North America's Leading Siemens PLM Partner
As we enter into 2018, let me first wish everyone a profitable and happy new year. This is my 31st new year in the CAD/CAM industry, and I have seen incredible advances in the technology. I think it would be safe to say that half of my job is spent keeping up with the technological changes in our industry. Unfortunately, most of our customers are too busy making products, and lack the time to investigate, let alone learn, the latest technology. In fact, many current CAD, and CAM, users are not using the most efficient processes or commands in their systems. Simply because they are not aware of their existence or they lack the time to learn how to use them.
Profile of your average user
Based on my experience, the average CAD/CAM user has a definite assignment or workload to achieve within a given time period. This time period usually does not allow for any research or self-training. They must complete the task and move on to the next. As a result, users tend to find what works and will continue to use that method. No thought is given to researching better or faster methods. This may work for a period of time, but offers no chance for acceleration of work output.
For example; suppose a user has to place ten occurrences of a single component into an assembly, with each component in a different orientation. The user may place and align each component individually, which may take 10 – 20 minutes. If the user is aware of the new Clone Component command, this same task could be done in less than 2 minutes.
Furthermore, the user’s focus is on getting his/her work completed. Which, most managers would agree, is the proper focus. However, certain processes or methods may lead to problems downstream, in other areas of the company. The average user may not realize, nor even care, what happens once the job leaves their desk. But from an upper management level, this could be, and often is, a major concern. If a new or different method could be taught, to the front-end user, it may offer considerable time savings, in other parts of the company.
Some users will make the effort to learn and adopt the new technology, on their own. A noble cause, which may not always prove fruitful, and may actually cause greater confusion or frustration for the user. One user may find a more efficient way, but fail to share it with other users. Again, this could cause problems if the other users have to work with a model that has been created in a new way. I’ve had some users tell me that they like a lot of the newer technology, but it will never be adopted where they work.
Our role in your company
As mentioned above, part of our job is to learn the newest technology. As a Value-Added Reseller, we are constantly providing this knowledge to our customers. Owners, managers, and users often attend our productivity summits, and seminars, to be made aware of the latest enhancements. We also offer numerous courses, to train the users, in the latest and more advanced use of our products. It is estimated that 1 hour of professional training is equivalent to 16 hours of trying to teach yourself. Customers who have attended our courses have always been amazed at the knowledge and practical skills that they can obtain, in a short period of time.
Another service, that we provide, is a company wide productivity audit. We go onsite and review your design and manufacturing processes, gathering as much data as possible. We then analyze the data, and formulate a strategy, to streamline your processes, and improve your overall efficiency. This is designed for upper management to ensure that all their departments are working together, for the overall benefit of the company. It places the focus on the company rather than the separate departments, or the individual users. Our customers, that have used this service, have all shown positive results.
Benefits of these services
In past articles I have discussed the return on investment (ROI) for professional training. I won’t repeat that discussion here, other than to say that the ROI on professional training is faster than most expect. We’ve had some situations where the ROI is a week or two. But what is possibly more important is the overall benefits of professional training. One just has to do a web search, on the “benefits of professional training”, to view a myriad of articles on this topic. Many articles list the following benefits:
Although most managers agree, they are reluctant to send their staff for training, due to cost in time and money. Designfusion courses are designed to pack as much knowledge as possible into manageable time slots. Our courses range from 2 days to 5 days in duration. The increase in productivity, following these courses, quickly makes up the time and cost invested.
The benefits of the productivity audit are similar to training benefits, but with on overall company perspective. These include:
Both training and productivity audits involve an investment in time and money. But the results have, and will continue to provide a fast ROI and significant improvement in efficiency throughout your design, engineering, and manufacturing departments.
“The only way to predict the future is to have power to shape the future” (A quote from Eric Hoffer).
When it comes to the CAD/CAM industry, knowledge is power. If you want to have the power to shape your company’s future, you need the knowledge of the latest technology. Only then can you accurately decide how to use the new technology. At Designfusion, this knowledge is one of our products. By attending our productivity summits, or purchasing one of our above-mentioned services, we will provide this knowledge to you. You won’t have to search for the knowledge, read numerous articles, or attempt to interpret technical documentation. We provide it, explain it, and teach it, to you and your users. With a relatively small investment in time and money, you can make 2018 a most productive and efficient year, for you company.
