Well, for what it’s worth, I rebuilt the punch holder in Solid Edge ordered ST4. It was good to do something with more than just a few features in it.
In the course of building this in Solid Edge, I also fixed a few of the more glaring errors in the SolidWorks part. There were some features that seemed duplicated, although I’m sure they had a purpose. For the sake of modeling, though, I removed them. There were only a handful of features that were removed, and I also removed all out of context (interpart) relations. It sped up the rebuild from 41.5 to 37 seconds.
When I completed the part (there are a handful of missing slots and some missing small fillets), I right clicked on the top feature and selected Recompute. I’m not sure what this does exactly, but the time for it to complete was 16 minutes. The only thing I can think of that would cause that is if SE has some sort of equivalent of Verification On Rebuild. (VOR in SW tests every model face against every other model face instead of just testing against adjacent faces). So I made a test. I made a part that should fail if SE is calculating the VOR equivalent. Well, it doesn’t fail. So it’s not using some VOR equivalent, and it still gets a Recompute time of about 16 minutes. Just for comparison, SW can also create this impossible part if you turn off VOR, but if VOR is on, the fillets fail.
I don’t know exactly what that Recompute thing does, but 16 minutes vs 37 seconds isn’t good news. Notice that all of the hoopla about speed is not about the ordered side of Solid Edge. In all fairness, the experience of working in SE was not what I would call slow. The Recompute thing is certainly slow, but the day to day type of work that you would use this for, even with a pattern with nearly 1000 holes in it, was not as bad as you might expect.
The edited SolidWorks part is 22 mb and SE is 37. That’s a big change from the synchronous (imported) part in SE, which was 12 mb. This comparison really should have been between Synchronous and Ordered.
After getting a deeper look at the model and the ordered side of Solid Edge, I’ve definitely formed some opinions. First, the original SW model was made for manufacturing, and probably a wire EDM process, if I had to guess. There are a lot of holes that are later cut out – so a small hole is gobbled up by a bigger hole. Plus, there are a lot of out-of-context references, which is never a good thing. As a SolidWorks CAD model, this is a poor example. And if I were looking for a model that rebuilt remarkably slowly given what’s in it, I couldn’t have found a better example. This is nothing against Anna. The model was made for a specific purpose, and by using it as a benchmark, it is well outside of that purpose.
Secondly, I have to admit, it’s taking some time to warm up to Solid Edge’s ordered mode. It has a definite workflow that you have to follow. Once you get in the groove with that workflow, you get used to it.
For example, to create a cut:
- click the Cut icon
- select a sketch plane
- draw the cut sketch
- click the Ok button for sketch
- set the direction of the cut
- click Finish
- click Cancel to prevent SE from starting another feature
To make a linear pattern (and this one cost me some time to figure out):
- create your feature
- click the icon for pattern
- select the feature to pattern
- click on a sketch plane
- sketch a rectangle ?!?!wtf
- Interpret a series of unlabeled boxes and if you only want a linear pattern, you have to put 1 in one of the boxes
It turns out that the SE patterns have a lot of flexibility, but the interface is inscrutable. I would love to have an unlabeled interface in SW, because maybe they could finally get it out of my way. But when you’re trying to learn something, an unlabeled interface is the kiss of death. You really do have to memorize the SE interface in order to use it. This is its greatest strength (for existing users) and its greatest weakness (for new users). All they need here is an option to have a verbose or sparse interface. I can see that they’ve tried to funnel the user into the workflow, but there’s just not enough user feedback for a beginner to just pick it up and use it.
Above is the command bar that comes up when you punch the Pattern button. It is laying out the overall workflow in the order in which you need to execute commands.
- Sketch Plane
- Sketch (and inscrutable option stack – why are these options inside the sketch step, and why are we sketching to create a feature pattern anyway???)
That’s the basic workflow alright, but wtf with the sketch? And most of all, after I click Finish, why do I have to click Cancel again to prevent the cycle from repeating itself? When you’ve got an interface this sparse, an unnecessary step sticks out like a sore thumb. Maybe there’s an option to control that.
So in the end, I can see why Solid Edge added Synchronous Technology. The ordered (history based) side of the software is nothing to write home about. If they were going to compete, they needed to rewrite the rules. Synchronous Technology is in some ways simpler, but in other ways gives you a lot of control. The fact that you can still fall back on history-based techniques for those areas of parts that benefit from that is a big bonus.
I didn’t set out writing this post trying to make ordered look bad, I just wanted to compare. The main point to me is that there is no reason to model this part in a history based scheme. Synchronous fits this part much better, aside from possibly the patterns. The fact that SE doesn’t look great doing it isn’t surprising. What would be real fun would be to test this part with mixing methods – synchronous features, but ordered patterns, mainly to compare the function of procedural synch tech features with the history based feature definitions. There may also be some explanations for some of the issues mentioned here. One question I have is if building a part in Synchronous mode produces the same result as building a part in ordered mode, then making it Synchronous?