Issue: Volume: 24 Issue: 3 (March 2001)

UG/Shape Studio

By Tom Gill

Unigraphics Solutions is now shipping Version 17 of its Unigraphics (UG) CAID/CAD/CAM/CAE software, which includes UG/Shape Studio, a product targeted at industrial designers. The UG software has always had strong freeform modeling capabilities for building complex shapes, but it was focused on the engineering rather than aesthetic aspects of design. Therefore, industrial designers created their conceptual work in packages such as Alias Studio, or they imported UG designs into such packages (and dealt with possible data translation problems) in order to visually communicate design ideas with colleagues and customers.

UG/Shape Studio, first released with UG V16, overcomes this drawback by offering visualization and rendering tools that cater to industrial designers. Shape Studio also features embedded associativity-meaning that design changes are automatically propagated to downstream applications-and it provides real-time evaluation of curves and surfaces during the design process.
UG/Shape Studio allows various analysis display modes, including reflections, hedgehog, and curvature combs.

To appreciate the enhancements in the latest version of Shape Studio, it's important to understand the general benefits the product brings to users. Although the Unigraphics software provides designers with a plethora of features for building complex models, Shape Studio (which can be used on Unigraphics designs and on data imported from other systems) adds to UG's utility in several ways.

For example, users can work in wireframe, shaded (with or without transparency), or face analysis mode. Face analysis mode graphically displays distance, radius, and curvature measurements on an object's surface, making it easy to spot areas that might be distorted or cause aerodynamic disturbances.

Shape Studio adds to these capabilities a display mode that enables users to work interactively with materials, textures, and lights turned on. Users also can map images onto surfaces or onto the background of a scene.

UG users also can create primitive solids, linear sweeps, and revolves, and the software includes several blend and form features including holes, bosses, slots, and chamfers.

Shape Studio adds to this list parametric associative solid modeling capabilities and freeform surface design tools. It also includes the UG/Freeform module, which offers such surface modeling capabilities as complex sweeps, associative offsets, and the ability to model through point clouds and through curves and curve meshes.

You can build solids in Shape Studio by thickening surfaces, sewing a surface with other surfaces or solids, and trimming or splitting a solid with a surface. Freeform editing capabilities include editing underlying curves, moving surface points and poles, and changing edges. I was able to add bulges to surfaces by specifying exact coordinates and by dynamically dragging them.

Shape Studio offers several surface deformation capabilities as well. For instance, a Deform function allows a surface to be stretched, skewed, twisted, and bent, and a Pivot Control function defines where on the surface the deformation takes place.

Shape Studio also features several shape analysis tools. The software's face analysis display mode, for instance, can identify areas on a surface that might be above or below a certain value; the distance value is especially useful for finding undercut areas.

New to Shape Studio are associative section curves, and the ability to enlarge surfaces by dragging a slider bar or entering percentage values. To achieve such deformation with freeform modeling requires interactively moving surface points, or modifying underlying curves.

The new Shape by Template function, meanwhile, allows spline characteristics and shapes to be matched from one spline to another. A slider allows dynamic control of how close the spline matches the template.

Unigraphics has updated the product's Dynamic Deviation function to allow the creation of gauge objects. Gauge objects track deviations between curves or surfaces and reference objects, and they're shown either using a comb display or numerically on the model. Although I found that the comb display occasionally became corrupted when icon palette windows occluded the graphics window, I was able to repair this anomaly with a quick refresh. Some of this behavior probably can be attributed to the lack of graphics memory on my OpenGL display.

Shape Studio is a complete industrial design solution, not just an extension of traditional free-form modeling. Its creation and editing techniques compare well with those found in major industrial design systems, such as Alias. If you're interested in optimizing the art-to-part process, UG/Shape Studio is worth checking out.

Tom Gill is the CAE director at a tier-1 automotive supplier. He can be reached at

Price: $24,900
Minimum System Requirements: Windows NT/2000, AIX, HPUX, Solaris, Irix; 90MHz Pentium PC; 128MB of RAM; 660MB of disk space; OpenGL graphics card
Unigraphics Solutions