If you are interested in these or other services, please visit out Services page at http://www.designfusion.ca//services.html, or contact your Account Manager for more details.
As I write this article, Solid Edge ST10 has been released, but is not yet available for download. Many of the mainstream CAD publications have already published articles, singing the praises of the new Generative Design and Convergent Modeling. They also highlighted the Simulation enhancements, new Solid Edge Technical Documentation, and the 3D Printing tools. Each major enhancement is article worthy on its own. However, some very powerful enhancements have been omitted or just glossed over by these articles. Often, it’s the less popular enhancements that excite the long-time users. I call these the hidden gems. I’d like to introduce you to 6 of these hidden gems in Solid Edge ST10.
Hidden Gem 1: The new Scale Body command.
In the past, to scale a body you had to use the Offset Command, in the Modify group, or synchronous moves. This often would confuse newer users, and many have asked for a simpler scale body command. Solid Edge ST10 has delivered on this request. The new command allows for uniform, and non-uniform scaling. You can select any scale point that you desire, and you can scale multiple bodies at the same time.
Note: Non-uniform scaling has options to scale along x, y, and z.
Hidden Gem 2: Expose corner gap in Sheet Metal commands
Another popular request was for Solid Edge to allow users corner gap control in the Bend Corner commands and the Contour Flange command. In ST10 the gap corner values can now be controlled in the 2 and 3 Bend Corner commands, and the Contour Flange command. The value can be changed by using the scroll wheel.
The Variable Table supports the bend corner gap value for ordered sheet metal parts only.
Hidden Gem 3: The new Clone Component command
A couple of releases ago, Solid Edge introduced the Duplicate Component command. In ST10 they are introducing a new Clone Component command. The Clone Component command allows the user to place multiple occurrences of one or more components at different locations in an assembly. Which sounds like what the Duplicate Command does in Solid Edge. The differences are as follows:
These differences allow the user greater flexibility and independent control when placing multiple components into an assembly.
Hidden Gem 4: The new One Body Assembly command
This is a new command that I know will be well received by several of my customers. The new One Body Assembly command allows users to create a representation of an assembly as a single body.
Some of the benefits of a One Body Assembly are:
Hidden Gem 5: Making the background sheet locatable
The background sheet geometry can now be located from the working sheet, for precise positioning of objects during placement and modifications. This new option is turned on in the IntelliSketch group.
This allows users to locate and snap to the background sheet geometry, while adhering to IntelliSketch preferences like alignment indicator, key points etc.
Hidden Gem 6: Undo enhancements in Draft.
If you’ve ever placed the wrong drawing view(s), you will like this next enhancement. ST10 now allows users to hit Undo for drawing view creation. In the past users would have to delete the views. Now all drawing views, as well as Nailboard creation methods, support the undo functionality. Plus, all types of drawing views like orthographic, pictorial and derived views like detail, section etc. are supported with undo functionality.
Furthermore, ST10 now allows Undo for drawing view updates. When the update action is undone, drawing views are put back into their previous state. Updates of dependent objects like tables, dimensions and annotations are also considered for the same undo transaction. Plus, changes made on drawing view properties are also logged for undo as ‘Drawing View Properties’.
Solid Edge ST10 – A Serious Update
As stated in Kyle Maxey’s post on Engineering.com, “ST10 looks to be another quality upgrade”
ST10 delivers new and innovative tools for the future, yet still continues to enhance existing tools. Designfusion will be showcasing many of these new and improved tools in upcoming events. Our first “What’s New in ST10” event will be in Chicago on August 17, 2017. (Click to register here - Password: ST10). More events will be announced in the near future. We look forward to seeing you at one of these events.
Over the last several years there have been numerous reports and articles discussing the increasing skilled labour gap, that is being fueled by the retiring baby boomers. The industry leaders have known of this pending problem, yet haven’t seemed to be able to deal with it effectively. Here at Designfusion, with the help from Siemens PLM Software, we are attempting to help reduce the gap by focusing on the next generation of skilled workers.
To do this, we are offering all High Schools, free Solid Edge Educational software. This includes full blown network licenses of Solid Edge, educational curriculum, web and online support for teachers, and, space permitting, free training for teachers. Plus, any registered student can obtain a free Student version of Solid Edge, even if his or her school is not teaching Solid Edge. To learn more about the free student license you can visit https://www.plm.automation.siemens.com/en_us/academic/resources/solid-edge/index.shtml.
