This year marks the 20th anniversary of Solid Edge, 20 years since Intergraph's Project Jupiter launched a new mid-range MCAD package. This is why Solid Edge is headquartered in Alabama instead of, say, Siemens' hometown of Munich.
The Solid Edge University 2015 conference theme was "Design without Boundaries," and started off with the keynote by Siemens PLM sr vp of mainstream engineering software John Miller. According to a survey, he told us, users who use the company's proprietary non-history Synchronous Technology are 61% happier with Solid Edge than those who don't. (See figure 1.) I asked for the source of the survey, but never heard back; maybe it was tongue-in check.
Siemens PLM sr vp of mainstream engineering software John Miller giving us the 61%
(Image credits Ralph Grabowski)
Even if we don't know the source for the number, we know the reason for it: it's not easy for users to get into SynchTech, especially in an industry in which working with history-based MCAD has been normal for nearly two decades.
Another tidbit from Mr Miller: There are now over 200 third-party developers who have add-ons for Solid Edge, a dozen or so who showed their products on the exhibit floor, which shared space with the breakfast hall. The online Solid Edge App Marketplace has "a nice selection, with more to come."
Numbers-wise, I heard third-hand that "over 500" are at this conference, which matched my visual estimate in the main meeting room. (See figure 2.) It's a perpetual puzzle to me that the conference is so small when the company boasts of a half-million users.
Figure 2 Attendees attending the Solid Edge University 2015 keynote
Here are some notes I took from sitting in all the keynotes and attending some of the tutorial sessions.
SE U15 this year had more courses than before, running eight parallel sessions over two days. One of them was a series of sessions titled "We're Listening Roundtables." Here attendees are encouraged to describe shortcomings in the software.
The topics included sheet metal design, drafting, data management, and assemblies and routing. I managed to attend the one dealing with drafting. "We are here to know how to make you more productive at drawing creation," said roundtable leader Ricky Black.
One attendee noted that the 3D mouse works everywhere, except in custom rotated views -- and he works in custom views all day long. Mr Black made note of the problem. Some of the problems mentioned by attendees are solved by upgrading to ST8, the current release of Solid Edge.
State of the Art Drafting
Black also spent an hour providing tips on how to do 2D drafting with Solid Edge. When drafting, where do users spend most of their time: in drawing views, in tables, in 2D geometry -- no, most users spend most of their time in annotations, he reported.
That's because drawing view creation is fast these days. But not annotations, because of their intrinsic flexibility, which means complexity. Mr Black said Siemens PLM has been improving annotation over the last three releases, and will continue for future releases. In coordinate dimensions alone, Siemens has implemented 200 requests and problem reports.
For example, empty callouts and text boxes were not being displayed, but could interfere with locating visible ones automatically. So, Siemens made them visible. But this led to the next problem in that users didn't know that those empty callout boxes represented. So Siemens added a toggle to display them or not. Solid Edge now even lets users specify their own error message for empty text boxes!
TIP Here's a quick way to clean up drawing views: press Ctrl+A to select all entities, press Del to erase them, but then respond No to the dialog box that asks if you want the drawing views erased. Everything but the views are erased, including dimension, tables, and text.
Sheet Metal Design in Japan
Ashish Kelkar presented a session on the state of sheet metal design in Japan. The normal there is for big companies to provide files to smaller manufacturing shops in non-ideal formats like STEP and even 2D.
In fact, most sheet metal design is still done in 2D. CADMAC, for whom Mr Kelkar works, is a Japanese company, and they find they have 8x more 2D customers of its sheet metal software than 3D customers.
Synchronous technology is so important to Siemens PLM that it has become part of the Solid Edge name, as in ST [version] 8. Even though there were four courses at SEU15 dedicated to SynchTech, I was surprised to learn that it doesn't work in all areas of Solid Edge.
Most significantly, not in 3D surface modeling. Surfacing has to be done in "ordered" mode, because SynchTech removes the links between the model and the source sketches. Surfacing, however, needs to keep its source curves (or underlaying sketches) in order to be editable. Session hosts Dan Vinson and Doug Stainbrook hoped that one day in the future surfacing will also take advantage of SynchTech.
In this session, I learned that Blue Dot is a special command unique to Solid Edge that connects the end of an open 3D curve to another 3D curve by finding the shortest 3D distance.
A Siemens PLM employee asked my opinion on cloud- and mobileCAD. I feel that they represent additional options for those customers who might want it. Siemens PLM now provides a "cloud" version of Solid Edge on an experimental basis for IP addresses in USA and United Kingdom through its online store. See http://www.plm.automation.siemens.com/plmapp/se/en_US/online/Shop.
This is not a true cloud product like Onshape, but simply streaming an instance running on servers maintained by Frame (nee Mainframe2). It works by very quickly pushing raster updates of the Solid Edge screen to your Web browser. I say "simply" because just about any software can be made to run on those servers, such as IntelliCAD. (See www.fra.me.)
Siemens PLM has Catchbook, simplified parametric software that also converts hand sketches into straight lines and proper curves. Siemens PLM director of innovation, research, and strategy Ken Hosch showed us how the company's D-Cubed DCM constraint manager convert freehand ink into lines, circles, arcs, ellipses, and splines. (See figure 3.) The software also edits the curves, recognizes written notes, places dimensions, uses a wiggle motion to erase, draws over imported images, and exports drawings as PDFs. Multiple drawings are stored in binders to create collections.
