Evolve to 3D

31 Aug, 2003 By: J. Fred White

Did you know that almost 400,000 or more 2D users are expected to make the transition to 3D over the next two years? Many consider 3D better because, due to its visual nature, it is thought to improve communication of design intent throughout an organization, as shown in Figure 1. Because 3D so mirrors our real world, it has the potential to reduce or eliminate the need for prototypes; reduce design errors; speed design changes; increase design reuse; and accelerate downstream processes such as CAE analysis, tooling design, NC machining, and so on.

Although the benefits are well documented, some companies still have valid and understandable concerns holding them back, such as how do you make sure the job still gets done during the transition? Will employees embrace the change? Is 3D really as affordable and cost effective as those sales guys say?

For Solid Edge users, there is a four-step process that is available to them that allows them to evolve to 3D at a comfortable pace. The goal is to make the move to a full 3D design process on a case-by-case basis.

Figure 1. Here's an example that shows the visualization and communication advantages of working in 3D.

Step 1--Protect Your Legacy Data

Companies designing with 2D software are concerned about their legacy data, and rightly so. However, Solid Edge can read and write existing 2D files using translation wizards for AutoCAD, MicroStation, and 2D-IGES, for full control of drawing styles, dimensions, fonts, and layers.

Let's use the AutoCAD Translation Wizard for this example as we go through the import tasks. You can start by mapping AutoCAD line types to Solid Edge line types by clicking on the Solid Edge line type, and then selecting a line type from the drop-down list. You can continue this process in a similar fashion to import AutoCAD element colors to Solid Edge line widths, as shown in Figure 2; AutoCAD fonts to Solid Edge fonts; and AutoCAD hatch styles to Solid Edge hatch styles. Finally, you can define a configuration file to save these mappings for future use. To do this, click the Create a New Configuration File option, and then click the Copy To button. On the Save As dialog box, define a folder and document name for the new configuration file.

Figure 2. Remapping an AutoCAD element color using the translation Wizard is as simple as clicking a color, and then selecting a width from the drop-down list.

Step 2--Turn 2D into 3D

The Create 3D command allows you to quickly turn your 2D drawings into intelligent 3D models for use in assemblies or downstream operations. For example, the Create 3D command displays a dialog box, as shown in Figure 3, which prompts you for the drawing view elements you want to include in a sketch and to specify the preferred projection angle to use when the sketches are created in the new document. After you specify the projection angle, select the view type of the elements you want to include in the sketch. You can choose folded principal views, folded auxiliary views, or copy views. Folded principal views are orthogonal or aligned with the primary view. You can select this view type to define the primary view. Folded auxiliary views are true auxiliary views that are generally derived from principal views and require a fold line to determine the edge or axis around which you want to fold the view. Copy views are not orthogonal and may not actually align with the primary view. These views are placed as sketches on the same plane as the last principal view defined in the draft file.

After you define this information, you can select the geometry needed to create the sketches. You can include lines, arcs, circles, curves, polylines, and line strings created with imported data. You can also select which drawing views should be used to define the 3D model with full control over creation of the model using standard Solid Edge features, as shown in Figure 3.

Step 3--The Hybrid 2D/3D Design Workflow

Reuse of 2D data need not be limited to individual parts. First, create assembly layouts (as well as parts) for new designs, using familiar 2D concepts. Next, add 3D as you progress, mixing and matching 2D and 3D representations of parts, and only adding 3D detail when required. This provides you with a true hybrid 2D/3D workflow that gives you control of the process, allowing you to fit it to your company's needs.

Step 4--Full 3D Design

When you are ready, make use of the workflows you have learned and the data you created to move to 3D. Solid Edge's user interface guides you through standard workflows to create parts and assemblies. Design functions are automated, from concept layout through detail design and drafting. They also include built-in data management and integrated applications for analysis and manufacturing.

Figure 3. The Create 3D command lets you turn 2D drawings into intelligent 3D models for use in assemblies or downstream operations.


Users can use this step-by-step system to move to 3D at a comfortable pace. They can also choose to use the hybrid 2D/3D design capabilities of Solid Edge before moving to full 3D for as long as necessary. See you on the edge next month.