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Solid Edge ST6 First Look: Sheet Metal Enhancements

By Jeffrey Opel, November 18, 2013

For this First Look of new features in Solid Edge ST6, I focus on new and enhanced commands relating to sheet metal design.

Flatten Enhancements

The Flatten command is improved to handle features like holes, chamfers, and materials on bends. Deformation features can also be flattened. I'll provide some examples of deformation features later in this article.

First, through, I am going to focus on imported geometry for a flattening example. Let me take you through the process to familiarize you with the commands and techniques that I will be using. To work with a solid model imported from another CAD system, it is important that I point out that you must transform it to a sheet metal part (see figure 1).

Open the file, then select Transform to Sheet Metal.

Figure 1: Transform model to sheet metal

After converting the model to a sheet metal part, we can begin the flattening process. We will know if the part was transferred successfully in sheet metal by the Sheet Metal icon that appears at the top of the Feature browser. (It looks like the one shown later in figure 7: basically, a bold S appears in front of the name.)

With it transformed, we can go on to flattening. This command is located on the left of the Tools ribbon. Once we select the Flatten radio button, additional smaller toolbars appear below it (see figure 2). Here are will be prompted to select a face and then an edge. At this point, our model should flatten nicely.

Figure 2: The Flatten command on the ribbon

Figure 3 shows the before and after images of the solid model of a speaker cover that I imported from another CAD system for this article. It is pretty complex, with bends, twists, countersinks, holes, chamfers, and materials on bend. The holes, chamfers, and materials on bends are described in the What's New documentation for Solid Edge ST6, as feature types that are supported by the flattening process. I had a little trouble, however, with chamfers, most likely because I was working with an imported model. Chamfers created natively in Solid Edge will flatten.

Figure 3: Enhanced flattening example, with an imported model

Deforming Features Across Bends

When it comes to deformation features, figure 4 lists the types of sheet metal features like dimples, louvers, drawn cutouts, and beads now supported by Solid Edge ST6. Let me describe a couple of them for you - across bends, of course.

Figure 4: Deformation features supported by Solid Edge ST6

Louvers Across Bends. Figures 5 and 6 show examples of louvers that were created across bends. In this case, they were an imported model and curved contour flange, respectively.

Let's start with figure 5. Just so that there are no misconceptions, I should point out that this model was created using a different CAD system, and then imported into Solid Edge ST6 . "Why?" you may be wondering. I can explain by pointing out the model shown in figure 6. I was disappointed to learn that in Solid Edge ST6 louvers can only be drawn parallel to the bend. Siemens PLM explained that the limitation is intentional to prevent possible failure, having found that louver geometry succeeds most often when rebending. The limitation will be lifted in a future release. In the meantime, here' s a workaround: (a) unbend the bend; (b) place the louver parallel to the bend axis; (c) use Direct Rotate to rotate the louver 90 degrees; (d) pattern the louver; and then (e) rebend.

I like the model in figure 5 because it reminded me of a curved metal part that would be used as a cover panel on the corner of the air conditioner units outside of homes and businesses. Nor would Solid Edge Flatten the imported model shown in figure 5. At least I could not get it to flatten. The model shown in figure 6 would flatten fine.

Figure 5: Louvers perpendicular to the bend, designed elsewhere and imported into Solid Edge ST6

Figure 6: Louvers running parallel to the bend, as designed in Solid Edge ST6

Flattening, Bending, Unbending, and Rebending. When it came to doing functions like flattening and bending-unbending-rebending, all was fine. I found I could handle them easily with Solid Edge ST6. There was just one drawback, however: I did care for going through so many steps to accomplish what I was needed to do.

The problem is that Solid Edge needs me to unbend any model that contained deformation features across bends (see figures 7 and 8). (Siemens PLM explains that a rebend is a reversal of an unbend, and because this is in history-based mode, suppressing an unbend eliminates it from history and may cause downstream problems.) I figure that we should be able to just flatten the model, add deformation features to a bend region, and then suppress the flat pattern configuration. Otherwise, these commands worked well.

Figure 7: Feature browser of a sheet metal part showing the unbend, rebend, and flatten steps

Figure 8: Bending commands on the ribbon

Drawn Cutouts. Lastly, I will show you at the Drawn Cutout command. Its location on the ribbon is shown in figure 9.

Figure 9: Drawn Cutout command on the ribbon

Now here in figure 10 is the drawn cutout across a bend. Very nicely done, Solid Edge!

Figure 10: Drawn cutout across a bend


This First Look was just an overview of some of the many new enhancements to sheet metal features in Solid Edge ST6. I know that other MCAD systems in this price range will be playing catch-up to these new features, and so I am looking forward to even more new functions from the Solid Edge team. For a complete listing of what's new in Solid Edge ST6, do visit this document on-line:

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About the Author

Jeffrey Opel has been a CAD and engineering manager. He has over 25 years experience in mechanical design. More...

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