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Ordered vs. Synchronous – Which should I use? – Part 1

John Pearson - Thursday, October 10, 2013
  1. I’ve been approached by many Solid Edge users who ask me if they should be using the synchronous or the ordered method for the designs. I always answer yes. To which they smile and usually ask “No, really, which is better?” To which I respond, why choose? Use both. This may seem like a political answer, but it’s not. The true power behind Solid Edge is the hybrid approach utilized through integrated modeling. To understand the benefits, we first have to look at the pros and cons of each paradigm.


Pros and Cons of the ordered paradigm


Ordered modeling has been in Solid Edge since day one. It is like an old friend that many long time users are comfortable with, and experienced in. Many of the users I talk to claim that they like the control that ordered modeling gives them. Ordered modeling forces the user to build the model in a certain order of steps, which are predefined by the intent of the designer.

For example, the designer starts with the sketch or profile for his/her base feature. He/she draws the profile and constrains it with 2D geometric and dimensional constraints. By doing this he/she is controlling how the sketch can change. This involves some thinking ahead and predictions of potential future edits. 

Once the sketch is complete, it becomes the parent of the base feature. In other words the sketch drives the base feature. Additional profile base features are then added to the base feature in a similar manner. Each becoming a child of the base feature, thus creating an ordered structure that is shown in the Pathfinder. Treatment features are then added, creating more parent child relationships, until you have a completed model.

The ordered structure appeals to a lot of designers. Especially, if the design lends itself to a master model approach, where you create a master model and then generate many variations off that model by simply changing a few parameters. This does require intelligent set up of the master model and a good understanding of how the model was constructed.


So when I ask my customers what they like most about ordered? I get the following list of Pros:

Very structured approach to modeling.
Predictability to the designer who created the model.
Ability to lock down how the model behaves.
Other users can’t accidentally change my design.
Easy to set up family of parts or family of assemblies with a master model approach.
Long accepted method of modeling with a proven track record.  
Creating the initial model is just as fast in ordered as it is in synchronous method.
I am use to ordered design and have lots of ordered legacy data.

From a designer’s point of view, all these are good reasons to stay in the ordered paradigm. However when I look at the list, I get a feeling of déjà vu. It looks very similar to the list of reasons that designers use to give for staying in 2D. But we all know that many companies have switched to 3D. Why? Because the industry recognized that switching to 3D design provided many advantages. In other words there were a lot of Cons in 2D design. So what are the Cons of the ordered method?

It should be noted that some of the Cons or disadvantages that I am about to list come from working with the synchronous technology for almost 6 years now. Many designers will disagree with some of these because they do not have a true understanding of how synchronous modeling works. So with that in mind let me list some of the main problems with ordered designs.

Forced structured approach to modeling.
Modeling requires the designer to predict how the model could change in the future.
Editing the model is slow and cumbersome if the designer incorrectly predicted the

        future changes, or uses the part as a reference part to initiate a new model.
Making changes requires an in-depth understanding of how model was originally  

        created.In some situations it has proven faster to re-model the part then to try

        and understand all the parent-child relationships.
On large models, re-compute times can be lengthy due to the structured approach.
Models are heavy because of all the history saved in the part files. This makes opening and saving times lengthy.
Working with foreign data can be a challenge without the history/feature tree.

I’m sure my colleagues, could list a few others, but I think that these are the main ones. The next question then becomes how can synchronous eliminate or minimize the problems we face in ordered, and is it enough of an improvement to start using synchronous modeling? To answer this question, let’s look at the Pros and Cons of the synchronous paradigm.

 


Pros and Cons of the Synchronous paradigm


If you believe the marketing from Siemens, they claim the following:

“Synchronous technology provides the first history-free, feature-based modeling technology that enables up to 100 times faster design experience.”


