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1301, 2019

The End of the Powertrain Bias

Internal Combustion Engine vs. Electric Machine, this seems a famous game these days. Media, politicians, OEMs, car owners - all of them have their arguments and for one or the other reasons, they have their vision of where they place themselves in this fight. There is a lot of emotion and mistrust, misinformation and the claim of misinformation, aggression, and response. Diesel bashing here, pointing to insufficient range, burning batteries and recharging of plugin battery-electric vehicles with mobile ICE devices there.


The worrying thing to me is that even in our engineering world you get the impression that you have to choose and you have to choose apriori. It seems that even the world of powertrain engineers has become bipolar, you can either be pro-ICE or pro-E, you can either hug your internal combustion engine or tell the people ICE is dead, you can either tell people there is not enough Lithium on earth or oil, you say a V8 is music or it’s noise, you say too much NOx, Soot or CO2 stems from traffic or from power plants, there’s nothing in between. ICE engineers seem to fear someone takes away their beloved baby, E-guy seem to claim the work of thousands of engineers should go to the trash bin right away.


I call this the powertrain bias!


Now, honestly, like with many topics I have faced in my life I don’t know who is right and I would claim it’s not easy to tell that for anyone. We live in an increasingly complex world and there are many forces at work, legislation, customer expectation, politics, financial interests and finally human emotions. So, as an engineer, you try to rely on something that should give you the answer: pure science. Then you realize: even numbers can be bend, misinterpreted, miscommunicated. It’s clear that oil won’t last forever and that Lithium doesn’t. It’s clear that some may love the sound of an engine and others love the sound of silence. It’s like with anything – even in science - any party will come up with their study of proving they are right.


I truly believe it is this powertrain bias that is the most dangerous thing an engineer can jump onto in a world of incredibly fast-paced change.


That said, as powertrain engineers, we should share only one common goal and that is, make the move of a person from A to B as efficient, comfortable and – not to forget - enjoyable as possible thereby minimizing the negative impact on other people. I understand there are multiple trade-offs in this performance function and the weighting of the individual performance factors is a highly individual thing. Yet, we all should agree on one minimum consensus: As engineers, it is our job to push the limits of efficient, healthy, enjoyable and comfortable movement as far forward as we can without limiting ourselves in the design space by a-priori (bias) decisions.




Therefore here’s my call to all of you: Don’t get caught in that romantic vs. progressive powertrain trap! ICE guys, get over it and hug an electric machine, it won’t hurt. E-guys, step back and look at the amazing piece of engineering an IC engine effectively is. Let’s stay engineers in first place, push the Pareto front forward and make the best we can within the range of our expertise. Stay cool and fair when doing so. Get in touch with the other side and understand their reasoning. This is not a call for becoming emotionless, but it’s a call to reconsider what we should be emotional about: And that is creating great engineering value with our powertrain solutions. Here is my scientific study on the topic: In all times, 100% of all cars will have a powertrain!



So let’s all get together at the Simcenter Conference in Prague to celebrate the end of the powertrain bias. With two days of powertrain presentations from ICE to E, from system- through CFD simulation to test the table is all set. Siemens PLM is there to help you, with simulation- and test solutions on the ICE AND the E, there is no either-or in our portfolio, and hey, for those that are already in the middle of it, we have a solution for all you hybrids!

Together, we can make Prague the Woodstock of Powertrain Engineering. Looking forward to seeing you there.


With that, I leave it with a



the first powertrain-hippie on earth




[1] https://about.bnef.com/electric-vehicle-outlook/

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/17/automobiles/wheels/internal-combustion-engine.html

[3] study by the first powertrain hippie on earth



1301, 2019

Towards a unified Simcenter solution for electric machine design

Electric motor.jpgHaving a scalable model enables you to use your favorite system simulation tool for various simulation purposes, all along different design stages.


If I look in particular at electric machines, the possibilities are numerous:

  • Simple quasi-static machine models are well suited for power budget or energy management assessment.
  • Simple dynamic models are typically used for machine controls development.
  • Non-linear dynamic equivalent circuit models can give more insight into the motor behavior with high current or under fault conditions.
  • You can also include the machine spatial dependency to take into account the effects of the slots or the magnets shape. This will give you access to torsional vibration analysis and winding current distortions. It could help you validate a controller with a very realistic motor model at early development stages.
  • Co-simulation is an interesting solution in case you need to assess imbalance conditions or high frequency dynamics.Various levels of model complexity in Simcenter Amesim.pngVarious levels of model complexity in Simcenter Amesim

On the downside, setting up all those different models require much information which is not so easy to get. Datasheets provide partial data on the main machine behavior. To go further and to fully take benefit of the Simcenter Amesim Electric Motors and Drive solution, this is largely insufficient. To address this challenge, you can use Simcenter Amesim in combination with a finite element tool to obtain a reduced model. This is a major enhancement we focus on to reinforce this Simcenter Amesim solution.


Thus, Simcenter Amesim offers co-simulation capabilities with Altair Flux and JMAG-RT. Moreover,  recently released Simcenter Amesim 17 supports the import of reduced Simcenter SPEED models, as you can see in the following video:




What is the value for the Simcenter Amesim Electric Motors and Drive solution users? 

They can now smoothly pass from a finite element model to a system simulation model without spending hours trying to understand the different software conventions, developing or maintaining complex scripts.


The link with other Simcenter solutions such as Simcenter SPEED, Simcenter Motorsolve and Simcenter MAGNET will be continuously strengthened in the upcoming Simcenter Amesim versions. 

1301, 2019

Neural networks & digital twins change the O&M in the wind industry

Today wind power represents 4.4% of the total generated power. By 2030, this is to increase up to 20%. The challenges for wind turbine manufacturers are wide-ranging: the aerodynamic performance of the blades, reduce weight, keep noise and vibration levels under control, ensure a durable design and improve its overall system performance.


