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Another Solid Release: Solid Edge 17

By David Cohn

The folks at UGS are continuing their aggressive upgrade schedule, rolling out a new version of Solid Edge every nine months. Last September, Desktop Engineering looked at Solid Edge V16, which introduced adjustable parts and what UGS refers to as 2D/3D hybrid design. Its latest release, Solid Edge V17, is no less impressive.


This time around, UGS has focused on tools that make it easier to design increasingly complex products. Included are enhancements to the software’s hybrid design capabilities, direct editing of 3D models without having to work within the confines of a history tree, support for very large assemblies, and tools that make it easier for new users to learn to use the software.


Hybrid Design

As part of its “Evolve to 3D” philosophy, a four-step approach for moving 2D users to 3D, Solid Edge V16 introduced what UGS calls virtual components and zero D design. This allows users to set up an assembly structure before actually modeling the components—think of it as first setting up an outline for the assembly tree and then creating the individual parts. Once the assembly structure is determined and parts created, you publish the virtual components to create the actual assembly.


In Solid Edge V17, UGS has enhanced this 2D/3D hybrid design methodology with the ability to convert 3D parts into 2D profiles for use in creating 2D design layouts. Two-dimensional views can now be derived from finished 3D models and then used to represent the position of the 3D part within a 2D layout.

For example, a user could start with 3D geometry of an existing part, such as the frame of a tractor, to which additional geometry, such as a plow, needs to be added. Using the new capability, a lightweight 2D view of the existing 3D geometry can be created. Then, using the virtual component structure organizer introduced in Solid Edge V16, the user can add additional zero D components to the virtual assembly. After organizing the hierarchical product structure tree to establish the names and relationships of parts within the new assembly, the user can create or import design elements and associate them with the virtual parts in the assembly structure. For example, the designer can sketch additional 2D geometry, such as the brackets that hold the plow to the tractor, and relate that geometry to components in the product structure tree.

Once the virtual structure has been sufficiently defined, it can be published. Publishing converts the virtual structure into an actual Solid Edge assembly. Any existing 3D parts represented by 2D profiles are restored to 3D and the designer can use all of the familiar Solid Edge functions to model the new 3D parts based on the sketched 2D geometry.

Direct Editing

One of the most touted features in the new release is Direct Editing. UGS claims that Solid Edge V17 is the first “mid-market MCAD software to offer direct editing of models without the need to edit the history tree,” a claim many of its competitors promptly challenged. Cadkey (now called KeyCreator), CoCreate’s OneSpace Designer (previously called SolidDesigner), and VX have been able to directly modify model features since their inception. And both Inventor and SolidWorks have also supported direct face editing for several releases. So how can UGS make its claim, and is it justified?


What UGS is really saying is that it is the first of the top four CAD companies to offer direct intelligent editing of solids in its midrange product without regard to the history tree. Neither KeyCreator nor OneSpace Designer rely on parametric history trees; both work by directly manipulating the solid model. And while both Inventor and SolidWorks let users modify faces, they don’t do so in quite the same way as Solid Edge. Although UGS may be  splitting hairs, what Solid Edge is able to do is quite powerful.

While parametric solid modeling is quite powerful, as models become more complex they can also become more difficult to modify, particularly if the person attempting to make changes doesn’t understand how the model was originally created. Models imported from other CAD systems or from neutral formats such as IGES can be even more difficult to modify because they often come in as solid bodies lacking any discernable features.

Solid Edge V17 allows users to intelligently edit both native parametric models and imported 3D geometry without the need to deal with features and parameters. For example, suppose you want to add draft to a face so that the part can later be removed from its mold. Rather than migrating back through the feature tree to find the original features and attempting to adjust the draft angle, you can simply select the affected face, select an edge about which to rotate, and change the angle. An option tells Solid Edge to adjust any affected adjacent features as well. Or, a user can move faces to change the size of a component. When moving faces, the user can control the operation by moving along a two-point vector, along an edge, and so on. In addition, the operation adds a dimension that can subsequently be used to edit the move operation.

