Solid Edge V15 from UGS PLM Solutions picks up more from where v12 left off than v14. As you may recall, the company skipped v13. Last year, v14 made significant inroads into providing advanced surface modeling tools with the company's Rapid Blue technology (remember Blue Dots and Blue Surfs?). V11 introduced Insight technology, a free PDM (product data management) tool that provides vaulting, check-in, check-out, revision management, data searches and more.
Insight and SharePoint Enhancements
At the center of Solid Edge PDM technology is an application called Insight that integrates CAD, design management, and Web-based collaboration into a single tool. Insight is built around the information and document collaboration technology that's part of Microsoft's Windows Sharepoint Server. Solid Edge v15 now supports Sharepoint v2, included with Windows Server 2003.
Sharepoint v2 support is important for Solid Edge because of the significant number of enhancements that Microsoft has made. These affect not only how your browser accesses data but also how you can completely customize user roles within the enterprise.
With Solid Edge v15 Insight, you can customize how you want to view company data so that access to specific information relating to your role is faster and more understandable. You can also subscribe to a personal alert system that lets you know when project data is added, modified, and deleted. For example, you'll know when Joe signs off on a change order and when Bill is sitting on it and needs to be prodded with a few choice words.
Figure 1. In v15, Insight Connect goes beyond viewing and document management to provide the means for design interrogation and collaboration. For true collaboration, you can mark up files with dimensions and other comments, then package these documents with other supporting information, and send to the next person in the workflow.
Solid Edge v15 also improves its support for Windows SQL server with enhanced performance, new data types, attribute lookup tables, and administrative tools such as backups and virus scanning. You can now display graphical information from Insight in Solid Edge's pathfinder.
A significant enhancement is the ability to perform dry runs when you need to update the document library. Now if a problem occurs that must be addressed, you can abort the update. When the dry run is error-free, the actual update is faster.
Also new is what UGS calls event triggers, which you can use in several ways. In the Solid Edge approval process, they notify users when a document goes into a library and is ready for approvals. You can also create an event trigger to determine who to notify depending on what product line or category the model fits into. You use Visual Basic to create custom event triggers.
A majority of this added functionality is the direct result of enhancements made by Microsoft. Because of UGS PLM Solutions' committment to Sharepoint, it's in a unique position to pass its new technology along to its customers. I suggest, however, that Solid Edge administrators weigh the productivity gains from the depth of features and customization with the added complexity and training that is a key factor for successful implementation.
Solid Edge v15 has also enhanced Insight Connect, its front-end collaboration tool used to view Solid Edge data over an intranet or over the Web using Microsoft Internet Explorer. You can now mark up designs while you collaborate and automatically exchange multiple comments.
New package collaboration files let you gather up a packet of dissimilar data such as models, drawings, and non-CAD data and send it via e-mail to fellow collaborators. The recipient can use the included viewer or Insight Connect to review the packet (figure 1, p. 20). Other enhancements include dynamic sectioning, measuring, and support for additional 2D and 3D file types.
Figure 2. Super features in Solid Edge v15 create a complete, multi-operation mounting cooling vent with a single click, including process operations such as rounds and drafts. With Solid Edge v15, you can now create these complex features with a single command.
Consumer Product Enhancements
One of the current trends in virtually all MCAD applications today, from modeling to analysis, is the automation of collective tasks targeted toward key industries. Solid Edge is again in the forefront in this area.
Coming from a product design background, I am most excited about what the company calls super features (figure 2). Super features collect a group of tasks that might normally take hours to model, such as vents and bosses, and put them into a single command (figure 3). Now the user interfaces for these super features are more complicated, but they are well worth the effort to learn.
Figure 3. Solid Edge v15's Boss command creates a cylindrical boss, with options to create stiffening ribs, add a mounting hole, add draft, and add rounding in a single feature.
Not to be left out in the cold, the drafting environment included in Solid Edge v15 now has what the company calls Quicksheet Templates (figure 4). You can eliminate repetitive tasks by defining drawing layout templates-just drag a part or assembly into the template. This feature is unique. Other enhancements such as shaded views and user-defined hatch patterns are more commonplace.
To run Solid Edge v15 with Insight technology with optimum results, you should have at least an Intel Pentium II workstation running Windows ME/2000/XP, with 256MB or more of RAM. Your OpenGL graphics card should be capable of 65,000 colors with a minimum resolution of 1024X768. Insight design management users should run Windows Server 2003, SQL Server 2000 SP3, Sharepoint Portal Server 2003, or Windows Sharepoint Services 2003 (comes with Windows Server 2003).
Figure 4. Using Quicksheet templates in Solid Edge v15, you can eliminate repetitive tasks by predefining a drawing layout that contains blank views to represent a template for new drawings. You can use multiple templates, depending on what type of drawing you want to create.
Solid Edge v15 is another good example of how UGS PLM Solutions is trying to stay ahead of the pack in MCAD technology. Its commitment to incorporating the latest in Microsoft PDM technology is commendable. I hope that its emphasis on PDM doesn't overshadow its excellent core modeling application. Also look for a new v15 add-on-Solid Edge Mold Tooling ($5,995)-that didn't make it in time for this review. Highly Recommended.