The gearbox is the most critical part of the wind turbine. Either you send a technician up the turbine and do a manual check, or you attach sensors to the gearbox and monitor the results remotely on a computer. Both approaches work to anticipate failures and allow turbine owners to schedule for repairs. Obviously, this comes at a price. A high price. Can’t this be done more cost-effective?


Predicting the remaining useful lifetime of each wind turbine gearbox


Winergy, a global key provider for wind energy in Germany, teamed up with the Simcenter Engineering experts of Siemens PLM Software to estimate the remaining useful lifetime (RUL) of a complete wind park. Let’s be a bit more specific: 78 wind turbines – 35 SCADA channels – historical data stored over 4 years.


The Simcenter Engineering specialists tackled this issue by combining 2 approaches:


  1. Neural Networks
    The neural network was fed with information from different SCADA channels on the gearbox in combination with service data. Gearbox temperatures were defined as the most representative signals for a possible failure. Next, the neural network was trained on how a turbine reacts in healthy and faulty conditions. Winergy and Simcenter experts used the technique to accurately predict and detect failures early on.

  2. Digital Twin
    A digital twin makes the bridge between a virtual representation and the physical product. It helps to understand and predict product performance characteristics. Wind turbine modeling was combined with physical validation measurements in 1 turbine to validate the digital twin model. The digital twin model is fed with historic loads extracted from the SCADA in order to predict the remaining useful lifetime of the bearings and gear teeth in each gearbox.


This combined approach limits the need for physical prototypes, reduces development time, and improves the quality of the finalized product. 


Want to know more? Join us next week at the 11th Annual Offshore Wind Europe Conference & Exhibition in London, UK. Wim Hendricx, Simcenter Engineering expert for the Energy sector, will present this application case on November 28 at 9:20 AM.   




Interesting links:



1301, 2019

Is this the electric vehicle that we’ve all been waiting for?

Uniti One is an EV that just makes more sense.

I have to confess: I have caught the Uniti fever. It all started last April when Werner Custers and I shot a little movie at the Uniti headquarters in Lund, Sweden, a hip university town about 30 minutes from Malmo. At this point, Uniti Sweden was still oozing that start-up vibe, but, unlike other stories I have followed over the years, the idea of the Uniti One, well, to paraphrase CEO Lewis Horne, it just made sense. Needless to say, I was hooked.



You probably noticed that Uniti One is a different kind of car. In a way, it is more of a driving experience than an automobile. Sure, it is a completely wired EV with four wheels, but it is designed for the new era of high-tech car ownership that includes things like car-sharing, subscription programs and possibly delivery-on-the-spot autonomous programs.


Uniti One Fleet _ Photo by Karl-Fredrik von Hausswolff.jpg


Definitely “not reinventing the wheel”

But the cool thing about Uniti is that the team didn’t stop with just reinventing the EV. Everything was up for disruption in the design and development chain. Need your NX model in VR? Just run it through a gaming engine and put on the VR goggles to see what happens. Forget the formal post-design feedback groups. Just put the car in a well-known electronics retailer for a while and ask to-be consumers what they really think. This disruption meant that the team moved fast – really fast.


A key secret to the speedy design process was the fact that Uniti adopted the digital twin idea from day one. The working digital twin, based on NX and Simcenter, was one of the main reasons that a very small team of young engineers could prototype three vehicles in four short months.


So what’s next?

After its start-up success, the team knew they had to change gears, roll up their sleeves and work on a production-ready version of Uniti One. They also knew they needed some serious automotive experience on the engineering side. This is why Sally Povolotsky recently joined Uniti.


As the Uniti Vehicle Development Director, she is working with her team of experienced automotive engineers at Uniti’s new R&D center in the High-Performance Technology and Motorsport (HPTM) cluster located around Silverstone, the iconic British F1 Grand Prix track. With some serious street cred in the EV and automotive industry, Sally knows what it takes to get a car on the roads of Europe and beyond. (See the attached pdf for the full story.)


Uniti One _ small _ Photo by Karl-Fredrik von Hausswolff.jpg


Save the planet

So with Uniti One shaping up nicely and an Industry 4.0 digital factory vision in place, Lewis Horne and the Uniti team seem to have their new automotive ecosystem literally on the right track towards a workable and sustainable future. From our side, we will definitely keep our eyes on events in the UK and Sweden for you. To be continued…


P.S. By the way, if you caught the Uniti fever as well: you can pre-order yours online for 149 euro at uniti.earth.






1301, 2019

Flutter tests, ground vibration tests, acoustics tests: need help?

So, these test procedures are giving you a headache.


Could you easily answer the questions below?

  • How to improve the flight flutter test using a commercial off-the-shelf solution to extract accurate eigenfrequencies, damping and mode shapes?
  • What are the different solutions (static aeroelasticity, flutter analysis, and dynamic aeroelasticity) used to define the flight envelope and define accurate flutter predictions?
  • How to increase efficiency in identifying modal parameters of large vibrating structures?
  • How to address aircraft environmental noise, from simple aircraft noise level measurements to an advanced sound quality assessment?
  • How to create a sound profile of the aircraft interior in minutes of flight testing?
  • How to clearly identify realistic paths for acoustic optimization?

Or are you currently struggling with your testing tools and processes? Find the answers to these and many others questions in our series of Simcenter on-demand webinars. The lectures are jointly given by Simcenter and industry experts and feature concrete application case studies.


Register today to one (or all) of our free on-demand webinars and learn how to increase efficiency in your flutter, ground vibration or acoustic tests.


