Case Study

Design speed and flexibility aid aerospace mechanical engineering curriculum

Utah State University Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering

Solid Edge with synchronous technology enables USU to radically accelerate student learning curve

Top-50 research institution

Utah State University (USU) is nationally and internationally recognized for its intellectual and technological leadership in land, water, space and life enhancement. The university has 850 faculty members who provide education for more than 25,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Known for its strength in academics, USU counts 11 Goldwater Scholars and a Rhodes Scholar among its graduates in the past ten years, as well has nine Carnegie Professors of the Year – more than any other school in the state.

USU is also a top-50 research institution. Among endeavors, the university owns Space Dynamics Laboratory (SDL), a unit of the Utah State University Research Foundation. SDL is a nonprofit research corporation charged with applying basic research to the technology challenges presented in the military and science arenas. SDL specializes in electro-optical sensor systems, calibration, thermal management, reconnaissance systems and small satellite technologies.

Among achievements, USU and SDL, in a joint effort, initiated the first student involvement program for the NASA Space Shuttle.

USU and SDL use Siemens’ Solid Edge

Both USU and SDL use Solid Edge® software and leverage its synchronous technology, the first-ever history-free and feature-based solid modeling software. Synchronous technology combines the speed and flexibility of direct modeling with the precise control of dimension-driven design. USU uses Solid Edge with synchronous technology for teaching engineering students. SDL employs Solid Edge with synchronous technology for commercial design projects.

John Devitry, CAD administrator at SDL and adjunct professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at USU, notes, “Solid Edge with synchronous technology is flat-out easier to use. You don’t get bogged down in learning the CAD system. It is a new CAD system. Literally new – everything is different. And in this case, new isn’t just new, but also far better.”

Synchronous technology dramatically heightens student learning

“We immediately transitioned to teaching Solid Edge with synchronous technology, especially for conceptual design,” says Devitry. He loves using the tool in his mechanical and aerospace engineering classes, although it did require changes in his pop quizzes. Devitry explains, “The technology is so effective that my usual one-half hour quizzes were being completed in minutes by my students. Now I make the quizzes far tougher. The students are learning more, acquiring far greater depth and doing so far faster than ever before.”

Devitry notes that a fair number of his students had never used CAD before. “They don’t have the biases of complex design processes built in,” he says. “With synchronous technology, the way they naturally think about the design is the way the software works. Prior to synchronous technology, we couldn’t cover a lot of important material because we were spending time teaching the CAD interface. Now we spend more time on key engineering topics such as motion and analysis. It’s amazing how much more focus we can place on core engineering concepts because the design process isn’t getting in the way. The volume of academics in these classes has increased and will keep growing.”

Most importantly to most students, Solid Edge with synchronous technology pays real-world dividends. “Our students work on a whole gamut of real-world projects, designing parts, running them through the machine shop, assembling instruments and calibrating them,” says Devitry. “In fact, we hire students from our own classes. With more extensive engineering knowledge, made possible by Solid Edge with synchronous technology, many students immediately go on to work for leaders in the industry.”

Devitry pinpoints the power of the technology: “Solid Edge with synchronous technology bridges the gaps and holes. We have a lot of parts with faces at odd angles. Mirrors bouncing light around at weird cut angles. It’s a lot easier to rotate a face and feature using the Solid Edge wheel feature than to have to place a reference plane at an angle – that’s hard to do. Now with synchronous technology, you just use the wheel to rotate the surface. It’s so very easy to manipulate and modify models with synchronous technology.”

Student perspective

At the end of classes in his most recent term, Devitry asked his students to write a short sentence on their impression of Solid Edge with synchronous technology. Some of the students had at least some experience on other CAD systems. That perspective is insightful as are their impressions on a number of important issues, including ease of use.

Why Solid Edge

Chad Christensen: “I have spent some time with AutoCAD and Solid Edge with synchronous technology is much more user friendly. With synchronous technology you can do more with less knowledge of how the system works. With AutoCAD you need to know a lot of command words to do things.”

