June 07, 2010
NX 7 Redefines Productivity and Product Development Support
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| by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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Siemens PLM Software, a business unit of the Siemens Industry Automation Division and a leading global provider of product lifecycle management (PLM) software and services, today announced the latest enhancements added to NX software, the company's integrated computer-aided design, manufacturing and engineering analysis (CAD/CAM/CAE) solution.
The latest enhancements to NX 7 include significant new functionality throughout all aspects of the software. In addition, NX, together with Teamcenter software, Siemens PLM Software's digital lifecycle management system, are the first products to support Siemens PLM Software's new High Definition PLM (HD-PLM) technology framework.
“Our new HD-PLM technology framework, delivers a visually intuitive environment in NX to enhance the decision making process throughout product development and create significant value for our customers and our industry,” said Joan Hirsch, vice president of Product Design Solutions, Siemens PLM Software. “The value of this release is further magnified not only by the strength of its many enhancements, but also for the balanced level of new functionality added throughout the software's various product design, analysis and part manufacturing modules, which can produce end user productivity gains of as much as 80 percent.”
High definition decision making in product development
With the launch of the high definition 3D (HD3D) environment announced last year and enhanced in the latest release of NX, Siemens PLM Software begins to execute on its vision to instill HD-PLM technology into all of its enterprise solutions. HD3D unites the powers of NX and Teamcenter under the HD-PLM technology framework to visually and intuitively deliver the information necessary to understand, collaborate, and make decisions in a globally distributed product development environment.
HD3D delivers on the four tenets of HD-PLM with a product development decision support and analytics solution that personalizes the user's experience by placing them in the proper context, assists proactively with task accomplishment to help make collaborative decisions, clarifies the user's experience by presenting information intuitively and validates user decisions against established rationale. An efficient alternative to navigating and processing lists of attribute data and manually correlating them to 3D product models, HD3D enables the user to visually comprehend PLM data with interactive navigation, and to drill down to details as needed. Viewing a product's 3D representation, users
can easily get into the right context to instantly answer questions about project status, design changes, team responsibilities, issues, problems, cost, suppliers and other attributes. Color-coding, on-screen tagging and legends enable fast visual assessment and interpretation of product development issues and decision criteria.
HD3D also works with NX validation checking tools, providing direct visual interaction that accelerates the validation of product designs against requirements. Visually rich feedback allows the user to monitor critical functional requirements throughout development, supporting rapid decision making with a high level of confidence to ensure and maximize product quality.
“Siemens PLM Software has shifted up a gear with this release and is extending the HD-PLM concept with integration of HD3D across a wider spread of its product range,” said Al Dean, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder, DEVELOP3D Magazine. “The ability to use NX and Teamcenter to visualize data often hidden inside a database in a graphically and contextually rich manner enables rapid assessment of a wide variety of product development issues and potential bottlenecks. That, in turn, allows everyone involved in the process to make informed decisions with a higher degree of confidence and much greater efficiency. This should result in a big productivity boost for their customers.”
Redefining product design productivity
In addition to its support of HD-PLM, NX 7 contains a wealth of new features and enhancements to redefine product development productivity. Enhancements to NX 7 within its tightly integrated CAD applications include rapid design tools such as streamlined sketch creation, extension of synchronous technology to transform freeform modeling and new DraftingPlus tools to dramatically enhance 2D design and drafting.
New rapid design tools accelerate 2D profile creation and positioning, automatically inferring constraints and modeling intent. As result, the time needed to create models from scratch can be reduced by up to 50 percent.
The integration of groundbreaking synchronous technology with NX freeform modeling dramatically alters the advanced shaping process by making it easy to work with any geometry, including imported models. Users can start with simple prismatic or analytic geometry and use advanced shaping tools to form complex organic models in significantly less time.
Additional extensions of synchronous technology offer enhancements to patterned features, assemblies, thin-walled geometry, blends, chamfers, and streamlined methods for geometry re-use.
NX DraftingPlus is a new set of design tools that further enhance the 2D functionality in NX and its integration with 3D models. A role-based interface puts the user in the right context for 2D design work, and robust functionality such as powerful curve creation and modification tools along with the ability to generate 3D geometry from 2D curves, eliminates steps and streamlines the product design process. NX DraftingPlus enables full, single-system integration of 2D and 3D design workflows, eliminating any need to use separate 2D CAD software.
Redefining product analysis and simulation productivity
The NX design and analysis environment has already been proven to dramatically reduce the amount of time engineers spend validating product performance as the design evolves. The latest release of NX delivers the largest number of enhancements ever made to its CAE functionality. These enhancements redefine CAE productivity by further improving integration with product design, extending NX CAE leadership in multi-physics solutions and launching new offerings that correlate digital simulation models with measured test data. As a result, engineers can make better decisions in less time to create superior products.
