What Sets Solid Edge Apart from SOLIDWORKS?
Kyle Maxey posted on April 19, 2017 | 9986 views

When it comes to MCAD software it is often hard to differentiate one software package from another. Many times, decisions about whether to favor one CAD package over another comes down to aesthetic difference, past experience with a tool or whether software is part of a company’s design legacy.  

But sometimes there are larger differences that make one MCAD package stand out from the rest. Solid Edge has two such distinctions and I’m going to review them here: It’s about what sets Solid Edge apart from SOLIDWORKS. 

Synchronous Technology

Synchronous Technology is Solid Edge’s single greatest advantage when it comes to separating itself from the crowded pack of MCAD leaders. At its core, Synchronous Technology is a hybrid modeling paradigm that leverages the strengths of both direct and history-based modeling.

Synchronous Technology allows a user to push, pull and rotate a piece of 3D geometry by simply clicking on a face or edge and modifying the geometry in the desired manner. Once a rough idea of a component’s geometry has been created, dimensions and relationships can then be created to tighten up the final design. 

Essentially, Synchronous Technology a strong editing tool. In fact, whether you’re creating a model from a sketch or you’re importing geometry, Synchronous gives its user powerful tools to immediately begin design work.

And leads me to my next point.

Synchronous Technology is also compelling because it’s an intuitive system that attempts to predict what a user’s next modeling move will be and present them with the tools that they’ll need. To gain this level of intuition, Synchronous Technology infers what a user might do by analyzing geometric intent and cursor position. Once this instantaneous analysis is complete, a user is presented with the commands that they’re most likely to use. This intuition makes it possible for engineers to build design intent into their model on the fly. 

When it comes to design reuse, Synchronous Technology makes recycling a previous model much easier by eliminating the need to understand, and possibly untangle, a component’s history tree. Using and automatic Feature Recognition tools any component can be modified as soon as the part is imported into Solid Edge without worrying about how previous design intent might impede a new component configuration. This speeds up the time it takes to get an engineering change order out the door and shrinks the overall product design timeline.

Although it might not be immediately obvious, the greatest benefit of Synchronous Technology is that it eliminates much of the upfront planning that most CAD users associate with design and the complications that arise when trying to untangle a history-based model. Rather than having to figure out all of the dimensions that will drive a model, or the relations that are already built into a component, users can dive right into CAD immediately and begin transforming what was once imagination into something solid.

Not only is that satisfying, it also saves a ton of design time.  

Designed to Be Used on the Go

Since the release of ST9, Solid Edge has been designed with Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet in mind. It’s been one of the goals of Solid Edge’s engineers to build their software so that it can take advantage of the unique interface that a tablet lends a user. One of the most noticeable elements of this interaction upgrade is Solid Edge’s ability to take advantage of the multi-touch Surface interface. That means that designers can use the Surface Type cover to enter commands and use hotkeys like they would at their workstations; interact with their models and tools via the mouse; and extend their reach into the design environment through the use of the Surface Pen.

Astonishingly, Solid Edge on a Surface isn’t just a partial tool that ports some capacity to a mobile device. Solid Edge on a Surface is the full-blown CAD package and can be used to work on anything from complex parts to large assemblies.

Finally, because Solid Edge can be run from a Surface tablet, design work is made mobile. Engineers can collaborate with their clients in the field and modify designs wherever they are. This mobility also extends to manufacturing, where models or drawings can be shared with either in-house or third-party manufacturers. 

So Why Is Solid Edge So Different?

Whereas most CAD packages have reached the point of parity, Solid Edge’s design team has tried to look into the future and predict what kind of tools designers will need in the near future. Synchronous Technology addresses a designer’s need to have an collaborative tool that can intuit what the next modeling move will be, speeding up the design process.

Additionally, by paying close attention to the hardware market and realizing that the Microsoft Surface tablet seemed an ideal tool for CAD users, Solid Edge’s engineers have the opportunity to truly realize what it’s like to have CAD tools at their beck and call, whether they’re in the office, at an office design review or anywhere else that design inspiration might strike.

For years, Solid Edge has set itself apart from other mechanical design tools with Synchronous Technology. It has even served to usher in a set of parametric software that is not bound by the limitations of history-based modeling. However, even with all its benefits, new CAD tools continue to emerge in the market.   Perhaps the trend will continue until artificially intelligent machines take all of our design jobs, rendering the choice of CAD tools a moot point.

For more information, see Matt Lombard’s book Comparing History-based CAD to Synchronous Technology.

Siemens PLM has sponsored this post. They have no editorial input to this post. All opinions are mine. —Kyle Maxey

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