Michael Lichfield: “The synchronous technology that is incorporated into Solid Edge is much easier to use than all of the other CAD systems I have used in the past. I have used three different CAD systems before Solid Edge and synchronous technology is by far the best software I have used.”

Mitch Baugh: “Synchronous technology cuts down on the amount of steps and sketches needed to form complicated parts. Working previously with [Autodesk] Inventor I felt limited in the complexity of parts I could create. Synchronous technology has cut down on time and confusing sketches.”

Christopher Hatch: “Synchronous technology has everything I need in a CAD system, and I am really impressed that all parts, whether created on SolidWorks or Autodesk Inventor, etc. can be used in synchronous technology.”

They love the “wheel”

Nathan Wright: “Solid Edge is leaps and bounds ahead of AutoCAD software. Everything seems to be simplified. Complex jobs are made intuitive and the ‘wheel’ allows free and easy manipulation of the solid model.”

Brandon Westfall: “Solid Edge with synchronous technology simply outperforms all other CAD systems I have used. The ‘wheel’ makes parts easier to modify and build compared to Autodesk Inventor or SolidWorks.”

Sean Hubrich: “Compared to SolidWorks, Solid Edge is on a completely different level. The ingenious ‘wheel’ used in Solid Edge cuts out hours and hours of frustration. Even Autodesk Inventor can’t keep up with synchronous technology. After taking classes in all three, I would choose Solid Edge in a heartbeat.”

Lauren Gwilliam: “The ‘wheel’ in synchronous technology made adjustments easy and eliminated unnecessary steps and cutouts. I love using Solid Edge! Synchronous technology makes it really easy to work, but not just that, it allows you to tackle a problem from many different directions.”

Javier Sanchez: “The ‘wheel’ makes model adjustments really easy instead of having to cut and extrude as in the past.”

Ease of use, flexibility, design freedom

Tate Shorthill: “Solid Edge synchronous technology is incredibly powerful and easy to use, giving me far more freedom to actually design the way I think.”

Jens Rodman: “Synchronous technology has a lot more options and features and is far more user friendly and simpler to use than AutoCAD and other CAD programs.”

Richard Moore: “Synchronous technology gives me the freedom to create without being bound by sketches and draft views as in previous CAD software.”

Kassie Walburger: “I like the flexibility of synchronous technology and how user friendly it is. As a first-time user, I was very impressed with how easy it was to catch on to and start modeling right away.”

Joshua Auger: “This was my first time using any kind of CAD system. Synchronous technology is easy to use because it works the way I intuitively think. When I want to make a part with Solid Edge with synchronous technology I am able to manipulate the shapes in a way that seem natural to me in order to proceed and create what I want.”

Cameron Thompson: “The flexibility of synchronous technology is amazing. For example not having to go back to edit sketches to change part features opens up a whole new world.”

Colton Kilmer: “Solid Edge synchronous technology is amazingly user friendly and simple to use, reducing steps and time spent modeling 3D parts.”

The Siemens factor

Dave McLain, who supervises the design team at SDL, says, “Solid Edge with synchronous technology is really a new CAD technology. Having used five different 3D CAD systems over the past 25 years, Solid Edge with synchronous technology offers a different thought process that eliminates the complexity of previous systems. The old days of being locked into a complex process are over. Siemens is breaking the walls down and establishing a far superior design approach.”

According to Devitry, “It’s as much about the relationship with Siemens as their technology, including not just our use of Solid Edge with synchronous technology but also Teamcenter and Femap with NX Nastran." He explains, “I trust their people; they stand behind what they say and with a stable workforce it’s been easy to build long-term relationships and keep them intact over the years – that’s not something I can say about many companies in today’s environment.” Steve Wassom, Devitry’s supervisor, wholly concurs. Wassom is a significant user with very positive experience using Solid Edge and other software from Siemens.

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