Let me clarify this statement. It is not saying that all your designs can be done 100 times faster. In fact, if you start a design from scratch, the initial design process may only be slightly faster in the synchronous paradigm. However, there are aspects of the design process, which are up to 100 times faster if not more. Synchronous takes advantage of today’s powerful computer processers, and the elimination of Parent-Child relationships, to allow fast flexible modeling. Yet, with tools such as Live Rules, Procedural Features, 3D driving dimensions (PMI), it still provides the designer with control over the design when needed. So let me give you my list of synchronous Pros:

Rapid, flexible design tools.
The designer does not have to predict how the model will change in the future. 
History free approach allows for instantaneous model changes while editing the model.
The sketch does not drive the model. The dimensions are migrated to the model and directly drive the model at the 3D level.
Rapid edit tools and handles allow the designer to edit the model without having to understand how it was originally modeled.
Can edit a part file or group of parts from the assembly level, without having to edit into each part.
Can edit models from any CAD system as easily as editing solid edge models.
Model can be constrained at the 3D level, but not really necessary.
Models are lighter therefore open and save faster than in the ordered paradigm.
Can convert legacy ordered models into synchronous models.  
Although a different approach to modeling, it shares many similarities with the ordered paradigm. Thus easier to learn for existing Solid Edge users. 

Given all the Pros, you may be asking why everyone hasn’t changed to synchronous modeling. I believe that there are a few reasons for the hesitance to change. The first is the way Siemens introduced synchronous technology. It was first launched in the fall of 2007 in Solid Edge ST. It was new, and limited to part modeling with no real tie in to the ordered parts. Many users tried it then, but were left unsatisfied due to the limitations. The following year Solid Edge ST2 was released and introduced synchronous sheet metal modeling.  But again there seemed to be two separate paradigms with limited connection between the two. This all changed with the release of ST3 which introduced integrated modeling, allowing users to combine both paradigms within the same part. Unfortunately, many users had already made up their minds based on their less than successful attempts with ST and ST2.

Another reason for resistance is lack of training. Too many companies fail to see the benefit in properly training their users in the synchronous paradigm. They expect the user to pick it up on their own, while maintaining the same level of output.  It has been my experience that this approach fails most of the time. Designers may attempt to learn it, but will often revert back to the way they know, in order to meet company deadlines. The user will often resist the change for no other reason than lack of time to properly learn it.


The third reason is that there are some definite limitations in synchronous modeling. Certain features or techniques behave better in ordered because of the nature of synchronous modeling. I list the main Cons of synchronous modeling as follows:

Certain features have limited editing capabilities and are handled better in the ordered paradigm. Some examples include:
o Swept and lofted features 
o Certain rounds and blends
o Surfacing
Dangling bends are not currently supported in synchronous sheet metal. This limits

certain functionality.
Training – users need proper training to understand the synchronous paradigm. 


Some users may believe that they have more control in ordered, but that is a myth, based on lack of knowledge of the synchronous modeling tools. I will explain this more in my next blog article. But let me finish this article by discussing the integrated modeling approach.


Pros and Cons of the integrated modeling approach


Solid Edge allows the user to start the design in the synchronous paradigm and add ordered features if necessary. This approach allows the user to utilize the best of both paradigms. The synchronous portion of the model becomes the parent of the ordered features. This allows the user to change the synchronous parent which triggers an automatic update of the ordered dependent features. Furthermore the assembly can be populated with ordered parts, synchronous parts, and integrated parts. 


The only Con for this approach is that the designer has to be trained properly.

In my next blog article I will continue this article and further discuss the reasons why  customers are resistant to changing to synchronous technology. I will show how these perceived reasons are based on myth or inaccurate information. It is my hope that after reading both these articles you will have a better understanding of synchronous technology and be willing to take a second look at how it can be integrated into your design process, saving you time and money. 