Flutter webinar_tcm27-46727.jpg

 “Accelerate flutter clearance process and increase efficiency in the aircraft certification process”  - Register to the webinar.


Image - GE-3360 A&D Ground Vibration Test2_tcm27-32061.jpg

“Accelerate ground vibration tests and increase efficiency in the aircraft certification process.” - Register to the webinar.

16x9_Webinar Aircraft Acoustics_Image 2_tcm27-21885.jpg

“Towards aircraft noise reduction” - Register to the webinar.


Input, feedback on our webinar series? Don't hesitate to reach back to us on the Simcenter community website.




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901, 2019

Student Design Contest Winner December 2018

Congratulations to sophomore who is studying Aerospace Engineering at The University of Alabama in Huntsville! Robert is the December winner of our monthly student design contest hosted by the Siemens PLM academic team.


electric bike design 1.jpg


The student design contest is open for submissions year-round to give students a chance to highlight the amazing work they are doing in the area of design. I’m always blown away by what these young people are capable of, and it is fun to see the creativity and ingenuity they employ in coming up with new ideas for products or modeling their entries after existing ones. A stunning amount of work and attention to detail goes into creating realistic models. If these entries are any indication, the future of the industry is in good hands. Check out some of the past winners by visiting the contest page!


For his contest entry, Robert modeled a futuristic electric superbike to be used for high-speed, recreational activities. It has a streamlined design that partially encapsulates the rider, while maintaining a low profile to maximize efficiency and speed. In addition, the superbike is designed to only run on ultra-smooth, glass-like surfaces, as its wheel covers and large turning radius are only effective in this environment. The electric motor lies at the center of the bike and can be seen from the outside through the glass panels on either side of the bodywork, and through a system of shafts and gears it rotates the rear wheel. Finally, key elements of the bike have been illuminated to make it look cool. Also, as the superbike is set in a dark environment, the lights create interesting reflections that could not be achieved in a lighter setting.


Robert designed the Electric Superbike as a result of a final design for his CAD class at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). Amazingly, this is the first time he has used Solid Edge or Keyshot.


“I am excited that I have gained such a valuable skill that will hopefully better my career to come,” Robert says. “I found designing, drawing, and rendering this bike to be one of the most fun experiences that I have had in college yet. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!”


Stunning work, Robert, and congrats again on a job well done! Read more about Robert's experience designing this project on the academic blog: Siemens Design Contest Winner using Solid Edge software

electric bike design 2.jpg

We encourage you to enter the contest if you are a student, and anyone can show support for their favorite entries by giving them a kudos!

electric bike design 3.jpg

electric bike design 4.jpg

electric bike design 5.jpg

2612, 2018

Migrating from the SolidWorks API – Part 1, Application and Document Handling


The makers of Solid Edge have left no stone unturned to make your transition from SolidWorks to Solid Edge effortless and streamlined. Not only that Synchronous Technology readily recognizes features of imported models, fully associative SolidWorks drawing migration is a reality since ST9.


This is pretty cool stuff for people coming from SolidWorks to Solid Edge where the data migration wizard not only migrate all your parts and assemblies including FOA, FOP, materials, thread table etc, but also drawings are fully associatively, such that if you change the part in SE, the converted drawing will also update, as if you created it natively in Solid Edge.


The auto-magic part ends there. If you have created any SolidWorks macros for automating routine tasks in the past and missing them, recreating them is a piece of cake. A little insight into the Solid Edge API equivalents of those in SolidWorks is the key to this migration. To know, read on...




Unlike SolidWorks where a single reference to the type library takes care of all environments, Solid Edge has one each for the Part, Draft, Assembly. Reference to the Solid Edge Framework Type Library is mandatory.


Besides this, there are specialized libraries for gathering installation data, another one just for the File Properties, besides those for the Design Manager or Revision Manager or older versions of Solid Edge and Geometry Type Library for accessing. Read a detailed article about the Geometry API.




The FrameWorkSupport Library is also a general library, though not mandatory and supplements the Framework library by hosting objects which are common across various environments like Dimensions, Lines, etc.


The Constants libraries are similar for both SolidWorks and Solid Edge, in that they should be added separately, when necessary.


The image below illustrates the need to use the Imports statement for each Type Library if you want to use the functions and properties within:




 TipIcon.pngTip: If you are not sure which Type Library needs to be included for a project, there is no harm in referencing and importing all Solid Edge libraries.


Application Object


In SolidWorks the Application object is handled as below:

Dim swApp as SldWorks.SldWorks = Nothing

swApp = CreateObject("SldWorks.Application")
swApp.Visible = True


In Solid Edge the class and program ID are consistent:

Dim seApp as SolidEdgeFramework.Application = Nothing

seApp = CreateObject("SolidEdge.Application")
seApp.Visible = True

Also note that just as in SW, the application object must be explicitly made visible.


Note another difference in the style, for example, displaying the status bar: 

swApp.DisplayStatusBar(True) ' or False

seApp.StatusBarVisible = True ' or False


And, for exiting or quitting the application: 




Document Access


SolidWorks has a document type for different documents: 

Dim swAsmDoc As AssemblyDoc = Nothing
Dim swPartDoc As PartDoc = Nothing
Dim swDrawDoc As DrawingDoc = Nothing


Similarly, Solid Edge has: 

Dim seAsmDoc As SolidEdgeAssembly.AssemblyDocument = Nothing
Dim sePartDoc As SolidEdgePart.PartDocument = Nothing
Dim seDraftDoc As SolidEdgeDraft.DraftDocument = Nothing


SolidWorks general document which is ModelDoc2 has the Solid Edge Equivalent as SolidEdgeDocument and further can be assigned to the active document irrespective of its type as below:

Dim swDoc as ModelDoc2 = swApp.Activedoc

Dim seDoc As SolidEdgeFramework.SolidEdgeDocument = seApp.ActiveDocument



 Tip: The API help is available online here and locally in the SDK folder




Document Type


A SolidWorks document has a method GetType which returns a unique number depending on the type of SolidWorks document as below:



1 for SolidWorks Part document.