How will this help reduce the skilled labour gap? It has been our experience, that by introducing Computer Aided Design (CAD) to high school students,
we capture their interest early and increase their chances of having them enroll in design and engineering programs, in college and university. For
example, we received a letter from a local Technological Design Teacher, where he writes;
‘After completing a manual drafting unit, I introduce the students to Solid Edge and they are simply amazed at how quickly they can design 3D objects. Once they discover that Solid Edge generates orthographic views and proper dimensions their reactions are absolutely priceless as they all question why we even had to use a T-square in the first place! All of a sudden, they think designing is "cool" and they can't wait to take the software home and show their friends and family. Since using Solid Edge in my classroom I've had visits from guidance counselors and other teachers wondering what all the "buzz" is about.’
We have heard similar stories from others teachers. We believe that the “buzz” generated in the High Schools will lead to more students seeking potential careers in the CAD/CAM industry. This not only feeds an industry need, but hopefully, it will also provide future employees for our existing customers.
But offering this program and getting it accepted by Schools and teachers are two different matters. Sadly, many teachers are unaware or unwilling to accept this amazing offer. For those who are unaware, we are hopefully rectifying that problem with an ongoing campaign to let them know about the Solid Edge Educational offering. For the others, some prefer old, outdated software, because they know how to use and teach it. Others may be close to retirement themselves and do not wish to learn the newest technology. While others may be told what to teach by individuals with higher authority.
It is for these reasons that I am writing this blog. You the reader can help us get Solid Edge into the schools. If your company uses Solid Edge, share this article with your local High School(s). If possible, offer summers jobs to students who have learned Solid Edge in High School. If you have children attending High School, have them share this article with their technical teacher(s). If you are an educator, please visit the site: https://www.plm.automation.siemens.com/en_us/academic/resources/solid-edge/educators/. Along with a High School program, Solid Edge also offers programs for Middle Schools and for Colleges and Universities. More information on these programs can be obtained from the same link; https://www.plm.automation.siemens.com/en_us/academic/resources/solid-edge/educators/.
Some may say that this program is self-serving. That we are simply trying to put our software in front of students to secure future sales. Before questioning our motives, I ask that you do your research. Solid Edge has the newest and most innovative technology on the market today. Our focus has always been on technology, and the industry is noticing. For example, this recent article that appeared on Engineering.com, discusses our advanced technology:
Furthermore, students seem to prefer learning on Solid Edge:
"We did a comparison with Solid Works, and students preferred Solid Edge because they could learn it quicker.":
We have the technology, we have the tools, and we are willing to give them to High School teachers for free. All they have to do is accept our offer. If you the reader can help get this message across to your local High Schools, we thank you.
For more information on any educational offerings from Siemens PLM Software and Designfusion, please contact John Pearson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 416-267-5542 or 1-888-567-3933.
Before I discuss this amazing new offering, I want to explain what led us to this new product. As some of you may already know, I started in this industry as a NC programmer, over 30 years ago. I learned to do CAM on a package called Weber, and then the company, that I was working for, turned AutoCAD into a custom 2D CAM package, using LISP. In 1996, I started using my first 3D CAM package, EMS from Intergraph. In 1997, it was purchased by Unigraphics, and shortly thereafter I started using UG v13, which eventually became NX. Since then I have also worked with GibbsCAM, and CAMWorks for Solid Edge, to name a few. Why the history lesson? I feel that it is important to understand the context of what I’m about to discuss.
All the CAM products I have used, machine in what I call a traditional CAM approach. That is to say the programmer/operator defines everything in the tool path. He/she selects the tool, feeds and speeds, cutter step over, depth of cut, cut pattern, cut strategy, and so on. To be fair, some packages take all this input and perform cleaner more efficient tool paths. However, the overall process of operator input and control has always been the same.Through the years there have been continuous upgrades and improvements, with the focus being on the improved programmer/operator control.
