SEv SW: Sketching, Part 2

The hard part of being a noob is that sometimes you don’t really recognize what’s important and what’s not right away. In comparing Solid Edge to SW, you have to realize that sketches have different relative importance in the two packages. In SW, most of your design intent is established in the sketch. In SE, this is only true if you are working in ordered mode. Remember ordered mode is just using Solid Edge as a history-based modeler. Sketches in Synchronous mode are stored, but they aren’t associated with anything. Luc (Solid DNA) showed a couple of nice movies to show how unimportant sketches are in SE.

Sketch Best Practice

In SW, noobs spend a great deal of time getting best practice pounded into their skulls. In the end SW best practice does nothing to help the design, it just enables the tool. The finished design isn’t any better or worse if you have all your sketches fully defined or your first sketch is not located wrt the origin, we only do that kind of stuff because the software requires these rules. In SE, it REALLY doesn’t matter how you get to the final product, as long as the geometry is correct. If you are working in Synchronous mode, it doesn’t matter at all if you made everything in a single feature or used 1500 features. It doesn’t matter if your fillets are features or part of the sketch. A lot of things just don’t matter. As SW users, we tend to be pretty uptight about a lot of stuff that just doesn’t matter.

This is because in SW, you build the intelligence into the data. In SE, the intelligence is in the interface. There are a whole slew of positive implications for Solid Edge, based on seeing things this way:

  • you can always take a SE model back to a previous version, and lose little or no actual information. Let me say that again slightly different: In SE, you don’t get screwed so hard by the lack of compatibility between versions.
  • In SE, your part will never automatically change based on opening a file with a new version of the software.
  • In SE, you never have to worry about two different users having different ways of working – the geometry is just the geometry. I work with companies that try to standardize the features they use and how they use them  so that every body can modify any model. In SE this doesn’t matter.
  • Things that are complex in SW (like a casting with 340 features) are much simpler in SE. SE doesn’t care about how many features there are. It only worries about the faces that are part of an edit selection, and any adjacent faces.
  • In SE, you can edit the geometry that you made at the very beginning of working on the part without worrying that something is going to change in a way that you didn’t intend. In SW, you have to thoroughly understand all the downstream implications of upstream changes.
  • …anyway, you get the idea.


When SW users, or especially when Pro/E users see how Synch Tech deals with planes, their heads spin and explode. Neil, if you were troubled by how SE disregards discarded sketches, you’re gonna freak at how they treat old planes.

The first thing I like is that you can just manipulate the position and orientation of a plane in SE just by dragging it. You don’t have to set up references sketches and go through a dialog box, you just tug and pull the plane. Imagine that you just want to place a plane visually in SolidWorks. How would you do that? You know the old trick of orienting your view, then making a 3D sketch with 3 points, making the points coincident, then deleting the coincident relations, pulling the points apart and then making a 3 pt plane from the points? In SE, you just tug and pull.

SE still has all the different ways of defining a plane such as tangent, perpendicular to curve, 3 point, but in addition, you can just drag one around.


Updated: April 26, 2012 — 10:30 am


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  1. Well youre right, that is disconcerting to behold.  Its a bit like learning to swim – clinging to the side of the pool frequently to reassure myself I wont drown.  I would just be happier if I could touch the bottom – slap in some dimensions. Of course having the pool attendant announcing over the PA there is someone caught with his face caught sucked into the filtration intake is a little embarrassing….. ;) thanks Matt.

    In SE then its more like a collection of free floating boundaries parked somewhere, the positions of which are arrived at via some props like sketches and planes, whereas in SW the whole thing has a more overt and deliberate structure. Is that fair interpretation? Dunno…I think the biggest difficulty I have with this coming from SW is the nagging thought I am making a house of cards. While I am used to not fully defining my SW sketches it is kind of alien to not have anything defined or disposable – although I suppose a surface definition in a computer is no more nor less locked if it has placed dimensions or not.

  2. sigh..I give up posting…just cant get an edit to update here..the SW blog was fine :( someone else can be the SE village idiot ;)

  3. Hi Matt

    Did not have time to answer yesterday, so here a quick post before i leave for the day. BRB tonight and edit this post if i can because i need to write from another location.

    “Important” is probably not the right wording to use, Sketch is still important.

    In traditional modeling the sketch host the design intent and it is the foundation of the part ( feature).

    In synch the sketch is use to initiate the process/workflow.  However not all features require a sketch, generally speaking procedural features are the one where the sketch make sense.

    For me it is more how the sketch in integrate in the process. Just yesterday i had three person who had SW background and i can clearly see how they approach a design and there is a fundamental different. I would summarize roughly by saying SW focus on the task to create the model where SE focus on the workflow to make the same model.

    Also we look at SE with the Synch eyes, but in fact Synch is just a environment with a set of tools inside the software. Traditional and Synch are design to work together we cannot look at them separately and say Trad does not allow us to do this and Synch is not rigid enough.

