This week EDS announced release 15 of its medium-priced Solid Edge software. Starting at $4,995 for a three-D license, Solid Edge competes with products such as Dassault Systemes’ SolidWorks and Autodesk’s Inventor.
Like most releases of CAD software, EDS has added hundreds of new functions in a variety of areas from design of plastic injection moldings to sheet metal made on brake presses. In this article, we review the more important new capabilities.
Plastic part design
In release 14 of Solid Edge, EDS introduced freeform surface modeling to make its software more appealing to designers of stylish consumer products. The 15th release has extended these capabilities and introduces innovative new features for designing details commonly seen in molded products. These include a feature for designing venting grills commonly found on cases of electrical products, and mounting bosses that are used to hold internal components such as circuit boards.
Solid Edge version 15 has new features for designing venting grills and mounting bosses on plastic molded parts. Click image to enlarge
To create a vent, the designer sketches its profile on a flat plane. Then Solid Edge projects the sketch onto the part surface, which may be curved. A dialog box enables designers to choose the horizontal ribs and vertical spars that constitute the vent grill. Designers also can apply draft and round the edges of the cross members, if desired.
The mounting boss works in similar fashion. The designer sketches the locations of the bosses on a plane above the part’s inside surface. Then Solid Edge projects the boss down from the sketch plane to the part.
ImpactXoft first introduced the notion of application-specific product features in its IX Design software. IX Design calls its vent feature a grill and its mounting boss a rest. Such features are also being incorporated into the Functional Molded Parts application for CATIA version five release 12. Solid Edge executives claim they didn’t get the idea from ImpactXoft, and to EDS’ credit, the Solid Edge user interface is nicer than IX Design’s.
Application-specific features are appealing because they accomplish in a single operation tasks that normally would take multiple steps. Their disadvantage, however, is that they limit the control designers have over the feature. Such limits might not matter for internal features such as mounting bosses. However, features such as venting grills or the lips on mating parts (which Solid Edge and IX Design also make) may require curved surfaces that the composite features can’t handle.
Another feature we have not seen in medium-priced CAD software is the ability to apply a crown (curved surface) to extruded features. Most CAD software enables designers to apply a draft angle to features as they are extruded, but the Solid Edge crown is, to the best of our knowledge, unique.
EDS has improved the blue surfaces introduced with version 14 to enable users to assure continuous curvature across boundaries between surfaces. This is an important capability for advanced industrial design.
Solid Edge 15 has new tools for analyzing molded parts for undercuts. It also generates mold parting-lines and parting-surfaces.
Solid Edge’s capabilities for mold design don’t quite equal the capabilities of SolidWorks 2004. For example, Solid Edge doesn’t create shutoff or run-off surfaces. However, EDS intends to offer a complete mold-design system for Solid Edge similar in concept to Imold and Moldworks in the first quarter of 2004. The Solid Edge mold-design software is being developed in collaboration with Vangest, a Portuguese company that has mold-making operations in several countries including Brazil, Portugal, and Spain. Vangest had previously developed its own CAD system for mold design.