August 18, 2008
Siemens PLM Software Ships NX 6
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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Siemens PLM Software announced Version 6 of NX software is now available to Siemens customers worldwide.

"NX 6 promises to do two things. First, the work done to integrate Siemens PLM Software's synchronous technology should bring on-stream an incredibly powerful way of working that's unlike anything on the market today," said Al Dean, editor, DEVELOP3D Magazine. "When you consider background in knowledge-based design, automation, and complete process coverage, the addition of synchronous technology to NX software should make it an even more compelling solution. The second promising area in NX 6 is the addition of new levels of intelligence to the simulation environment and that's something on every users mind at the moment -- how to use simulation more effectively and more efficiently."

For design, NX 6 features Design Freedom powered by the breakthrough synchronous technology delivering up to a 100 times faster design experience than ever before. Synchronous technology combines with the existing NX capabilities so data does not need to be translated or rebuilt. This combines parametric and history-free approaches to speed design. NX 6 Design Freedom works naturally within existing user workflows for faster adoption.

For simulation, NX 6 delivers more than 350 user-driven enhancements encompassing 10 different applications for pervasive lifecycle simulation. NX 6 Advanced Simulation directly leverages Design Freedom powered by synchronous technology to enable the rapid evaluation of design modifications based on geometry from any CAD system. NX 6 combines unique 3-D geometry editing, automated abstraction and FE meshing tools with in-depth bottom-up finite element (FE) modeling and meshing tools. The new assembly capability for FE models enables engineers to integrate the separate simulation modeling efforts of distributed teams, such as suppliers and global design/analysis teams. NX 6 advanced
simulation handles the most demanding CAE challenges, providing a 30 percent reduction in physical prototypes.

In addition, the NX 6 CAE user interface and FE modeling options leverage "skins" to look like NASTRAN, ANSYS, ABAQUS or LS-DYNA.

Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor

NX is a big product line from a big company. Version 6 of the NX product line continues to blur the lines of its origins (generally, and not absolute), namely, CAD/CAM from what was formerly known as Unigraphics (UGS) and simulation and advanced shape design from SDRC’s I-DEAS. Not too surprisingly, the company touted the last go-round, NX 5, as one of its most major upgrades in terms of raw functionality and large-assembly performance. Usability, not exactly a strength of NX up to then, finally got its fair due, although some users weren’t exactly ecstatic about the changes, at least initially.

This time around, NX6 seems to have four main areas of enhancement:

  • NX 6 extends users’ flexibility with what the company has termed Design Freedom powered by synchronous technology (more about this later because it is a big deal) that leverages direct editing when creating models. Design Freedom now combines the constraint-driven techniques with direct modeling in a technology that provides users with what the company claims is up to a 100 times faster design experience.
  • NX 6 handles complex problems through comprehensive and cohesive CAD/CAM/CAE. The company claims that NX 6 advanced simulation handles provides a 30 percent reduction in physical prototypes compared to previous releases.
  • The NX 6 unified process enables collaborative product development that leads to what the company says is 20 percent faster cycle times through process efficiency improvements, such as feature-based machining.
  • NX 6 provides greater productivity through major re-use enhancements such as scrapbook modeling that can improve cycle times by 40 percent. With NX 6 users can leverage multi-CAD data within their design, analysis, and manufacturing processes -- reducing the need to re-master information for improved analysis and machining times.

  • NX 6 expands the capabilities of Design Freedom with its new synchronous technology application layer. NX 6 Design Freedom provides new approaches to creating and editing geometry. A new “active selection” technique adds intelligence to designs when needed. These advanced selection methods automatically recognize logical and feature relationships even on non-native data. I never thought that Siemens exploited the potential of direct modeling, but that may change this time around with synchronous technology.

    Our good friend and colleague, Dr. Ken Versprille, PLM Research Director, CPDA, also thinks it’s a good idea whose time not only has come, but continues to proliferate. He said, “Synchronous technology breaks through the architectural barrier inherent in a history-based modeling system. Its ability to recognize current geometry conditions and localize dependencies in real time, allows synchronous technology to solve for model changes without the typical replay of the full construction history from the point of edit. Depending on model complexity and how far back in the history that edit occurs, users will see dramatic performance gains. A 100 times speed improvement could be
    a conservative estimate.”

