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Features List 13
From CAD User AEC Magazine Vol 14 No 01 - JANUARY 2001
Charles Clark looks at version 9 of Solid Edge 3D solid modelling package, and finds much to recommend it, including Xpand3D, a useful tool for creating 3D models from 2D drawings!
One of the most interesting
things about Solid Edge Version 9 has nothing to do with the software.
As it happened I saw Unigraphics Version 17 and Solid Edge Version
9 within a week of each other and the most striking aspect of the
joint experience, was that the material felt so similar. I'm not
talking about people 'borrowing' slides to beef up a presentation
here. It seems that the Unigraphics and Solid Edge development teams
are working so closely together on integrated functionality, that
the story coming from the different camps has a very strong ring
of familiarity about it. It feels like there's an overlap of about
60 - 70 percent in the offerings of the current versions of both
products. This overlap is in terms of development commonality. I'm
not suggesting for a minute that Unigraphics are plagiarising one
product to bolster the other and vice versa. What I am suggesting
is that the level of integration between the two has reached such
a significant level that now they are firmly placed 'on the same
page' in their development efforts and this can only be good news
for customers. Solid Edge enhancements
Solid Edge Version 9 adds about 300 enhancements in large assembly design, solid modelling, drafting, engineering assistance, Internet collaboration and web publishing. The main thrusts of the development are, however, productivity and assembly performance and 2D to 3D migration.
There is a new weldment design environment for machinery and large assembly design and simplified parts improve the performance of large assemblies. Besides dynamic collision detection and new DesignAssistant sensors, there are new utilities to assist in the migration from 2D to 3D, general performance improvements from display enhancements and an integrated engineering handbook.
The optional engineering handbook comes from Mechsoft, so, on the face of it, it's not that unique. The uniqueness comes from its integration with Solid Edge, organised by Unigraphics Solutions. For the Solid Edge user it's almost time to throw away the drawer full of crib sheets you have been collecting since your sixth form Applied Maths classes, for all those formulas you can't quite remember - they're now in the software. It's like your own version of Timoshenko or Roark and Young (depending on which side of the Atlantic you spent your formative years) and there are plans to include shop floor data like the Zeus guides.
There is also a comprehensive smart part library for machine design, courtesy of Mechsoft, that includes bolts, nuts, washers, clevis pins, keys, shafts, bearings, seals, retaining rings, tubes, and gears et al.
All this is linked associatively to Solid Edge. For instance, you can design gears from gear design formulae, and then link the shaft design to the gear design. If the gear design parameters change, the shaft updates with the gears etc. However, be careful -'garbage in, garbage out' applies here - and you still have to exercise your engineering discretion. A significant addition to Solid Edge’s tools.
The new weldment design environment allows you to add weld details to large assemblies as if they were a single part. The weldment modelling task is largely reduced by using a logical, wizard like process-specific workflow, whereby you define the components of the weld, add pre-weld surface preparations, specify weld beads, and define post-weld machining operations where appropriate. These details are added to the model and they exist in welded sub-assemblies not the individual parts. Solid Edge drafting supports all weldment documentation and you can produce drawings of weldment designs in pre-weld and post-weld states.
Large assembly performance is boosted by part simplification. You can now define alternative, simplified versions of parts with fewer details than the 'as-designed' version. You can remove features, faces, and regions to create a simplified version of the model. You can then use either the as-designed or the simplified version in assemblies. Assembly performance is dramatically increased with simplified parts.
Performance is also boosted by some display enhancements. A more efficient triangle representation (tessellation) is saved in files which reduces the file size and improves assembly display performance and initial assembly loading.
A new Sharpen command on the Main toolbar in all environments (except Drafting) incrementally controls the display quality of a view to permit better control of speed and display quality. The Sharpen command replaces
the Display Quality functionality available in previous releases on the View tab of the Options dialog box. Overall speed improvements of about 8 times have been reported.
