Sheet Metal: Edge v Works

Again, here are the disclaimers. This is a comparison primarily to familiarize SolidWorks users with Solid Edge sheet metal. I am not a sheet metal genius. I’m certified in SW sheet metal, but that just means I can run the software. I don’t use the SW sheet metal tools that often, and rarely design real parts for the process. I’m not a Solid Edge whiz, but I’m learning.  TheSolid Edge software was provided for me so I could write some blog articles. I’m not being paid by either company. This brief comparison is very far from comprehensive, I’m just hitting what look to me to be the highlights. Solid Edge people (employees and users) are answering my questions when I have them.

Solid Edge has a different kind of file for sheet metal. Regular Solid Edge parts have the *.par extension, while Solid Edge sheet metal parts have the *.psm extension. All of SolidWorksparts are *.sldprt, but inside the parts, special features distinguish SolidWorks sheet metal from regular parts. Solid Edge also has a different extension for weldment parts (*.pwd), andSolidWorks again, has a set of features that distinguish weldmen parts.

While SolidWorks allows you to do things in just about any order (sketch> feature, feature>sketch), Solid Edge (ordered mode) has a more regimented way of doing things. You select a feature, then you sketch it, then you set the options… essentially you work through the steps in the Quick Bar.

For example, working in ordered mode, in a sheet metal part, let’s say I want to make a flange from an existing part. I click the Flange button, and then I can choose from the options highlighted in orange on the Quick Bar. One option is to select anedge to pull a flange off of. Or, I could click on one of the three bend location options on the right. Another thing I like is that down at the bottom, if I’m really just lost about what to do next, there is a Prompt Bar that tells me what Solid Edge is asking for. Once you learn to read the interface, you gain more confidence in the software because it’s kind of stepping you through how to do what you want to do. Yes, SolidWorksis more flexible. But for a new user, that flexibility might be confusing because you do something one way one time and a different way another time.

When you are working in Synchronous mode, I think it’s even better. The software just seems to know what you want to do based on what you select. In Synchronous mode, the RMB is the OK button. This is applied sporadically in SW, but I think it is one of the small interfaceelements that you can use that really does keep the workflow rolling. In Synchronous you can see a transparent flat pattern just by mousing over an entry in the tree. Simple stuff like that really saves time.

Here is the toolbar with all of the stuff on it for synchronous sheet metal:

Flange: Like the Edge Flange in SW. Flange is only used in Ordered mode because in Synchronous, it is the default functionality when you select an edge. Very intuitive.

Contour Flange: like the SW Base Flange

Hem: Like SW Hem, except SE has a couple of extra options like S-Flange and Curl

Dimple/Louver/Drawn Cut: SolidWorks does these through forming tools. In SE you sketch a shape, set the options, and it’s done.

Bead: SolidWorks can only do this through a custom forming tool. This is like a swept groove stamped into the sheet metal face. You just sketch the sweep path for the bead to follow. WAAAAY better than a custom forming tool.

Gusset: SolidWorks has in the past said that this is not possible in SolidWorks. I know it can be done, but it takes a very tricky custom forming tool. In SE, you just pick a bend to place it on, select a shape, set some dimensions, and you’re done.

Etch: Like a projected curve in SW (they even display through the solid the way they do in SW)

And the rest are like their equivalents in SW.

I have to say avoiding custom forming tools is a huge advantage in SE. These common forms that SE has programmed right in work nicely, and have usable options.

I only had one problem with the Synchronous side of things in sheet metal. That was when I made a sketched bend at a corner and then tried to edit the dog ear with Synchronous tools. I got a nasty point that flattens out, but isn’t at all what I would have intended. You can see the corner on the right is not right. I have a feeling that this was operator error, because I deselected a Live Rule (keep perpendicular) to do this. What I intended to change was the original 90 degree angle of the dog ear to the face of the part, but I didn’t realize I was also changing the perpendicular corner of the sheet metal itself. So, it looks like there would be a little learning curve on controlling Live Rules.

I guess you don’t just teach yourself the finer points of powerful tools in a few minutes.

A couple of things I’m missing here are SE sheet metal feature patterns, cross break, miter flange, library features and lofted bend. If a Solid Edge sheet metal user would like to point some of these out to me that would be great.

I’m not even getting into the drawings aspect of this right now. I’ve got actual work to do, and can’t spend all day having fun. Actually, this was written late at night, the only time left for fun these days. (yes, that’s a good thing)

Assuming that these details that I have missed are there in Solid Edge, SE appears to have a decided advantage over SW in sheet metal in the types of features available and the ease with which you can add stuff in synchronous mode. I never would have expected that adding geometry would be easier in synchronous mode – I would have thought that its main advantage was in editing.  Synchronous sheet metal looks very nice to me, and I’ve always been a big fan of SW sheet metal.

Here is the Frankenbox I made while working through some of these features in Synchronous sheet metal. It also shows the SE feature tree (Pathfinder). While building sheet metal parts in synchronous is more intutive, I have to say that editing them in ordered is still more comfortable. Maybe as I get more practice with the Live Rules for sheet metal parts, it will start to come more naturally.

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