Machine Design

Solid modeler ready for tougher surfacing jobs

Solid Edge was once known mainly for modeling machined parts. It wasn't that it couldn't do surfacing, it just wasn't the focus. The software had a set of less than streamlined features for handling complex surfaces. In Solid Edge Version 14, however, complex surfaces take center stage.

The software is built on a technology called Rapid Blue. It lets users directly edit models' topology. Parametric models maintain their intelligence while surfacing components change part shapes in ways not previously possible in Solid Edge. Rapid Blue dynamically edits surfaces with shape preserving curves and capabilities called Blue Dots and Blue Surfs. Because the technology builds on parametric models, it is not constrained by modeling history the way solids are. It is more of a process system than a historical one.

Shape-preserving curves minimize changes to an original design intent while still exploring alternatives. Users control curves by vertices, points, even silhouette points Ñ all without disturbing parametric sketch constraints. Contour curves can be placed directly on surfaces. Cross curves can be created by projecting 2D geometry. And intersection or pierce points can be created where curve or edge entities intersect a sketch. These points can be constrained or modified as needed. You can even import bitmap images into sketches.

Blue Dots are essentially point clouds that let users control geometry by manipulating specific points, regardless of modeling history. Blue Surfs (Surfaces) are also independent of model history. They have full end and side control. That means users control tangency or continuity with related surfaces and faces. And users are not limited in the number of creation inputs. They can add and adjust points until they have a needed shape.

The Convert-to-Curve command changes curves without deleting or recreating them. For instance, modeling can start in a blocky, undefined way and change as work progresses. And because edited surfaces show their changes quickly, users see what they are doing as they do it. This is more intuitive than trial and error.

Face-to-face blending is great for dealing with those times when the software just won't produce the needed blend. It blends faces instead of edges several ways. Blend styles include a continuous radius, G2 continuity (more aesthetic than what would come from a solid modeler and more appropriate for class A surfaces), a conic section (these are particularly stylish), a beveled edge, a constant width, and several more. For smooth transitions between surfaces, users apply curvature combs and Zebra Stripes, great tools for analyzing why surfaces don't look right.

I may be behind the times when it comes to collaborating online, but if I want to catch up, V14 has tools to help. Insight.Net, for example, is all about design management. And the Life Cycle Assistant automates a lot of what's needed to get designs into production. It facilitates a collaborative approach to projects so users concentrate on design tasks without getting bogged down in administrative details. It gives access to current information, moves files to correct folders, and even moves obsolete files to a designated directory.

V14's new screen layout resembles Windows XP. The developer improved the interface by arranging icons so the cursor travels less to get things done. Instead of many drop-down menus, V14 has SmartStep, a bar across the screen bottom that includes everything needed to complete the function indicated. This is not a new concept, but it is welcome. Users know where to look for what to do next in a command. On the downside, it's more difficult to browse the software's commands and features.

V14 pays a lot of attention to large assemblies and reducing part counts. It deals with assemblies in both a top-down and bottom-up manner. This lets users spread large designs across teams when necessary. There are "downlinks" as well as "uplinks," even "peer links" for interpart copying. Downlinks are appropriate for models that start with an assembly, such as an engine. Designer can model the block, then a piston, then rings, and so on. Uplinks work best when building assemblies from small parts to subassemblies, and then the whole thing. Peer links let users "connect" a bolt to its hole, so when one changes the other updates.

Users can build an easy-to-use Systems Library for parts and assemblies that will be reused. It can include assembly relationships, such as mates and aligns, along with features needed to attach the system to the assembly. For example, to place a transformer into a radio housing, the software first prompts for the placement using relationships stored with the transformer. Then it creates holes or mounting bosses to mount the transformer directly on the radio housing. Everything in the library can be saved with relationships and features that define placements. It doesn't get much easier.

The drafting module in V14 accelerates view creation and updates. It also increases the limit on assembly size and decrease system-memory requirements. You can now create new classes of parts on drawings and control how they're displayed. This helps eliminate parts in an assembly for clarity.

The developer continues working with users to set up different types of drawing views. Rotated and broken views are just a few that are easier to create and modify. A bolt-circle annotation lets uses dimension directly on ISO views. This is particularly useful for broken-out sections.

V14 uses NX Gateway so it works with other EDS PLM Solutions products. Solid Edge already works with Unigraphics, but V14 adds I-deas compatibility as well. Because Solid Edge has access to the I-deas database, it is easier to migrate I-deas files to Solid Edge than previously possible. Last but not least, Insight, the software's data-management system, is upwardly compatible with Teamcenter, a data-management tool intended for company-wide use.

In a nutshell, Solid Edge V14 is fast, fairly simple, and powerful. The $4,995 program comes from EDS PLM Solutions Inc., 13736 Riverport Dr., Maryland Heights, MO 63043, (314) 344-2687,
Ñ Mike Hudspeth in Solid Edge lets users at different design firms collaborate on projects by, for example, inspecting the design of a valve.

A broken-out section in the drafting module of Solid Edge V14 shows dimensions on a subassembly. The software is hiding the rest of the assembly at a designer's request.

The electrical transformer is stored in a V14 Systems Library with mounting hardware and instructions for their application. When the device is needed, it can be dragged from the library to an assembly and it installs itself.

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