Breaking Down Synchronous Technology to its Simplest Elements

I keep talking about Ilya’s demo. So here it is. He shows that Synchronous Technology has far more flexibility than history. But you have to remember that on top of all of this, Solid Edge also has history capabilities. A commenter pointed out a couple of weeks ago that direct edit is not without its weaknesses. If you move one of those holes from the part off into space, you can’t just change a dimension to get it back – its gone (unless you can still use Undo to get it back). This is something I’ve talked about before, once a face is moved out of the topology, the software forgets about it, which is both an advantage and a weakness of direct edit systems. If you put a fillet over something and it blows away a flat face, you can’t get that face back easily.

Anyway, Ilya shows that you can control the live rules, control the dimensions, and add sketch-like relations to faces on a model to control the design intent on the fly. I think Solid Edge should lead with this kind of demo rather than the full-power demos they lead with now. Live Rules looks too much like magic to the uninitiated, and nobody trusts magic CAD demos. Breaking it down to its simplest elements should be the entry point for everyone. And the tutorials that come with the software should do the same. Maybe even the default settings should bet set to make minimal use of Live Rules initially.

Tell me what you think of this demo. Especially skeptics out there. I want to know if this makes more sense to you than whatever you have seen before.

The demo comes in two parts, and is given by Ilya himself. He has a little accent, but is totally understandable.

Part 1:

Part 2:

I’d really like to thank Ilya for a great performance, and others who helped come up with the flow of ideas and simple ways to convey them.

Updated: September 7, 2012 — 11:06 pm


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  1. Yes, I agree, excellent demo.

    One feature at the time, clear and simple. I feel I could use SE right now after seeing these.

  2. I thought this, like the demo at Solid Edge Summits, was excellent.  I think that for the “old school” folks that are fearful of all these “changes I didnt intend”  that this is a great explanation taking baby steps…


  3. Wow.  That was pretty riveting.  Also, a lot of concepts to take in at once.  I’ll have to watch a few more times before it all fits into my history-based head.

    I suspect that if you took a geometrically minded person and explained the basics of history modeling to them (Make a sketch in 2D; Apply constraints until it’s all black; Extrude; Repeat;  Lofts and curves after that.) they’d have the important concepts they needed for most part modeling in about 10 minutes.  Not mastery, but they’d have a pretty good grasp on what it was you were doing.  Too optimistic?

    By contrast, it seems like there were a bunch of extra concepts Ilya had to hold on to all the time.  Which Live Rules were active when; what features they’d apply to; what other ways there were to visualize those relationships; Dimensions vs Relationships vs Live Rules; how history features and synchronous features interact; etc.  I’m impressed with the power and flexibility Ilya demonstrated.  I’m also curious how long it takes before all those concepts feel comfortable and implicit, rather than having to think hard about them.

    Matt or other SE people, what was your learning curve like?  Does everything Ilya talked about seem natural to you now, or do you still have to stop and figure out exactly what Live Rule X means at a given moment?

    As a software engineer I’ve had a lot of experience with very powerful tools that also rely on a lot of active knowledge being kept in the user’s head all the time.  My personal preference (and others choose differently, for perfectly good reasons) has been to do a little more work with simpler tools because the cognitive investment in those power tools (EMACS, say, or Perl) can be a liability once my head isn’t totally in the problem domain any more.  That’s my feeling about  SE after seeing this demo;  I think I’d have to be working with SE every day to keep my head sharp enough to use the program.

    1. Evan,

      I’m working through writing the SolidWorks 2013 bible as we speak. In here, I am astounded at the amount of detail you have to know to run SolidWorks. My books are known as “not for beginners” because I try to go into as much detail as I can. And I’m sure I don’t get all of it. It’s like 10 firehoses of information all aimed at your mouth. Very little of it is directly related to manipulating the geometry.

      Solid Edge is almost equally complicated, but there’s a difference – if you mess up the “intelligence” in SolidWorks, the part will change on its own, and there are a lot of hiding places. In Solid Edge, the part itself has very little intelligence. The intelligence is mainly in the interface, and you apply as much of it as you need when you need it, so you can only screw it up at times when you are looking at it. It’s not going to change behind your back.

