SEU16: CAD deep dives, 3D printing & more
SEU, Solid Edge University, has always been a true user event. There are deep dive sessions on how to CAD better and faster, getting started with data management (never called PLM here) and prep for and take certification exams. Hands-on classes. Round tables where Siemens developers hear directly from users about what they need for new features and enhancements. For many long-time attendees, SEU is an important learning and networking event that sets them up for the coming year — both to be better users and to meet with peers. Many attendees are from small shops, where there may not be other CAD users; this feels in many ways like a big family reunion.
John Miller, Siemens PLM Software senior vice-president, Mainstream Engineering Software, kicked off the event by challenging his team and the assembled users: “I don’t think this market is done. I think there’s all kinds of room for innovation.” Unveiled this year are both technical and business innovations, intended to embed Solid Edge more deeply into its base and to make it a serious contender for new customers. On the technical side, Siemens’ Dan Staples and his team again gave a tour de force presentation of the hundreds of new features available in the latest release of Solid Edge –all of which matter to specific users and are often driven by their requests– but pointed out something I don’t think many people know: Solid Edge today is much more than CAD. It’s a portfolio of products, including simulation, that Mr. Staples says, “not enough people are taking advantage of.”
So true — a lot of CAD users seem intimidated by simulation and are still stuck on the “expensive and hard to use” image that prevailed until recently. Today, Solid Edge offers users a number of in-CAD tools that make it easier to create and analyze “what if” scenarios, define more accurate surface meshes, and speed up the pre-solve process. Mr. Staples says ST9 includes linear statics, buckling, thermal analysis –“it’s all there” — and partner Mentor Graphics adds SOlid Edge FloEFD for computational fluid dynamics (CFD).
A quick editorial: whether you use Solid Edge or not, your CAD provider is adding new capabilities with each release. Learn what’s new, figure out how to use it and see what can make your work easier and faster. Mr. Staples is absolutely right that most of us don’t take advantage of the latest new features and are leaving untold productivity enhancements untapped. Back to SEU …
A couple of other biggies: Mr. Staples says that ST9 is “CAD that follows you wherever you go”. The user logs in, to a license managed in the cloud — but also to settings and personalizations that are now available on any machine you run Solid Edge. Updates are installed from the cloud, but only when the user is ready (nothing forces you into a version you don’t want). You can access designs anywhere. An important point: This is NOT CAD-in-the-cloud or CAD-in-a-browser. This is a Solid Edge license that follows you around but runs locally.
No one works in a homogeneous CAD environment. Solid Edge ST9 can bring in models from other CAD tools, for reference or continued modeling. The users I spoke with said it works well.
Siemens announced its Solid Edge for Startups program at SEU. Mr. Miller said that this will grant free access for a year to Solid Edge Premium (3D design, rendering, simulation, manufacturing, data management, etc.). The program recognizes that startups have little cash, yet need to quickly create and launch their ideas. is available now in the United States and United Kingdom, and will roll out to other regions over time. You can apply here to become part of the program.
One of the main areas of focus at SEU16 was rapid prototyping and 3D printing. It’s a hot topic in that there is much interest in the potential the technologies can bring — but also a lot of “wait and see” as production speeds up, materials get better and designers figure out how to optimize their parts for 3D printing. We also need simulation to get to a point where it can model a 3D printed part, with the potential for flaws introduced during printing. The panel included 2 Solid Edge users, one experienced in 3D printing and one new to it, and 3 very different vendors: a service bureau, a maker of 3D printers and a platform that connects designers to a range of service providers from within Solid Edge. You can see a video of the session here, but to summarize it for you:
- Practice. Design your part then work with a service bureau or 3D printer vendor to ensure that your design is optimized for 3D printing. It’s a different process from subtractive and a skill that must be learned. As Stephan Kühr from 3YOURMIND said, “You learned how to engineer, now you need to learn additive manufacturing. There is no work around”.
- 3D printing has the potential to change your business. No longer manufacturing large runs for inventory, you can become more agile and responsive (and cut carrying costs). Look at your inventory and weigh the (higher) cost to print parts in smaller runs; perhaps redesign parts to be more effective. Business plus engineering.
- Don’t rush out and buy a 3D printer to get started. That might be fun, but you’ll probably buy a cheaper printer and get poor quality parts that turn you off to the potential. Start with a service bureau’s wider array of printers and material types to see what you truly need.
- That relationship will be crucial when you need to print something you either can’t or don’t have capacity to — use them as surge capacity.
Thanks to all the panel participants and to the audience — great questions!
Finally, no SEU ends without a teaser of what’s coming. ST10, out next year, including advances for reverse engineering and some cool-looking mesh-based modeling based on the Parasolid geometry kernel. Lots more, I’m sure, that went unsaid.
You can check out selected presentations on Solid Edge’s YouTube channels, here. Desktop Engineering (now Digital Engineering) did a great write-up of what’s new is Solid Edge ST9 earlier in the year; read it here. (Also check out the cool Catchbook demo video in the article.)
Note: Siemens graciously covered some of the expenses associated with my participation in the event but did not in any way influence the content of this post. The image above is of SEU16 MC, John Hayes of engineering.com.