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ST7: 3D Sketch


RahulKulkarni-NEW.jpg3dsketch.pngMy favorite session at Solid Edge University was given by Rahul Kulkarni on the topic of 3D sketches. I love it when the people who helped develop the tools are the ones to come and talk about them directly to users. Without having said it directly, I think Rahul showed how this session could have huge impact on the future of sketch workflows in Solid Edge, and certainly on the available functionality.


There was a fair bit of interaction with the attendees, and users seemed to have applications already in mind when they were asking questions. Turn out for this session was pretty good.


The Solid Edge University 2014 presentation files are going to become available to users shortly. The process is already happening. It takes some time to collect all the data and set up a site. I'll be sure to report back here when the files are available.


ac72ebea3781116de9897f098f243918.jpgSketching 3D elements using a 2D interface is difficult. Coming up with an interface to do it intuitively is difficult. Part of Dan Staples’ background is with the Sensable product, which is a 3D interface (still represented on a 2D display). I’m sure experience with this hardware interface product gave Dan a lot of insight into what it would take to make a planar mouse interface sketch lines and other entities in virtual 3D space.


3D sketching is highly useful for a lot of things. Even if you think you’ll never use it, and that you’ve gotten along this far in your career without sketching in 3D, I guarantee you there will be applications for this set of tools in just about any kind of work that requires spatial planning in 3D. I’ve used 3D sketch 3dsketch2.pnggeometry to make geometrical calculations (how to flatten an auger, stacking rings), solving spatial problems, laying out projects, beyond the obvious stuff of piping, wiring, tubing, wire formed products, and so on.


To begin with, Solid Edge is already less constrained in the way it thinks about sketches than some other solid modelers. With ST7, you’re able to use a 3D sketch for most anything you can use a 2D sketch for now. I’m not sure what the limitations on that statement are going to wind up being, but it opens up a new world of how you think about and work with sketches. Or you can continue the way you have for the last 15 years.


Picture1.pngFor one thing, it means you can control an entire part from a single 3D layout sketch, if you are working in Ordered. You might even be able to use the 3D sketch as an extremely lightweight version of the part. I can even imagine a day when there is no longer a distinction between 2D and 3D sketches, and you just make any sketch in any orientation.  This of course would remove parent/child stackups for sketches without resorting to Synchronous.



I’ve used 3D sketching pretty extensively in other software, and the interface tends to be the weak point. Fortunately I think Solid Edge has a leg up on the competition in that area. The manner in which the new software controls the sketch elements in 3D is a substantial Picture2.pngimprovement over what the other guys have taken more than a decade to develop. You can easily toggle the plane or the axis along which you are drawing. Sketch relations are as intuitive in 3D as they are in 2D, with a couple of new relation types such as Coaxial and On Plane. Coaxial and Project Keypoint are new Intellisketch settings that become fairly obvious when you start using 3D sketches



Dimensions are obviously more complex in 3D sketches than in 2D. You will probably want to dimension from a line to establish the direction of the dimension, to a line or point. Dimensioning from point to point will give you the straight line distance between the points rather than the X direction dimension, for example. This kind of thing will take some experience to become comfortable and proficient, but it is straight forward and understandable.


Setting expectations is always an important part of new features, and functionality this big being added in a single release usually means that not everything made it the first time around. There may be some functionality that didn’t make it into this release added in a future release. From my point of view, there are a few things that I would like to see fall into that category, such as 3D points, 3D coordinate entry, ellipse, some sort of relationship with the 3D Keypoint Curve (or at least the most glorious of all 3D sketch entities, the 3D spline), equation driven 3D curves, helix and spiral.


3D sketch is something I’m going to have to revisit with some examples later on. It’s fun and powerful. The way Solid Edge has set it up, it will frustrate the user much less than CADX.


July, people. July. (ST7 release)

Gears Honored Contributor

Is the fixed length curve previewed before ST7 realease not 3D ?

One of the illustrations for the fixed length curve show (don't remember where) a hose pipe, giving an impression that it is 3D in nature.


Yes, helix and spiral are much awaited.

Gears Esteemed Contributor

The Keypoint Curve which has been in SE for some many releases has always been a 3D curve.  ST7 adds the fixed length variable to it Smiley Happy


Yes, you can attach a length dimension to both a 2D spline and a 3D Keypoint Curve, but I don't think you can drive a Keypoint Curve with the dimension, that is, I don't think the Keypoint Curve will get longer if you change the dimension.


My point about the Keypoint curve is that it would be nice to have all of the sketch/curve tools in one place so you didn't have to jump in/out of various tools to make a complete 3D sketch.

Gears Esteemed Contributor

Of course SolidWorks has had this feature for many years. What took Edge so long? Anyway, the interface in Edge is better that what I remember with Works and having to use the tab key to change planes.


"Of course SolidWorks has had this feature for many years."




@bshandI think Solid Edge Development has been more focused on Synchronous Technology for the past 7+ years. And although having 3D sketches is wonderful, I've never had issues accomplishing the same results before.


So if you were to ask me, would I have preferred to have 3D Sketch over Synch... there's no contest. But now we have both, and SW still doesn't have anything close to Synchronous Technology. The beauty of Solid Edge, with Dan Staples and his teams vision, is that they are more interested in bringing truly breakthrough technology to 3D modeling... and not just throwing us some window dressing and calling it a new feature.


Don't get me wrong, I am not minimizing the importance of 3D Sketching, or the ease of using it over the old ways. I'm simply pointing out that Development's priorities are what you need to trust in.... and you can always trust Dan and the Development Team to have the users best interest foremost and not just some "Shiny-new-objects kind of development"


Also as you point out, "Edge is Better" at it.






I think part of what took Edge so long was that they already had 3D sketch functionality in another area of the software, just not the main area. So it was there as a workaround if you needed it. Plus, Edge has 3D curve tools that work outside of the 3D sketch.


When I used Works, I was a big 3D sketch user, and complained about it often. You're right, Edge has done a  better job with our version. Thanks for noticing.

Gears Esteemed Contributor

It certainly wasn't my intention to start a religious war between Edge and Works. Both systems could benefit from combining the best of both. There are many things in each I wish the one I'm using had but I won't list them here.

I don't have access to pre-ST7 Edge so can't attempt to find where 3d sketching supposedly was hiding. Never found curve tools to be very friendly for creating tubing etc. I didn't find the Works 3d sketch interface poor or difficult, it's just that Edge's seems a bit better. I started using Edge in 2001 or so, much longer than 7 years ago. I personally would have benefitted from having any 3d sketch capability years ago and it was a sore point for me, not just a "shiny" feature.

Anyway, as Bob says, and I agree, synchronous blows away ordered in so many ways and Edge should be eating Works' lunch if not for, I think largely, the reluctance of many long-time cadders to change their ways. "WHAT AB0UT THE SKETCH"?!