Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology, Part 4 (On the Edge Solid Edge Tutorial)

30 Nov, 2008 By: Russell Brook

Survive in a multi-CAD world.

Editor's note: This tutorial courtesy of Siemens PLM Software.

Because many products are developed in multiple locations or throughout a supply chain, working with customer and supplier data is something most companies need to do regularly, and they usually don't have control over the CAD systems used by their partners. In an ideal world we could all share and edit CAD data from differing systems without additional investment. Unfortunately this is not so easy in the real world because each system uses a unique data structure and file type, that was until synchronous technology.

Models from different systems can be edited like native files using Synchronous Technology.

In this penultimate article I will show how the synchronous technology capabilities in Solid Edge work just the same with foreign data as it does with files created in Solid Edge, allowing you to edit data from other CAD systems as easy as native models. Before I look at how you can survive in this multi-CAD world, let's look at some of the reasons why it's so difficult using current traditional systems.

Why Is It So Difficult to Survive in a Multi-CAD World?
Despite claims by vendors that their system is 'the' standard, the fact remains that most companies choose different systems for a variety of reasons, as such there is no real standard. Instead there are two main types of modeling systems, history-based modeling and explicit modelers. History-based systems use a modeling kernel to describe geometry, a relationship manager for parametric control, and a feature layer manager to track the models history. Each time you add geometry, you add a feature that is recorded in a feature tree. If you want to change the model, you go back to the feature that holds the information. This feature manager is why history-based systems can't pass data back and forth unless some neutral transfer format is used, which destroys all feature information.

The problem with imported data is that only the 3D geometry makes it through the translation, without the feature information editing becomes hard if not impossible (1). Synchronous Technology in Solid Edge allows you to edit imported 3D geometry as though it was a native file (2).

History-based systems have provided ways to work with imported data, for example feature recognition and direct editing. Although these techniques are better than working on a dumb solid, they still have limited usefulness. Feature recognition analyzes the 3D geometry and then tries to guess what features can be extracted. At best you end up with a set of features that can be edited, but you usually loose the original design intent, even if you manually override the automatic mode. A cousin of feature recognition is the ability to strip out the feature tree from one CAD system and try to map features back to your system. It sounds good in principle, but sometimes there is no direct feature comparison, which requires an in-depth knowledge of the donor system and file types that can be easily encrypted between versions.

Some history-based systems have been using another technique for editing imported geometry called direct editing. On one hand direct editing is useful for making fast retrospective changes to a model when you don't want to work out how it was constructed. But direct editing is still dependent on feature history and can destroy design intent because a subsequent direct edit can override features created early on. This parametric spaghetti can be quite confusing especially if you originally created a design, so you know how the mode was constructed. If you change a hole or radius size of the original, for example, and when the model regenerates, the change is overridden by the direct edit. Do this on several features and even simple models can become unwieldy.

Nowadays many products are designed using data from different CAD systems. Most companies need to edit supplier data (and don't have the luxury of buying each system to edit this data), which is difficult and time consuming, if not impossible, using existing technology. So how does Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology allow you to survive in a multi-CAD world?

How to Survive a Multi-CAD World Using Synchronous Technology
Firstly, in order to manipulate geometry you need to be able to select geometry quickly. Since the import process loses features, you need a fast easy way to select geometry so an automated selection method is a must. A powerful selection manager in Solid Edge provides an automatic selection based on a geometric function. This powerful tool can find groups of faces that "look" like a rib, boss, or cutout and it can also find elements that are parallel, perpendicular, and even cylindrical faces of equal diameter. The geometry found can be saved into a user defined feature for future edits or added to a feature library for reuse later. The Selection Manager works the same for native or imported data so users aren't burdened with learning commands specific to handling just imported data.

Automated selection tools in Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology enable users to easily work on featureless imported data.

To really thrive in a multi-CAD world, you must be able to manipulate imported models as if they were native designs. All the tools in Solid Edge allow just that. Whether you are working on a model with a feature collection or a b-rep solid, you can make all your edits and still get predictable results. Making changes is easy as adding 3D driving dimensions or dragging faces with those powerful grab and go handles. To ensure your model changes predictably, Live Rules finds and maintains strong geometric relationships so symmetry stays intact even though the defining constraint was lost. No more remodelling parts just to make edits, no more hack and wack workflows so you can move simple geometry like a mounting boss or flange.

All of the capabilities of Synchronous Technology are just as relevant to imported files as with native Solid Edge files.

Synchronous technology works directly on the 3D geometry. Combined with powerful selection tools, you don't need native features to make changes; and with 3D driving dimensions you can add precise control to imported data. By editing supplier data as easily as native models, you can make changes up to 100x faster than the supplier who sent it. This equates to less downtime waiting for supplier turnarounds, plus in-house changes eliminates supplier change fees and quality issues with 2D markups using edited 3D models.

In the next installment I will discuss how Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology opens CAD up to more types of user and applies similar 2D editing workflows to 3D geometry to allow 2D users to easily make their transition to 3D.

Until then, see you On the Edge next time.

About the Author: Russell Brook

Russell Brook

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