeling or Louvers, Dimples and Beads for sheet metal design -- that add user-defined parameters to quickly model the required geometry and respond to parametric changes (figure 5). The Boss and Vent commands expand on this philosophy by combining the work required for several features into one command.

Figure 5. Solid Edge process-specific features filter design considerations that are commonly found in specific industries.

Designing virtual 3D mock-ups in 3D design systems has delivered a productivity boost. However, many design tasks still remain repetitive and time consuming, requiring complex geometry to finish the task. The standard approach to solve this problem is to increase functionality. Solid Edge deployed a different strategy -- process-specific features.

Using process-specific features and applications frees engineers from the mundane tasks of adding detail. They can achieve complex modeling scenarios just as easily as rounding an edge.

Next month I will discuss how Solid Edge's situational interface captures user input to infer design intent. Less really can mean more!

See you On the Edge next month.

About the Author: Russell Brook

Russell Brook

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