Solid Edge 2019 was launched at the user conference; latest features of NX 12 were showcased.
PLM Connection is a worldwide conference series for customers of Siemens PLM Software run by the PLM World user group. I was at the Americas version in 108F-degree Phoenix, where 2,000 attended; weeks earlier, the event was in Russia (1,000 attendees) and China (5,000). Next year, the conference is changing hands as Siemens takes over, and the user group organization will concentrate and provide training for the Siemens products.
PLM Connection Americas 2018 centered around NX, the high-end MCAD system that competes with Catia from Dassault Systèmes and Pro/Engineer from PTC. There is a little Mentor (ECAD), Solid Edge (MCAD), TeamCenter (PLM), and so on thrown in—a little, because the breadth of software offerings from Siemens PLM is overwhelming. We in the CAD media found that out when we were given a rapid-fire tour of many of its programs being used in many areas of manufacturing, from design to build.
This year’s show launched new releases of NX 12 and Solid Edge 2019, its top- and mid-level MCAD software. Siemens endowed both MCAD packages with advances that we would consider “advanced” if we viewed them in isolation, but are also found in its competition:
Generative design minimizes the volume and weight of frames, while maintaining strength. The result is an organic-looking bone-like structure used in some aircraft and automotive parts.
Convergent design edits imprecise 3D meshes (such as those made from 3D scans) almost as if they were 3D solids. This is needed in areas like medical implants, such as for knee replacements and hearing aids, in which the body parts are 3D scanned and then the assembly is designed to match, using 3D solids.
Lattice filling replaces solid volumes with spindly-looking 3D matrices, and is useful for lightening the weights of parts, and shortening the time to 3D print them.
Synchonous Technology (ST) had been the flagship feature that distinguished Siemens MCAD software from its competitors, but this year it barely rated a mention; the problem is that a decade after its introduction, something like 90% of NX and Solid Edge users still aren’t using it. As if to emphasize the point, Solid Edge even dropped ST from its name this year.
And then there are the advances to existing functions. In one, you place six sheet metal parts around a volume. NX trims them and then optionally creates a solid volume. For the UI, NX can now open models in tabs, and split the screen into multiple views (see figure below.)
In a surprise move, Siemens endowed Solid Edge with four add-ons, the last two are a direct result of the ECAD (electrical CAD) technology provided through the Mentor acquisition.
- Solid Edge P&ID for making isometric and 2D drawings of piping and instrumentation
- Solid Edge Piping Design for doing 3D plant design
- Solid Edge Harness Design for wiring design, circuit simulation, and verification with error highlighting
- Solid Edge PCB Design for schematic capture and PCB (printed circuit board) layout
Well, perhaps not so much of a surprise, as the Solid Edge third-party ecosystem always was small compared to that of SolidWorks and Inventor. Siemens insists it will continue to support third-party developers and that customers now have a choice. Thing is, third-party developers might no longer want to devote resources competing against the $100-billion-a-year Siemens AG organization.
Siemens AG was always shy about revealing numbers for its MCAD division, but following last year’s acquisition of Mentor (for its ECAD software), it’s suddenly pretty pleased that this year’s revenues are estimated to arrive at $3.5 billion. Siemens PLM Software got a sudden $1.2-billion revenue boost from its acquisition of Mentor. That was enough to lift the MCAD vendor from third-place Autodesk levels of revenues to those of first-place Dassault Systèmes. Siemens PLM Software boasts 15.3 million users.
NX and Solid Edge are unique in the MCAD segment in that they are owned by a manufacturer that makes everything from tiny medical implants to giant off-shore windmills; all other MCAD systems are developed by stand-alone software companies. So, Siemens AG has a privileged view into the workings of its customers. It follows the company has a better idea about the features its MCAD software needs. Siemens PLM CEO Tony Hemmelgarn said his number-one concern is integration: that his division’s many software packages—from design to analysis to feedback—work together.