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Working with Large Assemblies – Part 3

John Pearson - Thursday, April 06, 2017

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:

  •  
  • •Simplified Parts
  • •Simplified Assemblies
  • ○Visible Faces
  • ○Model Command
  • •Selection Tools
  • •Display Tools
  • •Queries
  • •Zones
  • •Configurations
  • •Limited Update
  • •Limited Save
  • •Assembly Open As options
  • •Assemblies made of synchronous parts.
  •  
  • Combine these tools with some best practices and other tips and tricks, and you’ll find that large assemblies behave more efficiently and are more reliable in Solid Edge, than any other mainstream CAD package.
  •  
  • In this article, I’d like to focus on the tools not already covered in the previous articles. To be specific, this article will discuss the following tools:
  •  
  • Selection Tools
  • Queries
  • Limited Update
  • Limited Save
  • Assembly Open As options
  • Assemblies made of synchronous parts.
  •  
  • Each of these tools offer the user improved efficiency and greater performance when working with large assemblies.
  •  
  • Selection Tools
  •  
  • All Solid Edge users know about the Selection Tool, but I have found many users are unaware of the other selection tools available in the assembly environment. If you have a look at the Select group, on the Home tab, you’ll notice that there are numerous selection tools available to assist you.

 

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 PartAllows 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 ModeAllows 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 ModeUsed 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.

 

Queries

 

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:

 

  • • You can define queries in an assembly document that is used as a template.
  •  
  • • You can copy a query from one document and paste it into another document using the commands on the shortcut menu.
  •  
  • • You can use the Query dialog box to specify whether you want to search subassemblies.
  •  
  • • You can also use the Quick Query option, on the Select Tools tab, to find and select parts in an assembly. Quick queries are not stored on the Select Tools tab.
  •  
  • •You can use the commands on the shortcut menu to edit, delete, and rename a query entry in PathFinder.
  •  
  • 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.

     

    Summary

     

    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. 

     

    Working with Large Assemblies – Part 2

    John Pearson - Wednesday, March 29, 2017

     

    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:

     

    • •Simplified Parts
    • •Simplified Assemblies
    •     ○Visible Faces
    •     ○Model Command
    • •Selection Tools
    • •Display Tools
    • •Queries
    • •Zones
    • •Configurations
    • •Limited Update
    • •Limited Save
    • •Assembly Open As options
    • •Assemblies made of synchronous parts.
    •  
    • Combine these tools with some best practices and other tips and tricks, and you’ll find that large assemblies behave more efficiently and are more reliable in Solid Edge, than any other mainstream CAD package.
    •  
    • In this article, I’d like to focus on display tools, configurations, and zones. I’ll look at how they work, how to create them, and some best practices for using them. First, we’ll look at display tools.
    •  
    • Display Tools
    •  
    • One of the easiest ways to improve display performance, when working with large assemblies, is to control which parts in the assembly use physical memory resources. This can be achieved by inactivating components, hiding components and unloading components.
    •  
    • When you first load a part into the assembly environment, using default settings, the part is visible and active. That is to say that both the display data, and underlying math data, is loaded into the assembly file. The more components that are added the more data that is loaded. The more data that gets loaded, the more physical memory is used. The following paragraph is an excerpt from the Solid Edge Help document, and explains how available memory affects performance of the program:
    •  

    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

     

    Note

    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.

     

     

    Configurations

     

    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

     

    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.

     

    Summary

     

    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.

     

    Working with Large Assemblies – Part 1

    John Pearson - Thursday, March 23, 2017

    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:

     

     

    • • Simplified Parts
    • • Simplified Assemblies
    •      ○Visible Faces
    •      ○Model Command
    • • Selection Tools
    • • Display Tools
    • • Queries
    • • Zones
    • • Configurations
    • • Limited Update
    • • Limited Save
    • • Assembly Open As options
    • • Assemblies made of synchronous parts.
    •  
    • Combine these tools with some best practices and other tips and tricks, and you’ll find that large assemblies behave more efficiently and are more reliable in Solid Edge, than any other mainstream CAD package.
    •  
    • In this article, I’d like to focus on Simplified Parts and Simplified Assemblies. I’ll look at how to create them and best practices for using them. First, we’ll look at Simplified Parts.
    •  
    • Simplified Parts
    •  
    • Solid Edge defines a simplified part as:
    •  
    • A part that has had some of its features hidden using the commands in the Simplify Model environment. When you simplify a part, it will process faster in an assembly. You can control whether the simplified version or the designed version of the part is displayed in the assembly.
    •  
    • For an example of a simplified part, let’s look at the following part, which is the back of a clock.
     

     
    • Notice that this part contains, screw holes for attachment, and fill pattern of holes for ventilation. To simplify the part, you start by selecting Tools tab > Model group > Simplify option.

     


     

    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.

     


     

    Simplified Assemblies

     

    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.

     


     

    Visible Faces

     

    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.

     

    Summary

     

    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.