Design and Manufacturing solutions through Digital Prototyping and Interoperability

Author Archives: Scott Wertel

Solid Edge ST9 Built-in Data Management, Pt 2 – Fast Search Index

Now that your data has been cleaned up and organized, you should already be noticing an improvement in your processes.  Even without implementing the data management tools, having improved data integrity from:

  • Consistent file naming,
  • No duplicate files,
  • Easier to find needed files,
  • Fewer broken links,
  • Ability to monitor file I/O performance,
  • Possibly tweak and improve file access,

should be realizing returns due to less time spent searching for the right document.  Process improvement is the critical first step. Now that the processes are in place and working, we can start setting up the built-in data management tools in order to automate some of the steps and realize greater efficiencies in the process.

A Quick Clarification

This article focuses on the server settings. In this case, “server” is defined as the location where you created your top-level folder to store your CAD files, your “CAD_Vault.” These settings must be set on the machine that contains the files, whether it be your local drive or a network file server.

To reiterate, the reason these data management tools are referred to as built-in is because there is no additional software to install. These settings take advantage of standard Windows and Solid Edge abilities. All you must do is turn them on and get them working together, which is what this series of articles is about.  So let’s get back to it.

Windows Search Index

Have you ever searched a directory structure for a specific file, and waited and waited as that progress bar on the top of Windows Explorer slowly filled to the right?  Did you ever notice the hint from Windows that told you to include that directory into the index for faster searching?

  • From the Windows Taskbar, click the search icon and type Services.
  • Click the Services app to start it.
  • Scroll down and look for the service called Windows Search.
  • Make sure it is running and that it is set to automatically start.
Make sure Windows Search is Running and Automatically Starts on the file server.
Make sure Windows Search is Running and Automatically Starts on the file server.

The next step is to make sure the actual top-level folder that contains your CAD library is getting indexed.

  • Right-click on the top-level folder and select Properties.
  • On the General Tab, click Advanced.
  • Make sure the “Allow files in this folder to have contents indexed in addition to the file properties” option is checked.
  • If prompted, apply to all the subfolders. Depending on how the folder hierarchy was created, you may need to manually verify every folder.
Allow complete content indexing on all folders and subfolders in your CAD library.
Allow complete content indexing on all folders and subfolders in your CAD library.

Fast Search

If Solid Edge is installed on the same machine as your CAD library, indexing can be configured via Solid Edge Options.  If your CAD library is on a network file server, then the Fast Search utility must be installed onto the server.

Install the Fast Search utility on the network file server, unless Solid Edge is already installed.
Install the Fast Search utility on the network file server, unless Solid Edge is already installed.

Since I’m using my local machine, I will use the Solid Edge Options to Configure Fast Search.

With Solid Edge running,

  • Select Settings then Options

The Fast Property Search tab is the top-most tab.

  • Click on Set Locations…

If the buttons are greyed out, check the box for Solid Edge File Locations (I am just starting…).

From the Solid Edge Options dialog, the Set Locations... button will take you to Windows Indexing Options.
From the Solid Edge Options dialog, the Set Locations… button will take you to Windows Indexing Options.

By clicking on Set Locations…, the Windows Indexing Options dialog appears.  This is the same dialog used by Windows.  For example, in the taskbar search for Index and you’ll see Indexing Options from the Control Panel available.  It brings up the same dialog.

Windows Indexing Options. Shown here are some default locations already added by Windows.
Windows Indexing Options. Shown here are some default locations already added by Windows.

Most likely, there are some locations already added to the index.  Now would be a good time to clean up any extraneous locations.

  • Click Modify.

In the upper pane of the Indexed Locations dialog, browse to the location of your CAD library. Remember, this setup is run on the computer that stores the CAD library, not a client machine. The CAD library should be on a local drive.

Select the CAD library top-level folder and all its subfolders for indexing.
Select the CAD library top-level folder and all its subfolders for indexing.

Back at the Indexing Options dialog,

  • Click Advanced

Then click to Rebuild the index.  You can hold off on this step if you plan on adding custom properties to the index.  Also, rebuilding an index can take a long time depending on the number of files and the speed of the disk.  For examples, SSDs are much faster at indexing that hard disk drives.

The Advanced Options for indexing is where you can go to rebuild the index with the new location.
The Advanced Options for indexing is where you can go to rebuild the index with the new location.

Alternatively, you can click on the Index My Files button in the Fast Search Configurator (Solid Edge Options).  This also forces a rebuild on the index.

Summing it up.

So far, all we have done is to make sure Windows indexes the CAD library. Even without Solid Edge, or the Fast Search Utility, installed, any user could have created this index with the standard Windows tools.  As a matter of fact, that’s all that was done using Solid Edge.  The one difference though, is that the Solid Edge file types have been added to the index.  You can verify this in the Advanced dialog, under the File Types tab, and scrolling for .par, .asm, .psm, and .dft.

But since the indexing, to this point, is only the standard Windows index, only the standard Windows content is indexed, such as Title, Subject, Author, and other File Properties and any text that the index can “read” as it parses the file.  But what about all your custom properties: material, gage thickness, and the like?  I’ll go over those in the next post.

Solid Edge ST9 Built-in Data Management, Pt 1 – Folders & Files

During Solid Edge University 2016, I spent the morning prior to the official start of the event sitting in the workshops on data management. One session that intrigued me most was the new built-in data management tools available with ST9. The reason for my interest is simple, and was even stated during Greg Baldwin’s presentation – if you do 3D modeling, you do data management.

Yet, nearly 60% of the Solid Edge customer base doesn’t have a dedicated data management system in use, based on information presented in the workshops.  Why not?

  • Cost prohibitive
  • Difficulty to deploy
  • Insufficient IT resources to manage and maintain
  • Training
  • Integrations with other systems
  • Coordinated rollouts & upgrades – integration compatibility

If you do 3D modeling,
you do data management.


The good news is, wherever you store your Solid Edge files now, you have everything you need to take advantage of the built-in data management tools available with Solid Edge ST9.  But, there are a few settings that need to be configured to make it work optimally.

Set up the Vault

Whether on your local drive or a network share, your Solid Edge files are stored in a folder structure somewhere. If you are the only user, then keeping the files on the local drive is fine.  But, for any workgroups of two or more, the files should be stored on a network share, preferably a dedicated file server.  While shared folders will work, the performance will be less than optimal to downright frustrating. Since I’m using myself as the example for this article, I will be setting up my vault on my local folder, but the process is the same on a file server.


Your existing structure still works, but add the life cycle stage as the second level structure.


cad-vault
An example folder structure to store CAD files.

First Level Folder

The first level of your CAD file storage should be a single folder. In my example, I named it “CAD_Vault”. While there are many ways to organize your CAD files: by filetype, by project, by client, or by phase in the development-to-production process, all the files must be located within a single top-level folder within the drive.

Second Level Folders

The second level of your folder hierarchy must be the life cycle stage of the file. Even if you don’t have a formal release process, pretend that you do and name the second level folders based on the release stage.  In my example, I named the folders after the stages on the Status tab of the Solid Edge File Properties: Inwork, InReview, Released, Baselined, and Archive (for the Obsolete status).  Although the built-in data management tools don’t utilize all of these life cycle stages currently, it may in the future and there are other benefits in having the structure defined.

Subsequent Level Folders

The third and subsequent levels of your folder hierarchy can be anything you want, including the existing structure that you have now.  Just be aware that the folder structure is going to be repeated identically below each lifecycle stage folder, as shown with the InWork and Released subfolders.

File Naming

Hopefully you already have a part numbering system for your company.  If you don’t, you probably have more “brackets” in your CAD library than you have products to put them in. If you don’t have a part numbering convention yet, this may be the most painful part of the setup (see footnote).

File naming cleanup, also known as data prep, can be a time-consuming venture. But, it also pays dividends, not only with being able to effectively utilize the built-in data management tools, but also because the data organization will help streamline your design process.  For Solid Edge, the best file naming convention consists of three parts: the unique base number (which may or may not include a configuration number), the deliminator, and the revision.

12345-1^A.par 

12345^A.dft 

The number is the unique identification that is defined by your part numbering system. The deliminator is a single character that separates the number from the revision.  The revision is the last set of characters after the deliminator before the file extension.  By default, Solid Edge sets the deliminator as a dash (-) but I like to use the caret (^).  Be warned, if in the future you want to use an Oracle database, you may have issues with the caret.  I avoid the dash and underscore simply because those characters are often used elsewhere in the filename.

Organize Your Data

That’s the first step in setting up the built-in data management tools, and likely will be the most labor intensive step as well, depending on how clean your data is.

Use Revision Manager (pre-ST9) or Design Manager (ST9) to move and rename files.  I will hint that you can use Windows Explorer to move files if there are no duplicate filenames and the filename doesn’t change.  When combined with the Link Management file and the Open/Save batch file, you can quickly move a lot of files and resolve broken links quickly.

Also, even if you aren’t using Insight, Insight SP, or Teamcenter, the data preparation tools that come with Solid Edge can still be used to prepare your files for built-in data management.

So get to work cleaning up your cad library and stay tune for the next part of the built-in data management series.


Footnote: 
I am certified in Configuration Management. If you need help developing and implementing a data management plan, contact the Services Group at www.icmhq.com and mention my name.  

My First Solid Edge University (as a user)

Two weeks ago today I was sitting in a conference room at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis, IN enjoying the add-on workshops for my very first Solid Edge University as a paid user.

Solid Edge University 2016

While not my first Solid Edge University (SEU), I often wear many hats and attending as a user with no other responsibilities other than to meet other users, attend presentations, and learn as much as I possibly could was certainly a nice change.   Of course, even if I was not officially representing media/press at this event, I can’t help stop myself from writing about it.  Why am I waiting two weeks?  Because I wanted to include the link to the presentations for those who couldn’t make SEU, and those presentation were recently posted.  Look for the link at the end of this article.

Attendance and Energy

I heard through the grapevine that the approximate attendance was around 500 users.  While not nearly as large as Solidworks World or Autodesk University, it’s still not a small number.  (I’m curious to learn how large Inventor University or Fusion 360 University would be if separated from all of the other Autodesk products.  Solidworks World, that’s just an inimitable singularity.)

And while no one was running into the main keynote session (Why would they? There is plenty of seating.), the energy level was aligned with the demographic. You see, Solid Edge users tend to be very loyal to their CAD system, so long as their CAD system improves their productivity. You’ll see a lot of very pragmatic users asking the tough question – “Sure, that’s a great feature, but how does it help me do my job better?”  Thankfully, the folks at Siemens understand their customers well and year-over-year focus on providing productivity-enhancing features like: tabbed documents, improved license management, UI tweaks that work the way you expect, material table enhancements, spiral curve, sheet metal improvements, patterning, sketching, and many more that I’ll start covering on this site.

Built-in Data Management

PDM is hard, PLM is harder.  PDM, quite frankly, is useless without the workflow aspect of PLM, so why bother?  Might was well just use the Windows file system to store your files. And that’s exactly what Siemens has done with Solid Edge ST9!

Built-in Data Management VaultI spent the first four hours of the conference attending the built-in data management workshop. While I would like to give all the credit to the Solid Edge development team, I feel that these enhancements are only available with ST9 thanks, in part, to changes in Windows itself.  Over the past several years, I’ve been noticing base Windows getting a lot of Sharepoint-like features built into it.  Now, Solid Edge ST9 comes with built-in data management tools that closely resemble some of the early features of Insight (Siemens’ PDM tool for Solid Edge built on top of Sharepoint).  See the connection?  But, quite frankly, I don’t care about the pedigree as much as I love the ability to better manage my data without any additional cost or requirement to manage/maintain/train on another software solution.

I spent the second half of the first day (all pre-conference start, mind you) in a workshop about the Solid Edge client for Teamcenter.  The big news here is the addition of Active Workspace into the Solid Edge application.  I tweeted back in June 2013 and again in Sept 2013 that I think Active Workspace should be the default UI for Teamcenter, not an additional license.  It appears that Siemens has been working towards my plea and I find myself ecstatic that Solid Edge is starting to get the same tight integration with Teamcenter that NX has.