Integrated design and CAE productivity is further enhanced in NX 7 with new model preparation workflows that assist users working with complex geometry, meshing thin-walled parts, enhancing beam and bolt modeling, and much more. Many enhancements streamline the flow of data between design and analysis including significant improvements to laminate composite analysis workflows. Through its intuitive approach to the finite element modeling of assemblies, NX simplifies the way analysts work with large complex models and allows engineers to work with systems models that update as design fidelity increases.
NX CAE expands its outstanding integration with the broadest set of solver technologies by adding new integrated multi-physics solutions that include durability and motion analysis with flexible bodies, as well as more solutions for structural, thermal and flow analyses. Analyzing part flexibility in mechanisms is important because it can affect the geometry and lead to serious design issues. With NX 7, engineers can validate designs using higher fidelity models that combine elastic deformation and rigid body motion to evaluate the effect of component flexibility on mechanism performance and durability.
NX 7 introduces two new CAE products, NX Finite Element (FE) Model Correlation and NX FE Model Updating. These new offerings represent an analysis-oriented system, with an intuitive user interface that is tailored to the needs of the CAE analyst. They provide a complete, integrated system for modal analysis, pre-test planning, test-analysis correlation and model updating.
“When analysis results demand design changes, we can apply these efficiently using synchronous technology,” said Jerry Baffa, Project Engineer, Research Department, Damen Shipyards. “Re-meshing is effortless and results in very short design cycles.”
Redefining part manufacturing productivity
The combination of the integrated CAM and CMM capabilities in NX represent one of the world's most sophisticated software solutions for part manufacturing. NX 7 further redefines part manufacturing productivity with the introduction of two new applications that put the user in the context of a specific programming task, dramatically reducing the time needed to program complex turbo-machinery components, and maximizing the efficiency of offline coordinate measuring machine (CMM) programming.
NX Turbomachinery Milling accelerates the NC programming process for complex 5-axis multi-bladed rotational parts. This integrated NX CAM application for blisk and impeller machining offers a set of automated, context-specific functions that greatly simplify the task of creating the smart tool paths necessary for these complex parts. The new capability is supported by a wide range of existing functions in NX CAM such as machining simulation that is driven directly from the post processor output, helping to validate NC programming decisions. NX Turbomachinery Milling can help produce higher-quality results in half the time of ordinary milling software.
NX CMM Inspection Programming works in the context of a 3D solid model environment that includes the coordinate measuring machine and the part. Driven by automation, inspection features and probing paths are generated directly and automatically from the PMI (product and manufacturing information) data attached to the 3D design model, producing potential reductions in inspection programming time as high as 80 percent. This integrated application is complete with simulation and collision avoidance to help validate CMM programming decisions, and machine and probe library content to significantly improve CMM programming efficiency.
“NX Turbomachinery Milling offers a significant productivity advantage for the NC programmer with an application designed especially for blisk and impeller programming, while the highly automated NX CMM functionality makes inspection programming an integral part of the PLM process,” said Dr. Charles Clarke, noted CAD/CAM consultant and writer. “This latest release of NX takes Siemens PLM Software into a new level of part manufacturing productivity.”
For more information on NX 7, please visit
Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor
As a long-time member of the MCAD community, I have followed CAD developments (good and bad) over the years with a great degree of personal interest. In the early days, it seemed like just about every release of software contained a bunch of new features and capabilities - some useful and some not so useful. “Feature bloat” became a real problem with a lot of MCAD products at the expense of real utility and stability. Recently, however, most MCAD vendors have become more concerned with product quality and reliability than just continuing to pile on more “stuff,” that few customers understand or actually use.
In 2008 Siemens PLM Software announced not just a new feature or capability set, but a new CAD methodology that it claimed to be the biggest MCAD breakthrough in a decade called Synchronous Technology. At the time, the announcement was actually more speculative than a true demonstration, but nonetheless, from the beginning, the concept and its implications were pretty intriguing. Synchronous Technology that forms the basis for synchronous modeling were integrated into the then-newest versions of Siemens' MCAD products - NX 6 and Solid Edge ST. Using NX and Solid Edge as vehicles, Siemens PLM Software became the latest MCAD company to tout the advantages of non-history-based design
methods. However, NX had a notable difference with the way synchronous technology was implemented in what the company called Design Freedom. Also, NX differentiated itself with the fact that synchronous technology could be used in both history and history-free modes.
