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Choosing the Best CAD: Solid Edge vs. SolidWorks

Choosing the Best CAD: Solid Edge vs. SolidWorks

The choice of SolidWorks versus Solid Edge, two industry-leading and competing CAD software, will generally be decided by user experience and familiarity, as well as company preference. Each software offers similar capabilities and features, and both are entirely acceptable for seeing a project through from concept to completion.

But there are significant differences. Solid Edge provides an intelligent CAD platform, but also offers a diverse portfolio that covers the whole PLM cycle. The Solid Edge portfolio of solutions is part of what makes Solid Edge such a powerful tool—and much more than just a CAD program.

Let’s explore the ten reasons why Solid Edge stands out against its competition:

1. The Solid Edge Portfolio

Solid Edge is now a start-to-finish PLM tool that allows users to implement the best solution for their company’s and customer’s needs. This portfolio includes a variety of tools, including simulation, manufacturing, technical publications, data management and applications from third-party software, truly offering unique design-through-manufacturing possibilities.

SolidWorks covers all aspects of the product development process, including design, verification, sustainable design, communication and data management. The portfolio, while comprehensive, lacks many of the integrated PLM capabilities that Solid Edge can offer to shorten the design cycle and deliver a product to market faster.

Image 1: You can use Solid Edge for more than just design: operate simulations, author technical publications, manage data and more.

2. Scalable Data Management

Built-in Solid Edge data management allows manufacturers to work with a large volume of CAD files. The Design Manager tool enables users to review and edit the properties of multiple files and to backup, share and synchronize files through a number of cloud-based, file-sharing software. Should the need arrive, Siemens allows for an easy upgrade to Teamcenter. Teamcenter Integration for Solid Edge allows users to capture, manage and share Solid Edge data—including 3D models and 2D drawings. This software also offers a variety of product lifecycle management (PLM) options to optimize the design-to-manufacturing process.

SolidWorks offers Product Data Management packages in Standard (a data management solution for smaller workgroup environments) and Professional (a full-featured data management solution for both large and small organizations). These packages enable users to securely store and index design data, eliminate concerns about version control, share and collaborate on design, and create an electronic workflow. Both packages are sold separately from SolidWorks.

Image 2: With Teamcenter Integration for Solid Edge, users can easily access their files without ever leaving Solid Edge.

3. Design Collaboration

Offering a full suite of tools, Solid Edge can be used to author, edit, distribute and explore designs on the go. The Solid Edge Portal makes it easy for multiple team members to share projects internally and externally—with suppliers and customers. Any user can access files through a web browser. The Pack and Go feature allows for quick packaging of files for customer and supplier distribution through email. The Solid Edge Mobile Viewer App permits quality control, field engineers and purchasing agents to access the data they need to efficiently perform their tasks.

The product collaboration of SolidWorks helps designers share their project with other key stakeholders, and offers a variety of ways to protect data and original design. It offers the ability to view 2D drawing and 3D model data together, and the functionality for large design review—opening massive assemblies for quick navigation, measuring, sectioning, etc.

Image 3: Author, edit and share your documents on the Cloud using Solid Edge.

4. Next Generation Design

Solid Edge has several capabilities that were first available in NX CAD, include Generative Design (minimizes part mass while still meeting the criteria for strength), Reverse Engineering (edit models from a 3D scan) and Additive Manufacturing (3D printing). The combination of these tools equals Convergent Modeling—the underlying technology built into Solid Edge, combining traditional Boundary Representation modeling with triangular mesh (or facet) models—allowing for the incorporation of both native CAD models and scanned design data.

Generative Design is a feature just added to the 2017 version of SolidWorks. Other improvements to SolidWorks’ design include closing the gap between design and manufacturing with more intelligent designs, predicting next steps.

Image 4: Part optimized with generative design (Solid Edge)

5. Sheet Metal Modeling

Solid Edge is the market leader for sheet metal design, delivering tools for every step of the design-to-manufacturing process. Designers can develop models by dragging 2D sketch regions into 3D, or by pulling model edges into flanges. Because each feature is independent, users can edit with flexibility. They can also document manufacturing steps independent of modeling steps.

