Solid Edge Drawings

If you follow my Dezignstuff blog, you probably know I’m not much for 2D drawings. I tease about charging customers 3X scale for 2d drawings. Plastic parts tend to get critical or inspection dimension drawings, with a few overalls, and maybe a target part weight, and just some notes about fit. First article (off the mold tool) inspections are really the important thing with plastic parts, and from there, if you keep the process and the material the same, you’re not likely to see big changes.

When I was younger, I had to make fully dimensioned 2D drawings of all my parts (because I was also the guy machining the parts in many cases), so I know how to make drawings. And although I was a CAD admin at a company that made a lot of fully dimensioned and toleranced drawings, and wrote our drawings standards, I have to admit, that kind of thing isn’t really my first love. Still, I recognize that one of the strengths of Solid Edge throughout the years (besides sheet metal) was widely considered to be its capabilities to do 2D drawings.

So I’m going through the drawings functions in Solid Edge, and finding it easy to use, easy to apply typical dimensions and annotations. Like SW, Solid Edge is not basic CAD software, so you can’t hope to understand all the options available in a cursory examination.

One impression that hits me is that the functions in SE seem more integrated and better thought out. You will hear me say this time and time again on this blog, because it is really true. You (or I anyway) don’t get the feeling that Solid Edge is broken up by multiple egos trying to make their mark on the software. SW has a lot of “doodads” with cute, misspelled, capitalized names. Like FeatureXpert, DimXpert, SelectionManager, RealView. Sounds like marketing/branding sound bite speak to me, not like tools for design.

I ran into a couple of things in Solid Edge that are particularly nice. I like the way you set up hole callouts. This is probably not something you can do without any explanation, but you can build automated callouts that pull information from the geometry. The one difficulty was that it won’t automatically build a hole callout for imported geometry. I would think that with all of the feature recognition powers of Synchronous Technology, it would be able to recognize a counterbored hole. It worked ok if placed a synchronous Hole feature, but not with a strictly imported feature.

Another nice one is the straightforward ability to use view labels. SW can do this too, but it’s more convoluted, and you have to ask someone who knows where to find it. And then try to show a label without showing a view arrow. The SW way of doing this is a hot mess (label text is shown under view, and also at ends of view arrows, treating any view like a section view).

Solid Edge drawings present some of the same issues as SW with model dimensions on the drawing. My stance in SW is that I never use model dimensions because I never model the same way I would dimension for manufacturing or inspection. The difference in Solid Edge is that you can change the PMI (product manufacturing information – dimensions on the 3D model) much more easily than you can change it in SW. So you can have bi-directional editable dimensions on the drawing in SE if you wanted to.

Also, there are some nice options in the Advanced Properties for views:

  • visible hidden line tolerance
  • tangent tolerance
  • simplify spline display
  • part interferences in assembly (process or don’t)
  • hatch ribs in sections

These are some thoughtful little things that we don’t get options for in SW. Generally, these appear to be aimed at the balance of thoroughness vs speed. It’s nice to have the choice.

I know I’m just touching the tip of the iceberg here, but I’m starting to see where the strength of Solid Edge comes from in the drawings area. It seems to have a much more thorough set of options, and a more integrated workflow for many functions. Again, it’s software that’s too deep to really get the whole feeling for in just a short blog post.

Why don’t some of you old crusty edgers tell us what you like about drafting in Edge?



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  1. “Why don’t some of you old crusty edgers tell us what you like about drafting in Edge?”

    Well some of us “crusty edgers” just don’t know any better…. we heard that SE was better then the rest and that was enough for us. So asking us to point out specifics as to  what we like about drafting in SE, is a bit hard.

    So my first answer would have to be SE’s Development. They’ve listened over the years to user’s requests and have done a great job of implementing these requests.

    One of my favorite recent enhancements is allowing 3D views with PERSPECTIVE ON. Since I use the draft environment for patent drawings and design review documents, there’s nothing worse then having an illustration of your nicely designed product with all the flashing shinny parts, but looks like someone stepped on it.


    I’ve attached a image of  the same bench with and without Perspective… which one do you think the customer wants to see on his drawings?

  2. “The one difficulty was that it won’t automatically build a hole callout for imported geometry. I would think that with all of the feature recognition powers of Synchronous Technology, it would be able to recognize a counterbored hole.”

