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Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology 3: Visualization and Rendering

SE with ST3 gives you a set of rendering and animation tools under the Tools tab.

SE with ST3 gives you a set of rendering and animation tools under the Tools tab.

Predefined materials tab gives you materials, environments, light studios, and backgrounds you can drag and drop into your rendering window.

Predefined materials tab gives you materials, environments, light studios, and backgrounds you can drag and drop into your rendering window.

Editable materials make it easy for you to brighten a scene (by adjusting the intensity of light).

Editable materials make it easy for you to brighten a scene (by adjusting the intensity of light).

Once CAD programs competed over the richness of features, in what I’d like to call the anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better arena. Since most leading CAD programs are now almost neck-to-neck in modeling functions, the feature war becomes a pointless exercise, a shouting match. Many are moving into the next frontier, rendering and visualization. Autodesk Inventor, PTC Creo/Pro (previously Pro/E), and SolidWorks all give you a set of tools to produce a photo-realistic rendering of your design. Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology 3 (SE with ST3), though better known for its direct (or history-free) modeling methods, also comes loaded with a rendering environment, powered by LightWorks.

In addition to the usual visual styles (shadow casting, ground plane shadows, hidden lines, and reflections), SE with ST3 offers perspectives that mimic wide-angle, 35mm, and 80mm camera views. It also offers the option to adjust and position the light in the modeling window (separate from the rendering environment).

As with most CAD programs, the default setup in the modeling window displays your model with simplified geometry (zoom in close to blends and curves and you’ll see that they’re drawn with a series of jagged straight lines, not perfect arcs). In SE with ST3, you can readjust the sharpness to higher levels to increase the accuracy of the geometry visible on screen. Bear in mind, however, that it may slow your system down in rotation and complex edits.

Rendering functions available under Tools tab are complete with materials, light studios, circular and square bases, rooms, backdrops, and HDRI. Session materials provide an expandable tree showing the content of the design as it is. Predefined materials provide you with new finishes and environment you can drag and drop into your rendering window to create your scene. (Keep in mind, the predefined materials you apply to your model won’t affect how the model will behave in stress analysis and mechanical simulation; they’re strictly for generating a certain aesthetic look.)

The quickest way to visualize how a design will look fully rendered is to simply render a small — preferably the most complex — area by drawing a rectangle window around the desired portion of the scene. This allows you to get an accurate preview without exhausting computing cycles. By default, SE with ST3 won’t rerender the scene each time you make a scene. So if you prefer, you’ll need to place check marks in the Rendering options dialog box to trigger an automatic refresh after each change.

Almost all the predefined materials, light studios, environments, and base structures are editable, just with a right-click away. So you can, for example, easily adjust the size of the base to match the dimension of the model or increase light intensity to increase the scene’s brightness.

The increase emphasis in visualization turns on its head the old notion that CAD models just need to be accurate, not pretty. The new generation of CAD software that now comes equipped with renderers give designers and engineers a way to extend the use of CAD data beyond production and manufacturing. Repackaging a CAD model for a marketing brochure, a design proposal, or a promotional website is now easier than you think.

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About Kenneth

Kenneth Wong has been a regular contributor to the CAD industry press since 2000, first an an editor, later as a columnist and freelance writer for various publications. During his nine-year tenure, he has closely followed the migration from 2D to 3D, the growth of PLM (product lifecycle management), and the impact of globalization on manufacturing. His writings have appeared in Cadalyst, Computer Graphics World, and Manufacturing Business Technology, among others.

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