Solid Edge steps up to surfacing

31 Aug, 2003 By: Don LaCourse

Rapid Blue technology adds hip hybrid modeling tools.

Highly RecommendedThe latest release of EDS PLM Solutions’ midrange flagship product, Solid Edge v14, has been shipping for a while, and now it’s time to separate the hip from the hype. After recent releases of relatively minor upgrades to the core modeling application (most occurred in add-on applications), v14 hits the mark with advanced surface modeling, dubbed Rapid Blue. Rapid Blue is Solid Edge v14’s advanced surface modeling technology. It lets you create complex surfaces and then edit them without rolling back the part’s history. This is achieved with new commands and capabilities.

The first new command, called BlueDots, connects two independent pieces of geometry, even if they don't connect (two curves, for

Figure 1. Rapid Blue technology lets you bypass traditional methods of surface modeling. The two curves in this image need to be connected to create a surface. With the BlueDot command, you can identify geometry anywhere in the history tree and connect it.
example), that lie anywhere in the part's history tree (figure 1). You can then move the connection point, called a BlueDot, with another cool feature called Dynamic Edit (figure 2). With Dynamic Edit, you drag a BlueDot or any dimension or profile element and see the part update in real time (in shaded mode). You can also constrain BlueDot movements along an axis or a plane to further localize the effect to connected geometry. SolidWorks 2004 also supports feature editing without replaying a part's history.

BlueDots are definitely hip. History-tree dependency and editing, in my opinion, is the leading cause of user frustration with today's

Figure 2. Dynamic Edit helps you identify a Blue Dot and move the surface to a desired location. In this case, the part is symmetric, so we must lock in on the midplane as we move the Blue Dot to ensure symmetry.
crop of solid modeling applications. The ability to bypass history ordering and dependency is a welcome improvement. Competing products don't have a feature similar to BlueDots, but can achieve the same result with a few additional steps.

Solid Edge v14 also lets you convert analytical curves such as lines, arcs, and circles to b-spline curves. You can then increase the degree of the resulting curve so that localized editing can occur. This lets you create more complex shapes out of basic shapes. However, the opposite is not true. You cannot convert a b-spline curve to a series of connected, simpler analytical curves like you can in VX CAD/CAM.

Figure 3. With the BlueSurf command, you can use an unlimited number of guide and cross curves to define a shape. Here is a 1×1 curve with which I can create the surface for the CD player lid. Note the automatic BlueDot for downstream editing.
The second new command, BlueSurf, creates complex surfaces from open or closed sketch curves and other part edges (figure 3). The number of input curves is unlimited, but they must all be connected. BlueSurf supports guide curves, so it can replace the previous Sweep and Loft commands (they remain available). It also supports open or closed end options so the end result can be a surface or a solid. SolidWorks, think3, and VX CAD/CAM all support guide curves and closed end options. Think3 goes beyond this with G2 continuity endcaps.

Other new features complement this command. Later on in your design, you can use the Insert Sketch Step on the SmartStep ribbon bar to

Figure 4. With BlueSurf, you can increase control of the surface by adding cross and guide curve sketches. Dragging a plane across the surface gives you dynamic feedback to locate the sketch.
add new cross-section sketches to a BlueSurf feature (figure 4). The result is a b-spline curve, even if the shape is analytical. You can choose to create BlueDots or pierce points where the plane intersects other guide curves.

Pierce points allow the guide curves to drive the sketch, maintaining that associativity. BlueDots, however, drive both the guide curve it intersects and the sketch that it's on. This means that you can override the location of the sketch plane. You need to be careful, because other parts of the sketch may drive unintended shape changes. The curves can trim the BlueSurf and edges to control tangency with mating surfaces.

The fact that BlueSurf creates b-splines when you add new cross curves can be a hindrance as well as a benefit. If you want the new geometry to consist of lines, arcs, or circles, you must create the new sketch manually outside the BlueSurf command. VX CAD/CAM counters this with its Designer Arc capability. It lets you create and edit G2 (curvature continuous) b-splines with a simple arc.

Other modeling enhancements include the Round command that now supports free surfaces and offers an impressive array of cross-section types, including Constant Radius, Constant Width, Chamfer, Ratio Chamfer, Conic, and G2 Continuous. In today's midrange market, only VX

For AutoCAD Users

If you’re concerned about paper space and model space compatibility between Solid Edge and AutoCAD, fear not. The file-mapping section of Solid Edge v14’s AutoCAD Export Translation Wizard is enhanced. You can now export dimensions, annotations, and other items in a Solid Edge drawing sheet to AutoCAD paper space while the drawing view geometry exports to model space.

CAD/CAM can match Solid Edge v14 in filleting, rounding, and face blending options.

One thing you should know about BlueDots is that you may need to eliminate other constraints on the two pieces of geometry for the BlueDot to do its assigned task. For example, if a surface is already constrained in one direction and a BlueDot wants to move it in another direction, Solid Edge automatically removes the previous constraint. This may be difficult to understand for those who aren't familiar with the part's history.

BlueSurf is more hype than hip. It performs as intended, but it doesn't break any new ground, as the name might suggest. This is advanced surfacing 101 that other solid modeling applications have been doing for years. However, its tie to BlueDots is unique.

Solid Edge always provides impressive tools and excellent system performance with large assemblies, a demand of a user base focused on machine design. V14 adds a couple of new features that expand its capability and ease of use. The first is a new cam relationship located on the Place Part SmartStep ribbon bar. You can use it to position parts with respect to one or more faces that define a cam-shaped surface, such as a cam shaft or cam slot. As the cam moves through its range of motion, the constrained part follows the cam. Both SolidWorks and Inventor have a similar option.

Figure 5. Once you place an element from the systems library, v14 creates the features captured in the library. Here the mounting bosses, strengthening ribs, and cutout slots on the bottom appear on the bottom part.
Another new command called Create Systems Library is also definitely hip. It takes intelligent components to a whole new level. You can define a series of parts and subassemblies as a group and then place them into another assembly later. No big deal, right? Here's the kicker: When you drag and drop a group from the systems library into the assembly, you can have Solid Edge automatically add supporting features such as mounting holes, bosses, and ribs (figure 5).

Much MCAD development in recent releases targets assembly modeling. Other systems have varying degrees of automation and intelligence that you can build into a component. Think3 is perhaps the most advanced with its Smart objects and unique Product Configurator. Like Solid Edge, SolidWorks and VX CAD/CAM have smart components that automate insertion and placement. SolidWorks automatically inserts hardware components, and Inventor's iParts can automate multiple insertions of a part.

The company's optimum system requirements for Solid Edge v14 with Insight Technology Client are an Intel Pentium II/III/4 or AMD Athlon workstation with 256MB RAM or more, resolution of at least 1024×768, and an OpenGL accelerator with 65,536 colors. For Insight design management users, the server should have SharePoint Portal Server v1 and Windows 2000 Server with SP2.

Solid Edge v14 incorporates many other enhancements. The new Windows XP-style interface makes the product easier to look at and use (figure 6).

Figure 6. Solid Edge v14 has the look and feel of the Windows XP interface.

Curve creation, editing and analysis tools, formula-driven dimensions, broken-out sections, and silhouette points are just a few new features.

No one can argue that Solid Edge v14 isn't hip. In my opinion, it's one of the best releases ever. Its support for advanced surface modeling tools is a welcome boost to the core modeling application and makes it more attractive to the product design sector. EDS PLM Solutions continues to develop innovative solutions that push midrange MCAD closer to the high-end applications. Highly Recommended.