Parametric feature-based solid modeling is almost 30 years old. In that time, not much has changed. Sure, there have been plenty of CAD systems with their own take on how to model in 3D, but the basic principles remain the same: Create a sketch → Create a feature → Repeat.
One of the main benefits of parametric modeling systems is being able to make changes quickly. Every sketch and every feature is driven by dimensions, so all you have to do to make a design change is to change the value of a dimension, right? Yes, in most cases, but if only it were that simple all of the time.
When you create a sketch, you are capturing design intent by adding dimensions, constraints and references to other model geometry. This design intent helps you predict how your models will update when changes occur. However, if you’re not careful, you can easily get yourself into a pickle. Making too many careless references to other geometry in your model can make your model very fragile. If your model has dozens of features, you could end up chasing errors for hours. A lot of this heartache can be avoided if you have a basic understanding of what’s going on behind the scenes.
Every geometric element created by a parametric modeling system has a unique internal ID number. This number is referenced by subsequent sketches, features, assembly mates, and drawings to work out where things should be placed relative to the rest of the model. So if that ID number no longer exists, guess what? That’s right, the feature doesn’t know what to do and fails. If a design change makes an edge or face disappear, it is likely that some downstream features will fail. It’s not the features themselves that are the problem, it’s the references you make between them. References can be your biggest ally, but also your biggest enemy.
Maintaining two different PDM products that do virtually the same thing does not make sound business sense, especially if they came through acquisition and have no common ground or compatibility. This is the situation that many CAD companies have found themselves in over the years. Any decisions to consolidate multiple product lines should not be taken lightly, but in the interests of cost savings and profitability, these decisions are made all too often.
If you are a SOLIDWORKS® Workgroup PDM customer, then no doubt you have been informed by your reseller that your product is being retired at the end of this year. This should not come as a surprise – the push to migrate everyone to SOLIDWORKS Enterprise PDM has been going on for some years.
While Workgroup PDM does have its limitations in terms of capability and performance, customers love its simplicity and ease of use. So being forced to change the product you’ve used successfully for many years, for little or no benefit, is a bitter pill to swallow. You are being told to migrate now or risk being left behind.
Of course, this is pure speculation. There may be other reasons for this forced migration, but that doesn’t help the thousands of companies that find themselves in this quandary. To add insult to injury, migration comes at a cost in terms of both time and money. Your reseller is a small business and cannot afford to have engineers onsite to carry out lengthy data migrations and troubleshoot issues for free. The cost of migration has been made less onerous with the introduction of a “free” cut-down version, SOLIDWORKS PDM Standard, but the compatibility issue remains as well as the additional costs for implementation and training. Continue reading →
Onshape’s latest update features Advanced Search, a new function that lets users search not only Onshape Documents but any tab or property within a document. “Until now this level of search has only been available to CAD users through expensive PDM systems,” notes marketing vice president Darren Henry. In our view, this is a major directional advance that points to Onshape’s long-term vision and strategy to, over time, take more and more functionality that heretofore required an external PDM system, and embed those functions in the core Onshape environment.
Already, the ways in which Onshape lets multiple users work simultaneously on the same design eliminate many problems that established PDM and PLM providers have spent years “solving”—and, of course, at the same time perpetuating. As chairman Jon Hirschtick observed to us a year ago, “For starters we eliminate 50-60% of all the functions of traditional PDM—they simply have no role (copying files, managing directory structures, etc.) in our world.”
With those capabilities, and now with Advanced Search, says Hirschtick, “So many of our customers love getting the purported benefits of PDM—but in a way that does not slow them down either in implementing or using or being creative.”
Full-cloud CAD pioneer Onshape’s most recent update introduces a new capability to edit parts within the context of assemblies. “This update is extremely significant,” remarked marketing director Darren Henry. “Yes, Onshape speeds up the design process by being full-cloud, but we’re also continuing to redefine how CAD is done.”
Designers want the ability to edit parts within the context of an assembly (top-down design) to ensure fit and function by defining relationships between components, Henry explains. “We believe that traditional approaches to top-down design have demoed well, but have not largely been successful when used in real-world design scenarios.” Continue reading →
Full-cloud CAD pioneer Onshape amped up the power and utility of its software with FeatureScript, a new programming language that lets users create new parametric features that look, feel and behave just like Onshape’s built-in features.
This is the same language used by Onshape itself to develop all of its software’s current features—Extrude, Fillet, Shell, Loft and the like. Now available as an open language, FeatureScript lets users create their own built-in parametric features in Onshape.
Under the open-source MIT License, Onshape is also sharing the FeatureScript source code for all of its own features, allowing customers to copy, modify or adapt them as they see fit. New features can be created, and existing features edited, in Onshape’s new Feature Studio, a user-friendly development environment with an editor, in-line help and documentation. Continue reading →
An illuminating blog post by Onshape engineering team member Ilya Baran reveals some fundamentals of how the new cloud-native CAD system works: “We are careful to distinguish several types of data: the User Interface (UI) state—e.g., selection, camera view, current tab; the Part Studio definition—e.g., feature list, part names and colors, import data; [and] Regeneration results—the ‘b-rep’ (bodies, faces, edges, etc.), triangles for display, regen errors.”
How do these data types differ? “The UI state generally doesn’t persist (except for things like named views),” Baran writes. “The regeneration results are cached, but they can always be rebuilt from the definition. The Part Studio definition is what we store in the database and that is where collaborative editing happens.”
Then Baran explains something that begins to suggest why we believe Onshape is not only a breakthrough in CAD, but also poised to disrupt the established paradigm for PLM platforms. Continue reading →
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