Navigation and management of large assemblies is improved with a new custom query selection capability. You can now find and select assembly components based on any defined properties, such as material, revision level, or author etc.. Interactive forms provide an easy method to define the conditions and scope of the query. The query selection tool can be used to create subsets of an assembly based upon one or more matching property criteria.
Solid Edge assembly now supports non-graphic parts such as lubricants, fluids, adhesives, coatings and paint, and, if added to assemblies, appear with appropriate quantities and units in parts lists and Bills of Material. Where quantities are small for, say, thread locking Compounds, an 'as required' designation is used.
Version 9 now includes dynamic collision detection tools that help eliminate errors and optimise assembly motion. As you move under-constrained assembly parts, Solid Edge automatically detects collisions, highlighting the faces involved in the collision and providing an audible warning. The Simply Motion kinematics analysis package has extended its interference detection tools to find the point of initial contact in the range of motion, and also to find minimum distances between two parts.
Solid Edge Version 9 adds two new DesignAssistant sensors to provide persistent monitoring of the design process. Meter-like readouts keep you informed of any violations of user-defined parameters on a sensor panel in the Solid Edge interface. There is a new sensor that monitors the surface area of a part to help you stay within part size limits. A new custom sensor also allows you to monitor values calculated by custom programs, such as manufacturing cost calculations. Both are added to the existing sensors that monitor minimum distances, sheet metal manufacturability, and other design variables.
Solid Edge Web Publisher is an integrated module developed by Immersive Design (best known as the developers of IPA - Interactive Pre-Assembly, the add-on animation module for the mid-range market). Web Publisher enables you to create web content quickly and easily from Solid Edge design data. It is activated directly from a Solid Edge session and it includes an interactive wizard that guides you through a step-by-step process to create web pages with 3-D models, product structure and Bill of Materials information and design file properties. It creates web pages with accurate, compact 3-D product models, that can be viewed and manipulated with the standard web browsers.
With Web Publisher you can quickly and cost effectively distribute design information to engineering and non-engineering users throughout an enterprise or extended enterprise. Web Publisher can be extended with Visual Basic programming to create sales configuration/automation and engineer-to-order applications.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle stopping people migrating from 2D to 3D is the apparent complexity of the unfamiliar modelling process. 2D users are familiar with constructing drawings - the notion of building a 3D model with all its detail, before you can start the drawing process is prohibitively foreign to many.
The more painless you make the modelling process the easier it is to convert people from 2D to 3D. Solid Edge Version 9 includes Xpand3D, an optional module that automatically creates solid models from 2D CAD drawings. It works with drawings imported in AutoCAD DXF and DWG formats, as well as MicroStation DGN and 2D IGES files. You just select orthogonal drawing views appropriate to various part types and Xpand3D builds parametric, feature-based Solid Edge part models automatically. It allows designers who are moving from old 2D systems to preserve and exploit legacy data and 2D design expertise.
It sorts out 'bad' drawing views, where there are overlapping lines or gaps and, if it cannot resolve particular geometry, it does a 'best guess' rather than waving a white flag. It also sorts out cross-hatching in section views. The better the drawing, the better the chances of complete conversion to 3D.
If you are happier working in a 2D environment, you can even cheat the System, generating a 2D drawing with the appropriate views and using Xpand3D to generate the 3D model.
Unigraphics is still very much the high end, 'power' users product (with all the functionality that that entails) and Solid Edge is the mid-range, general purpose user's system with lots of easy to use functionality for everyday projects. The level of integration between the two products is now significant, they are no longer just 'stable mates'. A mixed Unigraphics and Solid Edge environment is now a very logical thing to do and Solid Edge should no longer be viewed as a 'poor man's' Unigraphics or a cost effective starter product. No other developer can offer this kind of integration today and it really sets Unigraphics apart for the rest.
As for Solid Edge Version 9, it's a great release with some really powerful functionality - I particularly liked Xpand3D for automatic generation of 3D models from 2D drawings -- several vendors have tried this with little tangible success to date. The engineer's handbook is a real bonus -- the generation of associative, parametric parts from engineering equations has never been so easy. CU
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