How to copy styles from an existing document to an active document

John Pearson - Thursday, August 29, 2013
I recently had a technical support call, in which a customer wanted to add her own styles to the company template. She did not have access to the company templates, to change the styles, but needed to add specific styles for her current project. She wanted to know if there was a way to achieve this task without having to recreate the styles in every new document.  Fortunately the answer is yes. There is an often overlooked tool in the styles dialog called the Style Organizer. The Style Organizer tool is found on the Style dialog box.





The following steps are used to copy a style from an existing document to your active document:

Step 1. From the active document choose View > Style > Styles. 


Note: This example uses images from the part environment. The steps are the same in the draft environment, but the ribbon bar looks different.

Step 2. On the Style dialog box, set the Style Type box to the type of style you want to copy.

For example, you may want to copy an existing Face Style that you previously created in an older document.  In this case you would highlight the Faces Styles, as shown below.


Step 3. On the Style dialog box, click the Organizer button.



Step 4. Browse to locate the existing file that has the styles that you want to copy.



Note: In this example, I browsed for an existing file called Head Board.prt. Notice that all the Face Styles for Head Board.par are listed in the left side window and all the Face Styles of my active part are listed in the right side window





Step 5. Locate and select the Face Style that you want to copy and click Copy.

In this example I want to copy a “Wood, Cherry” face style, from the Head Board.par. I scroll down to locate the Face Style, highlight it, and then click Copy.



Notice that the “Wood, Cherry” face style now exists in my active part file.





Step 6. Close out of the command and use the style as you see fit.
 
Remember, you can copy any style, such as Dimension Styles, Drawing View Styles, Hatch styles, etc. into your active document. You may have noticed that you can also delete unwanted styles, using the command.

This is also a great tool for updating templates. If a user has created a style that he/she uses all the time, the CAD administrator can use this command to copy it into the company template. This is much easier than trying to recreate the style and also ensures accurate results. I hope you find this tool as useful as I do.

ST6 Released!

Cory Goulden - Saturday, July 27, 2013

Hot off the Press….ST6 RELEASED!!!

It is with great anticipation and excitement that I can say Solid Edge ST6 has once again been produced as a top quality product that has TONS of new functionality and features.  The latest version of Solid Edge has been released…officially. 

You may have received a new license file via email earlier.  As this is (once again) an exciting release I wanted to mention a few very high level notes about installing.*

*Of course you will always read and follow the install notes.

Prior versions of Solid Edge required you to turn off User Account Control (UAC) before installing.  This is part of Microsoft’s attempt to make the software more secure.  There are certain areas in programs that require read access and other components that require read and write access.  Microsoft requires programs to have the areas that require write access to be set aside in a designated folder.  This folder, in ST6, is called the “Preferences” folder.

The preferences folder is here:

C:\Program Files\Solid Edge ST6\Preferences

 Things like your license file (SELicense.dat by default), options.xml file, material.mtl file are located here now.  Things a user may need to have modified.  For those of you who attended my presentation on the SEAdmin functionality of SE the preferences folder location itself cannot be changed.   See below for an image of what the contents of this file are.

Happy Edging! 

Solid Edge ST6 introduced at SEU2013 – Part 2

John Pearson - Thursday, July 25, 2013

In last week’s blog I had started to discuss what was new in Solid Edge ST6, as introduced to us at Solid Edge University 2013 (SEU2013). I had left off with mentioning the new enhancements in surface modeling. So let’s continue with what’s new in Part and Sheet Metal modeling.


ST6 Part and Sheet Metal Design


Improved Steering Wheel – now has 3 directional axes to eliminate the annoying need to always flip the steering wheel.




Improved solution manager – including color control, something I had requested for some of our color blind users.


Faster revisions with synchronous technology - Include or exclude edges of peer parts during creation. Added exclude interior loops or use only interior loops, to the Extrude planar face option from ST5.


Better reuse with synchronous technology


  • ·         More robust rectangular and circular patterning.
  • ·         Pattern recognition allows count and instance editing of imported patterns.
  • ·         Partial round delete with end capping.
  • ·         Dimensioning chamfered edges uses virtual vertices.

