Before we delve into the meat of Solid Edge V18, there are a few updates that apply to all users and across all industry sectors. The first group were going to look at are the changes or additions made to the user interface. In all fairness, these are not going to set the world of CAD alight as the UI went through a pretty heavy round of redesign with the last release, but they might make the system more current or up-to-date. For example, the modelling window now has that graduated background weve all come to expect as well as that rather fancy drop shadow below the model. The use of colour has also been expanded to allow you to store and customise colour schemes for the sketching and modelling environment.

Alongside UI tinkering, there have been a few updates to the general part and assembly modelling tools. For example, you can now wrap a sketch around a cylinder or a cone, allowing you to create some pretty complex forms. On similar lines, you can now add a tapered pipe thread from the same dialog you use for regular threads. Theres also been a lot of work done on the assembly modelling front. For example, weldments are now created within the assembly environment, which makes the workflow a touch more efficient as well as providing improvements in Bill of Material handling and creation. In addition to the new Weldment commands that allow you to create groove and compound welds (which can also optionally show the weld texture), you can also take advantage of the new assembly features which include sweep, chamfer and thread creation.

Data translation, as ever, is on the majority of users minds, whether thats the import of customer/supplier data, moving information between in-house systems or departments, or the use of the growing collaboration formats to expedite communication. For V18, there have been a few changes to the data translation tools. On the AutoCAD-related front, you can now export drawings directly to AutoCAD Model Space, use the AutoCAD Import Wizard (which allows you to preview the results of the import process before committing to the process) and convert AutoCAD Blocks on-the-fly, which well be discussing later on.

Data management

As youll have discovered in the last issue of MCAD, the latest release of Solid Edge has been part of a much larger product roll-out, namely, the launch of UGS Velocity Series. This sees the undeniably impressive Solid Edge offered with both FEA technology within Femap, but perhaps more importantly in that grand scheme of things, with TeamCenter Express. Without wanting to repeat myself, Teamcenter Express is a pre-configured version of UGS core data management system, a version thats been preconfigured (in terms of workflows and such) and is drastically easier to implement one point worth noting though is that its also only available on the Windows Server platform.

I dont really have space to detail what Teamcenter is capable of (well save that for a forthcoming issue), but suffice it to say that in terms of data management and lifecycle control, its pretty much unequalled. That said, what I did want to discuss was the manner in which Solid Edge has been integrated with the system as both are a core part of the Velocity Series.

But here, the problem is that the job has been done so effectively that many existing Solid Edge users might not notice that theyre working within a Teamcenter managed system. The problem is that many PDM systems, even those from the same vendor, are effectively bolted into the CAD system, more often than not, using a separate dialog which means repetitive work and stepping outside of your workhorse system to perform management tasks. UGS has seen the pitfalls of this and implemented the Teamcenter-related functions for Solid Edge users directly into the application, so that in many respects, its a seamless interface. How this manifests itself is initially through the File Open dialog.

When you have a Teamcenter aware version, the system simply asks you to log-in to the Teamcenter Server and the user can simply browse the vault as they would a standard file structure or network drive. In addition, you have a range of tools that allow you to find and locate specific information from the Teamcenter server. Also within this dialog are a number of Teamcenter-specific options that allow you to work with versions and revisions as well as performing basic data management tasks. When you have data within Solid Edge, the Teamcenter connection manifests itself predominately through the EdgeBar and the Assembly Pathfinder window. Here you can see the exact status of the parts within your assembly (such as whether you have them checked out, checked in, if someone else has editing rights etc). Alongside this, because of the additional metadata that TeamCenter stores, you can choose exactly how you want part and sub assembly data displayed. For example, in a non-Teamcenter environment, the Assembly Pathfinder will display the part name, but in a Teamcenter aware system, you can choose to display any of the metadata associated with those parts, whether its part name/number, date created, lifecycle status, etc.

Interfaces aside, the real benefit is that Teamcenter Express has been built to directly support all of the functionality within Solid Edge. Were not just talking about the management of parts, assemblies and drawings, but a system which has an understanding of the complex inter-part and inter-assembly relationships that make a system like Solid Edge so powerful. It understands the problems associated with the use of various commands and manages the process without too much intrusion.This ranges from implicit operations such as the automatic check out of data when you edit it and, similarly, the automatic check in of that data when you close files, right through to managing the output from operations such as mirrored assembly (where mirror parts are new part numbers, but flipped parts arent), families of parts, families of assemblies, replace parts and the like.


Another major area for this release is the addition of diagramming tools within the core Solid Edge toolset. This has been conceived to solve a problem that existing users have with the transition from a legacy 2D Specific tool such as AutoCAD. By providing the user with an environment that allows them to create diagrams and schematics using standardised symbols and the like, UGS is removing another barrier to the adoption of Solid Edge as the single source for all product development work.

