If you want to know how useful an engineering tool is, ask someone who has used it. Chris Oesterle, senior CAD system administrator at Liebert, Inc., spent a full week testing the beta version of the recently released Version 15 of Solid Edge, and he thinks the software holds promise.
Among the features he found interesting: system design capabilities. An enhancement of similar features in Version 14 of the product, they support an engineering approach to design rather than a manufacturing approach, Oesterle says.
"Engineers think in terms of functional groups, or parts that go together functionally, rather than parts that go together in a manufacturing sense," he says. The software enables engineers to work in that functional mode, he reports. "It also automatically places features in other parts that are not part of the functional group, saving time."
Oesterle also points to improved features for draft and automatic view creation. Additionally, he praises Solid Edge's features that tie it in with parent company UGS PLM Solutions' Insight data-management technology. Getting legacy data into a data-management system is hard, he says, but this version of Solid Edge makes it easier by identifying data problems and providing options for automatic correction. "That's important for companies that have a lot of legacy data," he says.
Another features of the software: packaged collaboration files that let engineers package multiple documents from different sources into a file that contains information needed for communication; and draft-face analysis capabilities for mold design that lets users analyze a model to ensure it's properly ejected from a mold.
Version 15 of Solid Edge hits the market just nine months after release of Version 14 of the product, and four months after release of one of its major competitors, SolidWorks 2004. The latter boasts drawing-automation enhancements and new memory-management technology for working with subassemblies, among other features. SolidWorks claims its latest version is 15 times faster than competitive products.
Paris Altidis, principal engineer at Borg Warner Automotive, has reviewed several software packages for this magazine, and while he hasn't used Solid Edge 15 he reports that Version 14 could well have been one of the easiest midrange products to use, thanks to a new Windows XP interface and Stream technology. Another innovation in 14, he says, is Rapid Blue technology. A "Blue Dot" command lets users identify geometry anywhere in the history tree and connect it. "Blue Surf" facilitates surfacing that requires generation of only a few curves. Altidis also says Version 14 was the first in the industry to enable users to divide design tasks among team members and let them re-use their work as they store created parts with assemblies. Additionally, he says, the software lets engineers show an assembly in drafting mode with a reference of its neighboring parts or assembliues.
Version 15 includes enhancements to these and other features.