It looks like Solid Edge is getting a lot of new functionality and modeling capability. I am not a user of Solid Edge and as such my “first impressions” have nothing to do with the new functionality. I will leave that up to the users and experts. What I am most interested in is what they have done with Synchronous Technology and the Solid Edge model structure.
When reviewing technology I try to see things from a process and workflow point of view. As you probably already know I am kind of partial to direct modeling. I certainly understand the value of the parent/child relationship that comes with the history tree, and the associativity that it can provide, but I see all too often that many designers are over-served with this technology. The challenges that come with history-based modeling sometimes overshadow the benefit. These challenges have driven and accelerated the development of direct modeling. The challenges I speak of include the following:
- Complexity of the tool and general training requirements
- The need to plan ahead before modeling
- Interoperability and data exchange
- Reusing history-trees (history-based models)
- Resolving conflicts in the history-tree
- The need for modeling standards and best practices
Again, I understand the benefits, but all of the above can keep you from getting your job done in a timely manner. And it is these issues that are driving the interest in direct modeling. There are still some yet unsolved challenges with direct modeling of course, but none of the above apply with mature robust direct modeling.
So my question is: How does Solid Edge ST3 impact the issues listed above? Is life improving for the typical Solid Edge user? Let’s take them one at a time.
- Complexity of the tool and general training requirements: In my opinion SE just became harder to learn. Even if you will never use Synchronous, or will never use Ordered, just having those buttons on the menu just made it more complicated. It is safe to assume that the training manuals just got thicker. It looks intuitive enough, but it goes deeper than that. How, when, why is it acceptable for a user to move a feature from Ordered to Synchronous?
- The need to plan ahead before modeling: It doesn’t matter if you are in a history-free mode (synchronous, direct, unordered, whatever) or in a history-based mode (ordered, parametric, whatever), if the system is recording information about the modeling process (modeling features) you will need to plan ahead and model carefully, if you intend to realize any future value from the record. In synchronous mode, the order may have no relevance to the future use of the model, but the collection of faces recorded in the feature certainly will. Will SE ST3 be a good concept design tool? The chaos of concept design often times renders a history tree completely unorganized and useless. Very often this will lead to a model rebuild when moving to detail design. Does SE ST3 resolve this?
- Interoperability and data exchange: We all know that history-trees are proprietary and that exchanging history-trees between different history-based systems is flaky at best. Geometry is common between all CAD systems, and with robust direct modeling we can make use of any geometry and edit it freely. My only problem with SE ST3 in this area is that I see no evidence that they have improved the robustness to handle the demands of complex direct modeling. I’ve had a few chances to try Synchronous Technology in NX and SE in the last year, but was never really impressed with its ability to resolve complex topology changes on imported models. Live rules or not, the system needs to be able to handle the demands of direct modeling. Like I said “I see no evidence” of improvement in this area so I can easily be proven wrong on this one. I just need to see it to believe it.
- Reusing history-trees: It has always been a bit of an issue when reusing a history-based model that you created many months/years ago or that someone else created. You need to spend some time studying the tree structure before you can really make use of it. It seems that with ST3 the tree structure just got more complicated. I know, you don’t have to use both modes in one model, but can you control the other users?
- Resolving conflicts in the history-tree: I guess if you do have a conflicted or corrupt history tree, with ST3 you can just take all those features and move them to Synchronous. That would fix it, right? What about all the other references and relationships tied between those ordered features and their children and/or other parts/features? How are those resolved in ST3?
- The need for modeling standards and best practices: I have seen some fairly thick 3-ring binders full of documentation on modeling best practices. These are usually created by larger organizations to train users and ensure that these users are creating history-trees that have some consistency in them in order to better ensure these models (history-trees) can be used in the future and by others. I think with ST3 these binders just got bigger. I can see some more best practices coming.
Solid Edge has certainly come a long way. The SE ST3 videos they have online look fantastic (as they should). I do commend the product managers and developers of Solid Edge for pushing the envelope on this. They have introduced some interesting concepts with ST3. I’m anxious to see how it continues to develop. I am still not convinced that they have the “best of both worlds”, as some fellow bloggers have already indicated. Sorry, I am just a bit skeptical. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be one of these: