Updated: Mar 25, 2019
When you do the same thing day-in and day-out, you seem to find little shortcuts to make things even easier. I covered this in my last blog article about Solid Edge Quicksheets. The same hold true for assembly techniques in Solid Edge. There are features that I use to make the monotony of assembling complex assemblies just a little bit more bearable. If there is one thing that I cannot stand in ANYTHING I do, it's doing the same thing over and over, and over, and over, and.......(see what I done there). Not to put down someone who works assembly lines, but I appreciate you, because I could never do the same tasks over and over!
With that said, sometimes, it's just unavoidable. For instance, putting many fasteners in an assembly to make it complete and correct. I have no way around that, but I can make it faster for you with the below techniques that I use on a daily basis.
I wanted to lead off with my ALL-TIME favorite technique. When I use other CAD programs (I'm looking at you Solid Works), I get beyond FRUSTRATED that I can't save mates as easy as I can in Solid Edge. Solid Edge has a feature that captures any mate(s) of a mated part that I want. I can store those to the part so that ANY time that part is used, I ONLY have to click on the necessary planes and entities in the new assembly, nothing on the source part....
EDIT....I was informed of a feature in Solid Works that is similar called Mate Reference. I'll give credit where credit is due. It allows you to at part level to choose how you may want to mate it, however some additional work may be need to done, for instance, locking rotation of a concentric mate.
You can also Capture Fit to ONLY that assembly that you are working in; not saving the mates to the part. This way if you use that fastener in other assemblies, but mate it differently, you are not getting a pesky dialogue box asking you how you want to mate it.
I Capture Fit of EVERY fastener I download from McMaster-Carr, any fastener that I model, etc... To use this command, simply right click on any mated part and find the Capture Fit command in the context menu under "More..."
I know this sounds like a give-me; every CAD person in the industry probably knows how to pattern. It's ok, I thought the same thing until I figured out the workflow in Solid Edge and how the pattern feature really works.
What I found out, is if at the PART level, if I create a hole, and then pattern it AT THE PART LEVEL, it does not play nice in Assembly. I can place a hole in the source hole, and then try to pattern it to the other holes, and it doesn't work out so nice.
So, how do you remedy this....easy! When I need to place a bunch of holes, I simply do it in the "place" step of the hole wizard. I place them all, and then constrain them with relationships and dimensions. This method ensures that the Assembly Pattern feature finds ALL of my holes that I want to pattern to in one swoop. It treats the Hole Wizard pattern of holes as a true pattern.
Mate using the Planes
This was a little trick that I learned at a previous job and I use it in EVERY 3D CAD program that I have ever used since. So it's not really a Solid Edge function, but just a good overall assembly technique.
Design_Intent mandates that we model in such a manner that makes making changes or manipulating models easier. One of those methods is to Model symmetric about the planes. Meaning...at least 2 of the primary planes of the part (top, right, front) pass though the center of the part. Never frame a part in the corner of two planes. When doing this, it makes your life so much easier in an assembly.
When noobies to Solid Edge or 3D CAD first learn the program, they LOVE using the "Concentric" mate, or love mating edge faces to edge faces. While that is great and can get the job done, they quickly find out in a production setting that they go make a change, and mates "blow-up" and you get all these nice red error messages because the CAD program is trying to honor a mate and can no longer due to said change. Let's face it, holes change locations, features change, and errors are bound to happen if a user does not foresee the change due to the sum of all of the mates.
The simplest thing you can do to prevent this is to use the planes to mate and center things to each other. The planes are usually the few things that stay constant! They never change although the geometry around them changes. So mate a front plane of one part, to the front plane of the assembly; the right plane of a part to the right plane of the assembly. This automatically takes away a few degrees of freedom; which is the ultimate goal when assembling parts. it will take a front-back movement, left to right movement, and prohibits said part from spinning. The only they left to do is eliminate the up-down movement, which at this point can be two features or planes on each part to get it where it needs to go.
Now this will not ALWAYS work. In order for this to work, parts have to share a common axis when mated, or a common center. I worked in the pneumatic regulator business, where most parts all share a centrally located axis, which made this method easy. In my current job, with tougher assemblies, I cannot always do this, but utilize it where I can in most of my-sub assemblies.
I was amazed at the first time I looked at the little preview window of the part in the Part-Library and orbiting like I would in the normal workspace and the part moved too. This is not just for to view the part, it actually has a purpose. You can position that part in a way to when dragged in, it comes in in that orientation so that you make use of the "Flip" button a little less. Gasp....did you know that!? I know, I was amazed too! Try it for yourself!
Show-Only, Show All, Hide All
Once again, another feature I wish all CAD programs had in assembly mode. Sure, SolidWorks has "Isolate", but let me tell you like it is, the feature sucks and leaves a lot to be desired. In Solid Edge, we have the option to "Show All" parts in the assembly. So any that you have unchecked over on the Pathfinder, will become checked and visible when used.
There is a Show Only as well which is MAY FAVORITE. This allows you to Ctrl-select multiple parts, and then SHOW ONLY those parts for the time being. Great feature when you have too many things in the way.
Lastly, there is Hide All. This too works great with Ctrl-selecting multiple parts, and then hiding just those parts.
To do any of the three above commands, you can find them in the context menu when right-clicking our in empty space in your work area.
So there you have it, these are some of my top assembly techniques when using Solid Edge. I could probably write about a few more, but you will be here all night LOL.