    This is one place where Siemens screwed up royally with the release of ST4 (I believe).  They eliminated Feature Recognizer and did not implement any sort of hole recognition when importing to Synchronous.  Their thought is that with Synchronous, there’s no need for Feature Recognizer anymore (ignoring the fact that so many still use ordered mode).  Personally, I feel that when importing foreign data into Synchronous, it should be able to recognize what they now call procedural features and import them as such.  I’m surprised such an obvious need went overlooked when removing Feature Recognizer.  Besides that, why remove Feature Recognizer anyways.  It’s still valid and it works.  Tards!

  3. I agree, when importing data it would be a HUGE benefit for SE to recognize hole types and replace them thru the part.

    As far as the drawings go out of the box settings the SE drawing is a much nicer representation with the default settings, line weights and line styles.  In SW you have to change the defaults, and even then I don’t think the SW drawing is as nice looking as the SE document

    1. Hi,

      Mr. Dan Staples usually says this: stay tuned! ST5… ;-)



    2. yes. ST5 and sync hole recognition. very hot. stay tuned.

      1. I CAN SAY ………… SWEET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. I’m with Bob.  As a long term “crusty” edger, I cannot really say what would be a benefit of SE Draft over other apps, but:

    • SE reads/writes DWG files (in/out of it’s DFT format) fairly well and they provide a bulk traqnslation tool, so getting off of AutoCAD was pretty simple, just get the translation setting set the way you want them and then bulk translate all DWG’s to DFT’s.
    • SE Draft provides schematic tools for doing the odd electrical, pneumatic, hydraulic, etc… schematic.  Also includes block libraries for them.
    • SE Draft model views do not require the model to be present to use the drawing.  They are always rendered to 2D “in file” geometry that is associative to the model, so if you send them to someone without the model, they can still see and interogate the views.

    And to shore up what Matt said about Solid Edge appearing to be more thought out… I have always had the opinion that the SE Development Team worked on a philosophy of developing a complete solution starting with a core function and developing it outward to flesh out the fringes of that function, but in concert with other dependent functions.  I believe this is the reason their focus has remained specifically on machine design for a while.

    Other apps seem to spread their focus and use the shot gun approach of throwing out a lot of disconnected functions that typically aren’t very deep in functionality and/or don’t work in concert with each other.  This looks impressive in shallow demos and press releases, but when users really have to depend on them, they typically end up next to useless…  A virtual “jack of all trades, master of none” approach.

    1. Do the translated autocad files become gigantic files? When I import a DWG into a sketch SW turns a 40KB file into a moby 2MB thing.

      1. Yes, there is some definite bloat when DWG files are converted.

      2. Dittos here to. I have no idea why simple DWG’s grow to monsters with thousands of tiny line segments. Used to happen with VX when I used it so I wonder what wonderfull thing Autodesk is doing to make life difficult for others.

        1. For better or worse this is just the fact that AutoCAD was written in the 70s for a 386 computer. It is a file based system, where the line is stored as two coordinates and nothing more. In the 80s, Object Oriented programming came along. The good of it, is that it made it more efficient to make software faster. The bad of it, is that both conceptually and in practice the objects store inside themselves the information needed to operate on themselves.

          So what you are going to see is any system written in “modern times” is going to have much larger file sizes than AutoCAD. There is no smaller tighter format than storing two coordinates.


          1. Perhaps someone will take a class in noiseless coding and make files a bunch smaller. An ergotic ensemble of lines can be represented with vastly less information than floating point coordiantes for end points.  I would like points to be represented as I entered them: perhaps a symbolic formula. Very compact and no roundoff error at all.

            Are rational B-splines obsolete for curve specification?

            Are conic surfaces obsolete?

            Are Coons patches obsolete?

            I am a little sensitive about file sizes from the grossly inflated pigs generated by solidworks. 1200X oversize yuck.  SE must be better and smarter than that.



  5. Not to put too fine a point on it, with Solid Edge I can make production quality 2D drawings out of the box.  With other MCAD tools, I have to spend time setting up the templates to make good looking dimensions, views, callouts, etc. and they still look more like cartoons.  2D drawings are an artifact of a by-gone age, yet CAD drawing tools are graded on how well they can recreate those legacy works of art.  I haven’t done much hand drafting in years, but I can still pull off better looking drawings than most MCAD packages, except Solid Edge.