    To make a comparison, hope i make it correct:

    Solid Edge is an extended range CAD.

    Like the Chevrolet Volt, it  is seen as  an electric car ( Synch but i prefer saying non-linear modeling) but still have a gas engine ( traditional i prefer linear modeling).

    If your daily commute is under a certain range you will probably never have to use the gas engine. If your commute need to be extend, then the gas engine kick’s in.


    Kevin I’m not sure that mixing both is a recipe for disaster.

    I often talk about the major difference in SE and SW being the feature base modeling versus Skeleton base modeling. But watch this video and you will see that with ST we can push the skeleton modeling to a new level while preserving the feature base modeling. ( Ok reading back what i write about Skeleton and Feature base, it might sound confusing. Solid Edge is also capable of dealing with sekeleton modeling if require  but the initial approach will favor feature base modeling. Sorry if i cause some confusion about what Solid Edge can do or not. Matt at the SEU12 we might be able to get a more fluid streamline conversation).

    So i believe that my analogy “Extended range CAD” make sense after all :-)

    Ok this one is far from the sketcher topic but it cover regular surface design done in Trad design.



  4. Matt- I just viewed the Plane video, nice! The penalty of history based elements is gone! Like it. Thanks for posting.


  5. I think the issue I have is the combination of history and ST. Mixing the two sounds great but what happens when you work in history switch to ST then return to history. Then you try to make an edit that ST can’t deal with but your ST changes have broken associations to drive curves?

    Working in one or the other I can understand. Mixing both I see potential for disaster.

    1. Kevin, Mixing methods would be disaster if it were implemented the way say the Move Face tool is implemented in SolidWorks. But it’s not. Blog post pending….


  6. So you can seriously state that Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology can handle a complex casting without any Ordered elements in the model?

    I don’t think so.  I know first handle.  Synchronous is only good for prismatic, semi-complex geometry.

    Try changing a chain of features in Synchronous – you have to select multiple faces (manually), switch on or off the appropriate live rules, then hope to God that you have all the correct 3D relationships and they perform as expected, and then when you strat to drag the faces, your high-end CAD workstation with a massive graphics card, unlimited amount of RAM will still crash because the move is too complex to do, even though, its should be a simple move faces command!

    I’m currently running two projects – one on Solid Edge and the other on SolidWorks.  Both very similar jobs, complex moulded components.  Solid Edge crashed 4 times just trying to add a draft!  SolidWorks does not!

    Solid Edge is so full of bugs.  I know this first hand as I once sold and supported Solid Edge.

    1. Cheggers,

      No, I’ve stated many times that complex surfaces are currently out of the reach of SEwST4. You’re coming in in the middle of a discussion. There are many sources of complexity, though, and a feature tree with 300+ features is one of them. This is a part that SEwST4 could mostly edit just fine.

      Your description of how SE works doesn’t match what I’ve seen. All professional CAD programs require training. They wouldn’t be very powerful if they didn’t. Also, SolidWorks is far more of a pig with hardware than SE. We’re trying to use examples to back up claims here. Can you show us some examples?

      1. …a reasonably crafted piece but fairly transparent….


    2. Hi,

      Could you tell me some bugs? I think you aren’t so expert in SE, you need for a SE training! ;-)



  7. Imagine that you just want to place a plane visually in SolidWorks. How would you do that? You know the old trick of orienting your view, then making a 3D sketch with 3 points, making the points coincident, then deleting the coincident relations, pulling the points apart and then making a 3 pt plane from the points? In SE, you just tug and pull.


    wtf? what about ctrl+drag?

    then you can specify the angle (distance…) with regards to the existing features (centerlines, planes, etc).

    1. I think the point Matt is trying to make is that you cannot freely orient a plane in SolidWorks without using reference geometry.

      I watched the video and being able to freely move and rotate a plane without any reference geometry, just using the gumball style modifier is not something that’s available in SolidWorks.

      I like it.

      1. Mark would you rather change the 3D component directly or would you rather have to go to the original sketch that you created the 3D component from? Which one makes more sense to you? I would rather change the 3D component. It is more realistic and easier.

  8. Hi,

    I’m SolidWorks, Solid Edge and NX user.

    Sketches in SolidWorks are the best from all three.

    The capabilities to add, discover, manipulate and manage are superior in Solidworks.

    I use ST only on dump parts.

    I use ST on some Sheet Metal parts, because sheet metal environment is not the best in class as in Solidworks.

    NX is not superior to Solid Edge in sheet metal.

    When I talk about sheet metal I talk about press-brake method.

    I didn’t know coworkers or designers that make project in ST without ordered method.

    It’s true that Solid Edge has some features better then SolidWorks, but in general SolidWorks is better then Solid Edge.

    1. Alessandro, Would you always use solid works over solid edge on new sheet metal parts? what about editing sheet metal parts? which is better to use? We are in the process of deciding between edge and works.



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