I had the distinct pleasure of attending Solid Edge University last week. As a long time Solid Edge user, many folks were surprised that this was my first Solid Edge specific conference. After a quick reminder about the realism of travel budgets and an agreeing head-nod of understanding, we were back talking shop.
I have been to other CAD conference, though, like Autodesk University and PLM World. I have also attended my fair share of industry summits and events. Each one has their own unique atmosphere, but they all follow the same general agenda: keynote speeches, break out session, vendor displays, and plenty of food and drink.
Karsten Newbury, Sr. VP and General Manager, and Chuck Grindstaff, President and CEO, kicked off the event and conferred the usual business status. For a Solid Edge user, it only reinforced the fact that Solid Edge development is there for the user. It's a great message to hear repeated. The motivational keynotes were next, staring Adam Steltzner of NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover Project (they used Siemens software for the design and analysis) and Bernard Amadei of Engineers Without Borders-USA. In summary, I was motivated.
After the break Dan Staples and his "special partner" laid the foundation for the real meat of the event - Solid Edge ST6. The enhancements in ST6, all 1300+ of them, convey how well Siemens listens to its customers. When an enhancement can be traced to the individual user that made the request, and often the enhancements are code-named after that user, it's obvious that Siemens seriously considers user requests when planning its development roadmap and doesn't just lay out a bunch of marketing features.
I need to come with three of me. Like any conference, there are too many sessions to attend. Siemens did, thankfully, video record many of the sessions. Not only will the presentation decks be available for download sometime in the future (participants who completed the survey walked home with them on a USB stick), but the entire explanation will also be available. This is going to be a great resource for those who couldn't attend. Maybe next year they can at least live stream the keynotes.
There is talk on both sides of the fence on how to plan next year's event. Keep it short, so attendees are not out of the office for so long and therefore can afford it. Or, add an extra day to make more sessions available to attendees. Who knows, with the exponential growth of this conference, an extra day may be needed in order to accommodate the increased number of presenters.
Since I wasn't able to attend every breakout session, I will leave you with my key takeaways from the ones I did attend.
Dan Staples and company mentioned throughout the course of the keynotes that for as long as we have been talking about the drawingless environment, drawings are not going away. Therefore, Solid Edge continues to focus on reducing the time it takes to create drawings: fewer dialog boxes to place drawing views, easier dimension cleanup, balloon alignment, schematic diagrams, faster view processing, table customization, and general usability improvements.
Solid Edge has been lacking in the surfacing department for a long time. The last major enhancement to surfacing was Blue Surf technology. Ironic that the first history-independent feature in Solid Edge is still not incorporated into the history-independent Synchronous environment. I am not an industrial designer or do I design swoopy consumer products, but I do use surfacing features to create complex shapes on occasion. The fact that Solid Edge rolled out C2 across the board, every feature, is a significant enhancement. They didn't roll it out to just one or two surface features as a marketing checkbox that weren't compatible with other geometry, but to the entire software. And, more importantly, surface features are only as good as the tools available to inspect them. ST6 rolled out surfacing inspection tools to go with the new surfacing features.
Hybrid Modeling Technique
Users are still struggling with the adoption of Synchronous Technology. Several breakout sessions discussed methods in which to create hybrid models - models that utilize the best of synchronous and ordered features. I personally believe that the hybrid approach is the best method in the near future and will result in stable and resilient models for long term archiving as well.
Rendering and Animation
I have often tried to use the built in Explode, Render, and Animate environment within Solid Edge to create marketing materials and assembly instructions. It's not easy. This environment has not seen much love by development for several versions and is showing its age. I have been in the market for a 3rd party application for quite a while and have settled on Keyshot. Then, I hear about the integration of Solid Edge and Keyshot and am happy with my choice. Now to find the budget for the purchase.
Solid Edge Embedded Client
Although the major focus during the event was on the "new" Solid Edge SP (Sharepoint) as the data management tool for Solid Edge users, some of us require full-up Teamcenter. Not even Teamcenter Rapid Start is good enough. I'm happy to see multi-key fields and other enhancements to solve my data management problems. Solid Edge isn't quite as tightly integrated with Teamcenter as NX is, but it is getting closer with each revision. Now if only the matrix of compatible versions was a little more flexible.
I had a great time and got out of the event everything I hoped for. I finally met some of my online colleagues face-to-face, I got to explore a hotel and convention center in a strange new city, I met up with old friends that I only see at these events, and most importantly, I learned a lot about Solid Edge that I can take back to work with me and plan the future around. I eagerly await the release-to-manufacture of Solid Edge ST6.