On the Edge: Explode, Render and Animate in Solid Edge

6 Oct, 2006 By: Russell Brook

Create dynamic photorealistic animations and motion simulations using existing Solid Edge 3D models.

Last month I discussed how engineers can use Solid Edge's Motion Simulation capabilities to create full motion studies. In this month's article, I will explore how the ERA (Explode, Render and Animation) capabilities are used to bring designs to life, create dynamic documentation and extend design data beyond the engineering department.

Animated and Dynamic Documentation
Engineers can create motion studies and check for design errors using Solid Edge. But they can also communicate and share their designs outside of the engineering department by bringing the designs to life.

The ERA capabilities included in Solid Edge allow your designs to be in motion while exploded views depict your design being assembled or disassembled. At the same time you can control the camera angle and position, zoom in for close-up views of important details, apply photorealistic rendering settings and more to create animations that help sell your products and communicate your designs.

Your design teams can use ERA to produce dynamic documentation that helps communicate ideas and designs to non-engineers; create technical illustrations in maintenance and repair manuals for field engineers; and communicate clearer assembly manufacturing instructions and training videos for the shop floor by using dynamic 3D motion, AVI movies and technical illustrations.

Automatic Event Capture and Precise Control
All of your motion study and explode events are captured in a timeline called the Animation Editor. The Animation Editor provides precise control over duration, timing and position of all captured motion and explode events, camera and component paths and appearance. For added clarity, you can create camera paths to view your designs from the best vantage point -- including close-up views on important details -- and fly through and fly around capabilities.

You can add 3D component paths to control the movement of components anywhere in your design over and above the automatic exploded view paths. For more realism, and to add impact to your animations, you can change face styles and textures during the animation, as well as fading components in or out to emphasize or de-emphasize their importance.

Exploded view configurations can be saved and used to create pictorial views on drawing sheets that depict exploded assemblies with associated parts lists, as are commonly used by technical illustrators in maintenance and repair manuals.

Create AVI Movies
Once you have your animation set up the way you want, you can output AVI movie files that are easy to share among your colleagues using Windows Media Player or QuickTime, amongst others. The AVI format mainly depends on the codecs you have installed; Solid Edge supports all the formats delivered free with Windows XP and most other third-party codecs you have installed.

The default face styles are used to provide great quality rendering for most proposes, but if you require a higher standard to impress a customer, etc., Solid Edge Virtual Studio+ can be used to add textures, lighting effects, scenery and more to capture frame-by-frame animations to create photorealistic renderings of your AVI movies.

Exercise Overview
Solid Edge's Explode, Render and Animation tools are capable of producing dynamic movie (AVI) files. There are many capabilities available depending on your purpose for the animation. The intention of this exercise is to cover some of the fundamental capabilities. You can use the techniques described here with any of your assembly files, although one with about 10 components is a good size to use for this exercise. The exercises outlines the major steps involved in creating a full animation; however, Solid Edge's ERA architecture allows you to use some or all of the steps in combination depending on your intended purpose.

If you like, you can also include motion simulation results to add even more realism and clarity. Part 1 of this article covers the basic motion simulation techniques and workflow.

Exercise 1 -- Exploding Your Assembly
To start the exercise, open your assembly and switch to the Explode - Render - Animate interface via the top menu bar (figure 1).

Figure 1. The Explode - Render - Animate command.

Auto Explode provides the quickest way to explode your assembly. There are options to explode the entire assembly or to bind subassemblies together. Additional options allow you to adjust your spread distance or use an automatically calculated distance. Solid Edge also provides manual explode tools for precise control -- you can always use these tools after using Auto Explode for final customization.

To auto explode your assembly, select the Auto Explode icon from the main toolbar (figure 2, step 1). From the SmartStep ribbon bar, go with the default settings and click Explode (figure 2, step 2). Your assembly will explode (figure 2, step 3).

Figure 2. Three steps to auto explode your assemblies.

To reposition components that did not automatically explode in the sequence you require, select the Reposition Parts icon from the main tool bar (figure 3, step 1). Then select the component you want to move (figure 3, step 2a). Next select the new part you want to reposition your part against (figure 3, step 2b), and your part repositions (figure 3, step 3).

Figure 3. The steps to reposition components that are out of sequence.

You can also quickly and easily move components to a new location. Moving components keeps them in the same explode sequence; however, you also have options to move individual and dependent parts.

Start by selecting the Move Part icon from the main toolbar (figure 4, step 1). Next choose the part to move and click the right mouse button (figure 4, step 2). Chose the axis you want to move the part along (figure 4, step 3). Now drag your part -- note that you can keep choosing different axes until you are satisfied that the part is correctly positioned. Click the right mouse button when you have finished (figure 4, step 4). You are now ready to move other parts in the same manner if you wish.

Figure 4. The stages for altering a component's position.

Exercise 2 -- Controlling Your Animation's Timeline and Events
All these exercises create events, including speed, duration, location, position, etc. The Animation Editor captures all these events and allows you to graphically manage and adjust them to provide you with more control. The Animation Editor consists of a timeline, an event tree and other controls for adjusting component appearance (solid translucent or textured), setting up cameras and flight paths as well as AVI settings and more. To start the Animation Editor, click on the Animation Editor icon on the main toolbar (figure 5).

Figure 5. The Animation Editor.

You can combine motion studies, fade components in and out, change their color and set up part and camera flight paths via the Solid Edge interface. You can expand on the exercises here to build truly amazing animations.

Rendering -- VS+
Solid Edge allows you to include frame-by-frame rendering of assemblies during the creation of movie files. If you are not familiar with the rendering capabilities of Solid Edge Virtual Studio+, a previous article I wrote will familiarize you with the fundamentals for creating a rendered scene using Solid Edge models.

Solid Edge Motion Simulation and ERA tools allow you to complete far more than I can address in the scope of this article. Explore the possibilities in Solid Edge and discover how you can communicate designs outside of your engineering department: create training and maintenance materials and shop floor documentation.

See you On the Edge next month.

About the Author: Russell Brook

Russell Brook

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