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Solid Edge ST 6 First Looks: Working with 2D Drawings

By Scott Moyse, September 23, 2013

Of all the environments upgraded with Solid Edge ST 6, it is the drafting one that has seen the largest number of new features. As a power user of Autodesk Inventor, I’m quite jealous of some of them. In this First Look, I'll give you a tour of the ones I found the most impressive.

Annotation & Balloon Alignment Shapes

Solid Edge ST 6 allows us to attach, align, and space not only balloons, but also the following annotation objects:

All these annotation types can be turned on and off globally, or else locally for each individual Annotation Alignment Shape (see figure 1).

Figure 1: Selecting annotation types as attachable

What I really like about this tool is its integration within the Parts List command. When we place a parts list, an Annotation Alignment Shape is created automatically - as long as we have the default auto balloon setting turned on (see figure 2).

Figure 2: Annotation alignment shapes view can be toggled on and off

The clever part of this is the manner in which Solid Edge hugs the boundaries of the view with the shape in such a way that the offset is close. The result is a neat set of balloons equally spaced around the view. Solid Edge provides a variety of alignment shapes - outline, top, bottom, left, right, and rectangular - which we control through Properties > Balloons > Create Alignment Shape Patterns the user can choose from.

Occasionally, I found that it does cross the balloons over when they are attached to objects in close proximity to one another. To untangle, we just need to hold down the Alt key prior to dragging the balloon off of the shape. We can then reposition the balloon to a neater spot on the alignment shape.

While Inventor has a set of decent balloon tools, Autodesk tends to treat annotations as entities altogether separate from balloons. At the end of the day, however, the balloon is just another form of annotation, and so I’m happy to see Siemens PLM support them equally.

Other than when creating a parts list, I couldn’t find an easy way to auto-place all the balloons in a view.

Inventor does this quite well, but on the other hand it won’t place balloons automatically as part of placing a parts list onto the drawing. And so I think I prefer the approach by Solid Edge. (Later, I found out that when we want to place just balloons with no parts list, we can turn off the parts list to end up with balloons only.)

Dimension Alignments

Dimension alignments are enhanced for this release of Solid Edge so that we can perform the following tasks:

One of the cool things about the Arrange Dimensions tool is that it creates alignment sets. This means that when we reposition a single dimension by dragging it to another location, all neighboring dimensions move with it. Fortunately, this option can be turned off when we don’t want alignment sets created.

Figure 3: Tidying up misaligned dimensions on a view with the Arrange Dimension tool

It is possible to remove a dimension from an alignment set to then add it to another set, should the automatic setting not be to our liking. Nothing like this exists in Inventor; it should, as the function a time saver.

Native In-Place Editing of Office Documents

Finally in this First Look, I’d like to touch on a tidy new feature in Solid Edge ST 6: it edits embedded Office documents, in-place on a drawing sheet. To get into it, just double-click the embedded object's view port. The cool part is down to some programming trickery, in that Solid Edge fools us into thinking that while editing we are actually in the Office application; we are, in fact, still working inside Solid Edge: notice the prompt bar is still present at the bottom of figure 4.


Figure 4: Solid Edge ST 6 natively editing an embedded Office document

Having the power of a full-blown word processor within an embedded object (a drawing view, essentially) will empower us to create visually compelling information to complement our drawings. With an Excel spreadsheet embedded in the drawing, we are only limited by our mathematical imaginations. It is a lovely function - but I wonder how often it will get used.


All in all, Solid Edge ST 6 is an impressive release, of which I have only covered a fraction. As a new user, I found myself struggling with the user interface at times - probably common to anyone using any new software package. There are, however, aspects that were really nice, as I have described here - even though as I dug deeper I found a few inconsistencies that threw me once in a while, as might be expected in using software new to me.

Nevertheless, at the end of day come away from this review feeling jealous. Some of these new tools are brilliant time - and sanity - savers, and so I look forward to using them during my day job.

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About the Author

Scott Moyse is the design manager for SMI Group, a super yacht interiors company in New Zealand. His background is in motorsport engineering and CNC programming. Scott has been using various Autodesk software for 9 years, most recently he has been implementing Vault Pro. More...

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