2 for SolidWorks Assembly document.

3 for SolidWorks Drawing document.


In Solid Edge, you would use one of the following techniques to determine the active document type:


1. Directly from the Solid Edge application, when the active document is not yet assigned to a variable:




Here's a full list of the document types in Solid Edge:




2. Determine the type of a document in a variable:




Creating New Documents


Creating a New document in SolidWorks followed a similar pattern and was a straightforward affair: 

Dim swAsmDoc As AssemblyDoc = swApp.NewAssembly
Dim swPartDoc As PartDoc = swApp.NewPart
Dim swDrawDoc As DrawingDoc = swApp.NewDrawing(1)

 where the argument for New Drawing was one of these:




In Solid Edge, you must not lose sight of the collection concept. Documents are always added to the Documents collection, which in turn belongs to the SE Application: 

Dim seAsmDoc As SolidEdgeAssembly.AssemblyDocument = seApp.Documents.Add("SolidEdge.AssemblyDocument")
Dim sePartDoc As SolidEdgePart.PartDocument = seApp.Documents.Add("SolidEdge.PartDocument")
Dim seDraftDoc As SolidEdgeDraft.DraftDocument = seApp.Documents.Add("SolidEdge.DraftDocument")


The Add method in Solid Edge has an optional argument for the template that can take care of the sheet size format for a drawing. 

Public Function Add( _
   Optional ByVal ProgID As Variant, _
   Optional ByVal TemplateDoc As Variant _
) As Object


Saving Documents


In SolidWorks an already saved file could be saved, after any changes, using the Save method:


and could be SavedAs using





Similar looking methods are also used in Solid Edge:



Exporting Document to Other Format


In both SolidWorks and Solid Edge, simply changing the extension to the desired type does the trick, and only the syntax differs:

Dim iErr As Integer
Dim iWarns As Integer
swDoc = swApp.ActiveDoc()
Dim sFile As String = swDoc.GetPathName()
Dim sExpFile As String = IO.Path.ChangeExtension(swDoc.GetTitle, ".STL")
swDoc.SaveAs4(sExpFile, SwConst.swSaveAsVersion_e.swSaveAsCurrentVersion, SwConst.swSaveAsOptions_e.swSaveAsOptions_Silent, iErr, iWarns)


In Solid Edge you would achieve the same in lesser lines: 

seDoc = seApp.ActiveDocument
Dim sExpFile As String = System.IO.Path.ChangeExtension(seDoc.FullName, ".STL")


 Tip: SolidWorks has some tools like a macro recorder and a VBA editor, which has no equivalent in Solid Edge. Similarly, Solid Edge has a unique and equally helpful tool in the form of Solid Edge Spy.


Saving As Image


In SolidWorks the swDoc.SaveBMP method took care of creating an image of the current document.

Also using a PNG or JPG extension in the SaveAs4 method described above creates the image files in respective formats.


In Solid Edge, the Save As dialog does not have image file formats listed in the file types list.

To Save As an Image in Solid Edge, follow these methods:


3D Documents: Part, Sheetmetal, Assembly

Dim seView As SolidEdgeFramework.View = Nothing
seView = seApp.ActiveWindow.View
seView.SaveAsImage("C:TempsFileName.JPG", 1600, 900, , , , SolidEdgeFramework.SeImageQualityType.seImageQualityHigh)

where the numbers are the width and height of the image and the last argument decides the quality of the output image:


seImageQualityLow = 1

seImageQualityMedium = 2

seImageQualityHigh = 3


The above method works only for a 3D document like the Part, Sheetmetal or Assembly.


For Draft Document


For a Draft document the method of saving an image is as below:

Dim seDraftdoc As SolidEdgeDraft.DraftDocument = seApp.ActiveDocument
Dim seWindow As SolidEdgeDraft.SheetWindow = seDraftdoc.Windows.Item(1)
seWindow.SaveAsImage("C:TempsFileName.JPG", 1600, 900, , , , SolidEdgeFramework.SeImageQualityType.seImageQualityHigh)


Count and Iterate through Documents


To count the number of documents open, SolidWorks has a direct function:

Dim iCount As Integer = swApp.GetDocumentCount()


In Solid Edge the Documents collection tells the count: 

Dim iCount As Integer = seApp.Documents.Count


Solid Edge has the concept of collections which is entirely missing in SolidWorks. Hence SolidWorks uses a For loop with a pointer from the first document to get the next document:


Dim sFileName As String
Dim swCurDoc As ModelDoc2 = swApp.GetFirstDocument

While Not swCurDoc Is Nothing
  sFileName = swCurDoc.GetTitle()
  MessageBox.Show (sFileName)
  swCurDoc = swCurDoc.GetNext()
End While


This becomes very easy and simple in Solid Edge due to the Documents collection:

For Each seDoc As SolidEdgeDocument In seApp.Documents


Close Document


For closing a document in SolidWorks two methods are used:



The equivalents in Solid Edge are:

seApp.Documents.CloseDocument(FileName, True)

where the second argument is about saving changes before saving, and


where the argument is to Save the document or not.


