Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology—Many Things at the Same Time
Ryan McVay posted on May 27, 2016 |

If you are wondering how your engineering organization can survive in a rapidly changing world, synchronous technology may offer an answer.

Solid Edge with synchronous technology brings together many different technology elements when you create 3D models in a way that allows for quick design, modification and creation of parts and assemblies. When using synchronous technology, you are doing many things at the same time.

Siemens uses the following description of synchronous technology and its capabilities. The list was culled from a presentation at Solid Edge University 2015 by Matt Lombard, a product evangelist for Solid Edge with synchronous technology.

  1. The simultaneous solver involves solving the entire model at once rather than solving sequential features.
  2. Different “modes,” such as synchronous and ordered (or history-based), work together within single parts and assemblies to allow users to solve a model simultaneously and linearly (sequentially).
  3. Multiple technologies work together at the same time. Siemens licenses different CAD system components (such as Parasolid and D-Cubed) to its competitors, but also leverages them into its own products and workflows, with the following elements making up the synchronous technology.
    1. Direct edit
    2. Parametrics assigned to faces (in Solid Edge, this is known as product manufacturing information or PMI)
    3. Steering-wheel tool
    4. Face relations
    5. Procedural features
    6. Feature recognition
    7. Design intent/solution manager

“Synchronous is all about selection. Just like in history-based modeling where you talk a lot about the individual features,” said Lombard. “In synchronous, the feature is whatever you select.”

Like direct editing, in which the user selects a face or group of faces to manipulate, synchronous surpasses the direct editing function by including additional intelligence, user-defined rules and parametrics to the selected geometry.


PMI or Parametrics

PMI assigned directly to 3D geometry works so well that it can leave the impression that this was the way parametric modeling was always meant to be. After all, assigning the relationships directly to the faces (making edits directly to the faces) was “the true promise of parametric modeling,” according to Evan Yares in 2013 in his multipart series on the failed promise of parametrics—and it has since become the way we design.

PMI attached directly to 3D faces for quick and easy changes directly to the model. (Image courtesy of the author.)
PMI attached directly to 3D faces for quick and easy changes directly to the model. (Image courtesy of the author.)

History-based systems rely on parametrics, a parent-child relationship and a sequential rebuild process. The parametric modeling we have used for the last 20 years is built this way. Relationships exist between 2D sketch elements (parent) and 3D faces (child), for example. In order to make a change to the 3D face, we must go back to the parent curve in the 2D sketch.

With PMI, it’s possible to apply dimensions directly to the 3D faces. With Solid Edge with synchronous technology, the dimensions applied to an original sketch geometry are moved to the solid, where they belong. The result is the breaking of the parent-child relationship with sketch curves.

Solid Edge PMI editor dialog. (Image courtesy of the author.)
Solid Edge PMI editor dialog. (Image courtesy of the author.)

This broken relationship between the 2D elements of a sketch and the corresponding 3D geometry provides new options when making modifications to the PMI. With synchronous technology, users have the ability to control the direction of the modification. It’s easy enough to modify the PMI to apply the change to the “left” side or “right” side or apply the change symmetrically. This is very difficult with a 2D sketch curve in history-based CAD. It requires changing how a sketch will solve and might require redefinition of how sketch curves are dimensioned.

Users also have the ability to lock the PMI at a specific value. This provides additional control over how the geometry will react when applying other direct edit functions. For example, if a hole has to remain a fixed distance from the edge of the plate, simply lock that PMI. If the edge of the block needs to move, the hole will move with it—or it could go the other way. Move the hole and the edge adjusts to stay with it. This is something a history-based system cannot do, since it forced definition of the block before the hole existed.

What users have always wanted from CAD systems was the ability to generate models and3D geometry and then make changes directly to the model. This is exactly what synchronous technology allows users to do. A 2D sketch creates the basis for a solid shape. The traditional parent-child relationship is broken and it’s possible to work directly on the 3D model from that point forward. Reuse the sketch if it’s necessary to generate secondary geometry or just remove it from the model entirely. Manipulate the model using parameters assigned directly to the faces.


Steering Wheel

Solid Edge steering wheel with handles. (Image courtesy of the author.)

Solid Edge steering wheel with handles. (Image courtesy of the author.)

