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Solid Edge Wants to Be the Best MCAD Program, That's All

By Roopinder Tara, June 28, 2013

To call Solid Edge ST6 an update would be an understatement. It claims to have 1,300 user requested enhancements. It is almost ready to be released. We were invited to get an early look at it at the 3rd ever Solid Edge annual user meeting.

CINCINNATI, OH (Solid Edge University 2013), June 25, 2013 - The press and analysts are enjoying the privileged roped off section in the front of the audience at the keynote. It’s been a while since we heard such big numbers for enhancements. Oh, God….are they going to go through every single one of them? At most of the big CAD conferences we go to, they are decent enough to dumb it down, give us the top ten. Aren’t we getting close to lunch?

But we are at a user meeting. There are 500 users here. It is the3rd ever Solid Edge user meeting and the biggest to date, though small compared to AU, SolidWorks World, many others.

Users, unlike press, are bound to find at least a few new features or enhancements to their liking and even one good one can be worth the price of admission. Gems like that may not be the ones we had predicted to be popular in our infinite wisdom – or even what the CAD companies have predicted. As I listen to as the rendition of what’s new, I keep an ear open for user reaction.

Thumbs Up from the Users

It takes a while for the crowd to warm up as enhancements are ticked off. There’s a smattering of mild applause. Finally, when balloons are aligned to a spline, they go wild. As wild as engineers can get. Hmm…it seems quite a few cheers seem to be for what jaded CAD insiders may call low end capabilities, such as drafting and documentation.


Solid Edge ST6 lets you arrange dimensions along a spline


Solid Edge ST6 has Dimension Auto Arrange regroups dimensions automatically

Another crowd pleaser was the Dimension Auto-Arrange feature, which, with a single mouse click, neatly arranges dimensions on a 2D drawing that may have moved around as the 3D model was being modified. Can your MCAD program do that? Does it even want to?

2D is Not Dead

I ask veteran SolidWorks user Jeff Mirisola about the rearranging balloon trick. SolidWorks does allow you to arrange balloons along a line. But along a curve? He didn’t think so.

It may be small, but judging from the reaction, significant and worth it. Spend all day doing the droll, thankless and decidedly unglamorous task of dimensioning -- documentation featuring dimensions are still the main way of carrying product information downstream – and you are damn well going to cheer if your CAD program saves you some of that drudgery.

When you return to home to your workstation, you will silently thank the company each time it alleviates real problems – rather than provide solutions for problems you didn’t know you had. I’ve never heard a CAD user suffering from NOT keeping his data on the cloud. Or complaining he has too much power in his workstation and would rather have the IT staff keep it behind locked doors. Or sad he can’t edit a model on an iPad.

As the presentations wear on, there emerges a steadfast policy with this release to be directly effective and useful. it becomes clearer that the new release of Solid Edge is going to be devoted to user needs, with little regard to what the competitors have declared to be the next big thing, as if throwing down the gauntlet with a this-is-what-CAD-is-really-all-about, back-to-basics message and a singular, undistracted vision of improvement of the core modeling product. Productivity, efficiency, speed are not lost arts, the prevailing message with Big CAD, who seemed to have moved on. Instead, the Solid Edge team is intent on packing the box, as it were, with all sorts of goodies, intended to satisfy, even delight users.

Better 3D

If users have been asking for better surfacing tool, now there is C1 and C2 surface capability. It claims to be the “best mechanical assembly modeler” in the world. It brags of its sheet metal tools, improving with each release.

“Having so many enhancements just means they have so many deficiencies,” grumbles one analyst. But I don’t think so. More than one CAD company has practically conceded that there is little more to add to the burgeoning list of their already very capable 3D modeling tools, that all horses in the race are now bunched together. If that was indeed true, then wouldn’t 1300 improvements vault Solid Edge far into the lead?

Microsoft a Cautionary Tale

No improvements are left to be made?? What does that even mean? Is the product perfect? Or has Big CAD given up? Low on imagination? Either is a death of sorts, or at least a giant grind to a halt. Why push on? We're good enough.

Example: Microsoft. When did they stop adding compelling new features? I used to wait with bated breath each new release of Windows, each version of Office. Now, both Windows and Office seem to be trying to the latest wave and missing, no direction of their own, as their previous fans lose interest.

But In some case, SE is obviously coming out ahead. Its Synchronous Technology is about the most innovative approach to come down the MCAD road since parametrics. What was once arguably the easiest to use major MCAD program, SE can be a breeze these days when editing geometry. Matt Lombard, SolidWorks veteran now in the employ of Siemens quips “ We have a great tool for removing fillets. It’s called a delete key.” A few more releases and ST could make history based solid modeling a thing of the past.

Parity or Superiority

Solid Edge’s determination to improve its product in such a prosaic way, to fill in holes and/or to move ahead of the competition on the basis of enhancements differs from market leaders, whose intent seems to be waves of conceptual shifts. There was the collaboration wave, the cloud wave, the mobile device wave, the 3D printing wave…. And we, the press and analyst community ride each wave into a CAD event.

Solid Edge is not swayed. “We’re a desktop application,” says Karsten Newbury, head of Siemens PLM division, emphatically, the first day of the conference. And with those few words, he has upheld the conviction that Solid Edge lives in the world of the worker bees, users of CAD, those whose very job is the very real production of parts, models and drawings. This is where the rubber meets the road. It is a world where iPads, collaboration, thin-clients and virtualization, paperless and everything 3D printed exists peripherally or not at all. Sorry press and analysts. Keep moving to your next conference if you want the sexy story. This is for the user. It’s about computer aided design. CAD. PLM...CAE...they may be important, but CAD is the core, our reason for existence...and yours.

Solid Edge is a CAD application for mechanical design, pure and simple. And it wants to be the best one.

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About the Author

Roopinder Tara Roopinder Tara is founder and publisher of TenLinks. His specialties include CAD, CAE and mechanical engineering. He has over 28 years in CAD and engineering. He has a masters degree in engineering and is a certified Professional Engineer. More...

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