Marmite or Vegemite? These are the questions that have plagued humankind for generations. In this article, we will address at least one of these dichotomies, and will hopefully enable you to make an informed decision about which CAD package is best for you.
A screenshot of Solid Edge ST9. Image courtesy of Siemens. First up, I should declare any conflicts of interest. I have used Solid Edge on a few occasions, primarily for basic modeling.
If you are a student at an accredited university, you can do the same by clicking this link. For those of you who are no longer students, there is a day trial available for the full version of Solid Edge on the Siemens PLM Software website, which you can find at this link. Another nice feature of Solid Edge which I have touched on in another article , is the monthly subscription service.
This is particularly good if you have a small number of staff and your CAD usage varies from month to month, where it may not be optimal to pay for a full annual licence when seats are remaining empty when engineers may be assigned to other tasks for example. You can check out more details of the monthly subscription here. For the purpose of this review, I will be using the day trial version, which promises to be part modeling, assembly design, drafting and simulation, as well as provides access to online training and videos, and also to the Solid Edge online community.
The good news is that Siemens is still offering a student version of ST6 on its website. The bad news is that if you are used to bit CAD software and wish to use a version of Solid Edge from or later, then you are going to need a new computer.
Getting Started Upon starting Solid Edge ST9, you are given the option to open a document or create a new one based on several templates. The defaults in this list can be changed to ANSI inch or metric, GB metric or whatever standard you prefer, so that you can use the standards you prefer the next time you open the software.
For my exercise, I open a new part document, select ISO Metric, and the blank design window opens on screen. I want to see how intuitive the software is. Figure 1. Main option pane in Solid Edge. It seems that everything is driven from this selection arrow. According to the pop-up tip that appears when I hover over the arrow, the selection arrow will allow me to select an element for modification. Indeed, when I click the circle, an extrusion handle appears.
I drag it outward, and a cylinder is formed. I carry on messing around with the solids features in the top pane. Adding fillets to the edges is easy. I add a thin feature, turning my cylinder into a cup see Figure 2. For the most part, it seems to be largely mouse driven and the features are accessible from the main panel at the top. Figure 2. Easy extrusions in Solid Edge. The hole feature seems quite user friendly.
Clicking on this option allows a hole of specified geometry and features such as a countersunk to be dragged and dropped onto the main part. The graphics window shows how the hole will appear on the part in real time see Figure 3. Figure 3. Visual, real-time hole placement in Solid Edge. It depends what you are used to. You can see a video on how to use the sweep function here: How does ST9 compare?
Well, in terms of the engine, ST9 is using the NX Nastran solver , which is one of the better finite element analysis FEA solvers, given that Nastran has been around for decades and has had time to be improved. I just want to run a simple simulation to see how intuitive the process is. I take my cylinder, and then click the simulation tab on the top ribbon.
The simulation ribbon is fairly intuitive, and reading the icons from left to right, it gives a good indication of the sequential workflow see Figure 4.
The software GUI guides the user from the start left to the end goal, which is clearly the solve icon. Figure 4. The simulation ribbon in Solid Edge. After setting my material, forces, constraints and so on, I am ready to run the simulation. I click the mesh button and I am given the option to just mesh, or to mesh and solve. I choose a mesh size, and then select to mesh and solve. If there are any errors present, a geometry inspector window will open, and will then allow you to browse through a geometry tree to determine where the error has occurred.
You can either alter your mesh size, or even go back to the model geometry to fix it and mesh again. In ST9, the identification of faults in much more intuitive. Figure 5 shows the Geometry Inspector. Figure 5. Geometry Inspector in ST9. I run my simulation, and I can see a few different display options. I can animate, screen capture, change plot type von Mises, displacement, etc.
The displacement plot in Solid Edge is shown in Figure 6. Figure 6. Displacement plot in Solid Edge. Both products have simulation capabilities. But scratch a little deeper and you will see that the one thing that differentiates the two is the one thing that separates them completely. Synchronous Technology is that one thing. This means that if I want to go back and add a chamfer to an edge that I made a dozen moves previously, and that edge is constrained to other features that were created afterward, then I could potentially lose everything created after that edge.
The Synchronous Technology in Solid Edge does away with all of that and allows geometry to be created and modified on the fly, without regard for the order in which previous elements were created. This video explains the technology in more detail. Conclusion Generally speaking, ST9 seems to be fairly user friendly and appears to be aimed at keeping the user away from the keyboard and firmly based on the mouse. You can use the same render engine KeyShot, for example with either CAD package, so they are both pretty equal in that regard.
For usability, fast learning curve, higher productivity and easier modeling, I would recommend Solid Edge. They have no editorial input to this post. All opinions are mine.
Solid Edge students have access to a free version of the same easy-to-use software suite used by professionals, as well as free learning resources. Looking for help on a specific task or feature? Do a basic or advanced search. Select a Product Area and browse.