Streamlining Structural Frames

21 Sep, 2004 By: Adrian Scholes

Solid Edge helps you build the foundation for your machinery or process equipment design.

Solid Edge v16 introduces a process-specific environment designed to speed the creation of rigid frame structures for machinery or process equipment design. An intuitive interface guides you through the process of creating a 3D sketch of the frame skeleton, modifying default features, and applying standard structural cross sections. Then it automatically generates a 3D solid model of the frame.

Create the Frame Skeleton
To create a structural frame, click the Structural Frames button in the Assembly environment. This is where you create the skeleton -- a fully associative path for the frame section to follow. This step uses the same tools developed for the Solid Edge XpresRoute application, so you can quickly create 3D variational sketches using specialized modeling aids such as OrientXpres.

OrientXpres is an interactive design aid for drawing the 3D lines and arcs that the frame members will follow (figure 1). It supports straight and curved frame paths, so you can define frame components to be linear, curved, or bent. As you draw line or arc segments, you can use OrientXpres to lock the orientation of the segment parallel to an axis or plane. You can also associate path segments to existing assembly geometry using standard Solid Edge relationships such as parallel, perpendicular, and colinear. As with 2D sketches, you can define the size of the segments using dimensions, variables, and other constraints to set relationships such as making two frame members equal in length.

Figure 1. Tools such as OrientXpres let you quickly and accurately define a 3D skeleton for the frame.

As well as creating path segments from 2D sketches, you can use edges and other geometry from 3D parts in the assembly. You can also build frames that have more than two frame members joined at a single vertex, as explained below.

Building the 3D Frame
After you create the frame skeleton, click the Frames button. This command lets you build the frame unit by choosing segments of the frame skeleton and selecting specific cross sections to apply to those segments.

You have a number of end conditions to choose from: miter, butt1, butt2, or none (figure 2). The Miter and None options are self-explanatory. If you specify a butt1 condition, the system will trim against the longest member -- that is, it removes material from the shortest member to suit. A butt2 condition is the opposite, trimming against the shortest member.

Figure 2. Solid Edge offers different options for automatically and intelligently creating the correct end conditions of frame components, including mitered (left), butt1 (center), and butt2 (right).

After clicking on the desired path geometry, you can either select a cross section from the pull-down list in the SmartStep ribbon bar, or browse the standard library components to specify the frame component type and size. Solid Edge offers a complement of frame sizes in its Standard Parts application, and many more are available in the optional Solid Edge Machinery Library. You can also add your own custom components to the library (see Solid Edge Help for details) and use them in the same manner.

After you select the relevant cross sections, Solid Edge automatically creates the 3D model of the frame by applying those sections to the chosen path segments and using the end treatment options you specified in the initial Frames dialog box.

At this point, you can either click the Finish button on SmartStep, or make any necessary edits to the path step, frame cross sections, or frame end conditions for the set of components you just created. If you finish, you can then continue to add more frame members to the path geometry. The system trims subsequent frames against existing frame components, so you can mix and match sizes and shapes of frame components in any combination.

A nice feature of this workflow is the built-in support for automatic positioning (figure 3). As you continue to add components to the overall frame, those individual components analyze any existing, adjacent frame components to determine their correct location and orientation. If the automatically chosen position is incorrect, you can quickly shift the component using the key to rotate in 90

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