Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology – Part 3

In Part 2 I discussed the Solid Edge ST steering wheel, a smart tool that adapts to the geometry it is attached to. In this article I will be discussing a concept called “Live Rules”. To put it simply, live rules is a set of instructions that the user passes on to the steering wheel. The steering wheel decides the direction in which the faces should move/rotate. The live rules simply decide which faces should take part in the operation.

In the figure below I intend to move the hole further away from the center of the handle. The most obvious thing to do it select the hole (highlighted in orange) and pull it along the Y axis. This is what would happen in other solid modeling applications.

The hole moves all right, but the rest of the model stays put. Not what I had in mind. But if I do the same thing in Solid Edge ST, the hole moves and the rest of the model adjusts accordingly. Exactly what I had in mind.

This happens because of live rules. So now you must be thinking, “Wow! This live rules thing must be really smart.” I got news for you. Live rules is the dumbest part of Synchronous Technology.

Please allow me to explain. First I need to show you the live rules window in Solid Edge ST. This is what it looks like.

This window pops up everytime you select a face. It is basically a extended face selection utility. A tool to select faces other than those you have already manually selected with the mouse. When I was moving the hole, the “Concentric” live rule was checked. That is why the outer cylindrical face of the hole (which happens to be concentric to the cylindrical face that I picked) was added to the selection and both faces were moved together. The other live rules kicked in to maintain tangency. Which means that if I had unchecked the “Concentric” live rule and then moved the hole, the rest of the model would stay put and give me the same undesired result as the first figure above. And this is exactly how other solid modeling programs work. To move the hole I would need to select the hole as well as the outer cylindrical face and pull them both to get the desired effect.

So why am I calling the live rules in Synchronous Technology dumb? Well, because they are not set automatically every time you select a face. The live rules window simply pops up with the settings you last used. And this is the fundamental difference between Solid Edge ST and other solid modeling programs. The developers of these programs have tried to make the software smart enough to guess what the user intends to do and set up similar rules internally. In effect they make the software think for the user, and not surprisingly, often get it wrong. In Solid Edge ST, the user thinks for the software. He sets up the rules and the software simply follows instructions. If the result of the operation is undesirable, then the user has himself to blame and not the software. Using this approach the user will always get a desirable result because he is the brain behind the operation and not some artificial intelligence coded into a complex face selection algorithm trying to read the user’s mind.

As you can see, in both programs the same thing happens – two concentric faces are moved. The only difference is that in the solid modeling program the user has to manually select both faces, and in Solid Edge ST the user selects only one face and leaves instructions for the software to select the second. Basically Siemens has simply put the intelligence back where it belongs, in the human. Just that they have made it easier for him to use it.

They way Siemens has packaged this live rules thing into Synchronous Technology is brilliant. I salute the person who came up with it. When I model a part in Solid Edge ST everything happens exactly how I had planned. I have to remind myself that it is because my brain is driving the modeling operations. The software is simply following my instructions. The modeling process is so smooth that one can easily lose sight of that simple but profound fact.

Suggestion
Making a user set live rules is a good thing but I think Siemens can lend a helping hand here. I suggest that when I select a face, it would help if there is some visual feedback that shows me which other faces will be party to the operation due to the live rules that have kicked in. These faces could be given a glow or something that makes them look different from the rest of the model. This will save the user a lot of undo operations. When I select a face I find myself doing some mental calculations to figure out which other faces are going to join the party. While this may be quick and easy for small models, things can get complicated for complex models where the probability of gate crashers can increase. Sometimes I skip the mental calculations and go ahead and move/rotate the face and then find myself looking around to see of anything else is moving. This is a major distraction and takes away the joy of working with this technolgy.

Another Suggestion
When working with large models you often need to zoom into a particular section to interact more closely with that part of the model. It may so happen that a live rule that you set up may end up selecting a face which is out of view and out of your intented plan as well. For example, take the “Coplanar” live rule which automatically selects faces that lie in the same plane as the face you selected. You may want to move just the face you selected, but may end up moving another face that is out of view and that is coincidently coplanar with the face you selected. I suggest that in such cases, a visual feedback warning the user of something happenning out of the current view would be helpful. May be a thin band touching the side of the window most closest to the face which is out of view.