For closing all documents in SolidWorks,


where the Boolean argument is about closing unsaved document as well, while in Solid Edge, the same is achieved via the Documents collection:



Activate a Document


For activating one of the open documents in SolidWorks,



To activate a document in Solid Edge, first it must be located in or accessed from the Documents collection:

seDoc = seApp.Documents.Item(3)


Instead of the index, the full name can also be used:

seDoc = seApp.Documents.Item("C:Program FilesSolid EdgeTrainingplate.par")

or directly like this:

seDoc = seApp.Documents.Item(3).Activate
seApp.Documents.Item("C:Program FilesSolid EdgeTrainingplate.par").Activate

where the index starts from 1


This introductory part covered:


  1. References.
  2. Application declaration and access.
  3. Creating new documents.
  4. Document types and access.
  5. Counting and iterating through open documents.
  6. Closing and activating documents.
  7. Saving documents.
  8. Creating images from documents.
  9. Exporting a document to other 3D formats.


The subsequent articles in this series will show:


  • Draft sheet, drawing views and dimensions handling.
  • Parametric part and feature techniques in detail.
  • Assembly Document migration in detail.
  • 2d entities creation and object selection.
  • File properties.
  • General Solid Edge techniques.


If you want to learn Solid Edge programming from grounds-up, several in-depth tutorials are available on this Solid Edge Programming blog.


When you run into any problem, you can always post a programming related query in the Development Forum.



2012, 2018

The Never Do List of Solid Edge Modeling and Drafting Practices


There is no dearth of best practices out there when using Solid Edge. Some of these are implemented as part of the company standards, while others come through self-discipline.


Another category of best practices is the one learned the hard way by making mistakes and learning from them. We make up our own bad habits unknowingly, sometimes to beat deadlines or due to sheer laziness.


This article delves into the absolutely ‘never do’ list or Solid Edge practices. There is a fine line between good practice and a bad one. Whereas downloading and installing the latest maintenance pack from GTAC is a good practice to keep your version of Solid Edge up to date, saving a file from an earlier release into the current version and sending it back to the one who created it originally, even accidentally, though not necessarily a bad practice, is something you should be cautious about.


So what really is a bad practice? It would be something you do today which snowballs into a huge mess or a hairball later. An example would be creating features directly on a solid face. This is a recipe for disaster which you will eventually get a taste of downstream. I like to create planes on Solid faces especially when I create new sketches and adding holes to a part. If I add on a solid face, the hole position will be lost when the face is gone as part of some feature edit and get an exclamation mark or gray arrow in the PathFinder but if I attach the hole to the plane, the surface can change as long as it planar and in the worst case I can isolate the plane and reattach to something else.


Similarly, dimensioning to edges created by rounds or chamfers is a big no-no.


Another case would be to never duplicate geometry within a sketch. Keep sketches simple, and only define a single profile. Use patterns to duplicate the profile's feature.


Further, if you haven’t yet made the big leap to Synchronous, never slap direct editing features when an edit to an earlier feature can fix it. It is the year 2018 and Synchronous has over the past 10 years has developed into a robust and feature-rich environment for editing geometry directly while still relishing the benefits of parametric. So using synchronous modeling is the way forward.


Or for that matter, never define the color of elements which are same/close to Solid Edge’s default highlight color for selected objects.


And this is not restricted to the end user or designer. Managers should never purchase Solid Edge, then expect to implement it and get full functionality without training, I mean ‘professional’ training.


Then there are folks around who never do nothing but complain about Solid Edge. Pet peeves are acceptable though. And sure it's fun to poke at Solid Edge and have a good laugh, the reality is, Solid Edge keeps getting better all the time.


This is all fun, but I am not in the Solid Edge haters club. So my advise would be to never skip going to a local Solid Edge user group meet or if your means allow, attend a Solid Edge University near you.


Early in the learning path; especially users migrating from other CAD programs, it is very easy to whine about 'why this works like this' when there actually is very constant logic on functionality, you just need to learn few basic things.


Then there lies the inability to see the big picture. It is not always generally understood that Solid Edge is, in fact, one of the most complex computer programs in the world. From complexity and from versatility come great benefits like CAD modeling AND NC programming AND FEA analysis in same infra, but from that complexity come of course certain restrictions to flexibility. Compared to the complexity of bug fixing on such a huge software, I think that Siemens PLM is doing an excellent job.


If you are a CAD administrator, it goes without saying never release a service pack, to the population, before a major test regiment and also never load a service pack just before a major deadline. Not that maintenance packs are bad, it is imperative that you read the comprehensive list of problems that are addressed with each MP in the release notes that accompany it.


Furthermore, never stay away from the Community forum for too long. Who knows browsing through that 9-page, 5-year old thread and the 20 minutes it took could save you several more weeks in frustration. Agree yet?


And if you indeed are a frequent visitor, never forget to first read the documentation followed by searching the forum when everything else fails. Before heading to the community forum never haste, but ponder for a while and never ASSume it's a bug. One occurrence may not necessarily indicate a problem with a Solid Edge feature. If you cannot duplicate it, it could be pilot error.


As usual, this is an open discussion, so whether you are a seasoned Solid Edge user or a newbie, you know you have had your fair share of bad experiences which now are a part of an un-documented never do list. So chime in with some of your suggestions about things you should never do in Solid Edge when either modeling or drafting, which you might have seen others doing or those you have given up for yourself.


1612, 2018

An example of literal “Reverse Engineering” using Solid Edge

An example of literal “Reverse Engineering” using Solid Edge

Steve Sheldon, December 2018


At the start of the American Civil War there was a great shortage of weapons, for both the North and South. To meet the demand, federal arsenals were emptied, where it was discovered that a large number of obsolete flintlock muskets were still kept in store. Given the dire shortage of weapons, it was decided to convert these arms with their obsolete flintlock ignition systems to the modern percussion cap technology of the day. This conversion work was done by federal government arsenals and private contractors on their behalf.