 

Create stamped sheet metal parts with a single command – emboss a tool or punch into a sheet metal part.


Stiffen parts by adding features across bends - add beads, dimples, louvers, emboss features across bends


Sheet Metal Features on Parts - sheet metal features can be placed on regular ordered parts of uniform thickness without having to transform the part to sheet metal. This provides an especially efficient method in stamped metal design.

Again, there are many other enhancements in Part modeling which will benefit all users.

 

ST6 Assembly Design


Solid Edge continues their dominance in working with large assemblies. Along with some nice enhancements to PathFinder Indicators and Physical Properties, here are my favorite improvements:


Assembly occurrences can now be used for inputs to Boolean operations - No inter-part copy of the geometry is needed and multiple tool body components can be selected (see previous blog article).


Faster display - New display capabilities speed pan/zoom/fit by up to 2 times.


Complete overhaul of simplify assemblies


         New environment for creating user defined simplified representations.

         Enclose component automatically encloses components with rectangular or cylindrical solids.

         Duplicate body speeds simplification of copied or patterned components.

         Goal is to simplify models for effective design of 1 Million+ parts.

 

Create In-Place Enhancements – moved to optional QuickBar with better control over placing the origin.

 

Synchronous Assembly Modeling Peer Edge Locate – allows for improved key-point selection when modeling in the Assembly.


Plus several new enhancements to synchronous commands have been made while a user is in-place activated into a part or sheet metal file from an assembly.




ST6 Drafting


Two of the most exciting enhancements in Solid Edge ST6 appear in the Draft environment. When the following was demonstrated they received an enthusiastic round of applause from the audience at SEU2013.


Alignment control


         Align annotations with a linear, rectangular or fitted shape.

         Reposition the annotations by dragging the alignment shape.

 

Dimension auto-arrange


         Clean up messy dimensions with a single mouse click.

         Select dimensions by fence or by drawing view.

         Creates and aligns dimension grouping.

 

Some other notable changes in drawing production are:

 

         Faster zoom/pan, and hatch display with large 2D drawings.

         Auto-constrain 2D elements during drag-modify.

         Retrieve slot feature centerlines.

         Partial bolt hole circles.

         Simplified drawing view wizard.

         Shortcuts and easier sheet tab creation.

         Edit tables in place.

         Better editing of embedded documents.

         Drawing views are now displayed before placement.

         Derived break lines from one view to another.

         Align any drawing view with key-points or drawing view centers.

         2D directional fence select: left for overlapping, right for inside locate to.

         Create tables from placed blocks on schematic drawings.

 

These enhancements, and more, continue to make Solid Edge’s drawing capabilities the best on the market.




Help for SolidWorks refugees


One other noteworthy feature, added to Solid Edge ST6, is the new SolidWorks migration tool. Siemens is going after the SolidWorks customers who are concerned about the kernel change and loss of legacy data. This tool, combined with some other enhancements, will allow the SolidWorks user to:


  • ·        Protect their investment in design.
  • ·        Get the power of synchronous technology.
  • ·        Maintain speed and reliability with Parasolid.

  • If you are a SolidWorks customer and are concerned about the ongoing changes and mixed messages from Dassault Systemes, Siemens is willing to help you transition to Solid Edge, while protecting and reusing your legacy data.


 

Solid Edge ST6


As mentioned at the beginning of the article, I have only scratched the surface of what’s new in Solid Edge ST6. I did not even mention the enhancements in the simulation package, standard parts, framing, or data management. I will attempt to expand on the improvements in future blog articles. But I felt it important to give an overall account of Solid Edge ST6, as presented at SEU2013. I have worked with Solid Edge for over 10 years now and I am truly impressed with how the development team continues to listen to the actual customers. Solid Edge ST6 enhancements have truly been driven by the customers. The 3 core values for this release were to:


  1. 1.    Accelerate design for faster time to market.
  2. 2.    Faster revisions for higher repeat business.
  3. 3.    Better reuse for lower development costs.


