Cadalyst Labs Review: Solid Edge v1930 Nov, 2006 By: IDSA ,Mike Hudspeth
Collaborative 3D modeling with advanced assembly and animation.
Every eight months or so, UGS brings out a new version of Solid Edge. That's an aggressive timetable, but you gotta love the improvements that it brings. Most of the changes are inspired by user requests. You gotta love that, too. Solid Edge v19 is brand new, and it's got some great stuff (figure 1).
In today's competitive marketplace no one can afford to sit in a corner and design stuff. Users must go global, and that means collaboration. Solid Edge v19 can help. New and existing collaboration tools make it easy for even small to midsized companies to leverage global capabilities. Engineering functions are spread out in diverse places, and people need to talk to each other. Solid Edge v19 enables collaboration using the UGS-owned JT format. (UGS claims more than 4 million JT users worldwide.) With it, you can share things such as solid-body geometry, assembly structures, nongraphic attributes (like vendor part numbers) and faceted data. Previous versions of Solid Edge let you send JT data out, but built-in JT is new to v19.
PMI (product manufacturing information) gets users and manufacturers together. You don't always have time to set up an official drawing of your design. Sometimes you just want to throw a few dimensions on a view and send it to a vendor. PMI is like printing. It opens up all the views, places the dimensions that make sense in each view (either drawn from the sketches or user-defined) and sends the whole kit and caboodle to the View and Markup program. When you create a dimension, you can select either stacked or baseline dimensions, depending on where you click (figure 2). It's great for design reviews. You don't have to create drawings (figure 3)! There's even a free viewer available to rotate the part.
Solid Edge v19 continues to offer some of the best interaction with AutoCAD you're likely to find outside of actual Autodesk products. It opens and edits AutoCAD drawings. It can even save them back out to AutoCAD. Why would you need to do that? Not everyone is ready to go 3D yet. Thousands of shops out there have AutoCAD and for a variety of reasons aren't going to change in the foreseeable future. You can still use those familiar vendors even after you go to 3D.
Solid Edge v19
Speaking of the non-3D crowd, and you know who you are, Solid Edge now offers one of the greatest deals ever on software: UGS is giving away its Solid Edge 2D Drafting product for free! UGS is of the opinion that 2D software has reached the point where it's a commodity. You can download a free copy of Solid Edge 2D Drafting at www.solidedge.com/free2d. It's about a 300MB download, so you might think twice if you are still on a dial-up connection. The program requires Windows XP to run.
One of the advantages I see in using Solid Edge v19 is the upgrade path—the software can grow with you. You can start out with free 2D designs. Then, when you're ready, you can go 3D. Once you have that down, you can look at CAM options such as the new NX CAM Express product. And when you're a market leader and need more high-end capability, you can migrate to NX. All these programs are interoperable, and because they're from the same company, they're likely to stay that way.
Figure 1. A micrometer designed using Solid Edge v19. Image courtesy of the L.S. Starrett Company.
Getting It Together
After you put your assemblies together, you'll probably want to blow them apart. I'm speaking of exploded views, of course. Solid Edge v19 has a new Explode, Render and Animation interface. It simplifies many aspects of creating an explosion. You can bind parts as a subassembly in an explode to simplify a view. Solid Edge v19 also puts in flow lines for you. It usually gets the placement 80% right on its own. If you want to change what the system does, you can click and drag flow lines (figure 4). You can animate your explosion and save it to a video. Animations are great for assembly manuals on the Internet. (This feature would be great for model kits.)
Figure 2. You can control PMI dimensions merely by clicking and placing them. Solid Edge V19 will deduce what kind of dimension you want.
Solid Edge v19 Assemblies has a new Gear relation. It's a mating condition that matches one set of surfaces to another as though they were either a gear and belt/chain or a rack and pinion. In the case of a belt/chain, the gear relation matches the outer diameter of the gear to the inner diameter of a belt/chain and then matches the rotation directions of any gears that appear on the belt/chain. When a gear turns, any other gears mated to the belt/chain turn in the appropriate directions, just like they would in real life. It's interesting to note that if you apply the gear relation between the gear and a belt/chain and then move the gear, the belt/chain doesn't update automatically. It's not really moving around the gear, either. The belt/chain is merely a static extruded model. That kind of functionality can be emulated through assembly linking and such.
Figure 3. With PMI you don t need to create a drawing with a title block and notes merely to show someone a few dimensions. You can create orthographic views or 3D views at any angle you choose.
SolidWorks 2007 does it pretty easily. You basically tell the belt/chain it's a belt/chain, and it knows how to behave in the assembly. If the gear moves—say it's a tensioner—the chain updates accordingly. It keeps the same overall length and just updates its structure to fit its function. SolidWorks has thrown down the gauntlet. Let's see how Solid Edge responds.
Figure 4. Though Solid Edge gets it right most of time, you always can click and drag flow lines to where you want them.
Working hand in hand with the gear relation is the Motor relation. In a nutshell, this feature is a condition you can apply to any cylindrical surface to specify how fast you want the motor to go and in what direction it should turn. This capability is pretty neat for animations.
And Speaking of Animations . . .
Solid Edge v19 introduces a new motion simulation and animation environment. It uses an almost industry-standard timeline interface (figure 5).You just drag the time line to where you want an event to happen and then make whatever changes you want to be accomplished by that point. Solid Edge v19 interpolates the intermediate positions when it generates the animation.
Figure 5. You can control an animation completely with the thoroughly modern timeline interface—just click and drag.
Solid Edge v19 continues its great sheet-metal capability. One feature I particularly like is the new sheet-metal Gusset command (figure 6). It's simple and versatile. Select the place where you want the gusset to be and then fill out the pop-up form. Solid Edge places one or many gussets where you indicate. There is dynamic feedback when you try to something that's not possible. Solid Edge displays a little yellow triangle and asks if you know what you're doing (it's a little more tactful, though). When you create a sheet-metal part, Solid Edge v19 adds bend marks to your flat pattern.
Figure 6. The new Gusset function quickly creates strengthening gussets in sheet-metal parts. The gussets will be evenly spaced along the selected edge. UGS should add the capability to position the gussets with dimensions from user-defined points.
But Wait, There's More
Solid Edge V19 features so much more than I have room to cover here: Match Face, Hem, Bend Tables, etc. Solid Edge continues to offer innovative functionality and packs it into a fairly priced product.
The new release has several versions: The 2D-only version is free. The basic version, Design & Drafting ($1,995), includes modeling, drafting and assembly functions and translators. The Foundation version ($3,995) includes Design & Drafting plus sheet-metal and expanded modeling, drafting and assembly functions. The Classic version ($5,495) has all the functions of the other versions as well as design management, FEA (finite element analysis) and rendering capabilities.
Mike Hudspeth, IDSA, is an industrial designer, artist and author based in St. Louis, Missouri.