It wasn't all that long ago that NX's interface was known as being quite intimidating. However, with NX 5, a lot of that began changing as the UI became much more Windows-compliant, and, therefore, more user friendly. A big part of the movement toward ease of use were NX's “Roles” that let you customize and limit the UI by hiding tools that you are unlikely to use. This is especially important to new NX users, or so-called casual users who can use the default Essentials role. In this default role, the command buttons displayed both icons and the command name. If you wanted a more comprehensive set of tools, click the roles tab in the resource bar and select a more advanced role. It
you have used an earlier version of NX, you can reinstate your previous UI layout from the Last Release folder in the roles palette.
The UI, roles, and customization combined are what help give NX the ability to accommodate a wide variety of users and workflows.
Like virtually all MCAD packages, parts in NX usually begin with sketches as one of its several available design approaches. The sketcher is an NX tool for creating 2D geometry within a part, and each sketch is a named collection of 2D curves and points on a specified plane.
NX sketcher tools let you capture design intent through geometric and dimensional relationships, collectively referred to as constraints, to create parameter-driven designs that can be updated later. Sketcher continuously evaluates constraints to ensure that they are complete and do not conflict. Sketcher also lets you create as many, or as few, constraints as required.
You use NX's sketcher to freehand a sketch, and dimension an outline of curves. You can then transform the 2D sketch into 3D using tools such as Extrude or Revolved Body to create a solid or sheet body. You can later refine the sketch to precisely represent an object by editing the dimensions and by creating relationships between geometric entities. Editing a sketch dimension modifies the geometry of the sketch, as well as the body created from that sketch.
You can position a feature, such as a hole or groove, relative to the geometry on a model by using positioning dimensions. The feature is then associated with that geometry and will maintain those associations whenever you edit the model. You can also edit the position of the feature by changing the values of the positioning dimensions. If the model is edited later, the associated drawing and dimensions are updated automatically.
NX uses the concept of associativity to link separate pieces of information together that helps automate part design. Associativity is used to indicate geometric relationships between portions of a model. Associativity is used when creating geometry. For example, an object may be part of the model (in Modeling) or specifically linked to a single view (in Drafting). These relationships are established as you create a model. In an associative model, constraints and relationships are captured automatically as the model is developed. For example, in an associative model, a through hole is associated with the faces that the hole penetrates. If the model is later changed so that one or both of
those faces moves, the hole updates automatically because it is associated with the faces.
In NX all drafting objects are associative. Some drafting objects, like dimensions, are linked directly to geometry so that they automatically update when changes occur. Other drafting objects, such as notes, are associated to a position rather than specific geometry. Some drafting objects, such as labels, ID symbols, forms and positional tolerances, can be associated to either the geometry or to a position.
You can associate non-geometric information with objects and parts. You can also link attributes to objects in order to record special characteristics of the objects.
There are two types of attributes - system and user-defined. System attributes are recognized by the system and assigned by a user, such as when you assign a name to an object or a group to aid in the selection process, the system will recognize that name until you explicitly change it. User-defined attributes are those that you create, but have no meaning to the system. For example, you may associate attribute information to a group of geometric objects so they appear correctly in the bill of material for the product.
You can position a feature relative to the geometry on a model by using positioning dimensions. The feature is then associated with that geometry and will maintain those associations whenever you edit the model. You can also edit the position of the feature by changing the values of the positioning dimensions.
Other NX applications (such as CAM and CAE) can operate directly on solid objects created within Modeling without translating the solid body. For example, you can perform drafting, engineering analysis, and NC machining functions by accessing the appropriate application. You have to remember to save changes made to your layout before entering the Drafting application. If you do not save the changes, they are gone when you return to the Modeling application.
NX has two modeling modes - history and history-free - and you can take advantage of the benefits of each - sort of a best of both worlds sort of thing. The two modeling modes and the ability to switch between them are what set NX 6 apart and constitute Design Freedom, however, Synchronous Technology works in either of the modeling modes. Because you can use both modes in NX 6, you might find that the history-free mode is well-suited for the conceptual stage of a design and the history mode well-suited for the refinement stages of a design.
In history mode, you create and edit models using an ordered sequence of features that are displayed in the Part Navigator. This mode is most useful for parts that are highly engineered. It is also useful for parts that will be modified using predefined parameters based on the design intent built in to their sketches, features, and feature order used to model the parts.
In history-free mode, you create and edit models based on their current state without an ordered sequence of features - only local features without a sequential structure are created. Local features are unique because they are created and stored in history-free mode. Modifying a local feature affects only the local geometry without the need to update and replay a global feature tree. This is one of the primary reasons that local features can be edited much quicker than features in history mode.