Siemens has done a great job at meeting these core values with Solid Edge ST6. Judging by the excitement at SEU2013, this looks to be a great release with customers eagerly awaiting the arrival of Solid Edge ST6. The release date has not been finalized yet, but the general consensus is that customers can expect to receive their copy sometime in August 2013.

Solid Edge ST6 introduced at SEU2013 – Part 1

John Pearson - Friday, July 12, 2013

In the last few blog articles I have highlighted a couple of enhancements coming in Solid Edge ST6. Having just returned from Solid Edge University 2013 (SEU2013), where customers were introduced to Solid Edge ST6, I thought I should try and list some of the more than 1300 enhancements. Clearly, with over 1300 enhancements, it would be a major job to list and discuss all the changes, so I will only highlight some of the major improvements.


Before looking at some of the new features in Solid Edge ST6, I think it’s worth mentioning that in Q2, Solid Edge license business in the US has seen a 25% year over year growth. Combine this with the growing number of packages that work with Solid Edge; it is clear the Siemens is fully committed to the continued growth and success of Solid Edge.


Some of the new partners introduced at SEU 2013 include CAMWorks for Solid Edge, KeyShot and CRABCAD, just to name a few. I found the CAMWorks for Solid Edge to be the most intriguing new partner. It allows for machining of your Solid Edge model directly in the Solid Edge package. I will discuss this in future blog articles once I have been fully trained on this new package.



It was also clear, to the over 500 users that attended SEU2013, that Siemens is listening to their customers. As I mentioned earlier, Solid Edge ST6 satisfies over 1300 customer requests. This is the breakdown as presented to us at SEU2013:




So what did I find to be the most intriguing new features? First, I really like the new ability to install multiple versions on the same computer (see earlier blog article on how to set this up). Although this is for test purposes only, it will go a long way to allowing smoother upgrades, especially for smaller companies. Solid Edge ST6 also adds some new user experience tools, such as:


New user persona environments - to customize the user environment based on his level of expertise with the software.


YouTube in Solid Edge - The YouTube search and upload feature within Solid Edge ST6 allows you to upload pre-recorded videos, or record your own video within the UI and upload it directly through the Solid Edge application.


Record Videos in Solid Edge - Solid Edge ST6 provides the ability to record design workflows within the application.


Command Finder Updates - Enhancements have been made to the Command Finder to provide the user with additional information for searched items that are not considered Solid Edge commands.

 

Android Tablet Viewer - Solid Edge now has an App available to view part, sheet metal, and assembly files on an android powered tablet. Similar to the iPad App introduced in ST5.

Combine these new tools with enhanced learning tools and the expanded Solid Edge community, and you will find the overall user experience is greatly improved.


ST6 Surface Modeling


Some major improvements in Part modeling also impressed me and many of the other users at SEU2013. My favorite enhancements include the following:


Major overhaul of the Surfacing environment

  • ·         New easy-to-use 3D surface control handles for on screen edits of curvature with graphical            magnitude handles and numeric values.
  • ·         Key-point curves now with C2 support.
  • ·         Robust bounded surfaces also with C2 support.
  • ·         Blue surface command now has C2 handles and optional curvature combs.
  • ·         Trim and extend is now a single super command.
  • ·         Ruled Surface command added - allows the user to pick a curve and
  •        generate a sweep of linear cross section along a curve or edge.
  • ·         Redefine Surface command added - that allows a surface or group of adjacent surfaces to            be replaced with a single editable BlueSurf.
  • ·         Model Reflective Display - a new display mode has been introduced specifically designed            for studying curvature and volumes of surface models of symmetric parts.
  • ·         Plus so much more to allow users to model highly aesthetic consumer products.

There are many more improvements to mention, and I will continue to do so in next week’s blog.