Catching up and standing out
Solid Edge V15 from UGS
EDS (note: now UGS) is pushing on with development of the popular Solid Edge modeller with v15 due for release in the fourth quarter of 2003.
Although many of the enhancements to modelling and assembly capabilities are valuable, in many cases they are catch-up with competitors, whereas Solid Edge continues to stand out in 2D capabilities and integrated data management.
These two areas appear to be addressed at very different users however.
Stand alone 2D capabilities are available in the cut down Solid Edge Assembly version that offers full 2D plus a taster of 3D part modelling and the ability to open assembly files.
This can be a tempting prospect for non CAD or 2D only sites as an opportunity to migrate to 3D in a controlled way over time.
Clearly such potential users cannot be classified as early adopters whereas the data management capabilities being enhanced in v15 rely on the soon to be released SharePoint 2 technology from Microsoft that itself relies on SQL server and integration with the forthcoming Windows Server 2003 platform.
Despite EDS claims that SharePoint is a proven technology based on the v1 release, adoption of these bleeding edge technologies requires a very different mindset than cautious 2D migrators.
Nonetheless it is an excellent principle to establish well integrated data management from the outset.
SharePoint provides a data structure handling files and metadata as found in standard Microsoft Office documents such as attributes and properties.
Solid Edge Insight builds on this to handle design-related structures such as assemblies, BOMs, links and relationships including complex associative files.
EDS estimate that for each creator of design data, there are 200 downstream users of the data described as ‘consumers’.
The controlled data environment can be extended to this wider group with Insight Connect that offers view and mark-up tools for approximately £500 per license although there is of course a free viewer for consumers who simply need to view data.
New Packaged Collaboration Files (.PCF) are available to share multiple documents whilst ensuring that data is not out of date.
Multiple data types from multiple sources can be packaged together and emailed for review.
The files retain links to the original CAD files in the Insight database allowing the impact of all proposed changes to be readily identified.
Although there are a few interesting innovations in modelling capabilities, many elements new to Solid Edge in v15 are catch-up or feature point scoring with competitors.
This includes fuller integration of motion analysis with support for sub assemblies and a fuller, more usable implementation of configurations.
2D drawing generation now offers Quicksheet drawing view templates to automatically create consistent yet sophisticated drawings including shaded views with customisable dpi settings and user definable polygons for detail views.
One useful feature is the automatic highlighting and tagging of dimensions that are out of date, indicating why they are out of date and what needs to be done.
Building on the recent shift towards capabilities to generate complex forms commonly found in injection moulded consumer products, v15 introduces curvature shading, draft face analysis and parting surfaces to enable the creation of associative mould cores and cavities.
A Solid Edge Mold Tooling add-on package is also available to add step by step work flow using standard components such as mould bases, ejector pins and gates.
Perhaps most interesting are the so called super features which act as macros to combine multiple functions.
At a simple level, end features can be assigned to extrusions to add a chamfer or end radius within the feature.
More complex are the cooling vents where ribs, spars, depth, rounds and draft are specified as one macro and similarly bosses where stiffening ribs, mounting holes, rounds, and draft are all combined.
While EDS quietly add modelling functionality it is important not to be put off by grand initiatives for systems design or leading edge data management technologies.
However, despite the undoubted benefits of well-integrated data management tools, I’m sure many system administrators will think long and hard about implementing or including Server 2003 within the network so early in its lifecycle.