Recently, I was introduced to iMachining for NX, by a colleague of mine. And in my opinion, iMachining is as revolutionary to the Cam world, as Synchronous Technology is to the CAD world. iMachining for NX, combines limited user input, and geometry, with information about the tool, stock material, and the Machine. This is run through its patented Technology Wizard to produce fast and safe CNC programs. “The word fast meaning significantly faster than traditional machining at its best and the word safe meaning without the risk of breaking tools or subjecting the machine to excessive wear, all while maximizing tool life.” Users no longer have to input feed or speed of the cutting tool. Nor do they need to have to worry about step-overs or cut depths. These are all calculated by the system to ensure optimal material removal rate, while extending the cutting tool life.
Along with the Technology Wizard, iMachining generates morphing spiral tool paths, allowing a single continuous spiral cut of irregular shapes. When necessary, iMachining uses proprietary constant load one-way tool paths to machine narrow passages, separating channels and tight corners.
With this new approach, iMachining can deliver some amazing results for you and your company. How amazing?
These are indeed some amazing claims, but I wanted to know if they were true. So, I put it to the test, using an existing part that I had. This part had a complicated 3D pocket with several islands and a non-planer bottom. I used Cavity Mill to rough out the pocket with a 1” Coated HSS end mill, and a 3/8” Coated HSS end mill. The material was H13 Tool steel and I used feeds and speeds comparable to this type of cut. The total cut time for these 2 tools was 10 hrs. and 45 mins.
Using iMachining 3D, the Technology Wizard calculated feeds and speeds, depth of cut and step overs for me. The total cut time was 4 hrs. and 18 mins. A savings of 6 hrs. and 27 mins of machine time.
Now using different tools, I could have reduced the cut times in both systems. But what’s important here is the comparison between the cut times, using the same tools. I also used a relatively safe, default setting for the iMachining tool paths. Now, I did not see the 70 %-time savings in this example, but still an impressive time savings of 60%. It’s also important to note that, at the time of writing this article, I had not had any formal training in iMachining for NX. I based my testing on documentation that came with the software.
Having verified a significant time savings, is just the first step. There was less user input required and smoother tool paths were generated. The image below shows the tool paths generated, for the 2 cutters, using iMachining for NX. Notice the smooth tangent paths.
Compare these to the following images of the Cavity Mill tool paths. Notice the sharp corners and sudden directional changes, which will add more stress to the cutters, shortening the tool life.
Of course, you can’t rely on one test to judge anything. So, I have included the following examples from the iMachining documentation.
As you can see, the results are truly impressive. This is an add-on to NX, but the return on investment is exceptional. Imagine how much you could save with significantly reduced machine time, plus your tools will last longer. As your Value-Added Reseller, we see the value that this product brings to NX. It makes a great product even better, but more importantly, it will save you time and money.
By the time this article is posted, our team will be ready to demo this product, to our customers and prospects. You can view the iMachining for NX brochure by clicking on this link (iMachining for NX). If you would like to arrange for a demo of this product, you can contact your Account Manager, or call us at 1-888-567-3933.
We’ve had several calls, on our tech line, asking us if Solid Edge can automatically determine the number of holes in a part, and place that value in a callout. If you are using Solid Edge ST9, and the holes were placed with the hole command, the answer is yes. To achieve this, new Feature Reference Values were added to the Symbols and Values, in Solid Edge ST9.
To illustrate how this works, I will use the following draft document as an example:
I start by selecting the Callout command, from the Annotation group.
In the Callout Properties dialog, I select the Select Symbols and Values icon.
I first expand the Values section, and then expand the Feature References section, in the Select Symbols and Values dialog.
When I scroll down, I notice that 3 new values have been added to the list.
These new values will provide the quantity count for:
%QC – all coplanar holes of the same size and type.
%QP – all parallel holes of the same size and type.
%QA – all holes of the same size and type.
Continuing with our example, I highlight the %QC and hit the Select button.
Notice that a preview is provided, at the bottom of the dialog. I then click the OK button to return to the Callout Properties dialog.
Notice that the %QC value is placed in the Callout text field.
In the Callout text field, I continue by typing a space, the letter x, and another space. I then select the Diameter symbol and the Hole Size feature reference.
Note: Remember you can save this Callout text for reuse on other Solid Edge documents.
I click OK, to dismiss the dialog, and then select the 3 holes, shown below, to place the callouts.
Notice that only coplanar counts are given. I then repeat this process using %QP, as shown below, I get the following results.
Notice that the counts on the top view are identical, because all the holes reside on parallel planes.
I then repeat this process using %QA, as shown below, I get the following results.
