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Features List 13
From CAD User Mechanical Magazine Vol 20 No 04 - APRIL/MAY 2007
NX5 produces a major series of enhancements to UGS's popular engineering design software, as David Chadwick explains
Sitting through a prolonged demonstration of the many new features that come with UGS’s NX5 can be a daunting business. UGS say that the latest release is one of its most important updates, and provides many enhancements that improve the performance of the software, the way it handles large assembles, and its design capabilities. The session, as concentrated as it was, was leavened by information about another UGS tool, Geolus - a geometric shape search engine that I found absolutely fascinating.
Foremost in the new features is a tool that changes the way in which complex assemblies are built, by embedding both mockup and review capabilities in at the design stage of the process. Having both the design and collaboration tools in a single solution, sharing the same files simplifies and speeds up the design process. Called Active Mock Up, it cuts out the need to maintain separate design and mockup solutions, cuts down on file management overheads, and eliminates the sort of errors that occur when swapping data between systems.
Paul Brown, UGS' marketing director, explained the problems inherent in a typical design review process. “Mock-up was, traditionally, a static process, where you had to stop the design process to transfer the data to other members of a team.” It was, he explained, the large size of the data files that prevented them from being brought together to amalgamate both processes.
NX5, however, has incorporated a major architectural change that enables it to utilise the company's JT Open lightweight data format, and to introduce Direct Modelling capabilities to 3D models in that format. This means that engineers can now handle many assembly design functions for faceted representations without the need for precise solid geometry.
Using lightweight geometry also enables engineers to work on much larger models, or to reduce memory usage (typically 60-65%) and rendering times. NX5 has also introduced some of UGS' Teamcenter visualization technologies in Active Mock Up, providing the instant review-to-modification capability.
Direct Modelling, a non-parametric or history-based modelling technique, gives engineers the ability to perform many modifications to assemblies quickly. Although used with JT Open lightweight data, care should be exercised when handling data from multiple sources, as the format, although open, is not yet quite as universal as UGS would like it to be.
Another important enhancement is the innovative user interface, designed to get people using the software more quickly and to improve usability. Menus and dialogue boxes have been set up to indicate input and command steps more clearly.
Commands are presented in a top-down flow - you step through the process in a logical manner - and similar functions are grouped together, with titles that explain what the command does. UGS has even provided red asterisks to denote required steps, and green ticks to show completed ones. The user interface can even be modified on-the-fly, by clipping the dialogue boxes you want to use to the 'rail' along the upper edge of the graphics window.
Engineering Process Management
Managing data and encouraging the re-use of information is central to the engineering design process. This has been assisted in NX5 by extending the integration of the software with UGS' Teamcenter, introducing a new Teamcenter Navigator resource bar. Created in the familiar NX style, users will be able to manage their data more effectively when opening, adding, importing, exporting or substituting components.
Teamcenter also has extended search capabilities, with full filtering and saved searches, so that users can quickly find and use previously saved data.
Creating 'interfaces' to parts helps companies to both reduce the amount of rework needed and improve concurrent design. Including part geometry and expressions defining connection points, locations and interfaces for related components, user access can be confined to a part's interface and its dependencies.
Narrowing the users choice down to approved components streamlines change notifications, and can reduce change conflict by up to 60%. To support this, a new Reuse Library navigation tool in NX displays standard parts and reusable content in a hierarchical tree structure - allowing companies to set up company standard parts, catalogue parts and design parts in Teamcenter folders.
Taking the reuse philosophy one step further, knowledge-based selection automates part family member selection and placement. All you have to do is drag the part family icon to the target geometry and the software sorts out the rest (size, model, orientation, etc.) and then places it! This is ideal for dealing with nuts, bolts, screws, washers, bearings and so on, and as a result UGS has even added a library of industry standard parts to help you.
Industrial Design and Styling
Curve and surface modelling has been given more freedom and control. I know that sounds contradictory, but with the new styled sweeps, blends, corners and global shaping tools adding greater freedom in expressing curved contours, comes continuity controls, editing handles and more input and selection options. They all combine to provide greater control of the geometry. Users can now create freeform shapes faster and more easily.
Coupled with this is the analysis of faceted bodies, for creating surfaces from them, used in reverse engineering. The software calculates the minimum radius of curvature for each facet and creates a colour map, distinguishing high and low areas.
From this it is able to extract feature lines and regions of different curvature, and then to use a rapid surfacing tool to generate a curve network and a G1 continuous model of the faceted body.
Further new analysis tools in NX5 also assist the designer in optimising the functional and aesthetic qualities of the geometry. Of particular use in the automotive industry, where UGS's software is widely used, NX5 will help in the analysis of the gap and the flushness between adjacent door panels in a car, and even evaluate how large gap and flushness will appear from specified viewing directions. If you think about the implications of such an analysis, you will realise what an effective and complex tool this is.
NX’s visualisation capabilities have also been improved, allowing users to create, save and re-use visualisation parameters, and to create 'cameras' to capture orientation, zoom and perspective of current work views - displayed in the part navigator or on screen for fast switching among view parameters.
NX 'scenes' can also capture background, reflections, lighting, stage set-up and other parameters, by simply dragging and dropping predefined scenes onto a view to set up all of the visualisation parameters. Another spin-off from the motor industry, potentially saving the designer heaps of time in setting up different model scenarios.
This is the tool that I really found interesting. Not part of the NX5 launch, it still deserves a place in this article by virtue of its unique capabilities. Geolus Search software is a geometry-based search engine. The software was brought into UGS' purlieu when it acquired the German company that developed the technology. It provides automated part searches based on geometric similarity, making it easier to find and re-use parts and information. It’s capabilities go far beyond prototyping and parts classification systems though, as it also has the unique ability to build a searchable parts database across multi-CAD environments.
Geolus Search is a high-performance search engine for 3D data that can locate similar parts in large, heterogeneous data resources within fractions of a second, by using an innovative technology (patent pending) that analyses the 3D geometry of the parts and automatically extracts its characteristic features. It works with all widely used PLM and CAD systems, and can be quickly adapted to suit a user’s individual requirements.
Like most search engines it is very easy to use, and can be accessed from any commonly available web browser. You no longer have to be a designer to search for design parts - anyone can do it.
Geolus can notify developers when they seem to be running the risk of designing parts that are similar or identical to existing parts, and the system can be configured to automatically notify users of the situation - or it can be used to find design parts whose administrative data has been lost, but whose geometric data remains the same. In fact it’s probably worth an article in its own right at some point in the near future! www.ugs.com
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