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First Look at Solid Edge ST6: New Commands for Working with Large Assemblies

By Daniel Dobrzynski, October 8, 2013

As a veteran in the world of CAD/CAM, I have many times seen companies change (or added to) their CAD systems just to handle large assemblies. For years, this facility was owned by high-end MCAD systems like NX (Siemens PLM) and CATIA (Dassault Systemes). As times change technology progresses, and so the younger brothers of these large systems can capture some new market share thanks to progress in the field of handling large assemblies. Markets that work with large assemblies include automotive and aerospace firms, and their legions of suppliers.

Solid Edge has been increasing its performance in managing assemblies release after release. In this First Look, I will detail some of the new utilities added to Solid Edge ST6.

Enhancements in Simplifying Large Assemblies

Assembly simplification is an issue crucial to everyone who needs, on the one hand, to improve graphics performance, and on the other hand remove proprietary engineering data from models. For example, we might be sending assemblies to product manufacturers, who need the geometry of the primary model, but only generic representation of the rest components used for references.

Solid Edge ST6 has an all-new simplify assembly environment, including the ability to use all ordered part modeling commands, plus a few new interesting tools.

Previous releases of Solid Edge simplified assemblies using only face geometry. This capability is still active in ST6 through the Simplify > Visible Faces command. To describe these different commands and options I will use a nice example from the GrabCAD library ( by Kush Desai) which is an excellent assembly of a Mercedes truck with many components (see figure 1).

Figure 1: Sample model from GrabCAD’s library inside Solid Edge ST6 showing the Simplify menu in ST5

New in Solid Edge ST 6 is simplifying assemblies by modeling solid bodies, which are a simplified enclosed geometry. We create these through the new command Model. The simplified assembly model can be made from coexisting solid bodies and visible faces, and is stored in the assembly file.

When creating a simplified assembly by modeling a solid, we can enter the functions of ordered part modeling, such as extrude, cut, revolve, hole, round, and draft. Also available are commands like Enclosure and Duplicate Body inside the Simplify menu. I used the Enclosure command to simplify the geometry of the cargo deck (see figure 2).

Figure 2: Truck cargo deck selected in advance of geometry simplification

I found the process very simple and fast. This is a very important command, because it allows designers to represent (or replace) selected components with simple geometric shapes.

The enclosure can be generated with rectangular or cylinder solids, whose size is based on the extension of the parts that I selected an assembly reference plane for their orientation. In this case I choose Box. The resulting box (or cylinder) is totally associative to the selected components (see figure 3).

Figure 3: Geometry simplification of cargo deck as a box by the Enclosure command

The simplified solid can now be modified using ordered solid features, such as adding rounds and cutouts to better represent the desired simplification. In this case I applied rounds to the box (see figure 4).

Figure 4: Rounding the edges of the box using ordered solid features

In this way, I disclose only the external details that I think are important. See figure 5 for the final result.

Figure 5: Final result of simplifying geometry of the truck cargo deck

Next, I simplified one of the front wheels by a solid cylinder (see figure 6).

Figure 6: Simplifying a front wheel

The truck has 12 wheels, and so I applied the Duplicate Body command to copy and pattern my simplified solid bodies in a very easy procedure. The previous simplified front wheel is copied to every existing wheel of the truck (see figure 7).

Figure 7: Using Duplicate Body command to copy the wheel to all locations

After utilizing these new display simplification technique, I found that the performance during graphical manipulation such as pan, zoom, and rotate increased up to twice the speed - with no decrease in view quality. This is a very critical point for users who have to manage large assemblies with mid-range workstations.

Dynamic Part Editing for Ordered Models at the Assembly Level

Continuing with the points I consider noteworthy in the area of assemblies for Solid Edge ST6, there is an ability to do dynamic editing of features of ordered parts. For instance, we can change dimension values without in-place activation. This methodology is similar to that of high-end CAD system, allow us to change quickly dimensions more interactively and with fewer steps and inconveniences.

Enhancing Modeling within Assemblies

If we want to create a part in-place, Solid Edge ST6 now makes it possible to select a face in an assembly component, and then create geometry from it using Extrude. This simplifies by a great deal the process compared to the previous releases, where was necessary to do copies of faces before the operation. With the same criteria, is possible to drive frame paths using edges of part components placed in assemblies.

For those of us who enjoy the performance and methodology of Synchronous Technology, Solid Edge ST6 now offers an option to create part with synchronous features at the assembly level, if it's possible.


In Solid Edge ST6, I verified the great progress Siemens PLM made in the way it simplifies and enhances the representations of large assemblies. This allows us to manage big assemblies with lower consumption of graphical resources, and allows us to share files with suppliers and manufacturers without revealing proprietary engineering data or irrelevant information.

The progress Solid Edge is making with every new release means it is a viable solution to anyone who needs to handle high-volume assemblies with high-end CAD functions, at a lower cost.

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About the Author

Daniel Dobrzynski is a expert in the CAD/CAM industry with over 27 years' experience as enterprise consultant. He has worked as a designer (mainly in automotive & aerospace areas of big companies), CAM programmer, post processor generator, advance machine builder for CAM simulation, PLM administrator, methodology and procedures creator. He has more than 20 years as a CAD/CAM/CAE certified trainer. More...

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