Notice that the counts are identical for all 3 callouts, because %QA looks for all the holes in the part, regardless of their orientation.
In the previous example, I used the Callout command. I can also place these new values in the Modify Dimension Style dialog box. For example, I could place them in the Smart Depth Tab as shown below:
Then, when I use the Feature Callout option in any of the dimension commands, I get the same results as using the Callout command.
In closing, I’d like to re-emphasize, that these values only work on “like” holes that were created by using the Hole command. They do not work on cutouts. How does Solid Edge define “like” holes? Solid Edge looks at the following settings in the holes:
If these settings are the same for two holes, then they are considered to be like holes.
If this, or any other information, in this article, is unknown to you. You may want to consider attending one of our 2-day Advanced Draft courses. For a complete course syllabus, got to http://www.designfusion.ca//technical-training.html, and scroll down to the Solid Edge Advanced Drafting course description.
Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a Cam Forum for Siemens PLM Software partners. A colleague and I drove down to Troy, Michigan, where we were introduced to new NX CAM functionality in NX11.0.1. We also saw some of the future enhancements coming in NX11.0.2 and beyond. Although there were many enhancements that I could discuss, there was one in particular that I found extremely useful. So rather than give a brief overview of all the enhancements, I will focus on one of my favorite enhancements. Once you’ve loaded NX11.0.1, open the help docs and view the what’s new section, if you’d like an overview of all the enhancements.
Interpolate Tool Axis Enhancements
Prior to NX11.0.1, if machining the part below, with the tool shown, you’d have a tool holder collision issue along the wall.
When situations like this occur, NX now provides a new Control Direction option, when using the Interpolate Vector tool axis option. To access this new option, expand the Tool Axis section, in the operation template. With the Axis option set to Interpolate Vector, click the Edit icon.
Notice the new Control Direction option under the Interpolation Method.
The U and V option retains the behavior from previous releases. The U option controls the tool axis in the U direction only. The V option controls the tool axis in the V direction only. These two options give the new behavior.
In this example, I’ll select the U from the Control Direction list.
Notice the two iso curves. Each iso curve contains a system defined vector at each end. Only one vector is now necessary to define the tool axis along each iso curve.
There is another new option, that allows us to select a system defined vector and tell the system not to consider it, when interpolating the tool axis. You do this by selecting the vector, and selecting the new Ignore Point check box. In this example, I first select vector 4, from the list.
Note: You may also select the vector by single-clicking in the graphics display. Double-clicking reverses the vector direction.
I then select the Ignore Point check box.
I repeat this step for vector 2.
Next, I select vector 3 and use the dynamic axis handle to rotate the tool about the YC axis, until the holder no longer collides with the part.
The third enhancement becomes apparent will doing this rotation. In previous releases, the tool was rotated about the tool tip resulting in the tool cutting below the part surface. The tool now rotates about the contact point and no longer violates the part. See the image below.
When I verify the tool path, I notice that the tool holder no longer collides with the part wall, but the tool axis begins tilting sooner than necessary. This is because NX tilts the tool axis continuously as it interpolates the tool axis between the two U curves.
I can add another iso curve to control how long the tool remains vertical before tilting. To do this I return to the Tool Axis section and click Edit again. In the Interpolate Vector dialog, I select the Add New Set icon.
Next, I select a point on the edge of the part, in the approximate position shown below.
This defines an additional iso curve with a vector that can be used to control the tilt of the tool. By leaving the ZC vector vertical, the tool axis will remain vertical as it approaches the wall until it reaches this curve.
This time, when I verify the tool path, the tool axis remains vertical until it reaches the added iso curve. It then begins to tilt as it approaches the next iso curve.
As you can see from this example, you can now specify either a U or V control direction and ignore system defined vectors, allowing you to interpolate the tool axis for variable axis operations along U or V iso curves, with as little as a single interpolation vector for each curve. This capability greatly simplifies the task of specifying a constant tool axis orientation along the entire U or V curve.
In this article, I will continue to focus on some of the Solid Edge tools used to deal with large assemblies. As mentioned in the previous articles, “Working with Large Assemblies – Part 1 and Part 2”, If you are a Solid Edge user, hopefully you are aware of the following tools for dealing with large assemblies:
The following list, briefly describes what each tool does:
Overlapping - Selects elements which are inside or overlapping the fenced area.
