UGS Solid Edge v20 (Cadalyst Labs Review)31 Aug, 2007 By: IDSA ,Mike Hudspeth
Collaboration is key for the latest 2D/3D CAD software.
Designers have so many choices when it comes to solid modeling. How do you know which ones to consider? It comes down to a simple question: What are your needs? Do you work in an office with 5 to 50 engineers? Do you want a low total cost of ownership? Do you want a lot of bang for your buck? Then you need to check out UGS Solid Edge v20 by Siemens UGS PLM Software.
Solid Edge v20 is part of the UGS Velocity series, which also includes UGS Teamcenter Express v2 to manage data and processes for design through manufacturing, UGS Femap v9.3 for engineering analysis, and UGS NX CAM Express v2. Solid Edge v20 includes 2D and 3D systems. So Velocity covers PLM, 3D solid modeling, engineering analysis, drafting, and CAM — all in one package! No wonder Solid Edge has seen a solid 19% annual license growth each year from 2005 to 2007.
Collaboration is a big theme for Solid Edge v20. You can rest assured that whatever you model, someone's going to want to do something with it. Nowadays, we have offices all around the world. Solid Edge v20 is up to the task of sharing information. It provides efficient access for remote connections. Say you have an Asian office that needs to reference your geometry. All you need to do is set your server so everyone can access it via the Internet, and they're up and running. In a service-oriented architecture (SOA), you can have all of your important data controlled by that one server, which is accessible to everyone who has permission.
Siemens UGS PLM Software
Let's delve a little deeper into what Solid Edge v20 can do. Many industries create entire families of products that are virtually identical except for a few minor differences. Take the automobile industry. There are automatic and manual transmissions; four-, six-, and eight-cylinder engines; two-door coupes and four-door sedans; and convertibles — the list goes on forever. But they all are cars. It's the same in consumer goods. It used to be that VCRs throughout the world were produced by only four or five manufacturers. All they did was slap on a different front plate and that particular device was sold under the brand you knew. To further facilitate this trend, Solid Edge v20 lets you reuse geometry — so creating variations on a theme is easy. The Structure Editor is like a bill of materials (BOM) that allows you to build products from the assembled parts on hand just by selecting them. If you have a library of parts that you've modeled, you can create assemblies with as much variation as you have parts.
Of course, not all of the parts you have available are Solid Edge parts. In spite of the diligent efforts of the nice people at UGS PLM Software, other modelers still exist. You can import files and assemblies from other modelers and use them inside Solid Edge v20 even though they come in without intelligence. You can even open STL files. Solid Edge v20 Assembly Auto Constrain lets you assign relationships in imported assemblies. That means you can use those explicit models like native files to build up assemblies. Let Solid Edge v20 assign constraints (such as planar, offset, or axial align), or you can do it yourself. The Relationship Assistant will interactively help you assign assembly constraints (figure 1).
Figure 1. The Relationship Assistant helps users assign constraints to their assemblies — no matter where they came from.
Solid Edge isn't just for building boom boxes. It can be very handy for machine and factory layout — not necessarily the factory itself, but what you put in it — in other words, space planning. After you've made the basic layout of the walls, you can drop in the equipment and begin to optimize the space for the process you want (that is, conveyor-belt routing). When you know approximately where you want a piece of machinery, you can start to model it in detail.
With Solid Edge v20, you don't have to worry about huge assemblies. The software can handle assemblies of hundreds of thousands of parts. Of course, you're not going to need or want to load all those parts before you work. You can set Solid Edge v20 so that you work on only what you are concerned with by assigning a zone. A zone is a persistent range box (figure 2). You can open and view only what's in the zone that you select when you open the file. You can specify what's shown by what's totally in the zone box or what overlaps it.
Figure 2. By assigning a zone box, users can display and work on just that area that concerns them without having to load the entire assembly.
One advantage to having your zone set for overlapping is that it's really easy to see when someone else on your team intrudes into your zone with his or her parts. You can build your zone by picking parts to act as the boundary, and you can display your zone box so you'll know how close you are to the edge of where you want to be. You can move/copy subassemblies as single elements the way you would AutoCAD blocks. I also like that you can collect all component instances into groups with subgroups (for example, transmission, engine, cockpit, etc. [figure 3]).
Figure 3. By grouping related components, you can organize your tree. This feature also works with modeling features.
Luck of the Draw(ing)
Solid Edge has always worked to help users with AutoCAD 2D migration. It has a very impressive approach. UGS PLM Software feels that 2D drafting is now a commodity item and that it should be available to everyone. So last year, they began offering Solid Edge 2D as a free download. That's right — free! And it's no stripped-down subversion either. It's Solid Edge v20's full drafting package. And wow! What you can do with it! When you call up a drawing in Solid Edge v20 2D Drafting, it appears immediately. It can open and view drawings instantly because it saves 2D geometric views and doesn't need the 3D model. That also makes it easy to send drawings to people. You only need to send one file. For drawings of large assemblies, that capability could really save you.
Another way you can save some time is by using active versus inactive views. If you make a view inactive, it's essentially just a picture of the view; edits aren't allowed. You also can't detail an ISO view when it's in inactive mode. Solid Edge v20 will let you automatically add balloons that directly reference the BOM (figure 4). If you don't want to see a balloon on every instance of a component (you might have 500 screws of the same size), you can always delete those you deem superfluous.
Figure 4. Solid Edge v20 can add balloons to a drawing that are tied directly to the BOM. When a part is eliminated from the assembly, the balloon will go too. Note the watermark that indicates an inactive view.
When I was in drafting school (yes, I started out on the drafting board), my teachers taught me that it was good etiquette to put gaps in my extension lines so they wouldn't cross directly over another dimension's. In Solid Edge v20, the dimension line breaks are interactive. They let you dictate which will pass over which. You can also use goal seeking to zero in on numbers you need to hit. For instance, you need to use a certain length of chain. You can assign variables to specify which values may be changed to satisfy whatever goals you've set. If your sprockets are already defined, then the only things that can change are their placements. You can tell Solid Edge v20 to optimize for your stated goal. It will run through all the possibilities and present you with choices. In 2D drafting, you can add product manufacturing information pulled directly from the model. You also can create tabulated drawings for families of parts.
But Wait, There's More . . .
As with each version of Solid Edge, any review has insufficient space to cover all of the new and special features. Check out Solid Edge v20. At the very least you should download the 2D program — did I mention it's free? For more information about Solid Edge v20, visit www.ugs.com/solidedge. The software's ballpark price is $4,995. Highly Recommended.
Mike Hudspeth, IDSA, is an industrial designer, artist, and author based in St. Louis, Missouri.