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A First Look at Solid Edge ST 6

By Ralph Grabowski, September 5, 2013


When it came to launching this year's major release of Solid Edge, Siemens PLM Software did something different from other MCAD vendors. Instead of first introducing Solid Edge ST 6 to the media through the usual early non-disclosure process, executives unveiled it in front of users at Solid Edge University 2013 held in May.

(The "ST 6" in the name means that this the sixth release of Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology, and so the sixth release since 2008. Solid Edge itself is no new kid on the block, having being around for nearly 20 years)

Synchronous Technology was developed by Siemens PLM to allow both direct and history modeling in a single MCAD package. It works with both Solid Edge and its bigger brother NX. In the initial release, it was a bit limited, because users had to choose which to start with -- direct editing or traditional history editing. With subsequent releases, however, Siemens PLM made it easier to use both modeling techniques, and so users now can often switch between the two systems as needed. Since that initial release, much of the development emphasis has been on extending Synchronous Technology in general, as well as to other parts of 3D modeling, such as to sheet metal design and, now in ST 6, surfacing.

My Top Three

Solid Edge ST 6 shipped in August to end users, boasting some 1,300 new features. I've never seen the full list (but many highlights) which you can view at the company's Web site, Of the many new functions, there were three broad areas that impressed me in my initial look:

#1: 2D Drafting is More Automated. Even as MCAD vendors push mobile and 3D and cloud, I see instead that 2D drafting is what down-in-the-trench users really care about. At the Solid Edge conference, users reserved their biggest cheer for faster 2D dimension and callout adjustments: after aligning dimensions or callouts along a shape, they can be repositioned instantly just by dragging the shape.

There are other drafting enhancements in Solid Edge ST 6. For instance, a new drawing view wizard previews proposed views, which can then be saved by name for use in other drawings. Detail views are now associative, and views can be aligned by several methods. Bills of material can be created automatically from selected objects, with linked callouts and directly editable tables.

(There's more; I'm just giving a few highlights here.)

#2: CAM is Integrated, Finally. Integrated CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) is normal in most MCAD systems, even low-cost ones, but is new to ST 6. An area of weakness in Solid Edge is its small third-party developer community. I don't know the reason for this, but to show that it is possible Siemens PLM worked with Geometric Software to integrate its CAMWorks software in Solid Edge ST 6.

So, users who employ CAM were happy to see the integration, even if they don't use CAMWorks for Solid Edge; they are hopeful that their preferred CAM system will one day be integrated, as well The primary benefits are that CAM tool paths are updated automatically when the 3D CAD model changes, and that CAM toolpaths and other data are stored in Solid Edge model files. Just a single toolbar button switches between the CAD and CAM modes.

Geometric's CAMWorks does 2.5- and 3-axis milling, and 2- and 4-axis turning. As well, its automatic feature recognition imports 3D models from industry-standard formats and other MCAD systems (such as SolidWorks, Inventor, Pro/E, and CATIA) as native Solid Edge files.

#3: Surfacing Gets C2 Curvature. Surfacing is not new in Solid Edge ST 6, as it first appeared several releases ago under a cool-sounding name (BlueSurf), but that didn't employ Synchronous Technology because it was not yet available; indeed, BlueSurf is still in ST 6, but it should not be used in synchronous mode.

While there is no limit to using surfacing commands in synchronous mode, there needs to be an order to editing operations. For instance, editing the curves up the tree to modify the surface. Siemens PLM still recommends that surface editing be done in Ordered mode (see figure 1).

Figure 1: Editing surfaces using Solid Edge ST 6's ordered mode

What's new in ST 6 is the ability to specify C2 continuity with curves and surfacing commands in ST 6. The rarefied world of surface mathematics talks about C0, C1, and C2. Here's what they mean:

There are new surfacing tools in Solid Edge ST 6, such as Ruled Surface for sweeping linear surfaces along curves or the edges of other surfaces; Intersection Trim trims and extends multiple surfaces in one operation; and the Redefine Surface redefines native and imported surfaces as fully editable surfaces. The existing Bounded surface now closes profile automatically, and allows users to define surface edge continuity through control handles.

As I mentioned earlier, there is more to Solid Edge ST 6 that I can describe in this introduction.

CADdigest's First Look Series

Now that Solid Edge ST 6 is released, we at put together a series of mini reviews. We call them "First Looks" and we asked eight bloggers to write about specific aspects of Solid Edge ST 6. (Many of them are Solidworks users.) We asked them to install the software and then write about an aspect of Solid Edge of which they are familiar from their business.

We told the bloggers to record what they liked and didn't: were the new functions faster and better than before? Where they more complicated and slower? Could they model new types of things with Solid Edge ST 6? The most important thing, however, was that we did not want them simply rewriting marketing materials: "Use the software," we told them, "and then write about your experiences."

After more than 200 emails coordinating the work, we now have for you nearly two dozen First Look mini-reviews that cover many areas of Solid Edge ST 6. The list of topics includes the following items:

Look for these articles to appear over the following weeks at

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About the Author

Ralph Grabowski, TenLinks managing editor, is one of the leading CAD journalists and authors, with over a 100 books and many hundreds of articles. His upFront.eZine may be the industry's longest running newsletter. Ralph holds a civil engineering degree. More...

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