Solid Edge University Proper

Solid Edge University 2016 officially kicked off Wednesday morning with the usual keynotes and highlights of the reason everyone came, Solid Edge.  During the keynotes Siemens did a fantastic job explaining their focus on education and STEM support.  If you want to measure how much support, measure in the billions.  I don’t think there was anyone in the room that left the keynote not wanting to get involved with Greenpower.

From there, the event split off into the usual sessions: part modeling, assembly modeling, sheet metal, synchronous technology, drafting, data management, additive manufacturing, vendor tools, simulation, rendering, etc.  If there was something you wanted to learn about Solid Edge, or one of the many other tools provided by 3rd party vendors, there was a session about it.  Don’t believe me?  Look for yourself.  You can find the presentations on the Solid Edge Community Knowledge Base.  You can also see the recordings of the live stream on the Community website also.

Not a Community member?  Why not?  It’s free, and you will find an amazing group of users from around the world, and even a few Siemens employees, willing to answer any questions you have.  And the next time you attend Solid Edge University, you’ll already have friends to meet up with.  I know I’ll be back.  Question is, what metaphorical hat will I be wearing?

Solid Edge University and New Content Coming Soon

G’day Mates!  I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself and let you know of some new and exciting things happening at Design & Motion.

As you know, D&M is a very Autodesk-centric blog and the owners of the site are working on diversifying the content.  Therefore, they invited me to join their list of authors to provide new content on other CAD tools.  In my case, Siemens PLM Systems’ Solid Edge.

About Me

I have been using Solid Edge in a production environment since version 9 or 10.  With the current release called ST9, it’s hard to know how many releases it has been, so I’ll just say around 15 years.  During that time, I’ve used Solid Edge for tool design, fixtures, gages, detailed product design, castings, machining, forgings, extrusions, assemblies, weldments, sheet metal, and of course drawings.  In addition to being a CAD user, I’ve been a CAD manager, a CAD administrator, and a CAD trainer.  I’m also a licensed professional engineer in Arizona and am a certified CMII Professional (that’s configuration management).  To say it succinctly, I’m not just a CAD jockey.

With this background, I’m going to bring you two kinds of content.  The first is practical application of the tool.  The usual tips-n-tricks, best practices, and other ways to actually utilize Solid Edge to get most value from it.  The other is the theoretical functionality of the tool.  What features are available, how they work, and the interesting things that you can create with them.  Hopefully, you’ll get inspired to explore Solid Edge and find new ways to be productive.

New Content

To provide a highlight of upcoming ideas in store, I put together an outline of my publishing schedule:

  • Data Management Monday: Covers topics about data management, server settings, Windows Explorer, File Locations, Release status, best practices, Life Cycle Management, PDM Systems that are available – but not details using the actual system.  That’s up to you and your company procedures.
  • Tips Tuesday: The regular tips-n-tricks type content.
  • What’s New Wednesday: Covers functionality listed in the “What’s New” document of the latest release of Solid Edge.
  • Thorough Thursday: Deep dive into all the intricacies of a specific feature: extrude, revolve, sweep, loft, etc. and compares to other methods of creating the same geometry.
  • Synchronous Saturday: All about the best ways to transition to synchronous, discussing not just functionality, but also processes and best practices.
  • Simulation Sunday: Exploring the functionality inside Solid Edge Simulation, the built-in FEA tool of the Solid Edge Premium license.

I’m hoping to start publishing in November, after Solid Edge University.  But don’t expect an article every day of the week.  I’m afraid life does have some other priorities.  But at least this way, you’ll know when to check back and what kind of article will be posted.  Speaking of Solid Edge University…

Solid Edge University

That’s right!  The annual user group meeting is coming up soon.  SEU is being held in Indianapolis Oct 25-27, 2016.  I’ll be there, for the first time as a true user and I plan on taking full advantage that the status provides: classes, certification, reception, EVERYTHING.  But, of course, I’ll be back here the following week giving a write-up of the event and then starting to provide regular content based on the above outline.

TL;DR

Thanks to D&M for welcoming me into their family.  I hope to provide unique and interesting content several days a week on Solid Edge.  Look for me at Solid Edge University and let me know if there is anything specific you’d like to read about.  Visit me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter.

Join the Community