One of the contractors that took on this work was the firm of Hewes and Phillips, located in New Jersey. In addition to fulfilling state contracts for New Jersey, H&P also did a batch of conversions for the federal government. These conversions were performed on unrifled (smoothbore), Model 1816, 1835, and 1840 flintlock muskets.



Model 1840 flintlock musket. Credit: Wikipedia


Because smoothbore muskets were only accurate to a distance of about 100 yards, they were equipped with front sights only, much like modern shotguns, as the expense of the rear sight was not considered necessary at such short ranges. When H&P undertook the federal conversion contract, in addition to converting the arms from flintlock to percussion, they also added rear sights with the expectation that they would also be rifling the muskets' smooth bores. However, the arms were needed so urgently that they were sent out into the field unrifled, making these conversions unusual in that they were smoothbore muskets with both front and rear sights.


Fast-forward to today. Today there are competition shooting organizations, such as the North-South Skirmish Association, that compete using original and reproduction firearms from the era. For those who compete in smoothbore competitions, original H&P muskets are highly sought after because with precision target loads, these firearms are quite accurate enough to benefit from having a rear sight. Sadly, there are no modern reproductions of historical smoothbore muskets with rear sights. So, if you want to shoot a smoothbore musket with the advantage of both a front and a rear sight, it’s an original or nothing.


However, there is a reproduction of the Model 1842 smoothbore musket produced today by Chiappa-Armisport. The Model 1840 was the last flintlock musket produced by United States arsenals. It was immediately superseded by the Model 1842 percussion smoothbore musket. Except for the lock and breech end of the barrel, the Model 1840 is nearly identical to the Model 1842. This makes an enticing possibility to “retro-vert” a Model 1842 into an H&P conversion of a Model 1840 musket.



Reproduction Model 1842 percussion musket. Credit: Chiappa Firearms


To effect the historical conversion from flintlock to percussion, two major changes had to be made to the original arm. First, the lock mechanism had to be changed. This was effected by removing the priming pan from the outside of the lock, along with the frizzen and its associated spring mechanism. Then, the old flint-holding hammer was replaced with a percussion hammer. H&P utilized Model 1842 hammers for this conversion, which means I was able to re-use the hammer from the reproduction Model 1842 being converted! In fact, all of the reproduction Model 1842 lock internal components will fit directly into a Model 1840 lock plate. So, I was able to re-use all of the Model 1842 lock components! As luck would have it, reproduction castings of Model 1840 lock plates are available from The Rifle Shoppe, so making a reproduction H&P lock assembly was quite easy.


image006.jpgClose-up of the lock and breech of an H&P Model 1840 conversion. Note rear sight. Credit: James C. Altemus.



Raw Model 1840 lockplate castings from The Rifle Shoppe.



The polished reproduction Model 1840 lock plate fitted with reproduction Model 1842 lock components.


Secondly, the breech end of the barrel had to be modified to accept a cone, or nipple, upon which a percussion cap was placed. This cone was threaded into a tapped hole in a bulge, or “bolster” on the side of the barrel. Hewes and Phillips used what is known as a patent breech conversion. This is a procedure where the back few inches of the original flintlock barrel were cut off and threaded, and a new breech section was screwed in place. The new breech had an integral bolster for the cone.



H&P Patent Breech conversion. Note the new breech that threads into the original barrel. Credit: James C. Altemus.


On original Model 1842 muskets (and most muskets of the era, for that matter), the breech/bolster end of the barrel was forged in one piece with the barrel itself. The open end of the breech end of the barrel was closed by the use of a threaded plug, which included the tang. But as luck would have it, it is expensive to manufacture modern barrels in that manner, so most modern manufacturers of percussion muskets also use a “patent breech” means to manufacture them, with a cast breech end being threaded to the barrel! This means that we can unscrew the reproduction Model 1842 breech from the reproduction barrel, and design and manufacture a new one to thread into place!



Chiappa-Armisport reproduction Model 1842 barrel and breech components showing modern manufacturing technique with separate breech and barrel pieces, which mimics the historical flintlock-to-percussion “Patent Breech” conversion method.


The big engineering effort to this project is creating a new breech. So the first order of business was to get the reproduction Model 1840 breech off of the barrel and scan it to get a mesh model that we could bring into Solid Edge to reverse engineer.



Removing the reproduction Model 1842 breech.


With the breech removed, I used modeling clay to re-shape the bolster to approximate the shape of those seen on H&P Federal conversions:




Using modeling clay to mock up the reproduction Model 1840 breech to look like an H&P Patent Breech.


I then used a 3D scanner to import this geometry into Solid Edge as a mesh body.



Original breech mocked up with clay and 3D scanned into Solid Edge.


As you can see from the above images, the 3D scanner is astonishingly precise, even picking up the stampings in the part. It also picks up slight imperfections in my clay additions. I didn’t want these imprecise features to cause problems during CNC machining, so my task was to convert this to “real” CAD geometry using Solid Edge Reverse Engineering tools.


The first step was to run the Automatic Regioning Reverse Engineering command that attempts to examine the mesh body and identify regions that appear cylindrical, planar, conical, or spherical. Solid Edge makes planar collections of triangles yellow, cylindrical ones cyan, spherical ones red, and conical ones blue.



The 3D scan data after Automatic Regioning.


Magenta faces are faces the system could not determine an analytic shape for. You will typically find them forming a “border” between different regions of the model that could be identified. So when cleaning up the model, it is useful to paint magenta borders to delineate regions of the model.


I noted right away that some areas of the model had been misidentified, so I isolated the known areas of the model from b-spline areas using magenta. Note that if you color two adjacent areas of face meshes the same color they will merge into a single face.


