Siemens Solid Edge ST9—A Review of Some Interesting Features

Solid Edge ST9 is a powerful CAD package. But why is that so? Here’s what I learned at SEU 2016.

Every time I visit Solid Edge University (SEU), I come away impressed. Not only does Solid Edge put together a compelling show, it always seem to make the case that its CAD package is just as solid, if not more so, than some of the other players that gobble up the lion’s share of the CAD market. While there are numerous features that make Solid Edge a robust MCAD package, the standout feature has to be the package’s Synchronous Technology (which is where the “ST” in ST9 is derived).

For those unfamiliar with ST, it’s basically Siemens’ answer to the direct versus history-based modelling paradigm. With ST, users can switch between history-based modelling and direct modelling

with ease, without having to worry about ruining feature relationships that were built in a history-based paradigm. Now, ST is obviously one of, if not the most important, feature in the Solid Edge package, but it’s not what I want to talk about today. In this article, I’ll be taking you through a few of the features that I found interesting during the presentations I attended at SEU 2016. So without further delay, let’s jump into my impressions.

The Cloud Brings About Freedom

One of the biggest enhancements to Solid Edge’s ST9 update has been its two-fold integration with the cloud. While Solid Edge didn’t opt for a browser-based configuration, it did decide to add another option to its licensing scheme, making ST9 portable.

In this new release, users will have the ability to choose a cloud option that essentially gives an individual a Solid Edge log-in that provides them with access to their license no matter if they’re using a machine at the office or home or on the go. The beauty of this new scheme is that whenever you launch a session of ST9, the software automatically retrieves your license and pulls it to the machine that you’re using. Once you end your session, your license is untethered from the machine that was in use and freed up for use at the user’s next station.

But wait, does that mean that Siemens is going to move all users over to this cloud-based model?

Have no fear.

For those who still want node-locked or floating licensing schemes, those options are still available. The ST9 team isn’t forcing you into the cloud.

The second aspect of ST9’s cloud integration has to do with making a user’s CAD data more portable. ST9 now allows its users to save their data directly to Box, Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive. I know that seems trivial, but Siemens has figured out a clever way to lock down cloud-based files that are currently in use, essentially creating a remote vault that improves productivity and eliminates two users from altering the same file simultaneously. 

Tabbed Documents, and Model Isolation Make Their Debuts

To begin with, Solid Edge’s developers haven’t made any radical changes to their UI, clinging close to the UI standards that Microsoft Office users have come to know. 

Tabbed documents directly below the ribbon make accessing opened files much quicker.

Tabbed documents directly below the ribbon make accessing opened files much quicker.

While sweeping UI changes haven’t been made to ST9, the software’s developers have added a tabbed document feature that makes it easier to toggle between and view multiple documents. In addition to the tabbed document feature, a new isolation feature allows users to choose what geometry is displayed in a model or assembly. Any geometry not selected before the activation of the Isolation feature will vanish, allowing users to inspect or build onto hard-to-see or hard-to-reach parts of a model. 

Solid Sweep Feature Mimics CAM Simulations

The solid sweep in action.

The solid sweep in action.

Shifting gears to the modelling aspects of ST9, the most interesting modeling update might be the solid sweep operation. Thought the operation acts a lot like a “lofted cut,” there’s one key difference between it and a solid sweep. Where a loft uses a 2D profile that’s traced along a path, as its name implies, the solid sweep uses a 3D object to cut through component material. 

For anyone trying to build complex cutouts or simulate CAM cutter functions while still in a modelling environment, the solid sweep tool will be a valuable addition to ST9.

An Older Feature Surprises and Delights

While ST9 is chock full of other interesting and useful additions, particularly when it comes to ST, one feature that stuck out in my mind was a legacy tool that I hadn’t seen before, the fastener system tool.

When putting together an assembly, creating full fastener sets that include nuts, bolts, washers and what not can be a tedious affair. For starters, each of the fastener stack’s components has to be located in a model directory, then it has to be mated. 

This doesn’t seem that bad of a chore if the process only has to happen once, but how often do you see an assembly with a single fastener? I’d imagine not too frequently.

The fastener system dialogue box.

The fastener system dialogue box.

To solve that problem, Solid Edge created a fastener system tool that allows you to prescribe each element of a fastener group, store it as its own mini assembly and then apply it to any number of features that need to be bound together. If multiple types of fastener sets need to be employed in an assembly, multiple fastener assemblies can be made. To deploy the fastener system, users only need to pick the holes into which they want a fastener set inserted, click the fastener system tool and then select the fastener assembly that’s appropriate.  

One Last Point

Finally, the other aspect of Solid Edge that has really impressed me over the past few years has been the connection that the development team has with its users. At events like SEU, developers often present the new features to users and actively look for feedback. They want to know where the bugs are, and they want to know how to build more enhancements into the software, regardless of how trivial they may seem. It’s not uncommon to hear a Solid Edge developer say something to the effect of, “We should get together after this session and talk a bit more about your idea.”

In my opinion, the Solid Edge team’s dedication to its customers’ needs, as well as the package’s overall performance, make Solid Edge a very compelling choice if you’re looking for a CAD package.