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Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology 2: First Encounter

Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology 2 challenges common assumptions about direct modeling.

Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology 2 challenges common assumptions about direct modeling.

The cartwheel control lets you move or rotate faces and features with precision in any direction, at any angle.

The cartwheel control lets you move or rotate faces and features with precision in any direction, at any angle.

I’m probably going to ruffle a few feathers with this observation, but I believe it’s backed by experience, yours and mine.

In general, a history-based parametric program is not ideal for concept exploration. In the design phase where you’re toying with various shapes, experimenting with numerous parameters, a CAD program’s parametric history is more a limitation than an enabler. A feature history is like a stack of dominoes, each one sitting on top of another. Every time you execute a change that violates the hierarchy of steps, you risk a regeneration failure.

So, over time, you learn to use CAD to draw with precision, to build your geometry with careful consideration. If you’re still pursuing competing ideas and don’t know how your design will look like in the end, you’re much better off using a 3D modeler that lets you build, break, and rebuild your geometry with reckless abandon (for example, Google SketchUp or bonzai3d from Autodessys).

But Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology (ST) may be an exception.

Common Arguments Against Direct Modeling Don’t Hold Water with ST
Up to this point, all my coverage of ST has been second-hand accounts: I wrote about the demonstrations and presentations I’d seen; I’d never had the chance to use the software personally. Last week, courtesy of Siemens PLM Software, I received a trial copy of the software.

Years of tech reporting makes me allergic to marketing slogans. I take into account the possibility that a technology works flawlessly during a demo only because the presenters have used sleight-of-hand tricks to impress me over WebEx. But having used Solid Edge with ST, I can wholeheartedly agree with Siemens’ claim that it “combines the best of constraint-driven techniques with direct modeling.”

Live Rules let you maintain or suspend geometric relationships while you edit.

Live Rules let you maintain or suspend geometric relationships while you edit.

Though the software encourages you to shape your geometry directly by pushing, pulling, and rotating faces and features, it also catalogs the features (holes, protrusions, rounds, blends, and so on) in your part.  Should you choose to go back to any of them and readjust the parameter or position (say, the placement and radius of a hole), you can simply double-click on that feature to launch the control handles (shaped like a cartwheel with pointers).

Unlike the features in a history-based parametric modeler, ST features are not order-dependent, so you can make changes to any of these features in any order. One of the commonly used arguments against direct modeling is that it’s impossible to modify your design after the fact because you created the geometry on the fly. This argument simply isn’t valid with Solid Edge with ST.

Nor can you employ the other frequently used argument that direct modelers don’t let you preserve design intent. If, by design intent, you mean the geometric relationships (the hole must remain fixed to the center of an outer arc, the inner wall must remain parallel to the outer edges, and so on), you’ll find that ST’s Live Rules can manage and maintain these associations just as well as any history-based parametric modeler.

Furthermore, you’ll be able to do something in ST that’s not so easy to do in a traditional CAD program: you can temporarily suspend some or all of these geometric relationships (for example, execute a change on only one side of a mirrored feature without affecting the opposite side).

With Solid Edge with ST, you’re encouraged to take a different approach to modeling. Unencumbered by history, you could freely use features (holes, bosses, thin walls, and so on) as place-holder objects while you explore design options. The ease with which you can modify your geometry makes it a better environment to innovate, not just document ideas.

Here’s a video review of the basics I discovered:

For more, read Part II, “Stress Relief” (March 20, 2010).

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About Kenneth

Kenneth Wong has been a regular contributor to the CAD industry press since 2000, first an an editor, later as a columnist and freelance writer for various publications. During his nine-year tenure, he has closely followed the migration from 2D to 3D, the growth of PLM (product lifecycle management), and the impact of globalization on manufacturing. His writings have appeared in Cadalyst, Computer Graphics World, and Manufacturing Business Technology, among others.


  1. I bought SE just at the release of ST1 due to what I saw at a demo with the guy using my parts that he had not seen beforehand. I have to say that V1 was rough around the edges but V2 is far better. The use for Synch that I had was to alter existing parts. Many of my customers really like to tinker with try this and then try that. I have found that I save a lot of time when I can just alter the part and not have to go through the whole parametric/history thing. This is especialy true in imported parts where I can go to the part or even a part in an assembly and edit it QUICKLY with no problems 95% of the time.

    Synch is not a universal cure for all your problems and it is still quirky in places. But I have a choice of two parametric modelers, VX CadCam and SE traditional, and I find by choice that the vast majority of my work is now done in Synch. If you have not activated the beta of Synch sheetmetal I would suggest you do so as it too is very nice.

    100 times faster? No but in many cases a whole lot easier and significantly faster to boot than parametric. There are times when you will waste a lot of time trying to figure out how to make it work. But as you learn what it can’t or can do this time waster goes away. But isn’t that true with any new bit of software you are learning?

    Look, it’s money out of my own pocket when I buy software so I want what makes me productive. There are times now when as I am talking to a customer about a part revision that before we hang up I have sent a revision to him and he can see it. I never used to be able to do this when I was using straight parametric modeling and that says it all for me.

    I still despise that crummy ribbon bar GUI but that is my only complaint nowadays.

  2. Dave: I agree with you. “100 times faster” is a stretch, but it certainly makes it significantly easier to edit and modify parts than history-based programs. Thanks for the input!

  3. I completely agree with you and your mention of the conceptual strength of Synch Tech (ST) and what I’ve seen as missing in the CAD user base for many years – the ability to push, pull, twist and simply explore a design, rather than over-control that design from the start. Matter of fact, even the “history tree faithful” (with all due respect!)will find that the conceptual approach in ST still gives the user as much control as they desire with the steering wheel and LIVE RULES.

    Ive made a career of training Solid Edge (since V1) and just read the best review and factual presentation of Edge to date.
    Well done, Mr. Wong

  4. Thanks, David! Yes, I too find that the stack of feature in Solid Edge with Synch Tech allows me to do many of the things I wouldn’t normally be able to do in a history-based modeler. Glad to hear you’ve made a career out of SE training.

  5. Mr. Wong,

    Most “Pundits” simlpy use a “canned” presentation that they get from a supplier. You have obviously rolled your own.You did not use the words leverage or paradigm once. Very well spoken! My compliments and I will look forward to your future web articles and videos.

  6. 100 times faster? Maybe some tricks to show off with the steering wheel. In general I use 3 times more time to figure out work arounds to solve design challanges because sync just can’t do it and I often wish back my drawing board.
    I’m trained on Solide Edge sync and work 2 years with the program almost every day.
    Easier to edit and modify parts? I did not encounter that one yet.
    As a developmet tool SE ST2 seems not the right choice. You get stuck very often if you try to do some not very basic designs. The generation and use of patterns is very poor. And if you try to change them I can’t see the ease that every body is talking of. Boolean functionality is a hassle. Part families does not exist. Variations of parts or formula driven geometry is so laborious you try to avoid it. Interpart connections are arduous to modify. Errection of an assembly is another pain in the brain.
    The draft section? I don’t go there. Stmart Dimension? Tell me what should be smart about this feature.
    Summery: A poor program far from ready to be sold.

  7. I hate this new program. It’s 100 times more difficult to manuver through.

  8. Regards for this post, I am a big fan of this internet site would like to go along updated.

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