I started by working on the “tang” of the breech – the finger-like protrusion on the rear of it. This surface should be a b-spline, but had incorrectly been partially identified as planar (yellow) and partially as cylindrical (cyan). I used the ink dropper tool to pick up the magenta “border” color, and drew a line to isolate the cylinder portion of the model from the tang:



Drawing “borders” to isolate areas of the mesh body.


Next, I used the color picker to pick a non-predefined color to paint the b-spline surface of the tang. Then, I used the fill tool to fill in the regions currently misidentified as planar (yellow) and cylindrical (cyan).




Re-painting the misidentified regions of the tang.


Next, I used the Paint Brush tool to paint in the same brown color to eliminate the magenta borders that were no longer needed. This gave one single, continuous surface to later extract from the model.




The tang b-surface isolated and ready for extracting.


Next, I could see that the flat side of the breech got marked as cylindrical. It needs to be planar, so I again painted a magenta border and then fill it in with yellow to designate those facets as planar.




Correcting the misidentified side planar face. 


Similarly, I went through the rest of the faces of the model, identifying cylindrical and planar faces, and then painted the rest as arbitrary colors that could be used to extract them as b-surfaces.


Here’s a tip for when you are designating regions: Remember that you don’t have to be perfectly precise. You simply need to pick up a sufficient number of facets for Solid Edge to be able to reasonably approximate them in aggregate to a single representative surface. Another tip: It can be difficult to know exactly which shade of color to pick off of the color menu for designating planar (yellow), cylindrical (cyan), spherical (red), or conical (blue). If you have already auto-regioned your model, you can just use the eye dropper tool to pick up the correct color of those auto-detected regions on the model.


This is what I ended up with after manually designating all of the surfaces:



All regions defined on the mesh body.


You’ll notice that nearly all of the faces have been designated as analytic faces - planes, cylinders, or cones, with only 2 regions being defined a random color for extraction as b-surfaces.


Now that I had regioned the model, the next step was to extract the surfaces I wanted to use to re-model from.


Solid Edge has a Reverse Engineering → Extract Surfaces → Extract command that will pull all available surfaces off of the regioned model. But I find that this is overkill and gives you far more than what you probably need to re-model the part. Here is what I got using the Extract command to extract all surfaces.



The result of extracting all surfaces. A mess!


The Extract command also allows you to extract selected regions. If you click on a surface that has been color-designated to be an analytical surface, then the Extract command will allow you to select them and automatically extract the correct kind of surface for it, depending on its color.




However, the Extract command does not allow you to define a tolerance for fitting the surface to the selected region. This means that sometimes the extracted surface does not conform as closely to the mesh face set as it could.


Instead, I prefer to use the Reverse Engineering → Extract Surfaces → Fit command. The only drawback to it is you have to tell it the kind of surface you are extracting (plane, cylinder, etc.) even though it may have already been colored with the correct analytic color.



Using the Fit command.


Here is the model after I extracted all of the planar regions from the model:



Extracting needed surfaces from the mesh body.


I had difficulty extracting accurate cylinders for a couple of the designated regions, so I re-designated them with a custom color using fewer facets to create the region. Then they extracted fine:





Re-designating mesh facets and extracting a surface from them.


Here I have extracted the two b-surface regions:



Extracting b-surfaces from the mesh body.



All needed surfaces have been extracted from the mesh body.


Using these surfaces, I could start to put together a traditional CAD model. Solid Edge has a relatively new command (Surfacing → Modify Surfaces → Intersect) that lets me create a solid body that is formed by the enclosed volume of selected surfaces. So to start with, we will turn on only the extracted planes and cylinder for the main body:



Surfaces needed to define the main body of the breech.


In order to enclose a volume, I had to extend the surfaces so that they all fully intersected. To do this I used the command Surfacing → Modify Surfaces → Extend.



Extending the surfaces so that they all fully intersect.


Now that I had the needed surfaces, and I extended them to fully intersect one another, I used the Surfacing → Modify Surfaces → Intersect command:



The Intersect command.


I selected the surfaces, and then turned on and off the regions I wanted to keep.



The result of the Intersect command.


You can turn on the “Consume Surfaces” option if you want to consume the surfaces. I recommend doing this, because later you are going to “square up” the model, bringing all model surfaces perpendicular or parallel to each other as they should be, and then the extracted surfaces will no longer be valid compared to our model. You don’t want to accidently reference them later on, so you might as well let them get deleted during the creation of the solid body.


After I completed the command, I had a new solid design body in my part document:



A solid body derived from the mesh body surfaces.


Of course, when you create a 3D scan of an object, it is only an approximation of the real part. While the part clearly appears to be a cylinder, with planar end caps normal to the cylinder axis, and a flat side parallel to the cylinder axis, you are virtually guaranteed that the scanned data, and the resultant extracted body, won’t match this design intent. But with Synchronous Technology, we can use the Face Relate commands to easily make the faces parallel, perpendicular, or symmetrical to each other.


First, I made the planar end caps perpendicular to the main cylindrical body:





Using Face Relate commands to “square up” the model.


You can choose to make these relationships permanently persist or not; I do not generally bother. You can see in the bottom picture the difference between the original location of the face and its new position perpendicular to the cylinder. It does not move much as it is tweaked into position, which is what we want. Next, I made the side planar face parallel to the cylinder axis.


Now that I had a “squared up” base, I created a pair of reference planes that pass through the cylinder center, and are parallel and perpendicular to the flat face on the side of the cylinder. These two planes functioned as base reference planes for the part, since the scanned data came into the model at an arbitrary location in space.




Defining “base” reference planes for the body since it is located off in space.


Next, I constructed the “tang” or tail of the breech. Here I had turned on all of the relevant extracted surfaces:



The surfaces needed to define the tang.



