Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Solid Edge ST2

Solid Edge ST2 is now shipping to customers and is available for download. A couple notable new features are Solid Edge Simulation and Synchronous Sheet Metal.

Solid Edge Simulation is a an embedded implementation of Siemens PLM's standalone FEA product FEMAP. Prior to ST2, Solid Edge shipped with a feature called FEMAP Express (now called "Simulation Express" in ST2) which was limited in load/constraint options and to single parts. In ST2, Simulation Express is still what's included with the product but Solid Edge Simulation can optionally be purchased as an add-on license through your normal sales channel. The good news is that Solid Edge ST2 does come with a temporary license for Solid Edge Simulation good through December, so install early so that you can try it out.

Now as I mentioned earlier, Solid Edge Simulation is an integrated implementation of FEMAP. What this means is that it has a lot of FEMAP's capabilities, but the UI is Solid Edge's which means it's easy to use.

Now for a list of capabilities over Simulation Express:
  • Assemblies (Synchronous only)
  • Complete environment with dedicated ribbon bar and vertical feature tree pane
  • Additional Loads and Constraints
  • Multiple "studies"
  • Export to FEMAP ".MOD" files
  • Multiple results options including the ability to probe nodes

Synchronous Sheet Metal is a new environment based on the Synchronous Technology concepts introduced in ST1. It allows modeling and modification of sheet metal models through direct action to the model while still retaining the intelligence that it is sheet metal. What this means is that sheet metal can be created quickly and edited even quicker. Imported models can also be transformed into a Synchronous sheet metal models as long as they are comprised of common thicknesses.

Obviously there are many other enhancements and new features with ST2, way too many to mention here. I encourage you to try it out when you receive it, especially Solid Edge Simulation before the trial license expires at the end of December.

Digital Prototyping - Is it New?

I thought I would throw out some thoughts out on a term that some individuals are throwing around like they just pioneered it. The term is "Digital Prototyping". Lets start of first by defining what it means. Essentially it means that whatever design checks you might have gone through with a physical model, you are now doing with a virtual model at least up front to reduce the number of physical models needed to prove a design.

So for instance, if you were designing a new car door handle:
  • The old school method would be to get a physical prototype made of the actual material using temporary aluminum mold tooling costing 10's of thousands of dollars and waiting weeks to get it and then mount it into a special fixture with data aq and servos/pneumatics to simulate Bruno opening his car door. If it failed, start over, spend 10's of thousands of dollars again and wait weeks.

  • The Virtual Prototyping method would be to load your 3D CAD model into one of the many FEA packages available and test it the same day the model was completed. If it fails, redesign it and test it again before tomorrow afternoon.

So now that we know what it is, lets talk about "Is it new?". The answer is "Most definitely not!". Digital Prototyping has been around for at least the past 20 years. What is new is the widespread availability of it to virtually everybody doing 3D design work in every industry. Most 3D CAD products now include FEA software embedded in them, and what isn't included can easily be found and afforded from the multitude of analysis vendors on the market. Dare I say the phrase "So easy a cave man can do it"... The stuff is so easy to use too. Anyone can start up an FEA app and run an analysis with a very basic understanding of Model, Constrain, Load, Mesh. You obviously need to know a fair bit more than that to have a meaningful understanding of what your trying to accomplish, but the point is, the softare is darned easy to use.

Now I won't go into the argument of whether Virtual Prototyping can replace physical testing in all cases or the argument of whether Joe Blow Designer should be doing analysis or if it should be reserved for a analyst specifically schooled in the work. I will say that it is definitely a benefit, and if your designing without it, then your probably throwing a lot of time and money away.

So again, it may not be a new concept, but it's widespread adoption and use is.