What you get in this first release is an environment which provides users with semi-intelligent symbols for electrical, hydraulic/pneumatic and the like thats accessed through the EdgeBar. You can drag and drop these into a sheet then use the familiar tools to arrange them. Of course, much of the point with these types of diagrams is that they show the interconnection between various entities within a design. To enable you to do this, the connectors allow you to make these connections quickly and efficiently. The system is supplied with straight lines as well as jumps, corns and steps. While these arent quite up to Visios standard, they are semi-intelligent and retain the links once you define them.

As with all similar tools, it really is the symbols that drive a systems usefulness. In the first instance, the system is supplied with a wide range of symbols as weve described. You can also create your own using Solid Edges drawing tools. These have the advantage that you can use the Positional Representations tools to define a number of variants within a single symbol, so you can have a single symbol reference, but that can be shown as on or off, for example. Another thing to consider is that many users will already have such symbols created within AutoCAD and arent going to want to recreate them in Solid Edge. Rather impressively, the system allows you to browse any AutoCAD DWG file. This presents you with a list of blocks within that drawing. Any of these can then be dragged and dropped into your current work, with the conversion happening on the fly.

Digital design validation

If you read our two-part breakdown of the new Velocity Series products from UGS in MCAD October, its clear that analysis, alongside CAD and data management, is a core part of that offering. As a result, one of the big new features for Solid Edge is the integration of analysis functionality within the core of the application. This follows similar work done by both Inventor and SolidWorks which both recently saw introduction of basic stress analysis technology (from Ansys and CosmosWorks respectively) introduced into the core of their application sets. In this instance, the Solid Edge analysis tools are based on those from UGS standalone analysis and simulation system, Femap in the guise of Femap Express. It doesnt stop there, but Im going to talk about the integration between Solid Edge and Femap in more depth once weve dealt with the Express variant.

Femap Express is built directly into the Solid Edge interface and is accessed through the applications pull-down menu. In a similar way to the work done in SolidWorks and Inventor, the tools allow you to conduct simulation work on just single part file. The differentiators are that that, firstly, you can do so within the context of an assembly and, more importantly, use the surrounding assembly model as reference for that single part analysis (more on this later on). In addition to this, the tool allows you to conduct both basic static stress analyses of parts, but also handles sheet metal in a more accurate manner using a mid-surface model combined with plate elements. Alongside this, Femap Express also allows you to conduct a modal analysis of a part and find the first four natural harmonic response frequencies. So, lets step through its use.

As you might imagine, you start with the part that you want to simulate. To kick things off, you clock the Femap Express icon from the applications pull-down. As with the majority of Solid Edge operations, Femap Express uses the StreamXP step-by-step approach that leads you through any operation in this instance, the analysis of a part. The first option youre presented with is what type of analysis you want to perform which in this first release, covers Stress Analysis and Modal analysis. At this stage you can also set the mesh controls for the analysis process. This is done with a simple slider that varies between a coarse mesh for quick solving or a more complex, detailed mesh that will provide more accurate results but solve more slowly. Here you also have the ability to choose whether to use the simplified parts functions within Solid Edge. To recap, this provides you with a number of tools that allow you to store a simplified representation of a part where small parts (such as fillets, holes, small pockets etc) are hidden or suppressed and again, this can help make the analysis process more efficient.

The next step is to provide details of the material. If youve already defined this within Solid Edge, then the same material properties are used. If not, or you want to experiment with other material possibilities, then you can choose from a fully customisable materials database (the same thats supplied with Femap). The next stage is to define the loading conditions on the model. Here you have the choice of pressure or force and have a number of tools to define the direction. This can be done using a vector description, geometry reference (such as a face or edge) on either the part or somewhere else in the assembly. The final stage is to define any constraints within the system. Again, these are pretty basic constraints to hold the part within the correct position. Once youve finished that, the system recognises that it has enough to work with and starts to run the analysis process. The time taken for this depends entirely on the complexity of your part, the loading case and the mesh settings youve used, but as its using the industry standard Nastran, the solve times should be pretty reasonable.

The definition process for Modal analysis works pretty much the same, except that you simply define the constraints, rather than forces acting on the part. Meanwhile, Femap Express automatically picks up if a component is sheet metal, and if you havent already done so, calculates the mid-surface model on which the analysis is going to run. Following on from that, the definition process is exactly the same as a static stress job.

Once the job is solved, the last step is to inspect and report on the results. This is done in a manner familiar to anyone whos had experience of FEA systems in the past. It allows you create and animate the usual range of Von Mises stress distribution, deformation and a Factor of safety. As with all FEA systems, the deformation plots are animated and display a specific scaling factor (which isnt changeable or even viewable), but the real results are found in the legend to the left hand side of the screen. In the case of modal analyses, the first effects of the first four harmonic responses and the effect these frequencies have on the part under study can be plotted and animated.