In NX you can change the design mode between history and history-free, however, due to the differences between the two modes, data unique to each mode is removed when the mode is changed. For example, when changing from history mode to history-free mode history data is deleted, including feature data. Geometry remains in its current state but features are removed, similar to using the Remove Parameters command. However, features that are local features are retained, so features such as holes and blends remain as holes belnds, but become local features.
Specific synchronous modeling commands are used to modify a model, regardless of its origins, associativity, or feature history. A model can be imported from other CAD systems, neutral formats (IGES and STEP), non-associative, with no features, or it could be a native NX or Solid edge model with features. Synchronous modeling lets you use parametric features without the problems arising from feature history by working directly with a model that virtually eliminates time spent rebuilding or converting geometry. In short, if you have a parametric model that you want to edit quickly, use synchronous techniques in history mode.
In either history or history-free mode, you can select a complete set of features regardless of whether they are parametric features or order-independent local features created in history-free mode.
Synchronous modeling has been somewhat controversial since it was first announced and has endured considerable scrutiny by a broad spectrum of people. There is still no consensus on synchronous modeling, but everybody seems to have an opinion - some well-founded, some misleading. Its implementation and capabilities in NX have become more comprehensive over a relatively short period of time.
While synchronous technology has received a lot of attention, Siemens PLM Software, was hardly the first to promote the benefits and advantages of a non-history-based design approach with synchronous technology. Siemens joined the ranks of Kubotek, CoCreate, IronCAD, and SpaceClaim who had already embraced it. However, Siemens' take on the approach was quite different than the competition - it's a lot more than direct modeling, or more precisely, direct model editing.
Synchronous technology provides non-history based direct modeling capabilities, but 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 are quicker because there is no history tree
No history tree is a handy capability in a multi-CAD environment
Without a history tree that can be restrictive, mechanical design can be easier to learn and better suited to “casual” users, as well as “full-timers.”
For many MCAD packages, large assembly performance is what sets them apart from the competition. In previous NX releases, significant architectural enhancements were the basis for major improvements in large assembly modeling. To further improve assembly performance, Siemens JT data format was also integrated into NX. JT simplifies the pervasive multi-CAD environment that most manufacturers now deal with, as well as offering lightweight assembly design functions for faceted assembly representations that improve performance when precise solid geometry is not required, such as design reviews. To a large extent, it is the JT format that improves NX's large assembly capacity and
In NX, assembly part files point to geometry and features in the subordinate parts rather than creating duplicate copies of those objects at each level in the assembly. This technique not only minimizes the size of assembly parts files, but also provides high levels of associativity. This enables a user to modify the geometry of one component so that all assemblies that use that component to automatically reflect the change. These relationships not only affect assemblies, but also other associated objects, such as drawings, tool paths, and CAE meshes.
There are different approaches to assembly modeling and with NX you are not limited to any one method. You can create individual part models, and then add them to assemblies later (bottom-up), or you can create parts directly at the assembly level (top-down assembly creation). Additionally, you can start by using a top-down method, and then switch back and forth between bottom-up and top-down modeling, depending on your specific needs. It is this versatile approach that helps NX fit into a wide variety of workflows.
An assembly can contain a mixture of parts modeled with history or history-free mode. This is not actually new. Even prior to NX 6 this combination could be used. If you import a Parasolid .x_t (or other) part into a NX part file it has no history. This part can coexist in a NX assembly with native NX parts complete with features and history. Also, an assembly can contain a mix of parts and JT files, so if you are working with a supplier or OEM who provides only lightweight data for building an assembly, you can reference JT data and build models that are the correct size and shape.
Geometric changes made at any level within an assembly result in the update of associated data at all other levels of affected assemblies. An edit to an individual piece part causes all assembly drawings that use that part to also be updated. On the other hand, an edit made to a component in the context of an assembly results in the update of drawings and other associated objects (such as tool paths) within the component part.
By itself, NX has been a very capable MCAD application for a number of releases, and synchronous technology and modeling techniques make NX 7 another significant release. Out of the box, the core package is well-rounded and versatile, and there are a large number of optional modules available for handling virtually aspects of CAD, CAM, CAE, and PLM. NX 7 is one the most comprehensive packages out there, with “heavy duty” solvers and a user interface that continues to improve. The continuing improvement of synchronous modeling and the range of optional modules make NX 7 a good choice for complex mechanical and mechatronic design that you are unlikely to outgrow. As your designs mature
and evolve, NX will keep pace moving forward. NX is available in different groupings, such as CAD, CAM, CAE, etc. for different purposes, although obviously they can be mixed and matched as needs dictate.