    You have to also look at the history of Solid Edge Draft.  Unlike Solidworks or other mainstream modelers which “bolted on” a drawing package to their modeler, Solid Edge took an existing 2D drafting program and adapted it to Solid Edge.  (From my perspective, in the early days of Solidworks, the focus was on modeling, modeling features, and modeling enhancements.  Drafting was updated only as necessary to handle the required 2D definitions of the modeled features.)  This would be like taking AutoCAD and using it as the 2D engine for Inventor.  Solid Edge pulled it off into what appears to be a seemless product.  One of the ways they did that, though, differs greatly than how Solidworks handles drawings.  Solid Edge’s drawings are projected onto the sheet.  The model is literally recreated with 2D elements on the drawing face.  Solidworks, on the other hand, shows a “viewport” into the model.  That’s why Solidworks allows modifying the model via the drawing by editing the imported dimensions.  That functionality does not exist in Solid Edge because the dimensions aren’t linked to the solid geometry, only to the 2D elements representing the geometry.  It’s hard to explain in a comment, but hopefully I gave you enough info to understand.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to give your input. The opinions of users are important.

    2. Scott, you are right on the point about the drawing being true lines and arcs on the sheet, not just “viewports” and this is indeed unique to Solid Edge. It has quite a few benefits (not the least of which being you can open the drawing without the assembly having to be loaded). However, it is not correct that we don’t edit the model from the drawing sheet because of this architecture. We have all the information to edit the model from the sheet if we so desired.

      The reason we don’t edit from the sheet is philosophical. Mistakes are made in 2D. That is why people went to 3D modeling. We believe that a “simple edit” made on a 2D sheet could have important 3D ramifications and should be made in 3D. We take lumps for this from time to time because editing from the sheet looks great in a demo. But each time we visit it, we come to the conclusion that it is not a good practice and we should not compromise here for improved demoware.

      I would be interested in other’s perspectives on this?



        I am against changing model dimensions in the drawing, never did it with SW, don’t think it is something that anyone should do.  To me changing a model from the drawing without looking at all of the relative components around it could spell trouble.

        I think the vast majority of people are against it, from my research, however there are a few who do change the drawings in certain instances ???


      2. I never knew that. I thought it was a technical limitation with the view projection.  Lesson learned.  Thanks, Dan.

        And I agree with the philosophy.  For the few places I used Solidworks, they made it a company policy to NOT allow model edits through the drawing.  I don’t think Solid Edge has lost anything but not allowing that functionality.

      3. In SolidWorks the (edit part dimensions from the drawing) capability is there, but there was also a switch that disabled it. When I was a reseller, we always demo’ed it, but as a user I never used the software that way.

        I generally prefer more options rather than fewer, and I don’t see anything that makes this method evil, or an obviously bad idea. I think it might have value in some situations. It wouldn’t be a high priority enhancement for me, but I think it might be best to allow the end user to make the decision about how/if he would use it.

        On the other hand, I tend to get critical of SW when there are 5 different ways to do something, and each of them with different strengths and weaknesses. To me it is more important for the software to be built from a comprehensive and unified vision than that it has every imaginable option.

      4. Mr. Dan,

        Yes, I agree with you. This is a brilliant demo feature, so every SW, AI, Creo (maiden name pro-e) resellers use this again SE. They never speak about this doesn’t work with imported geometry and its drawing, doesn’t work drived dimensions (what you placed on drawing view without retrieve dimensions from 3D model).


        I think, SE should offers an option where user may decide using it or not. I think Synch tech is more developed than „simply” history based system. Sorry If someone doesn’t agree with this! :-)  You have more control above geometry…

        The coin has two sides. This bidirectional modifying has some advanteges on some ares. For example if you are an individual parts manufacturers (milling, turning, or sheetmetal bending, cutting…), you can modify your models from drawings this is fast than open model, modify it and open drawings and refresh it…

        How many times does partner change his model size? Every time! This is my experience!

        Let’s go Solid Edge! ;-)



      5. I thinks SE have really got this one right.  Adjusting the model from the drawing is not a good workflow IMO and for me this is a great judgement call.  The fact that the model can be opened and edited by double clicking the view is perfect.  I understand the view of “let the user decide” and I realize it may be quicker for some simple situations but the cons FAR outweigh the pros in this case.


        1. Hi Roger,

          I can compare to atomic energy this. If you use it without mind it will be atombomb, but If you use it clever it will be energy! ;-)

          I’ve been using SE since 1999, I love it, but I sometimes was able to use this…



  6. Matt-

    How are configurations of parts/assemblies handed in SE drawings?

    For example, a cast part that needs inspection prior to machining, then a fully machined version of that same part.



    1. Devon,

      Since Solid Edge uses separate parts instead of configurations, that’s the way it would deal with multi-config drawings. I didn’t see if you could reference multiple parts on a single sheet or not, but I’m guessing you can.

      1. Matt-

        Thanks for the information.