In the next part I will discuss 3D dimensions. This will address the issue of “design intent” that skeptics of direct modeling software have been talking about.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds interesting, but how is this any more advanced/easier-to-use than Spaceclaim’s approach? Further, how is the steering wheel different in utility from Spaceclaim’s gadget? It seems to many of us like Siemens is trying to take credit for a lot of work that came before it…

  • Anonymous

    Sounds interesting, but how is this any more advanced/easier-to-use than Spaceclaim’s approach? Further, how is the steering wheel different in utility from Spaceclaim’s gadget? It seems to many of us like Siemens is trying to take credit for a lot of work that came before it…

  • Deelip Menezes

    Live Rules is very close to SpaceClaim’s selection/search tool, maybe just a bit more user friendly. Same for the steering wheel. Siemens is following the same path as SpaceClaim. However there is a fork in the road, where Siemens adds driving dimensions and parametrics. That is what makes it Synchronous Technology different. I intend to cover driving dimensions in the next part of this series.

  • Deelip Menezes

    Live Rules is very close to SpaceClaim’s selection/search tool, maybe just a bit more user friendly. Same for the steering wheel. Siemens is following the same path as SpaceClaim. However there is a fork in the road, where Siemens adds driving dimensions and parametrics. That is what makes it Synchronous Technology different. I intend to cover driving dimensions in the next part of this series.

  • Dan Staples

    Another great article, Deelip. Appreciate your specific suggestions on user feedback, which we will consider. However, note that we do have feedback today as a result of beta testing insights some months back.

    a. When you make a change, we highlight in the Live Rules pane which geometric relationships are actually FOUND (not just turned on, but found for the particular edit being undertaken). We bold these in blue. See the first picture in Marks blog for an example. In that example, you can see that coplanar, concentric, and tangent were found but symmetry was not, for whatever edit was being attempted. http://siemens.pmhclients.com/index.php/site/solid-edge-live-rules/
    We put this change in in mid-May as I recall and have found it VERY helpful, particularly when working with models which are unfamiliar to you.

    b. In the status field at the bottom of the screen, we put a message “XX elements adjusted” so that you can understand exactly how much change is occuring. We’ve found this to be valuable too, but perhaps a bit less than the bolding — but nonetheless helpful.

    Yes, both these methods are somewhat subtle, but that was our choice — we did not feel we needed to whack the user with it — just let him observe the information if it is of interest for a particular edit.

  • Dan Staples

    Another great article, Deelip. Appreciate your specific suggestions on user feedback, which we will consider. However, note that we do have feedback today as a result of beta testing insights some months back. a. When you make a change, we highlight in the Live Rules pane which geometric relationships are actually FOUND (not just turned on, but found for the particular edit being undertaken). We bold these in blue. See the first picture in Marks blog for an example. In that example, you can see that coplanar, concentric, and tangent were found but symmetry was not, for whatever edit was being attempted. http://siemens.pmhclients.com/index.php/site/solid-edge-live-rules/We put this change in in mid-May as I recall and have found it VERY helpful, particularly when working with models which are unfamiliar to you.b. In the status field at the bottom of the screen, we put a message “XX elements adjusted” so that you can understand exactly how much change is occuring. We’ve found this to be valuable too, but perhaps a bit less than the bolding — but nonetheless helpful. Yes, both these methods are somewhat subtle, but that was our choice — we did not feel we needed to whack the user with it — just let him observe the information if it is of interest for a particular edit.

  • Deelip Menezes

    Dan,

    Thanks for stopping by. Yes, I did notice the boldening of the live rules that kick in, but I would prefer to keep my eyes in the drawing view and not have to look back and forth to the Live Rules window. Neverthless, the feedback that currently exist gives me no idea about which faces will be party to the operation.

    It is important to note the flow here. As a designer I first look at the faces and decide which rules to set. At that point in time I don’t know whether all the faces that I have in mind will be affected by my settings. I need to actual drag the steering wheel to get visual feedback whether my selection of rules was correct. And by the time I realize that a face missed the bus I am already in the middle of the operation and would have to cancel or undo. Telling me which rules are kicking in is only reinforcing what I already know and instructed the software to do. It does not help me decide which rules to set, which is key to get maximum benefit from this technology.

    I hope you are able to see my point and incorporate this in the first version itself. I’m sure this will be very helpful, especially in the learning and training stages. You can always have it as an option and let the user turn it off if he so desires.

    You have something good going on there and I wish to see it succeed.

