Issue: Volume: 24 Issue: 4 (April 2001)

Solid Edge 9

By David Cohn

UGS's Solid Edge Version 9 is the latest release of the company's powerful mid-range mechanical modeling software. The new version builds on the program's capabilities with a new weldment design environment, simplified parts and assemblies, dynamic collision detection, and several optional add-on modules.

As in previous releases, Version 9 is divided into separate environments for creating parts, working with sheet metal, constructing assemblies, and producing drawings. This release adds a new environment-weldment-with its own file type that simplifies the creation of welded components. The specific workflow-oriented tools in the weldment environment support the creation of weldments from a collection of parts. After creating a weldment document, you can add surface preparation features, weld bead features, and post-weld machining operations.
The Solid Edge Engineering Handbook provides calculations that use standard mathematical formulas and physical theory to automatically create Solid Edge parts.

Within the part and sheet-metal environments, a new function lets you create a simplified version of a part containing fewer faces and features. After you've created the simplified view, you can display the part as it was designed, or in its simplified view. In large assemblies, simplified views can greatly improve performance.

A new assembly environment tool lets users monitor dynamic collision detection. The Simply Motion kinematics analysis pack age, introduced in the previous version, has extended its interference detection capabilities to find the point of initial contact in a range of motion, and to find the minimum distance between two parts.

The previous version introduced software sensors, virtual gauges that allow you to monitor minimum distances or track variables such as driving and driven dimensions. Version 9 adds two powerful new sensors: a surface area sensor to monitor the surface area of a part as you model it (or negative surface areas, such as cutouts) and custom sensors that you can create to monitor values of numerical results calculated by custom programs.

The most impressive additions to Solid Edge are the optional packages; notably, the Solid Edge Engineering Handbook, a $1495 add-on developed by and integrated with Solid Edge. The Handbook includes a collection of calculations (standard mathematical formulas and physical theories), a calculation-driven parts generator, and the online Engineering Handbook itself, which documents the formulas, algorithms, and theory that follow a calculation. For example, you could design a gear based on a particular gear ratio, input power, and strength requirements. The Engineering Handbook generates the gear as a new Solid Edge part and guides you through its placement in the assembly.

The Solid Edge Web Publisher enables users to create content from Solid Edge design data. Developed by Immersive Design, maker of the Inter active Product Animator (IPA), this $495 add-on includes a wizard that guides users through a step-by-step process to create Web pages with lightweight 3D models, product structure, bill-of-material information, and design file properties. Once published, the Solid Edge design data can be viewed using the free IPA Webview application that downloads automatically when the visitor accesses the page.

A third new add-on will appeal to users who need to convert 2D drawings into 3D solid models. Xpand3D ($495), developed by Manufacturing Consulting Services, works with drawings imported in DXF and DWG formats and MicroStation DGN and 2D IGES files. Users select 2D drawing views and Xpand3D analyzes them, assigning features to drawing characteristics based on the layout and set of views you specify. Xpand3D heals problematic geometry and generates a Solid Edge part that can be modified if necessary. Although it can't handle things like sheet metal or drafted and lofted models, it does a good job on revolved parts and those defined by two or more orthogonal and auxiliary views.

Although Solid Edge 9 is an impressive upgrade, it is lacking in a few areas. For instance, the program doesn't have surfacing capabilities, nor does it have any significant Web collaboration features, which are built into both SolidWorks and Autodesk's Inventor. In fact, about the only Web capabilities in this version come from the add-on licensed from Immersive Design.

Despite these limitations, however, this is a notable release that should appeal to existing Solid Edge users and anyone considering a move from 2D CAD to 3D modeling of mechanical parts and assemblies.

David Cohn is a computer consultant and technical writer based in Bellingham, Washington. He can be contacted via email at

Price: $4995
Minimum System Requirements: Intel Pentium or AMD Athlon processor; Windows 98/NT/2000;
128MB of RAM; 420MB of disk space; 1024 by 768 256-color display