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SOLIDWORKS vs Solid Edge: How Well They Import Legacy Data from AutoCAD, Pt 1

By Elise Moss, June 12, 2014  

When Cyon Research released a recent study of CAD users, it has two items that interested me the most. The first showed that the majority of users responding to the study still used AutoCAD as their primary design software; they had not made the switch to 3D.

What could they possibly be waiting for? The major hindrance holding them back was the data they had accumulated as DWG files. I remember having the same fear when I made the switch to 3D almost twenty years ago. What I found, however, was that after I had truly transitioned to 3D, 2D data took on less importance - like switching over from VHS tape to DVD discs. The quality of the video and sound on the DVD overcame my annoyance.

The second piece of interesting information from the study was learning that fence sitters who finally made the move didn't care which 3D tool they picked. They weren't looking at cost or even which tool was the most popular; their concern was over the learning curve: how long would it take them to become productive with the new software.

I wanted to put myself in the shoes of an undecided 2D user to see how I would feel using 3D CAD. So I took on Solid Edge, 3D MCAD software that usually comes up at the bottom of the list for number of licenses/seats out there among users, with SOLIDWORKS - 3D software that usually comes towards the top. The area I studied in both was how well they imported DWG files and converted them to 3D models.

User Interface: Solid Edge

Solid Edge's user interface is nice and clean (see figure 1). I liked the way all the tools are front and center. The tools in the interface progress left to right: start at the left side to create my sketches, add geometric constraints, place dimensions, then create features. The display and navigation tools are located on a toolbar at the bottom right of the screen.

Figure 1: The clean interface of Solid Edge

Solid Edge comes with an HTML-based help system and built in tutorials to help me get started (see figure 2). When I selected Help, Internet Explorer launched.

Figure 2: Help for new Solid Edge users

The set of tutorials includes videos as well as PDF documents that I could download and print (see figure 3). I liked that there was that PDF for printing as some users - especially novices - find it difficult to follow a video, and so like printouts that allow them to go at their own pace.

Figure 3: Tutorials for new users

Importing DWG: Solid Edge

I really wanted to see was how well Solid Edge would take a 2D AutoCAD drawing and move it to 3D. My basic 2D drawing was of this tool (see figure 4).

Figure 4: The DWG test drawing is in 2D

 I started by opening the AutoCAD file in Solid Edge using the Open tool (see figure 5).

Figure 5: Opening the DWG file with Solid Edge

I located the file I wanted to open. But rather than immediately clicking Open, I selected the Options button to adjust the import settings (see figure 6).

Figure 6: Options for importing DWG files

Here I could preview the file, handy for seeing what it looked like. I liked the ability to change the background from white to black depending on my preference. I also could zoom in and out inside the preview window to inspect the drawing.

Among the options, I disabled the "Write solid bodies to SAT file" because this was just a 2D file. Notice that I also could select which layers I wanted to include in the translation before I select the Next button.

I was a little concerned about the default template assigned: I wanted to have the ability to convert the drawing into a part file, but for this first run I opted to keep the default template to see what happens (see figure 7).

Figure 7: Choosing the DFT template file

To finish the process, I saved the configuration settings to a new file outside of Solid Edge (see figure 8).

Figure 8: Saving changes to a configuration file for later reuse

Using this method got me to a 2D drawing in Solid Edge, which was not really what I wanted. With a search on the Web, I found that the process is a bit different inside Solid Edge; I hadn't been wasting my time, after all. I was half-way there. The staff at Solid Edge found what a lot of people who bring in AutoCAD files have found.

When we bring AutoCAD's 2D elements into the 3D world, there can be a lot of clean up before we get a decent sketch. So, Solid Edge imports the drawing to its "draft" environment for cleanup before we move it along to the part file stage.

Converting 2D to 3D with Revolve: Solid Edge

To help in the clean up process, Solid Edge has a cool tool called Clean Sketch which allows you to eliminate the duplicate and overlapping geometry (see figure 9).

Figure 9: Accessing the clean up tool in Solid Edge

The options control whether to delete any duplicate elements or move them to a layer (see figure 10).

Figure 10: Options for cleaning sketches

 I cleaned up the sketch to create a single outline with no interior lines (see figure 11).

Figure 11

I was now ready to move to turning the profile into a 3D part. First, I windowed the entire sketch to select the geometry. Then, I switched to the Tools ribbon and selected Create 3D (see figure 12).

Figure 12: Creating 3D parts from 2D sketches

Solid Edge asked me which part template I wanted to use (see figure 13). The Options button let me to set the view to use for the sketch, and set the units. Additionally, I can add this sketch to an existing file, which is a very powerful tool for creating in-context parts or features.

Figure 13: Steps for creating 3D from 2D in Solid Edge

To move forward I had to define a line to fold the current view (see figure 14). I selected the vertical axis about which I was planning to revolve the sketch.

Figure 14: Choosing the views

There was a slight pause as I entered into the 3D environment and a new part file was opened into which the sketch was placed (see figure 15).

Figure 15: 2D sketch converted into 3D model

From the ribbon, I selected the Revolve tool. In the sketch profile, I chose the side of the profile to be used for the axis. I used the 360 option on the Revolve tool bar dropdown (see figures 16 and 17).

Figure 16: Specifying the revolve options

To turn off the sketch visibility, I simply unchecked the sketch in the feature browser.

Figure 17: Completed 3D model

So, how easy was it to take my legacy 2D AutoCAD part file to 3D in Solid Edge? Pretty darn easy.

Converting 2D to 3D with Extrude: Solid Edge

Next, I wanted to see how Solid Edge converted a 2D drawing using a different method: using the Create3D tool an extrusion (see figure 18).

Figure 18: Converting a 2D drawing using extrusions

On the first attempt, it was clear that I picked the wrong line for the fold line. I should have selected the bottom horizontal line and not the top horizontal line. It was an easy mistake to make because I was thinking ‘top view.'

So, I re-did it, making a point of selecting the bottom horizontal line for the front view. And once again it came in with the top view aligned with the top horizontal line. OK, now I was getting a bit peeved. So, on the third try I set the Primary view orientation to Bottom View (see figure 19).

Figure 19: Choosing the correct primary view orientation

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About the Author

Elise Moss has been teaching Autodesk and SOLIDWORKS software for the past decade. She is an Autodesk Certified Instructor and teaches at an Autodesk Authorized Training Center in San Francisco. She speaks regularly at SOLIDWORKS World and leads the Oakland SOLIDWORKS user group. Elise has a mechanical engineering degree. More…

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