The Steering Wheel tool is used as a visual cue and user input tool to perform translation and rotation operations to selected geometry during a direct-edit workflow. This tool aids the user by defining the start/offset and end-points of any translation or rotation of geometry. It can adapt a temporary coordinate to selected geometry. The steering wheel is intelligent enough to determine which “handles” apply to a selection set. As an example, a single planar face provides only the origin point and a face normal handle. A multiple face selection set may provide additional handles because the entire set could be repositioned in multiple directions.


A Face-to-Face Relationship

As mentioned, the constraints originally assigned to sketch geometry are inherited by the 3D faces when using synchronous technology. If, for example, a line is tangent to an arc, the tangency is applied to the two faces. It sounds simple and it is. The parent-child relationship between sketch to faces is no longer required. This allows for the system to do simultaneous solving of the model and removes the need for a history-sequential rebuild.

Solid Edge with synchronous technology allows users to add additional relationships to geometry which may have been imported from other CAD software. In these cases, it may be beneficial to apply face relationships to the imported geometry. Relationships can be defined as persistent or temporary rules, with the latter only in effect during an edit.

This is not to say that all imported geometry requires the user to reassign face relationships. Synchronous does a great job of determining the many different ways in which geometry assigns its relationships, but users have extra control and can override it.


Procedural Features

Procedural Features. (Image courtesy of the author.)

Procedural Features. (Image courtesy of the author.)

Solid Edge, when in synchronous mode, allows the user to create geometry using features. These features are called procedural features and are what we would call normal features in a history-based system.

Procedural features are categorized into intelligent groupings of faces to create holes, rounds, chamfers, draft, thin walls and specialized sheet metal features. Sheet metal is where procedural features really shine.


Feature Recognition

Many a CAD system will read a neutral file type and then post-process it, attempting to rebuild a history-based model with features of its own definition. Solid Edge is different in that it’s possible to import a solid body and then move the body to the synchronous environment, at which point the system will search the geometry for specific faces and arrangements of faces.

This means that synchronous technology can identify trimmed cylindrical faces and apply a procedural feature like a hole to the face or set of faces. Synchronous technology also allows the user to replace the existing faces with more complex features. In the case of holes, the user can identify the faces and replace them with counter-bored holes or different hole styles, adding additional faces to the geometry.

Feature recognition also looks for identically sized geometry and groups of geometry. It can determine if a group of holes is in a pattern—linear or circular—and then groups the holes together. The technology will even detect patterns within a pattern.


Design Intent

Solid Edge Design Intent panel. (Image courtesy of the author.)

Solid Edge Design Intent panel. (Image courtesy of the author.)

The Design Intent and the Advanced Design Intent panels are the two tools that together reveal the true power of synchronous technology. The Design Intent tool could be considered the first level of help. In most cases, invoking the Design Intent dialog is all that’s needed in order to see how the system applied its relationships. The Design Intent dialog displays the current rules that all of these technologies found associated with a selected geometry. The user has the ability to quickly override the rules the system has found by toggling on or off any or all of the design intent rules.

The second level of help is the Advanced Design Intent panel. Here, users have full access to see which rules the system has applied to the selected geometry as well as ALL of the rules. Rules can be turned on or off. There are many different options available to users, including relaxing control and turning off all controls.

Solid Edge Advanced Design Intent panel and the many different control options. (Image courtesy of the author.)
Solid Edge Advanced Design Intent panel and the many different control options. (Image courtesy of the author.)

For example, in a situation where three bosses are coming off of a surface, this tool would be useful. These bosses are not part of a pattern, but because all share the same diameter and have faces on the same plane, they have been placed in a group. The user may try to move the face on one boss only to find the other faces are moving too. In this case, the user can turn off the coplanar option on the one face, disassociating it with the other two faces, and then modify the single feature.

Siemens PLM has continued to provide the solutions to its customers’ challenges. All the tools, patents and technologies that make up synchronous technology are another solution—another tool—that answers the history-based modeling and parent-child relationship challenges of past few decades.


Siemens has sponsored ENGINEERING.com to write this article. It has provided no editorial input. All opinions are mine. —Ryan McVay


About the Author

Ryan McVay has nearly 25 years of computer-aided design experience in many different roles including user, abuser, instructor (public college and corporate), software sales, technical support and as a customer advocate as chair of the PLM World NX Special Interest Group (NX Modeling and Assemblies). He has worked directly for several software OEMs and in the sales channel. He is currently responsible for the design, continued operation and development of an engineering-to-order system along with CAD, PDM and hardware administration responsibilities.

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