CoCreate OneSpace Modeling 2007 (Cadalyst Labs Review)

31 Jul, 2007 By: Jeffrey Rowe

History-free approach makes for a dynamic difference in 3D modeling.

CoCreate has been around long enough that it has cornered the MCAD market of most of the world's printer, copier, and multifunction printer manufacturers. It also has some of the world's biggest production machine manufacturers as major customers. That customer base alone is testimony that the company is doing a lot right, even in the face of ever-increasing competition for MCAD dollars. Although the company has had its ups and downs over the years, it seems to have finally arrived with a comprehensive and cohesive product line that fits and works well together.

CoCreate OneSpace Modeling 2007
CoCreate OneSpace Modeling 2007

Although I'll be focusing on CoCreate's 3D modeling capabilities for this review, the CoCreate OneSpace Suite actually consists of the following three modules, or pillars, if you will:

  • 1. CoCreate OneSpace Modeling, which is the core 3D modeling application
  • 2. CoCreate OneSpace Model Manager, which is for product data management and can be launched from within OneSpace Modeling
  • 3. CoCreate| which is an Internet-based collaborative project workspace

CoCreate also has a number of add-on modules, such as Advanced Design, Cabling, Mold Base, mySAP PLM integration, and eDrawings, as well as add-on products available from its partners (figure 1).

Figure 1. CoCreate's new Cabling Module integrates electrical and mechanical disciplines, speeding the design of complex wire harness assemblies. (3D models courtesy of Kellenberger.)
Figure 1. CoCreate's new Cabling Module integrates electrical and mechanical disciplines, speeding the design of complex wire harness assemblies. (3D models courtesy of Kellenberger.)

Don't Know Much About History . . .

OK, enough of the line from the song, but a history-based approach to 3D modeling is not for everybody. However, a nonhistory-based approach is not exactly exclusive to CoCreate OneSpace Modeling — Kubotek's KeyCreator and UGS' NX5 also are proponents —but CoCreate has the most practice. A history-based approach is what most parametric modelers (SolidWorks, Autodesk Inventor, and Pro/ENGINEER) use, but it's not always the best way to go. History-based systems use a history tree to track and replay 2D profiles and modeling steps for generating and modifying 3D geometry. The main drawback is that each step in the history is dependent upon the profile and modeling step that came before it.

A nonhistory-based approach can be suited for organizations that change a lot of designs late in the game, so they are not bound by the constraints and complications that a history tree can impose. Also, a nonhistory-based system can make data import an easier task because users don't have to worry about the overhead and burden of dealing with a history tree from a different system. Neutral file formats such as IGES and STEP are, for all intents and purposes, native data to CoCreate OneSpace Modeling. This compatibility eliminates the switching cost penalty for legacy data originating from any other system. CoCreate also has a partnership with Elysium for additional and more comprehensive data-conversion capabilities.

CoCreate OneSpace Modeling is nonhistory based, and the company calls its approach Dynamic Modeling. While the nonhistory-based approach may not be for everybody, it definitely has its place. However, the opposite also is true — so that's why, based on your perspective, a nonhistory-based approach can be both a pro and a con (as I have stated in the past).

Getting Started

One of the first things you notice when you start up OneSpace Modeling is, of course, the graphics window in which all the design action takes place (Co-Create calls this the viewport), and also the structure browser. Although it looks a lot like a history tree found in most parametric modelers, it isn't. The structure browser lists all 3D objects — workplanes, parts, and assemblies — and shows their interrelationships. These objects are displayed in the browser with their own distinctive icons, and their default names are displayed in parentheses; for example, Workplanes (w1 . . . ). The structure browser also can control the viewport display.

As with virtually all contemporary modelers, 3D is the product of 2D profiles but with a slight twist that I'll discuss a little later.

To help you along with modeling in 2D and 3D, CoCreate OneSpace Modeling provides so-called CoPilots to assist you. The CoPilots are activated automatically with certain commands, such as Create a spline curve or Create a blend. The 2D CoPilot helps with precise 2D geometry input that combines user interaction with snapping and an autoprecision adaptive grid. The 2D toolbar is displayed on the left-hand side of the viewport. Users activate the 2D CoPilot by clicking one of the top three tool buttons to draw lines, arcs, rectangles, or circles. When the cursor or the rubber line is active, distances and angles appear for lines and vertices in the cursor text window, and radii appear for circles. Orange values indicate a full snap condition.

The 3D CoPilot allows for precise handling of faces, edges, and other 3D features, and it can be used in the Modify 3D, Surfacing, and Machining commands. In 3D CoPilot, bronze arrows symbolize drag direction, and a bronze ring symbolizes rotational direction. 3D CoPilot also features a window with drag-value information.

3D modeling mimics workshop operations to convert 2D profiles into 3D geometry. This aspect really differentiates OneSpace Modeling, and it's how you create 3D models from 2D profiles. The Machine menu has four commands for adding material: Extrude, Unite, Turn, and Reflect (a 3D mirroring function). The Machine commands for removing material include Mill, Shell, Punch, Bore, and Subtract. Don't be too concerned if you're a bit rusty with your machine-shop terms because the 3D CoPilot can be used extensively with the Machine commands and with 3D modify and surfacing commands.