Selection Filter - Controls whether elements are selectable based on the element type.
Select Visible Parts - Selects parts that are fully or partially visible in the active window at its current view orientation.
Select Parts Constrained To - Selects parts that are constrained to one or more previously selected parts. This option is available after you select one or more parts.
Select Subassembly Parts - Selects all other occurrences of the currently selected subassembly.
Select All Identical Parts - Selects all the parts in the assembly which are identical to the selected part.
Select Parts by Size - Displays a command bar, which contains a spin box so you can dynamically select a set of parts based on their size.
The Part size field valueis based on the size of the parts in the current view where 1 is the smallest part and 100 is the largest.
Activate Part – Allows you to activate select parts.
Faces Priority - Locates element types such as faces and features first, then other element types, such as parts and features. Used primarily for editing assemblies with synchronous components.
Parts Priority - Locates parts first, then other element types, such as individual faces and features.
Normal Select Mode – Same as using the Select Tool.
Add/Remove Mode – Allows you to select multiple components. If the component is already selected it removes it from the selection set.
Add Mode - Allows you to select multiple components. Can only add elements to the current selection set.
Remove Mode - Allows you to only remove elements from the current selection set.
Selection Manager Mode – Used to launch the Selection Manager, when an element is selected. See the Selection Manager menu in the Solid Edge Help, for more information about this menu.
Clear Selection - Clears the selection set. You can also press the Esc key, or double-click in the graphics window to clear the current selection.
Once you’ve created your selection set, you can perform tasks like Hide, Show Only, Inactivate, and Activate. Making these tools ideal for working on large assemblies.
Another method, for finding components, is to use the Query command. The Query command, found on the Select Tools tab of the PathFinder, allows you to search for components base on the component properties.
Once you’ve used your query to create a selection set, you can perform tasks like Hide, Show Only, Inactivate, and Activate. Making this another excellent tool for working on large assemblies.
Below is a quick list of other points regarding queries:
Assembly Open As options
Over this series of articles, we have discussed how to activate, inactivate, hide, and show components. Above we discussed how to rapidly select components based on various criteria. Solid Edge also offers you a way to define what state you wish to open the assembly in. For example, you can open a large assembly much quicker if all the components are inactive, and even quicker if they are hidden. In the Solid Edge Options > Assembly Open As tab, you can define your definition of small, medium, and large assemblies. You can then define what state the components will be opened in.
If necessary, you can override the defined settings when opening an assembly. For example, you can override the assembly size, on the Open dialog.
You can even override the component state settings, by expanding the More.. button, on the Open dialog.
Limited Update and Limited Save commands
These are 2 relatively new commands, added in Solid Edge ST7. Added specifically for dealing with large assemblies, these commands are defined as follows:
Limited Update - The Limited Update command confines updates to only those documents that, in the current design session, have been modified by you. If other documents have been modified by someone else, those changes can be viewed and updated by using the Component Tracker. The Component Tracker shows the status of these documents and saves can be made that overrides the limited save command if desired.
Limited Save - The Limited Save command changes the behavior of Save when you work in the assembly environment. Selecting the Limited Save command confines the save operation to only those documents that you have opened and have write access to. Limited Save acts on documents in the current assembly structure. Processing is from the active level down. Part copies that reside in parent level assemblies are not updated with Limited Save.
The Limited Update and Limited Save commands enable you to control, update, and save operations, while working in Solid Edge assembly, and while in-place activated. They need to be enabled on the Solid Edge Options > Assembly tab.
When either Limited Update or Limited Save are enabled, PathFinder indicates the mode is active using an icon on the top level of the assembly.
Before enabling these commands, make sure you read the Solid Edge Help documents, on these commands. They describe them in more detail.
Assemblies made of synchronous parts
There has been a lot written about the power of synchronous technology, in Solid Edge. The rapid modelling, and unprecedented speed of editing, has dominated these articles. But one of the often-overlooked benefits is that synchronous parts use less memory than ordered parts. Some of our customers are reporting up to 30 percent smaller assemblies. The smaller the assembly memory use, the better the overall performance.