    While synchronous technology has received a lot of attention even before it is actually released as a marketable product with the current versions of NX and Solid Edge, Siemens PLM Software, is hardly the first to promote the benefits and advantages of a non-history-based design approach with synchronous technology. Siemens now joins the ranks of Kubotek, CoCreate, IronCAD, and SpaceClaim who have already embraced it. However, Siemens’ take on the approach is quite different than the competition, some of my peers, and bloggers would have you think – it’s a lot more than direct modeling, or more precisely, direct model editing.

    NX6 CAD also frees itself of the history tree found in most other parametric modeling packages, but with an interesting twist. Because there are distinct advantages and disadvantages to history- and non-history-based approaches, NX 6 actually provides the ability to switch between the two. I’ve always thought that one of the biggest plusses for a non-history—based approach is that 3D model data can be imported from just about any source for editing without the need for a translator/converter. The switching ability, however, is a novel idea.

    While synchronous technology does provide non-history based direct modeling capabilities, it also provides the ability to employ dimension- and constraint-driven modeling. It is the combination of all of these capabilities that sets Siemens PLM Software’s synchronous technology apart from the competition. Synchronous technology will likely benefit users in the following areas:

  • Initial designs can be created quicker without having to concern yourself with pre-planning the design process for creating features
  • Design changes will likely be quicker because there is no history tree
  • No history tree will be handy capability in a multi-CAD environment
  • Without a history tree that can be restrictive, mechanical design might be easier to learn and better suited to “casual” users, as well as “full-timers.”

  • NX 6 continues to improve the user experience by providing users with greater flexibility through enhancements to its role-based user interface introduced in NX 5. The NX 6 user interface adds full screen mode for maximum graphics and customizable on-screen pop ups to speed interaction.

    NX is available in the following different groupings for different purposes, although obviously they can be mixed and matched:

  • Industrial design and styling (CAID)
  • Design (CAD)
  • Simulation (CAE)
  • Tooling (CAM)
  • Machining (NC)
  • Mechatronics
  • Engineering process management

  • While you can get into NX for less than $5,000, the price can tend to drive North in a hurry if you’re not careful. However, the initial price point puts it directly in line with others in the so-called mid-range, and the upper limit is not out of line with the so-called high-end (I’m not naming names, you know who’s who). The question I have as part of this is what becomes of Solid Edge? But that’s another story for another time . . . although from what I’ve seen and heard, the newest version Solid Edge is a good one.

    So, is synchronous technology the Holy Grail for 3D CAD systems? I don’t think I’d go that far, but synchronous technology looks very promising as a major development that should benefit users and change the MCAD landscape. I’ll be taking a comprehensive, hands-on look at NX 6 in the next couple of months and will report on what I encounter and experience.

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    -- Jeff Rowe, Contributing Editor.

    Review Article
    • October 09, 2008
      Reviewed by 'Paul Hamilton'
      One of the better commentaries on this topic. Thanks Jeffery
      Siemens has claimed to introduce the next breakthrough in 3D CAD with what they are calling “Synchronous Technology”. While I have yet to get my hands on it, all the demos that are out there look reasonable good, as any demo should. The use model looks nice and the graphical interaction and feedback appears to be very nice.
      On the contrary though, what Siemens has introduced, was in reality introduced 10 years ago when Hewlett Packard first imbedded the synchronous parametric solver from D-Cube into their product – SolidDesigner. Since then the product was moved out of HP into CoCreate, and is now a PTC product line. The product is now called PTC CoCreate Modeling. The D-Cube solver delivers synchronous solutions to geometrical relationships like dimensional parameters, coplanar faces, concentric faces, tangent faces, parallel faces, perpendicular faces, symmetry and coincidence. This capability allows an explicit – or “history-free” modeling system to apply needed relationships/parameters to 3D points, edges, faces, features, parts and assemblies on a b-rep solid model. The relationships are solved synchronously and simultaneously. It is a mature and robust technology. Certainly not a new breakthrough as described by Siemens.
      HP/CoCreate was the first to introduce history-free modeling in 1994 and the first to deploy a synchronous parametric solver in a production history-free 3D CAD system. It is nice to see followers like SpaceClaim and Siemens ST validate what CoCreate has been doing for years. There are many companies out there that have already been taking advantage of the power and flexibility of so called “synchronous technology”, for many years, with their use of CoCreate Modeling.
      Paul Hamilton

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