You can modify an existing 3D object with Machine commands as well. For example, you can bore a hole into a part in the shape of a profile. Finally, you can create more than one part during a machining operation; for example, you can extrude two rectangles to create two parts.

Improvements to the Core Product

Before getting into what's new and improved this time around, I must say that CoCreate has greatly streamlined the installation procedure as compared with previous versions. Instead of being an absolute chore, it's actually quite simple and straightforward.

Now, let's go over some of the most significant improvements made to OneSpace Modeling 2007.

Previous releases of OneSpace Modeling had a capability known as Stretch by Box. This functionality is still a stretch command, but it has expanded and is called Move by Box (figure 2). This command is a combination of the Move and Position commands. You can move faces as you do with the Move command and position parts as you do with the Position commands. It's designed to let users move faces and parts together in a linear direction. This command was designed so you can select faces or parts directly in a viewport. Simply draw a box to select the parts and faces you want to move.

Figure 2. CoCreate's 2007 release introduces a new Move by Box command that allows users to simultaneously modify, stretch and position parts and assemblies. It is shown here in combination with CoCreate's newly enhanced 3D cross section.
Figure 2. CoCreate's 2007 release introduces a new Move by Box command that allows users to simultaneously modify, stretch and position parts and assemblies. It is shown here in combination with CoCreate's newly enhanced 3D cross section.

When you move a face, the geometry connected to the face stretches to increase or decrease the size of the part. If you select entire parts or assemblies to move with the face, the parts will be repositioned. You can move shared parts if you select all the faces of the shared part or parts. Assemblies can be moved with this command, too, and if you select all the parts of an assembly, the entire assembly is repositioned.

In previous versions of OneSpace Modeling, blended edges didn't always produce the desired result when the blend met an edge. In the new version, users can control the shape of the blend by either of two new options: RollAtSharp, which creates a new blend surface between a sharp edge and the blend face, and RollAtSmooth, which creates a new blend surface between a rounded edge and the blend face.

The Taper command has been enhanced in two general areas. First, you can taper a part using an absolute angle instead of a relative angle. Second, you can create a taper feature that can be changed easily. With earlier versions of the Taper command, if you wanted to modify a tapered face to achieve a certain angle, you first had to measure the existing angle then add the additional taper. Now, you have the option of selecting an angle type, either relative or absolute. Relative calculates the new taper angle in addition (relative) to the original angle, and absolute calculates the new taper angle against the draft direction.

Previously, it was very difficult (if not almost impossible) to analyze thin-walled parts with FE Analysis for OneSpace Modeling. With new support for shell elements, these parts now can be analyzed. You also can analyze assemblies. However, when you analyze them, you must create relations between the mated faces. The relations define faces that are mated, so you must ensure that the parts are properly aligned before creating a relation. The three modes for detecting relations in an assembly are

  • 1. manual, to select the reference and related faces yourself
  • 2. semiautomatic, to display a list of valid possible relations
  • 3. automatic, to automatically detect all valid relations

With Compare Parts, you can compare the geometry of two nearly identical parts, which is helpful if you want to compare different versions of a model. For example, a company might construct a part and send it to a partner, who then modifies the part and sends it back. With Compare Parts, the differences between the first version and the second version can be analyzed, displayed, and stored for further modeling operations as the differences are highlighted (figure 3). One of the limitations with this function is that only geometric and topologic information are compared. It doesn't compare material properties such as if the part changes from steel to aluminum.

Figure 3. Part comparison automatically aligns different versions of the model. Color-coded results are presented back to the user in side-by-side synchronized split-screen viewports.
Figure 3. Part comparison automatically aligns different versions of the model. Color-coded results are presented back to the user in side-by-side synchronized split-screen viewports.

OneSpace Modeling 2007 extended its cross-section–use model by providing the ability to design and modify 3D in cross-sections; in other words, modify designs from 2D cross sections in 3D space. This ability allows you to examine a design in cross-section and then create and modify 3D geometry within the sliced views. You can modify model geometry revealed by clipping planes, and this helps you access hidden faces (such as those found in hollow parts or complex assemblies). That way, you can easily reach the densest areas of your assembly. You won't need to rotate the model or turn off its parts via the structure browser.

You can view inside models and assemblies using two types of clipping planes: model clipping planes, which move as you move the model, and camera clipping planes, which simply are positioned at the front and back of the model and are always parallel to the viewport and not positioned relative to the model.

Making a Decision

CoCreate does a number of things a little differently than its competition, and it does most things very well. Because it performs several functions differently, the biggest issue influencing the decision to choose OneSpace Modeling 2007 is how it would benefit your specific workflow and organization. In other words, is CoCreate's nonhistory-based, dynamic-modeling approach best, or is a parametric history-based method best? That equation has a lot of variables, and I would heartily recommend that you carefully examine both approaches before making a buying decision.

If you work in a highly collaborative environment that imports a lot of disparate MCAD data from several sources and you are predisposed to making a lot of changes to assemblies late in the product development cycle, OneSpace Modeling could be well suited to fulfilling your needs.

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