Solid Edge v1731 Jul, 2005 By: Jeffrey Rowe
Hybrid design approach and interoperability top list of new capabililties
Like its competitors, Solid Edge v17 creates parts, assemblies and drawings, but unlike them, it captures design intent through a unique combination of inference logic and decision-management concepts called STREAM technology. Introduced in the initial release, STREAM continues to be a productivity enhancer in the way it reduces the number of steps required to perform certain kinds of tasks, such as constraining profiles with dimensions that can be directly edited in sketch mode.
Also, like much of the competition, Solid Edge is a so-called hybrid 2D/3D modeler that lets users combine 2D and 3D techniques to best suit the way they work. Although I'm not crazy about the nomenclature, the previous version of Solid Edge, v16, introduced the "Zero D" concept and capability to the hybrid 2D/3D design environment. Zero D lets users define a product structure before committing to any geometry. In V17 this capability has been enhanced to include new workflows that convert 3D parts into 2D profiles for 2D design layout. In essence, this enhanced capability lets users bring parts into the hybrid 2D/3D environment and workflow.
Solid Edge users construct parts in a process called feature modeling (figure 1). Solid Edge does not use Boolean operations to simulate true part features. Instead, the modeling process in Solid Edge begins with construction of a base feature. A part is completed by adding or removing material from previous features. This is a feature-based workflow, and once users start a feature command, Solid Edge guides them by indicating the type of input to provide at each step. After using other CAD applications, the Solid Edge method of creating parts took some getting used to, but after some initial issues (largely owing to what I was used to), I began to appreciate this way of doing things.
Solid Edge v17
I am always impressed by CAD applications that are sensitive to the special needs of new users, and Solid Edge V17 offers several capabilities that were developed and implemented specifically for Solid Edge novices. The Apprentice mode toolset option operates as a system navigation aid (figure 2). When it's selected, Solid Edge displays descriptive text for all toolbar buttons, and the Command Assistant and enhanced tool tip text are activated and displayed. Working in conjunction with Apprentice mode is the Feature Error Assistant that helps troubleshoot design failures and warnings with descriptions and appropriate corrective actions that are really meaningful. Although Solid Edge is not the first application to include these types of aids and assistants, it does provide one of the best implementations I've seen.
And before I forget, like most of its competitors, Solid Edge includes the now-obligatory "transitioning from AutoCAD" material as part of its Help system.
Figure 1. Direct editing in Solid Edge V17 provides nonhistory-based, fully associative features. It supports both part and sheet-metal models, and provides the ability to work in the context of assemblies.
Direct Editing is an interesting aspect of Solid Edge because it lets users directly edit models without having to edit the history tree. This is actually a big deal because complex parametric models can be edited late in the design process, after the fact, without having to retrace, much less deal with, the history tree. Direct Editing also allows users to edit 3D geometry imported from a variety of sources without the need to import associated features and parameters—a real boon to inter-operability. Speaking of interoperability, Solid Edge is quite at home with data coming from its big brother, UGS NX, something that can't be said for other competitors with a sibling rivalry.
Direct Editing modifies complex geometry with capabilities to rotate and resize topology; delete holes, regions, and rounds; change bend radii and angles in sheet metal models and directly offset geometry. For protecting intellectual property that may be part of a design, you could use Direct Editing to simplify a design's level of detail before distributing it outside your department or company.
Figure 2. As part of the new Apprentice Mode to ease adoption, Command Finder helps a user unfamiliar with the exact name or location of a command to find it. For example, where SolidWorks has the Shell command, Solid Edges corresponding command is called Thin Wall.
Assemblies are created by clicking the Assembly button in the startup window. To begin building an assembly by placing parts, use the Parts Library tab, select the desired part and drag and drop it in the assembly window. Users can also place parts by double-clicking the part in the Parts Library tab.
As you might expect, the first part placed in an assembly is important because it serves as the foundation that the rest of the assembly is built on. The first part should thus represent a fundamental component of the final assembly. Also, because the first part placed is grounded, you should pick the first part with a known location, such as a frame or base. Although parts can be edited at any time, the first part in an assembly should be as completely modeled as possible. Similarly, although you can delete parts and change relationships in an assembly, the first part should always remain grounded and not deleted. Once the first part is placed, place additional parts by using the Assembly tab to specify whether the additional parts are temporarily placed in the assembly window or displayed in a separate Place Part window.
Figure 3. XpresReview uses packaged collaboration files (PCFs) for e-mail delivery to collaborators. This image shows a PCF file intended for another user who may not have Solid Edge loaded. Senders can enable measure, markup and sectioning so the recipient can load XpresReview and perform markups.
As users place parts in an assembly, assembly relationships position new parts relative to parts already in the assembly. There are several relationship types for positioning parts relative to each other. Solid Edge also has a FlashFit option that can reduce steps required to position parts using mate, planar align and axial align relationships. For productivity purposes, I recommend using the FlashFit option whenever possible because it is suitable for most of the positioning tasks you're likely to encounter.
Once the first assembly relationship is applied, the new part is repositioned within the assembly. As you apply additional assembly relationships, Solid Edge positions and reorients the part in the assembly.
Figure 4. Solid Edge determines and eliminates interior and small parts from large assemblies, thus producing a very lightweight assembly as an alternate representation of the precise assembly, improving display time. Shown is a model file representing a simplified assembly.
Users can position parts relative to any other part in an assembly, relative to more than one part in an assembly, or relative to an assembly sketch. Sets of parts can also be positioned relative to each other without fully constraining each part in an ordered sequence. This ability lets you quickly position a set of interrelated parts that comprise a mechanism, for example.
Another new and noteworthy aspect of assemblies in Solid Edge v17 is what UGS calls massive assembly support. This is a pretty slick algorithm that automatically determines which external faces need to be displayed to give an accurate representation of an assembly. This is accomplished through commands on the Simplify toolbar that create an exterior shell of faces that represent the assembly envelope, excluding entire parts where possible. As you can imagine, a simplified assembly is processed more quickly when used by itself, as part of a higher-level assembly, or in a drawing. Simplified assemblies are also another way of protecting proprietary design data as intellectual property when exchanging data with other parties.
On the subject of data exchange, Solid Edge V17 now has UGS Xpres Review, an e-mail-driven tool within Solid Edge for collaboration and design reviews. It can be used for 2D/3D view and markup, and full design interrogation. Additionally, there is also now a version of eDrawings that can be used with Solid Edge for those who have experience with it on other CAD packages.
Figure 5. Solid Edge enhances 2D/3D hybrid design by extending the use of virtual components to include the ability to create 2D representations from existing 3D components, which can then be used in layouts.
Solid Edge V17 is a strong release and a good choice for new users, especially those who interact with NX parts and assemblies, as well as current Solid Edge users considering an upgrade. The overall application and its interface continue to get more streamlined, therefore, making it easier to use, yet sophisticated enough to perform a wide range of design duties. Highly Recommended.
Jeffrey Rowe is an independent mechanical design and technical communications consultant. With offices in Colorado and Michigan, he can be reached at 719.539.8549 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author: Jeffrey Rowe
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