      2. You are correct, Matt.  You can place as many views of as many models as your computer hardware can handle.  That’s how we do our family of parts.  Sheet 1 is the general notes, a “BOM” showing that there are multiple parts shown on the drawing, and usually the -1 config.  Additional sheets are added for each “configuration” which happen to be separate part files.  The MASTER part, the one driving the dimensions for the family of parts, is not shown on the drawing or ever used in an assembly.  That part file exists solely as the geometry generator.  It should not be linked to anything but its child parts.

        1. Scott-

          I like this workflow. I’d like to see a video about that, if possible.

          Thanks, Devon


        2. How large is the representation of a part. Solidworks needs about 1KB for every line, and .5MB for an interesting surface.

          Can SE handle an assembly with 1000 parts, most of the parts are fasteners?
          Can SE show threads on all of the fasteners? SW will start to choke with 20 fasteners showing threads.
          Is a SE file small enough to email? Most of my SW files are over 10MB, so they need drop box.

          My airplane fuselage outer mold line shape is defined by less than 100KB of information this becomes 10MB surface model in Solidworks. I would like to have even more detail but the files are getting slow.

          1. Rick,

            So much of it depends on the content of the files. I have customers who with best practices, simplified assemblies and other such good stuff have made assemblies of more than 400,000 parts (no, that is not a typo) in Solid Edge. However, when going to larger assemblies, things like showing actual modeled threads on fasteners is going to be frowned upon in any system. They should certainly “look right” and be fast by using textures, but very few people actually model threads except in exceptional circumstances. It just balloons the amount of data astronomically (because an accurate depiction of the modeled detail may mean sending a several hundred polygons to the graphics card for a single bolt!)

            As far as surfaces, the saving grace will be Synchronous surfacing, when we get there. Most of the bulk of the cost of surfacing in a system like Solidworks is all the feature tree glop that has to be carried. On balance a synchronous file is 2X to 5X smaller than a history-based one. I expect those same benefits in Synchronous Surfacing, but we are not there yet.

          2. Wow! 40,000 parts is a serious assembly. Threads should be cylinders with a thread like normal map. We do not need to waste computational resources.

            I do not understand how the part representation can be any smaller than the design intent. the sketches and feature tree are a very compact representation. It might take a while to regenerate the surface geometry. Of course the geometry must be relational so the shape can evolve as the project proceeds.

            For instance a spherical surface is completely defined by a center point and a radius.The sphere might be completely and perfectly defined by (1.0, 0.0, 3/4) 3.579 R, that is 19 characters. Say 19 bytes uncompressed. Throw that information away and now we have a complex surface perhaps defined by bsplines or approximated by polygons. I bet that will take thousands of bytes and still be an approximation.

            I will try to attach an image of one of my projects. Shape is mostly conic surfaces bounded by bsplines. This file gets larger every time I make a change in solidworks. The second image shows more of the defining geometry. Conics are done by an add-in GW3D Geometry works.


          3. Rick — not 40,000. FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND. Actually as I recall it was over 470,000 parts.


    2. Devon & Matt,

      SE does have separate parts as the final result.  However ALL of the information geometry and Edit Table (“SW Design Table”) reside in the master part file.  To me SE family parts are MUCH easier to use over SW. The linkage from the Master Part file to the file created thru the Edit Table is similar to the way the (SW Split Part) command works when you push to individual part files.

      The SE Edit Table is a lot cleaner, with more information, and a lot easier to use that an blank Excel shell.  The ability to quickly create another family member, be able to see all of the family data together in one file to edit all family parts together is powerful.  Also the preview function allows for a rapid view of geometry without having to have multiple parts files open.

      Bottom Line is the SE implementation of Family of Parts in my opinion is far superior to the other guys.


    3. With Parts, there are two ways to handle configurations.  The Family of Parts is what Billy has talked about.  For the cast vs. machined views, this can sometimes be handled in the file by using a Simplified representation if you are simply defeaturing a part (removing holes and cutouts).  Both are supported in a single Draft sheet/file as you can specify the Design or Simplified body and/or place views of different Part files.

      Family of Assemblies are contained within a single file and views of one or several configs are also supported in a single Draft sheet/file.  Also supported is the Assembly Design or Simplified view as well as the Assembly view configurations including exploded views.

  7. Dan,

    If you are referring to an Ally PLM customer, their assembly was only 454,486 parts.

    If you were in marketing, you could  round that up to 470,000.

    Thousands of those are simplified parts.


  8. Ouch, I should have stuck with more than 400,000. Being accused of over marketing — ouch that hurts. No, it is just my old brain. OK> I will accept 454,486. Sounds good.

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