Software Review: Solid Edge ST, Part 1

7 Jan, 2009 By: Jeffrey Rowe

Synchronous Technology is only the beginning of what's new in the latest version of Solid Edge.

In the MCAD arena, 2008 generally was not a year when most vendors piled on tons of new features and capabilities to their core products, and for the most part, that's been a good thing. Instead, the vendors have concentrated their efforts on making their applications more stable and user friendly.

Siemens PLM Software is part of this group, but its notable exception has been the introduction of Synchronous Technology (ST) in the newest version of Solid Edge (Solid Edge ST), and in its brother, NX 6. Although Synchronous Technology has received a lot of attention since it was first announced, Solid Edge ST is a lot more than just that. In Part 2 of this review, I'll cover some other features that complement and support it to provide a better picture of what Solid Edge ST is all about.

Solid Edge ST

Solid/Surface Modeling with Synchronous Technology

Overall Product: A-

This version: A-

Ease of use: A-

Features: B+

Installation: A

Customization: A-

Interoperability: A

Documentation: B

Innovation: A-

Value: A-

Pros: Synchronous Technology; interoperability with NX; user interface.

Cons: ST just getting started; Live Rules implementation.

Price: Starts at approximately $4,000 (U.S.)

For more information: Solid Edge

Contact: Siemens PLM Software

Synchronous Technology and Beyond
What is known today as ST in Solid Edge began a few years ago as direct editing (DE), but it has been greatly enhanced in a short time span. In the DE days, you could directly edit models without having to edit the history tree. This ability eliminated parent/child issues that dictate what can be edited. One big advantage of ST is how it changes the design process positively by eliminating the need to preplan all possible editing scenarios. Another is multisource data import without concern for importing associated features and parameters -- a huge step for true interoperability. Speaking of interoperability, Solid Edge ST can easily import data from NX, so there is no sibling rivalry here.
Features are stored in a collection rather than in a linear tree, so features can be manipulated without the problems associated with ordered regeneration.

Solid Edge ST employs what it calls user personas for setting work environments. This feature affects many aspects of the software including modeling functionality. Personas are like functional job roles, depending on what type of modeling you want to do, synchronous or traditional: synchronous only (the new direct modeling capabilities in this release for parts and assemblies); traditional modeling only (Solid Edge functionality available prior to this release); and both (lets you choose which modeling technique you want to use). For the purposes of this review, and unless otherwise noted, I will be discussing features and capabilities of Solid Edge ST in the context of the ST environment.
This time around, ST makes sketching more flexible and is available in the part and assembly environments; however, even here some capabilities are missing, such as variable radius fillets. In other words, for this version there is no ST in sheet metal and weldments, but all of these are available in the traditional mode of Solid Edge. Nevertheless, I was able to use ST for a tricky problem: importing a model with open surfaces and moving and rotating them to create a solid without stitching.

ST can be applied to portions of models or entire models and will let you import features, such as bosses, from other MCAD systems, such as Pro/ENGINEER and CATIA. You can use all of the create and edit tools in the same manner with imported data as with native data. Relationships and constraints of these imported features are inferred by ST and can be treated as if originally created in NX or Solid Edge.

This is a new twist on feature recognition because, according to the company, any boundary representation (b-rep) data that can be extracted can be used with ST. This ability broadens the utility of ST, but there is more to the system's technology than just editing foreign data.

In the next MCAD Tech News, I'll discuss Solid Edge ST's new interface and look at some of its many other new features.

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