This completes the series of articles on working with large assemblies. I’ve attempted to give you an overview of the more common tools that are available for improving your performance, and efficiency, when working with large assemblies, or any assembly for that matter. But let me emphasize that this was an overview. There are many more tips and tricks, methods, and commands that could have been discussed. For example, the recently added Isolate command, or the Insert Assembly Copy command, to name two. You can research more on this topic in the Solid Edge Help documents or attend one of our Advanced Assembly course. Where we teach all of the methods to deal with large assemblies, plus many more tools for creating, editing, and managing assemblies. The complete course syllabus can be found on our training page, at the following link: http://www.designfusion.ca//technical-training.html.
In this article, I will continue to focus on some of the Solid Edge tools used to deal with large assemblies. As mentioned in the previous article, “Working with Large Assemblies – Part 1”, If you are a Solid Edge user, hopefully you are aware of the following tools for dealing with large assemblies:
The amount of physical memory available on your computer affects the performance of all your Windows applications, not just Solid Edge. When the physical memory is completely allocated, some operations are swapped to virtual memory. Virtual memory is disk space on your hard drive allocated for use when physical memory resources are not available.
Virtual memory is much slower than physical memory. When any application has to swap information between virtual memory and physical memory to complete a task, system performance slows down considerably. You can improve performance by increasing available physical memory in the following ways:
Reduce the demand for physical memory
Install additional physical memory in your computer
|See the readme.htm file in the Solid Edge folder for additional information on memory recommendations for Solid Edge.|
You can reduce the demand for physical memory in 3 different methods:
Hide components: This allows you to unload the display data of the components. It also makes your display less cluttered, allowing you to work more efficiently with the displayed parts.
Unloading Components: Once the components are hidden, you can unload them using the Unload Hidden Parts command. This unloads the part from memory, freeing up the memory for other tasks.
Inactivate components: This allows you to unload the underlying math data on components, but still maintains the display data. You can see the component and the component will maintain any attached assembly relationships.
Of course, if you hide a component, you can also show the component at any time. Likewise, you can activate a component when you need to perform any task that requires the underlying math data.
When working with a large assembly, it is common to work on specific areas or sections of the assembly, at different times. Configurations allow you to capture and control isolated displays of those specific work areas or sections. For example, if you are working on a large vehicle assembly, you may want to focus on the rear wheel mechanism. You can inactivate, hide, or even unload, the rest of the assembly. Thus, only showing the components of the rear wheel mechanism. Then you can create a configuration, and call it Rear Wheel Mechanism.
Once you’ve defined the configuration, you can use the Assembly Configuration list in the Home tab > Configuration group, to apply the specific display configuration. This allows you to quickly display, hide, inactivate, and unload specific components.
Furthermore, when you open an assembly, you can select it to open to a specific display configuration.
You can also place the configuration into a drawing view, by selecting it from the Drawing View Wizard options.
Zones are similar to configurations, but provide additional intelligence, to aid the user. A zone is a defined work envelope, which allows you to see either all the components inside the zone, or all the components inside and overlapping the zone. For example, imagine that you are responsible for the modeling of a conveyer belt sub-assembly, on a large machine assembly. Inside the large machine assembly, you can create a conveyer zone, as shown below:
Like a configuration, you can display only the components inside of the zone.
But you can also display any overlapping components.
This provides the additional advantage of seeing any components that interfere with your zone, that may have been added by another user. Thus, making zones an ideal tool for large assemblies that are created and modified by multiple users. You also have the same added benefits offered with configurations, allowing you to open an assembly into a specific zone, and allowing you to place specific zones into a drawing view.
Display tools, configurations, and zones, are just a few of the tools in Solid Edge, used to accelerate work and improve performance in large assemblies. This article has been a brief overview of these tools. There are many additional options and benefits not covered in this article. Further information can be found in the Solid Edge Help documents, or you can attend one of our Advanced Assembly courses, where we teach all of the methods to deal with large assemblies, plus many more tools for creating, editing, and managing assemblies. The complete course syllabus can be found on our training page, at the following link: http://www.designfusion.ca//technical-training.html. Look for the third part of Working with Large Assemblies in the near future.
One of the most prominent issues, that has bogged down many CAD systems, is the ability to deal with large assemblies. Despite improved hardware and continuing CAD improvements, this issue is still a top complaint among many CAD users. In some cases, it is the CAD system’s architecture that causes the system to slowdown as the assembly size increases. However, with Solid Edge, most cases we encounter are the result of the user being unaware of tools and/or best practices for dealing with large assemblies. If you are a Solid Edge user, hopefully you are aware of the following tools for dealing with large assemblies:
This creates a separate header in the PathFinder, similar to creating a flat pattern in the Sheet Metal environment.