  • Deelip Menezes

    Dan,Thanks for stopping by. Yes, I did notice the boldening of the live rules that kick in, but I would prefer to keep my eyes in the drawing view and not have to look back and forth to the Live Rules window. Neverthless, the feedback that currently exist gives me no idea about which faces will be party to the operation.It is important to note the flow here. As a designer I first look at the faces and decide which rules to set. At that point in time I don’t know whether all the faces that I have in mind will be affected by my settings. I need to actual drag the steering wheel to get visual feedback whether my selection of rules was correct. And by the time I realize that a face missed the bus I am already in the middle of the operation and would have to cancel or undo. Telling me which rules are kicking in is only reinforcing what I already know and instructed the software to do. It does not help me decide which rules to set, which is key to get maximum benefit from this technology.I hope you are able to see my point and incorporate this in the first version itself. I’m sure this will be very helpful, especially in the learning and training stages. You can always have it as an option and let the user turn it off if he so desires.You have something good going on there and I wish to see it succeed.

  • Jon Banquer

    “but I would prefer to keep my eyes in the drawing view and not have to look back and forth to the Live Rules window.

    Agree, very strongly.

    “I need to actual drag the steering wheel to get visual feedback whether my selection of rules was correct. And by the time I realize that a face missed the bus I am already in the middle of the operation and would have to cancel or undo.”

    This should be fixed ASAP.

    Jon Banquer
    San Diego, CA

  • Jon Banquer

    “but I would prefer to keep my eyes in the drawing view and not have to look back and forth to the Live Rules window.Agree, very strongly. “I need to actual drag the steering wheel to get visual feedback whether my selection of rules was correct. And by the time I realize that a face missed the bus I am already in the middle of the operation and would have to cancel or undo.” This should be fixed ASAP. Jon BanquerSan Diego, CA

  • Anonymous

    I must to correct you, Deelip. Live Rules is different to SpaceClaim’s selection/search tool. Live Rules does not add related entities to the select set, instead, the geometrical relationships found by Live Rules are added to the “solve set” and SE performs an evalution.

    Trying to check out a symmetry relation can help you to find the difference.

    The select tool in SE/ST is called Selection Manager, which can be accessed by click the “Green Dot” on the selected face.

  • Anonymous

    I must to correct you, Deelip. Live Rules is different to SpaceClaim’s selection/search tool. Live Rules does not add related entities to the select set, instead, the geometrical relationships found by Live Rules are added to the “solve set” and SE performs an evalution.Trying to check out a symmetry relation can help you to find the difference.The select tool in SE/ST is called Selection Manager, which can be accessed by click the “Green Dot” on the selected face.

  • Anonymous

    People may say that SpaceClaim was the first to release these features but it is possible that UGS was working on this before SpaceClaim since it seems to be more mature approach to history free modeling.

  • Anonymous

    People may say that SpaceClaim was the first to release these features but it is possible that UGS was working on this before SpaceClaim since it seems to be more mature approach to history free modeling.

  • Deelip Menezes

    Anynomous, I see the difference, which is believe is cosmetic. Internally, both Solid Edge ST and SpaceClaim have to use a similar solver to decide which faces should be extended and which should be trimmed.

  • Deelip Menezes

    Anynomous, I see the difference, which is believe is cosmetic. Internally, both Solid Edge ST and SpaceClaim have to use a similar solver to decide which faces should be extended and which should be trimmed.

  • Anonymous

    Hello. About ST live rules, it seems to me that there exists some “advanced” panel displaying geometries (planes, cylinders…) and constraints (parallel, distance, coaxial…) in a tree. What is your opinion ? Although this is not a “feature tree”, it looks really complicated.
    Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    Hello. About ST live rules, it seems to me that there exists some “advanced” panel displaying geometries (planes, cylinders…) and constraints (parallel, distance, coaxial…) in a tree. What is your opinion ? Although this is not a “feature tree”, it looks really complicated.Thanks.

  • Deelip Menezes

    The “Advanced” options that you are talking about is to be used when the normal live rules will not work for you. Suppose you do not want a particular coplanar face to be ignored in the operation, you can set it up there.

    It may look a bit scary at first but it’s not all that difficult to use.

  • Deelip Menezes

    The “Advanced” options that you are talking about is to be used when the normal live rules will not work for you. Suppose you do not want a particular coplanar face to be ignored in the operation, you can set it up there.It may look a bit scary at first but it’s not all that difficult to use.