Software allows working in 2D, 3D, or both

Jan. 12, 2006
Solid Edge mechanicalengineering software allows what the developer calls "hybrid 2D/3D design."

Is that the right assembly? The thumbnail in the lower left of Solid Edge lets users see the assembly before importing it into the work area.

A complex plastic part is being altered in Direct Editing using commands such as Delete Regions and Delete Faces.

Selecting the Enable Measure, Markup, and Sectioning option in XpresReview lets users mark up files and send them to others for comments.

This lets 2D sketches and 3D models interact with each other in the same system. For example, Virtual Components, introduced in Solid Edge V17, allow creating 2D representations from existing 3D components, which can then be used in layouts. The hybrid feature lets engineers do what makes design sense rather than being restricted to only one model type.

Users begin with the Virtual Component Structure Editor to develop virtual components for a new design. A new window (on the side) allows browsing local files for an assembly and displaying its thumbnail. Users then build a lightweight version of the full assembly and rotate it to get the needed planar view. In sketch mode, selecting a new function called Component Image creates a 2D graphic display of the model for use in the virtual-component workflow. Users drag and drop the assembly onto the 2D sketch environment, then position the sketch using assembly relations, which locks components in their proper locations. Finally, they "publish" this design to create a new solid model. The process lets designers of assemblies lay out even extremely large structures quickly and easily.

V17 also introduced direct editing, a first for mainstream modeling systems. Direct editing allows changes to be made by just editing directly on the model, without worrying about how certain features were created or their dependencies. Changes are associative — when the feature changes, the direct edit also changes, if possible. Direct editing supports part and sheetmetal models and assemblies. Commands include Move, Rotate, Resize Hole, and Change Bend Radius, to name a few. This proves to be especially useful in working with imported models.

For example, direct editing let me alter an imported complex, plastic dashboard body, previously built in Solid Edge, followed by a sheet-metal part opened directly from an SAT file. I rotated faces to add draft angles and deleted regions and faces. Results were fast. Many changes needed only one or two clicks.

The software also contains a technically fascinating approach to automatically simplify assemblies. Solid Edge uses patent-pending algorithms to eliminate interior and small parts from large assemblies, producing a lightweight version as an alternative to the precise assembly. But the associated precise form can be used instead of the simplified version at any time. Simplified assemblies let users draw large versions quickly and accurately. For instance, eliminating the interior detail makes cleaning up hidden lines in drawings unnecessary. And loading simplified representations can take less than 5 sec.

The program also supports rapid design review with XpresReview, a free download from the Solid Edge Web site. It lets users e-mail packaged collaboration files (PCF) generated by Insight Connect and NX to design reviewers. PCF files can contain model files, associated drawings, and other documents. Reviewers then use XpresReview to mark up, view, measure, and dynamically section the file. Once marked up, reviewed files may be forwarded for additional comments by others, or returned to the originator. Markup links are maintained between the PCF files and the original document.

Apprentice Mode and a Command Assistant make Solid Edge even easier to use. When selected, they guide users through a series of actions required to produce workable CAD models. A Feature Error Assistant can detect geometry violations. Rather than just displaying ambiguous error messages, it tells users what failed and makes suggestions for corrective actions. And a Command Finder helps users unfamiliar with the exact name or location of a command to find it. For instance, SolidWorks calls a command "shell" and Solid Edge calls a similar command "thin wall." Typing in "shell" brings up the thin-wall command. This along with a migration tool for Inventor and improved drawing translation from AutoCAD are particularly useful in transitioning from Autodesk data files.

With V18, Solid Edge now becomes part of the UGS Velocity Series, which adds FEA analysis, PDM, and new modules for wire harness and electrode design.

The software comes from Solid Edge, 675 Discovery Dr., Suite 100, Huntsville, AL 35806, (800) 807-2200,

Raymond Kurland is president of TechniCom Inc. He has reviewed and compared MCAD software since 1987 and can be reached at [email protected]

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