You can now use the Delete Faces, Delete Regions, Delete Holes, or Delete Rounds commands to simplify your part. These commands are found on the Home tab, in the Modify group.
In this example, the Delete Holes command was used to create the following simplified part. Notice the Delete Holes feature under the Simplify header, in the PathFinder.
In the part environment, you can toggle between the two versions of the part, using the Tools tab > Modal group.
When placed in the assembly, you can select which version you want displayed by using the shortcut menu in the PathFinder.
This allows you to use the lighter weight, simplified version, in the assembly while you work. But you can easily toggle on the designed part for final display or any other time you may need it.
Similar to a simplified part, you can create a simplified version of a sub-assembly, to be used in the top-level assembly. Solid Edge provides two methods for creating simplified assemblies. Both have advantages and disadvantages, so it is up to the user to decide which will best suit their needs. Prior to selecting the method, you first have to tell the system that you want to create a simplified version of your assembly. To do this, go to the Tools tab > Model group, and select the Simplify option.
Now you must select either the Visible Faces command, or the Model command, which are the two methods used to create the simplified version of the assembly.
The Visible Faces command has the advantage of rapid creation of the simplified version of your assembly. The disadvantage is that it is not associative to the designed version of the assembly. When you make changes to the designed version, you have to remember to update the simplified version. Solid Edge defines the Visible Face method as:
Creates a simplified representation of an assembly by processing the assembly to show only the exterior envelope of faces and by excluding parts, such as small parts. This improves interactive performance when you use the simplified representation of the assembly as a subassembly in another assembly or to create a drawing of a large assembly.
Essentially, you create an outer shell of the designed assembly with the option to hide any small components, such as hardware parts, exposed to the outer shell. This is ideal for assemblies with many internal components, that are not visible from the outside of the assembly.
Simplified Assembly Model (SAM)
The second method is the Model command. This command launches the Simplified Assembly Model environment, often referred to as SAM. Solid Edge defines the Model command as:
Creates a simplified representation of an assembly creating a solid representation of the simplified assembly. The solid model is stored as ordered solid geometry within the assembly.
The SAM environment allows users to create rapid enclosure of the model, and then use ordered modelling to modify the enclosures to better represent the assembly shape. These simplified models are associative to the designed assembly. Plus, you can create simplified version of framed or cage like assemblies, that would be poor candidates for the Visible Face method. The disadvantage is that this can take a bit longer to create, than the Visible Face method.
Using the simplified version
Whichever method you use, the simplified version can be shown, in a higher level assembly, using the shortcut menu in the PathFinder.
In the Solid Edge Help documents, under Controlling simplified assemblies, you will find the following table, illustrating the many ways to control simplified assemblies.
It is important to note that simplified assemblies should only be made if it is a sub-assembly, of a higher-level assembly. Creating them will actually add weight to the assembly itself. However, you can significantly reduce the weight, of the higher-level assembly, when used in the higher-level assembly. Solid Edge best describes this as follows:
Simplified assemblies and memory usage
When you create a simplified representation of an assembly, the data storage requirements for the assembly document increase because the surface data for the simplified representation is stored in the assembly document.
The size increase required to support the simplified representation is small when compared to the size requirements of all the documents that make up the assembly.
When you place a simplified assembly document as a subassembly into another assembly, the memory requirements required to display the higher-level assembly drop dramatically. This improves performance and also allows you to work with larger data sets more effectively.
This performance improvement also applies when creating a drawing of a simplified assembly. Because less memory is required to support the simplified data set, the drawing views will process quicker.
As mentioned in the beginning of the article, Simplified Parts and Simplified Assemblies, are just two methods of dealing with large assemblies. The intent here is to make sure you are aware of them and provide an overview of their benefits. The detailed creation and use, of these tools, require much more space than allotted for this blog. Further information can be found in the Solid Edge Help documents, or you can attend one of our Advanced Assembly courses, where we teach all of the methods to deal with large assemblies, plus many more tools for creating, editing, and managing assemblies. The complete course syllabus can be found on our training page, at the following link: http://www.designfusion.ca//technical-training.html. Future blog articles will provide further overviews of the other tools for dealing with large assemblies.
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