Direct editing operations don’t affect the original model history tree, but rather are added to the bottom of the Solid Edge feature tree and can be suppressed, removed, or modified. Users can add suppression variables and control direct editing features through the variable table or by using an Excel spreadsheet. Direct editing is also fully associative, both in stand-alone parts and when working in an assembly. Users can also perform in-context edits, such as aligning two holes or matching two face locations. In one demo, we watched as an IGES file was imported into a Solid Edge assembly and then modified so that its bolt holes aligned with those of a Solid Edge part.

Direct editing allows users to quickly and easily edit 3D topology no matter how it came to be in Solid Edge. It can be used to move, rotate, and resize features; delete holes and regions; change the thickness of sheet metal material; change the bend radius and bend angle; and add or increase draft angle. Since it works with both native and imported geometry, this new capability makes it easier to migrate data from other CAD programs and reduces the need for feature recognition.

Massive Assembly Support

UGS representatives tell us that many of their customers create assemblies containing several hundred thousand parts. New tools in Solid Edge V17 are designed to help improve performance when working with such massive assemblies and also protect intellectual property by removing pertinent details.

Solid Edge’s new simplified assembly capability uses a proprietary algorithm to automatically determine which external faces need to be displayed to give an accurate representation of the assembly. Unlike “lightweight assemblies,” which cannot be used to create cross sections, exploded views, or to perform other detailed operations, simplified assemblies remain dimensionally accurate and allow positioning of complex sub-assemblies within master assemblies, with the option to switch between simplified and detailed views at any time.

UGS has also introduced the concept of draft-quality views which, while remaining completely accurate, provide a simplified view for dimensioning and annotation. Finally, new structure-only navigation lets users load and navigate the entire assembly structure without displaying all the geometry associated with the assembly. The user can then activate only the parts or subassemblies that need to be modified.

Other Improvements

UGS rounds out the V17 release with a number of new features. XpresReview is an e-mail-driven solution for design review that complements the existing managed collaboration workflow capability of Insight and Insight Connect. It lets anyone review Solid Edge models using a free viewer.
Apprentice mode helps new users navigate the software more easily while the command assistant leads new users through commands. Command finder, another new learning tool, automatically displays when the software senses that a user is having difficulty locating a command. The user can then tell the command finder what they’re trying to do; command finder cross-references Solid Edge commands to those in other CAD systems.

Another new enhancement, the feature error assistant, provides more intelligent information and guidance when an operation or feature fails. Solid Edge V17 also provides improved graphics and more descriptive tool tips. All of these tools should help both new users and those who don’t use MCAD on a daily basis.

Solid Edge V17 includes a new batch migration wizard for Autodesk Inventor. There’s also a new bidirectional CATIA V4 translator available as a $495 add-on, and a new ME10-to-Solid Edge translator offered by third-party developer Procim.

Once again, UGS has delivered new and improved capabilities, making this release as good as any in recent memory. Arguments over direct editing aside, Solid Edge V17 stacks up well against every other MCAD program in the midrange market.

David Cohn is a computer consultant and technical writer based in Bellingham, WA, and the author of more than a dozen books. He’s a contributing editor to Desktop Engineering, the editor-in-chief of Engineering Automation Report and CADCAMnet published by Cyon Research Corp., and teaches college-level CAD courses. You can visit his website at dscohn.com or send an e-mail about this article c/o DE’s Editors.


Solid Edge 17 At a Glance

Full system:                    $4,995
Annual maintenance:      $1,296

Huntsville, AL

System Requirements
Operating System: Windows XP Professional with SP1 (or higher) or Windows 2000 Professional with SP4 (or higher)
CPU:  Intel Pentium, Intel Xeon, AMD Athlon, or AMD Opteron
Memory: 258MB RAM minimum (512MB or more recommended)
Video: 1024 x 768 VGA with True Color (minimum, OpenGL optional)
Other: Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 or later (required)

About David Cohn

David Cohn has been using AutoCAD for more than 25 years and is the author of more than a dozen books on the subject. He’s the technical publishing manager at 4D Technologies, a contributing editor to Digital Engineering, and also does consulting and technical writing from his home in Bellingham, WA. Watch for his latest CADLearning eBooks on AutoCAD 2015 on the Apple iBookstore, at Amazon, and on the CADLearning website. You can contact him via email at david@dscohn.com or visit his website at www.dscohn.com.