SolidWorks provides a basic version of sheet metal modeling. Users can design a sheet metal part on its own without any reference to the parts it will enclose, the part in the context of an assembly or the part within a multibody environment.

Image 5: Solid Edge is the market leader for sheet metal design.

6. Assembly Optimization

Solid Edge was developed to handle assemblies of any size; users can create and manage assemblies consisting of more than 500,000 parts. Display management tools allow for zooming and focusing on specific parts while reducing the amount of detail needed to load the entire assembly. With Solid Edge’s unique Synchronous Technology, users spend less time understanding how an entire model is constructed and more time engineering the product, speeding up the development and refinement process.

Because of the history-based functionality of SolidWorks, creating assemblies requires users to build and understand each individual part before creating the whole. And if a customer requires modifications to an assembly, the user will have to modify each part, then make required adjustments to other parts, and possibly the entire assembly.

Image 6: Easily manage assemblies in Solid Edge, with the ability to focus on specific parts and bisect parts.

7. 3D Digital Prototypes

Solid Edge users can build complete 3D digital prototypes and optimize their designs before the production stage, and design an entire assembly with specific machined, cast or stylized components. Users can show operations and appearances with exploded views, photo-realistic renderings and animations. Solid Edge provides the tools engineers and designers need to create and edit digital products faster and more efficiently.

SolidWorks’ PhotoView 360 tools enable users to create photorealistic renderings and animations in the 3D CAD mode. While capable of creating scenes, applying appearances, selecting rendering options and more, this tool lacks the pre-production capabilities of Solid Edge—it is meant for proposals, presentations and submissions.

Image 7: A side-by-side of an assembly in Solid Edge and the 3D digital prototype.

8. Creating 3D Models from 2D Drawings

High quality products begin with accurate, high quality drawings. Solid Edge allows users to create quality 3D models from 2D drawings, and 2D drawings from 3D models. With both functions, Solid Edge provides multiple view options, including standard, auxiliary, section, detail, broke and isometric.

The associativity of SolidWorks allows for any changes in a 3D model to be reflected in 2D drawings for manufacturing and assembly purposes. Creating 3D models from 2D drawings, however, is slightly more complicated without the benefit of Synchronous Technology. Individual sketches must be imported in specific viewpoints, then aligned and assembled to create the desired model.

Image 8: A 2D drawing imported into Solid Edge, with dimensions extended into parts of a 3D model.

9. True Direct Editing

Solid Edge’s Synchronous Technology allows users to create and modify a design on the fly, irrespective of the order in which previous elements were assembled. This makes the design more responsive and allows for design changes at the assembly stage. With this feature, users can design, revise and deliver a product faster.

SolidWorks uses history-based modeling; every edit must take place in the model at the state when that feature was created. Making such edits can cause underlying design intent to be lost, which can result in feature failure. To compensate, a user must anticipate advance steps and plans—thus removing room for lateral thinking.

Some users prefer history-based modeling since that’s what they’ve always used—this option is still available in Solid Edge—you have your choice of what you want to model with.

Image 9: Synchronous Technology combines the best of history-based with the best of history-free modeling, and then adds even more functionality to make designing faster, and better.

10. One-Shot, Multi-Part Editing

The one-shot editing of Solid Edge allows users to edit components in an assembly while also maintaining the original design intent of the product or feature. A user can select multiple faces of multiple parts and make quick edits. Synchronous Technology will recognize symmetrical parts of a feature and make corresponding edits when there are any alterations.

In SolidWorks, Instant3D allows some easy drag and drop features, but it is limited by its dependence on an ordered feature environment. Users will need to edit individual parts to align with the whole assembly.

While the advantages in design and editing are clear, it’s important to highlight how the Solid Edge portfolio makes this software more than just a CAD tool. You have the ability to manage, distribute and accelerate delivery of any project. The PLM possibilities of Solid Edge allow for a unique and simplified user experience for multiple users, of multiple experiences.

Image 10: Direct select faces of parts and edit parts of an assembly while maintaining original design intent.

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