Finally, if you want to document the analysis youve just run through, the system also includes basic report generation tools that allow you to fill in a few boxes and output an HTML document and associated imagery that contains the bare bones for the development of a much fuller report in Word or the like.

Integration with Femap: Just like CosmosXpress and the Stress Analysis tools within Inventor, the Femap Express functionality is essentially a sales tool for the analysis and simulation products that the vendors offer. Yes, you can get some useful information out of them and its a good way of dipping a toe into the FEA water without having to purchase or learn additional software. But by their very nature, these types of tools are limited and the results you can get from them are limited as well. So what do you use if youre looking for something a bit more functional? The answer within the Solid Edge product range and Velocity Series (the two are essentially the same), is by adopting Femap.

Although not integrated into the Solid Edge interface (as CosmosWorks is within SolidWorks), Femap provides you with a massive arsenal of advanced analysis tools for both engineers and analysts that not only cover static and modal work on both parts and assemblies, but also things like buckling, heat transfer and non-linear simulation. The good news is that the connection between Femap and Solid Edge is pretty impressive and is based on UGS PLMXML pipeline technology, which allows direct transfer of geometry and the retention of any links. This means that you can use Femap alongside Solid Edge just as you would if it were integrated. Another thing worth noting here is that data output from both Femap Express and the standalone Femap version is managed if you also use TeamCenter Express.

In conclusion

In MCAD magazine weve maintained for years that Solid Edge is a product that should have been flying off the shelves and onto the designers and engineers workstations all across the globe. While it hasnt sold particularly badly, in comparison to the competition (namely SolidWorks and Inventor), its still nowhere near reached its market potential. Much of this, Im sure, has been down to the manoeuvres that UGS has gone through over the past four or five years, from the merger with SDRC, the spin off from EDS and numerous name changes and what not. All of this has amounted to the fact that the company seemed to take its eye off the ball, and when you look at the work its done to merge the I-deas and Unigraphics products into the NX platform, its understandable why.

So, its with some relief to see that UGS seems to finally woken up to the fact that it had one of the most impressive systems on the market and that it wasnt doing Solid Edge the justice it deserved something we and many others in the industry have been telling them for some time (including their own resellers). The good news is that, rather than just trying to rebrand the product and relaunch it to the market, the company seems to have taken a close look at what it has elsewhere and tied it all up into a single package, namely, the Velocity Series.

Here you have a series of products (to which others are going to be added) that hit the sweet spots for many product development and manufacturing organisations, namely, 3D product design and development tools, data management and analysis all in an easy-to-implement format. With the combination of Solid Edge, Teamcenter Express and Femap (both the Express and full standalone version), it would seem that UGS has finally realised what its had for some time, has correctly identified how to offer it to the user community, and frankly, how to move forward.

It may be a little late (about three or four years by my reckoning), but the plan theyve drawn up looks to make good solid sense, and its going to be interesting to see how the other vendors in the mid-range respond particularly to the Teamcenter involvement. This really is the key differentiator as, Autodesk has the Productstream upgrade path from the basic bones Vault, SolidWorks has entry level PDMWorks but little else although Im pretty sure theres some pretty hasty SmarTeam-related scrabbling about in Concorde.

Outside of Velocity Series, UGS has managed to cram a lot of new and useful features into the core of its mainstream modelling application for the new release. The work done to bring basic finite element analysis to the designer should prove interesting, particularly as users have an immediately accessible upgrade for serious work. The problem with these types of basic FEA tools is that they all work on single parts and unless youre designing brackets and such, the chances are that youll want to analyse your assembly rather than specific portions of it. The tools available to take references from other parts within an assembly context are useful, but really dont go far enough. I do have issues with these Green is Good, Red is Bad type systems, as youre not really basing your analysis on a whole, but a very limited geometry set. But still, its a means of getting more users up to speed with the basics of FEA without any cost implications.

The new diagramming tools remove even more reasons for die-hard AutoCAD users to finally drop the system and conduct all of their design related work within a single system, something thats going to be particularly important as more organisations use formal data management systems. Solid Edge is one of the few systems that allows user to still work in 2D within the exact same environment and application that 3D users work despite what other vendors might claim.

So, all in all, it looks to be exciting times for those involved in Solid Edge, the developers and resellers seem to have a new fresh outlook and something cohesive to sell and the users can gain access to technology that wasnt available to them before in such as easy to implement manner. And that isnt even everything for Solid Edge V18. Next month we take a look at the process- or manufacturing-specific updates made, that allow you to take your part and assembly data and move it into the manufacturing and production stages of the lifecycle.


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