My 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.
Sketching 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 geometry 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.
For 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 improvement 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.