As before, I extended the boundaries of all of the surfaces until they all self-intersected into a volume that I used to generate a body:



Extending the extracted surfaces for the tang.


And then I used the Intersect command again to generate a body:



Using the Intersect command to generate a body.


Now I had two traditional CAD bodies in the document - the main cylindrical body and the tang:



The main body and the tang body are now created.


Here is where again the power of Synchronous Technology came into play. I knew that the two “V” shaped surfaces were supposed to be symmetrical about the center plane of the main cylindrical body. But again, due to variances during the 3D scanning process, they were not symmetrical in my actual CAD model. But with the Synchronous Symmetry Face Relate command, I easily made them so.


After making the “V” symmetric, I performed a Boolean Unite to join the two design bodies together:



Uniting the tang to the main body.


You will notice that the b-surface of the tang does not join up cleanly with the cylindrical body. I initially tried to fix this by splicing in a transition piece, but ultimately I was not happy with the curling on the sides of the top extracted b-surface. So, I opted to replace it by creating a new surface swept along the top of the tang, and then cut away the existing surface and replaced it with the new one.





Creating sections from the extracted surface and drawing new b-spline sections over them, and sweeping them.


The last part of shaping the tang was to round off the end, which I did with an extruded profile using an extracted cylindrical surface projected onto the sketch plane.




Shaping the end of the tang.


Next, I used Synchronous Technology to place a countersunk hole tangent to the tang b-surface, and then constrained it to be coplanar with the center plane of the part. Then, I dragged the hole until it matched closely with the scanned geometry. The ability to directly geometrically relate faces to one another is often much easier than trying to do it through sketches as one might in a traditional modeling environment such as Ordered.




Creating the countersunk hole in the tang.


Next came the hard part – reverse engineering the bolster. So, I turned back on my surfaces to see what I had to work with:



Extracted surfaces to be used to define the bolster.


Making extensive use of the Extend and Trim commands I was able to trim all of the faces to one another to come up with this:



The trimmed-up extracted surfaces. Too lumpy to use directly.


Once again, the derived b-surfaces weren’t quite as “clean” as what I wanted, so I created a series of intersection curves using the extracted b-surface, and then re-drew simpler splines on top of them, which I then swept to generate a new, smoother replacement surface.



Cutting intersection curves to use to define new, smooth b-splines for a new swept surface.


Finally, I was able to stitch together all of the surfaces that made up the bolster, creating a solid body, which I then united with the rest of the breech. Then I added the threaded details, and it was done!




The finished breech.


One of the interesting “artifacts” of CAD systems in general is that super-imposed surfaces tend to “flicker” or otherwise stand out. We can use this to our advantage as a final check by turning on the original scanned body and the newly-created body and get a good idea of how closely the two match:



Original mesh body superimposed on top of reverse engineered body.


We can see that the two bodies overlay nicely.


I was then able to 3D print this breech model and use it as a stand-in to mock up the complete musket:





Now that the design shape is proven, the next step will be to produce the part in metal. CNC machining is what immediately comes to mind, but it is also possible that I could have a high-quality SLA 3D print made to use as a master for casting.  I'm also going to explore 3D printing in metal.


But whatever manufacturing method turns out the most feasible, having quality, native, Solid Edge CAD geometry will make the process a snap!



*Opinions expressed are my own.

912, 2018

A Creative Take on Generative Design and 3D Printing

7.JPGWhen you think of applications for 3D printing, men’s fashion is probably not the first thing to come to mind. That’s the great thing about innovation though – it is often unexpected. 


A rather fun and unique project I worked on recently involved that exact combination. Solid Edge together with our partner Shining 3D recently had the opportunity to participate in Future Day held on November 10 at the headquarters of menswear retailer HIRMER in Munich’s city center in Germany. Visitors were invited to discover current technological developments from 3D printing to robots to virtual reality.


Our part in the event was to show which technologies are currently in demand in the field of additive manufacturing and 3D printing and how these relate to menswear. For this event, I designed cufflinks and a heart-shaped pendant for a necklace using generative design technology. The files will be included at the end of this post, so you can customize them yourself in Solid Edge (download the free Student Edition) and have them 3D printed just in time for the holidays. More on that later. First, let’s look at what exactly is generative design.


 cufflink 2.pngHeart06.JPG


Generative Design is a radical departure from conventional design practices and is by definition the creation of shapes decided by a set of rules, or in other words, software algorithms. In essence, the 3D CAD designer is no longer the primary creator, taking the position of a “problem framer” specifying up front design goals such as design space, constraints and keep out areas.  The computer software then decides where material should be removed.  Constraints define then decide the structural results by generating an optimized part that look eerily similar to creations found in nature.  The potential benefits are striking.  You can learn more with this free course on generative design available on Udemy available here:  https://www.udemy.com/topologyoptimization/




Typically you would use generative design in cases where you want to maintain structural integrity while making a part or product lighter. In this case, of course, it was simply a fun and unique way to incorporate new technologies and design aspects into fashion. I used Shapeways to 3D print in both brass and genuine silver. There was about a 2 week turnaround time, so if you are thinking of getting these as a holiday gift for someone close to you, keep that in mind. 


If you’d like to order these stylish accessories for yourself or others, you can order them here: https://www.shapeways.com/designer/devitry/creations




About the author:

John Devitry is a Research Fellow at the Center of Space Engineering - Utah State University. From 2004 – 2015 John taught the introductory classes for Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at USU while also working as the CAD Administrator at Space Dynamics Laboratory – the research arm of USU.


Over the years John has developed a unique and compelling approach to teaching mechanical engineering and 3D design, introducing the concept of Conceptual Design Blending as a way to facilitate creative thinking with engineering graphics students. View his available courses on Udemy here: https://www.udemy.com/user/johndevitry/

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