Modeler upgrades assembly functions, mold tools, and more

May 20, 2004
Each release of the Solid Edge solid-modeling program has been more capable than the last.

Solid Edge V15 highlights models in several colors to tell more about its surfaces. Green indicates vertical surfaces that will make the part difficult to push out of a mold. Adding draft solves that problem.

The crown function is an extrusion feature that lets users curve the side of a solid much the same way as adding draft.

V15 is no different. It includes better data management, assembly functions, drawings are easier to do than previously possible, it allows combining several features into one, and a new option makes it much easier to design molds.

One area important to Solid Edge is managing design data. The developer is serious about making engineering data available to everyone who can make use of it. So V15 uses Insight technology, which supports Microsoft Sharepoint 2 (Sequel) SQL Server. It's a database for storing, searching, and controlling design information. Insight adds a familiar Web interface for checking documents in and out, and viewing them from anywhere by Internet or over an intranet. The software adds useful mark-up capability, providing a useful collaboration toolset. Other Insight features include configurable work flows (with wizards) for organizing and routing engineering data, Word documents, Excel files, and others. Alerts and events can be triggered by almost anything in the software to notify designated people. Packaged collaboration files are user-compiled file groups that can be sent by e-mail or burned to a CD for snail mailing. The software provides a lot of the capabilities of PDM without its fuss.

V15 Assembly features concentrate on Systems Design. This means maintaining the original design intent while watching time, cost, and quality concerns. This is accomplished by building as much intelligence into models as possible. That way, the design is modeled as a whole system instead of individual parts that might change independently of each other. Each part "knows" where it goes in the system and the parts it interacts with. V15 combines several functions to avoid design errors, such as interactive physical analysis of mechanisms (so users can model intended interactions of parts and automatically capture sizes) along with adjustable assemblies and assembly features. Assembly features are made at the assembly level, such as holes or bends. Secondary operations such as placing fasteners or cotter pins cannot be done until all parts are assembled. Assemblydriven parts and the ability to flip mates make this easy. Assembly-driven parts, such as brackets or bolts, interact with other parts in an assembly. When parts they interact with change, such as moving locations relative to other parts, assembly-driven parts update rather than "explode." This avoids a lot of headaches. How many times have you assembled parts and had them mate 180° from the way they should? Easily flipping those mates will save countless hours previously spent deleting and reapplying them.

Drafters also benefit with V15. They can now have shaded and textured views on drawings. This is handy for visualizing complicated parts. Quicksheet templates let users capture company standards for setting up drawings, thus eliminating repetitive tasks. Once set up, users need only drag a part or assembly onto the template. The drawing will appear with all prescribed views, notes, and whatever else the company wants. It will even generate bills of materials and auto balloon the views.

Modeling also gets attention in the release. For example, new user-defined Super Features are complex predefined features placed with single selections. They combined several features into one, saving effort and space in the feature tree.

Take cooling vents for instance. Adding these to a model can be difficult and time consuming. But V15 can place vents with one command, and include ribs, spars, depth, rounds, and draft. Users simply fill out a form with the required modeling details and the software will drop in the super feature as many times as needed. Bosses with options like stiffening ribs, mounting holes, rounds, and draft, can also be made with a single command. A new Pro/E migration wizard speeds translation of parts, assemblies, and drawings into Solid Edge or Insight, the software's data-management system. The wizard lets users batch process an entire directory.

One of the most exciting developments in the software adds taper and crown during extrusions. Taper is good, but crown is better. Crowns go on much like tapers but are rounded faces instead of straight. And it has good controls so users get just the curvature needed. This has tremendous possibilities. I hope other modelers pay attention and incorporate crown into their products. In addition, V15 incorporates a new Lip & Groove function that automates what once took several commands.

Draft Face Analysis is also new. High-cost modelers have had it for a while, but every modeler should. It will be used by anyone who designs plastic parts for injection molding, rotational molding, or vacuum and pressure forming. When activated, users specify parting lines and direction of pull, and V15 highlights every face in the model according to whether it has a positive, negative, or neutral draft angle. It predicts whether getting a part out of a mold will be a snap — or a challenge. Sticky tools are big problems, especially when on a schedule. A new option, Mold Creation Wizard, makes it easier to design injection-molding tools. It gives standard ways to design parts for molding and the wizard is wizard at it.

Overall, V15 is well worth considering if you want to go from 2D to 3D. And the developer is on a mission to help convert as many 2D users as they can by giving them powerful tools to make their jobs easier.

The $4,900 program comes from UGS PLM Solutions, Solid Edge Div., 675 Discovery Dr. NW, Suite 100, Huntsville, AL 35806, (256) 705-2500,

Mike Hudspeth is a designer living in St. Louis.

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