3DSync, based on Siemens’ synchronous technology, is touted to increase one’s productivity while working with imported data by a factor of ten. Basically, they’ve spun off a bit of their synchronous technology that they’ve had since 2008 and made it available to the CAD masses for US$1995.
It would appear that Siemens believes 3DSync has cross-platform functionality allowing other CAD software users to bring in non-native models via 3DSync which, in turn, will lessen model rework time. According to Siemens, 3DSync’s target market is ‘Any non-Solid Edge customer that has a regular need to redesign/edit nonnative CAD models. We do realize that other products have direct editing capabilities. Solid Edge introduced these same capabilities many years ago in our traditional ordered modeling environment. However, we feel strongly that Synchronous Technology far exceeds the basic technology previously available.’
This is all fine and well but, if you’re not a Solid Edge user, once you’re done doing whatever editing it is you need to do, you still end up with a non-native file that you have to import into your native CAD system. As I discovered soon enough, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
When I started playing with 3DSync, I tried to forget that I’ve been using other systems for the past 14 years as I wanted to give 3DSync a fair shake. I perused the help section and looked at some of the videos available on Siemens’ website. If you have experience in other systems (which is likely as a D3D reader), there are things that you take for granted, there’s muscle-memory, certain actions that follow/lead into others and 3DSync doesn’t do those things the same way. Couple that with different terminology, and I found myself floundering a little bit.
I feel like I did when I first started using SolidWorks all those years ago: awestruck by this totally cool toy that I haven’t figured out how to play with yet. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to become as familiar with 3DSync. However, that shall not prevent me from doing my utmost to provide you with an unbiased opinion of 3DSync and its capabilities.
I began to wonder what the upside of 3DSync is versus the import/edit abilities of the system I’m most used to (SolidWorks). I wanted to know if Siemens’ $2,000 price tag was worth it. To that end, I used a simple bearing rest.
Data import: Using a history based system
To conduct an experiment I first opened the part data in SolidWorks. After asking me which template was to be applied, the system asked me if I wished to run ‘Import Diagnostics’. Nothing out of the ordinary there, however, upon clicking ‘Yes’, I was confronted with a faulty face. I didn’t know why it was faulty, it looked perfectly fine to me. The ‘Heal All’ option did the trick and I was on to the next dialog box: Do you want to proceed with feature recognition? Why yes, I do.
At this point, SolidWorks sprinkles some magic fairy dust and determines the various features that make up the model. It then recreates the model as a separate part. So, instead of just having ‘Imported1’ in the Feature Manager, you end up with a fully featured part ready for editing. If your plan is to just add or subtract material from the original imported part, there’s no need to go through the two previous steps. You can add or subtract material to the imported part as it comes in, you just won’t be able to edit the existing geometry.
Data import: using 3DSync
With 3DSync, you just open the part rather than ‘import’ it. While you are prompted to select a template, that’s the only “extra” step you need. From this point, you can start pushing and pulling faces or making whatever edits you want.
Because 3DSync checks for symmetry about the base model’s planes, you’ll see faces moving in unison if they’re detected as symmetrical. This works best when the model’s origin lines up with 3DSync’s origin. If not, it’s a few simple clicks of the mouse to get the model into a more acceptable orientation and you’re off and running. 3DSync doesn’t provide you with any high-end tools, just simple mechanical CAD tools: extrudes, cuts, holes, etc. No drawings or surfacing or anything.
So what can you do?
It’s 3DSync’s ability to recognize design intent that sets it apart. As I played with it, I came to realize just how much more powerful it was, how much more streamlined. Granted, I can only compare it with my experience using SolidWorks, so that’s a rather small data-set, but you get my point. By being able to recognize design intent automatically, it means you don’t have to be as conscious of it as you’re making edits. It takes away the need to remember to make sure you’ve updated both sides, or both holes, or both thinga-ma-jigs. It should be noted, too, that you can also edit multiple faces at once by using box select, speeding things up even more. But what if part of what you want to change is the very symmetry built into the part? Not to worry, simply turn off the ‘Live Rules’ and move features to your heart’s content.
Then there’s 3DSync’s ability to rotate features, faces or whole pieces of geometry. As I played and learned, I became more impressed. I began to see, too, the potential power of non-history based modeling. One doesn’t have to be as concerned with changing a feature created at the beginning of the design process as you would in a history-based model. This allows for quicker edits, and you can easily see, as you’re dragging things around, what’s going to happen. Honestly, there’s a whole other article on my thoughts regarding non-history versus history based modeling, so let me leave it at this: there are definitely pro’s to non-history based modeling in general, and 3DSync specifically.
The biggest flaw I see is, as mentioned earlier, you still need to still import a non-native file into your CAD system. But, how big is that flaw in reality? If your CAD system is incapable of editing imported data, it’s not a flaw at all; it’s a gift from the CAD gods. If it is capable, how capable is it? How much time will you save being able to use 3DSync’s ability to recognize inherent design intent? How much editing will you have to do in your software to reach your end goal?
Frankly, I think Siemens may be on to something here. I was initially incredulous, knowing full well the power of a history-based system’s capabilities when importing non-native files. It’s the editing aspect that is swaying me. With all the steps you have to do before you can start editing, then going in and editing sketches or features while having to remember to update any symmetric geometry, larger companies could justify the cost of a seat or two of 3DSync to complement their existing CAD system. Being able to import a fully edited file would certainly save hassle, time and as ever, that has a financial value in these harsh economic times.