      As far as learning curve, I’m admittedly still learning. I can do a lot of simple things. But I’m not using the software 40 hours a week. If I could establish a curriculum for learning, it would state things like “Action-Object” to constantly remind me of the biggest difference between the workflow in SW and SE. Second, I would try to stop figuring out how to make things – it doesn’t matter how it is made. Third, I’d go through Ilya’s process, turning off all the live rules, and just working with some basic but fundamental relations.

      The SE interface is a bit sparse, which is good for users who know where everything is, but they should have a learners mode that labels everything.

      To me, the SE method makes much more sense from a geometrical point of view. The SolidWorks method is more like programming.

      And then of course you have to remember that Synch Tech is only for editing, not for creation.

      They are both complex programs, but I’d argue that SolidWorks requires  much more experience to run correctly. In SE, if it looks right, it is right. In SW there are so many wrong ways of doing things. In the end, that’s probably the most important difference.

      1. That’s a good and thoughtful reply, Matt.  Thanks!  The part-as-program paradigm vs the part-as-data paradigm is a good one for me to keep in mind, too.


      2. You say:

        “And then of course you have to remember that Synch Tech is only for editing, not for creation.”

        I would disagree with this statement. I used this demo to learn how live rules work and it has stood me in good stead. I now find that creating parts in ST is far simpler and quicker than in history – just remember that fillets/rounds are probably better left til last and in ordered, for the case of consuming faces.

        It does take a little while to change the mindset from history to ST, but it is well worth it. ST5 has made a few more Live rules enhancements – it only gets better!

        Saying that history is a better way is flawed. Sure you can re-run changes to be assured that it all holds together – most of the time. I have had many models that fall apart on re-generation and then finding where the errors lie is a real nightmare and waste of time, especially when you didn’t create the model.

  4. Well to be honest I didnt go for them much.  I dont think this is connecting with me as well as it might, call me handicapped by previous exposure to history based if you like. I can see what is being got at but I have the feeling I would want to rewrite the script  to suit my experience./viewpoint and with a better example. I suppose its a bit like reading through a  slightly confusing technical manual and then reinterpreting it for a friend in terms that impact them….so this paragraph just means you can…and this bit is talking about that other bit over the page… its similar to – and you can use it for-….

  5. I have spent a great deal of time talking to many VAR’s about Solidworks and Solid Edge.  They all tell of the horrors of the other.  I have used Solidworks for about 5 years now use your books to learn most of what I know.  I have been told of the wonders of Solid Edge but until I saw this i did not get what was so great.  SE would be a very powerfull tool.  I will have to give this more thought as SW moves in whatever direction they plan to go.  Thank you for sharing this.

  6. Looks like something happened on the Techsmith site.  Videos are not working now…

  7. Thinking about this some more I think they should just stop making a fuss of synch technology vs history and just show you how to use what they have to good effect.  Leave out the buzz words, the comparisons, the ‘how it was before’ commentary and the play dough sessions and just demo the useful functionality and its merits will be obvious. If you go to look at a new car and the saleman is landing jive and acronyms on you it gets in the way of your genuine interest, in fact it can distract and confuse you or even put you off altogether. Hope that makes sense. ;)

  8. I think you are on to something Neil. When I show people how I edit their parts as imported dumb solids it is worth far more than buzz words or talking points could ever be.

  9. I think the thing I find most efficient with Synchronous is in Assembly Environment. The ability to edit parts within the Assembly Environment is a huge boost to designing.

    Here I’m trying to fit in this Chippendale Backrest into the opening of this Bench. The Back is designed as a Sheet Metal Part so I can unroll it for the machine shot. They can laser cut the part bend it to the proper radius, and plug it in. Granted some of the subtle angles will be fudged in production, but it shows you how helpful Synch is when making these edits. Watch as I grab the face of Backrest and add a Coplanar relationship to the Back Vertical Frame member.

    Try doing that in a History based Model Environment.



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