Figure 3 Ken Hosch showing off the capabilities of CatchBook
[Disclosure: Siemens PLM paid my airfare, hotel, and some meals.]
And One More Thing...
IronCAD LLC releases IronCAD 2016 with a new sketched bend command for sheet metal design, Smart eBehavior that optimizes designs dynamically, and offers a new Mechanical add-on meant for fabricators. See the full list of changes at http://www.ironcad.com/2016-new-features
Even More News
Read the blog at WorldCAD Access as I write more about the CAD industry, and give tips on using hardware and software. You can also keep up with the blog through RSS feeds and email alerts. These are some of the articles that appeared on WorldCAD Access during the last week:
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Letters to the Editor
Re: 3D Insider's European Forum 2015, Munich
Thank you so much for the great coverage of the 3D Insider’s European Forum 2015 event! I wanted to send you a quick note to let you know of a few corrections for future reference: Figure 2 is a photo of Sanjeev Padmanabhan, our senior R & D manager for 3D modeling (not Viviken Iyengar). CGM Polyhedra is only currently available for 3D ACIS Modeler not CGM. - Debra Layton, sr. marketing communications manager Spatial
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That's an interesting concept [that decimation allows users to choose the level of data to work with]. We have a similar problem with vendor-supplied CAD files from engine manufacturers: their models contain far more detail than any of their customers need, and that makes the files so large and cumbersome that they are almost useless to us. We generally need to know outside envelopes, engine mount pads, intake and exhaust, and so on. What we get from Cat, Cummins, et al is a file that has the grade markings on every bolt head meticulously modeled, and crashes the software.
And a few years ago I was griping that I couldn't get even a simple 2D side-view, because they didn't want that getting into the hands of their competitors. I've never heard a word of discussion about this in the mechanical CAD world, but now at least the architectural/building world is thinking about it.
I think the word they've chosen is crazy: the precise definition of "decimate" is to remove a tenth. The fairly common misuse of it (lately legitimatized by the Miriam-Webster dictionary) is "to destroy." - Jess Davis
The editor replies: Most MCAD packages now include a function that reduces the detail of a 3D model precisely to eliminate unnecessary details and file size. Suggest to CAT, et al that they employ the command. If not, then a vendor-neutral package like SpaceClaim can do the job at your end.
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Those are conformal cooling channels, Ralph. Not gas escape tubes. They cool the injected plastic more evenly, giving you a better part, and usually a slightly quicker cycle time. - Al Dean, editor-in-chief + co-founder DEVELOP3D Magazine, England
Re: How Bricsys is Advancing 3D
Your comments about Bricsys employing Russian programmers concerns me. My employer bought BricsCAD a few years ago, and we are doing all our mechanical development on it. I was under the impression that it was being developed in a "friendly country."
When I was searching for an application for my employer, I decided NOT to consider ZWCAD, because it is being developed in Communist China. A few years ago, the public learned that the designs for 26 major US weapons systems, developed at a cost of trillions of dollars, were stolen by the Chinese. How do we know that companies like ZWSoft, aren't putting code into their product that uploads customers' designs (as a background task) to the waiting arms of the Chinese military machine?
Now I am concerned about BricsCAD. I suppose industrial spying could occur with software from ANY vendor in ANY country. But I think I have an obligation to do whatever I can to protect our intellectual property. One more thing..
You suggested that legal pressure from Autodesk, might have forced ZWSoft to stop selling their 2nd generation product, and return to marketing the product that was based on Intellicad Consortium common code. I spent a LONG time evaluating various vendors' Intellicad offerings, and found that they all were LOADED with bugs. I hounded the Consortium about this, and they eventually admitted to me that the common code used by all the vendors was the culprit. But no one was exerting much effort to fix the core code. The vendors were all busy adding new features, trying to differentiate themselves from the competition. - Jim C.
The editor replies: All software companies outsource their programming to Russia and India, even "trusted" names like Autodesk and Dassault Systemes. They do it (1) to save money over local programmers and (2) because Russians and Indians are excellent at math.
I agree with your concern over IP protection. Problem is that the biggest source of leakage occurs just by our computers being connected to the Internet -- IP tracking, cookies, and so on.
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If you use CAD/D, here's another thoughtful read by Ralph Grabowski. Bricsys is advancing the state of 3D by leveraging DWG - the universal CAD format. -Don Strimbu via Linked-in
Exciting new developments in an industry that has never stagnated and whose applications have always been innovative. And Ralph Grabowski has always been on the front lines, and a great resource for all. Yes, interesting read! - Sam Hochberg via Linked-in
Your Bricsys article is your best writing in a long time. I should steal from it shamelessly. - Name withheld by request
Re: Why the Cloud?
Mr. Davis is a paying customer, so he is not first on the list of priorities for Autodesk (if that is the software company about which he is writing). Autodesk began the push toward the cloud in the early 2000s, when software piracy was rampant. Autodesk's goal was -- and is -- to stop piracy, because it cuts into the bottom line. This is the main purpose of the cloud software model.
The cloud is NOT for the benefit of the designer end user. The main benefit of the cloud is to Autodesk’s the bottom line, and from there, the shareholder. (Autodesk does promote the mobility aspect heavily, without explaining how to do design with two fingers on a tablet.)
Become a shareholder and you will receive the benefits of Autodesk’s business model, along with a little payback on your investment. - Peter Lawton
The editor replies: The master plan by Autodesk is to exert greater control over customers, certainly enough. When I speak with competitors, they cannot fathom taking away choice from customers. I predict declining revenues for ADSK.
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