So, is synchronous technology the Holy Grail for 3D CAD systems? I don't think I'd go quite that far, but synchronous technology continues to look very promising as an evolving development changing the MCAD landscape.
The Week's Top 5
At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.
Tech Soft 3D announced that it has signed an agreement (subject to certain closing conditions) with Adobe Systems to transition development and support of Adobe's 3D SDK and related technologies, and associated employees and resources to Tech Soft 3D. Consisting of a 3D CAD translation suite and PDF publishing SDK, the technology allows OEM development teams to create applications that access data from over 25 3D file formats, and publish rich 3D PDF files in the PRC and U3D formats. Adobe will continue to support viewing of and interaction with 3D data within its applicable products, including the free Adobe Reader. Moving forward, Tech Soft 3D will continue to make updated CAD translators
available as plug-ins to applicable Adobe software for reading and outputting 3D PDF. For easier application integration, Tech Soft 3D plans to immediately repackage the 3D SDK and PRC publisher into pure library form. Tech Soft 3D has been a key Adobe reseller to the engineering software community for the Adobe PDF Library SDK since 2005. In 2008, Tech Soft 3D was named a distributor of the Acrobat 3D SDK for OEM integration of Acrobat software's 3D capabilities into CAD/CAM/CAE software.
Dassault Systèmes announced Abaqus 6.10, a unified Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and multiphysics product suite for realistic simulation from SIMULIA. In response to expanding industry demand for realistic simulation, the new release delivers more than 100 customer-requested enhancements for modeling, performance, usability, visualization, multiphysics, and core mechanics. Abaqus 6.10 introduces a new multiphysics capability for performing Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulation. This enables users to perform coupled physics simulations with Abaqus/Standard and Abaqus/Explicit, such as fluid-structure interaction between human tissue, a medical device, and fluid flow; thermal
analysis of electronic systems undergoing convection cooling; or transient thermal analysis of engine exhaust systems. The release also provides an open multiphysics platform through improvements to its direct co-simulation coupling interface.
Lattice Technology announced XVL Kernel ver. 7.2 - the latest update to its core application that allows developers to create applications using XVL. XVL Kernel delivers access at the geometry level to harness the power of XVL in custom 3D applications, so that XVL data can be natively created within other software. XVL Kernel is used as part of integrated CAD, AEC, and custom applications requiring very compressed but very accurate 3D data.
The XVL format is the industry's most lightweight 3D format, with no loss of accuracy of the 3D data, enabling 3D CAD data to be rapidly and easily used for enterprise-wide 3D data use, downstream technical documentation, Electronic Parts Catalog (EPC) systems, and digital mock up.
The feature finder in Edgecam 2010 R2 has been enhanced to complement developments to angled head machining. It enables users to identify and machine hole features within components, providing greater flexibility in the way they manufacture their components. An additional enhancement to the feature finder operation offers complete manufacturing flexibility. It enables a user to choose whether they would like to rough and finish features individually or complete the roughing operation for all features and subsequently finish them. Edgecam's hole feature finder has also been enhanced, with the ability to define specific hole attributes that can be named and stored for later use. When combined
with Edgecam's knowledge based manufacturing solution, Strategy Manager, users can automatically apply specific manufacturing processes where the defined hole feature is present. Users can utilize the “feature teacher” to define features that can be machined with special purpose tools or where there is a common hole feature that is typically used across a number of components. Whatever the hole feature, this new enhancement provides significant improvement to hole machining productivity.
CD-adapco's simulation tool, STAR-CCM+, now has a direct link to Abaqus FEA, delivering fully coupled, two-way, fluid-structure interaction. Using direct co-simulation coupling provides efficiency and reduced overhead associated with things such as data transfer through file exchanges or use of external middleware software. This will make coupled fluid-structure-thermal calculations a regular part of the engineering design process. CD-adapco's partnership with SIMULIA also means that setting up and running the problem may all be done within the STAR-CCM+ environment, with no need for writing scripts and input files or mapping data. The physics of both codes may be leveraged in coupled FSI
with STAR-CCM+'s available models, providing the ability to study coupled, single and multiphase flows, chemical reaction and combustion as well as flow regimes from low speed to hypersonic. The options available in Abaqus are similarly broad, with coupled simulation supported for static stress/displacement, dynamics (implicit and explicit), heat transfer, temperature-displacement, thermal-electrical and piezoelectric analysis.
Jeffrey Rowe is the editor of
MCADCafé and MCAD Weekly Review. He can be reached at
Email Contact or 408.850.9230.
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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.