ATTENTION, Solid Edge Sheet Metal Developers Please Check In

Sometimes as you wander through your daily life in the design build world you run across things periodically that irritate the heck out of you. This week all I want to do is design a transition that will go from a 13.875″ wide 16.25″ long ID rectangular base to a 12″ offset round with an overall height of 13″.

Now this is not a problem in SE until you realize that HEY, HOW do I do this and have segmented bends in the corners so I can actually produce this thing in my shop? I did not know any way to do this and in checking with support today they told me it was not an existing capability in SE. ER: 1629173 is the number of interest for you SE users who would like to see this change. Pile on guys, the squeaky wheel is the one oiled and I now have my jelly bean candidate for SEU 2014 roundtables.

In researching how to work around this I came up with two products that appear to fill the bill. Both of these claim to create and unfold various sheet metal fabrications and they can get to be quite complex especially in the “Sheet Lightning” program. They also will allow you to print out using your regular printer and standard size sheets of paper thereby making a template you can actually lay out on your sheet metal as a guide for cutting and bending. A REALLY handy thing for a whole bunch of shops to just get a single item out quickly.

“Sheet Lightning” of course is one of these. I have an older version (5.2) of this program and it does work. I have used it before and I used it again on this transition. It will allow you to output a DXF file also which you can send out for fabrication to your favorite laser guy. One thing I have never found is how to assign thickness to your metal which is pretty darned critical. I have had a question in for most of today to Revcad but no answer yet so I have no idea if this capability is in the newer versions. It is far more complicated to learn than the next program but it will allow you to do some seriously complicated things that “Plate and Sheet” in my brief examination apparently wont. It is also FAR cheaper at $150.00

“Plate and Sheet Professional” is the other candidate. It is far more expensive at $900+ $ AU and I feel it has design limitations that Sheet Lightning does not BUT it appears to be far more adapted to a production environment. Easier to learn and allows for thickness of material as inside, outside or neutral for the purposes of calculating layouts. At six times the cost it is quite pricy but since the other program does not apparently have thickness as an input it would be worth it in many cases especially if you start getting into heavier sheet metal or plate. In any case I downloaded V4.2 today and here is a video of just how easy this thing is to use.

I am extending an invitation to both companies to comment here to correct any errors or omissions on my part as I am not real conversant with either program. Hopefully they will respond.

UPDATE, this is from Sheet lightning.

Hi Dave,

Thanks for letting us know about this posting. My apologies for not responding sooner, it initially got mistaken for spam.

On the issue of thickness of material in Sheet Lightning we have found the best solution is for the user to use the neutral axis dimensions (inner diameter + 2x (0.5 * thickness)) to define half way through the material as the neutral axis which is perfectly adequate for most cases as most uses are for relatively thin sheet (which we would defines as: diameter > thickness * 40). In some cases where thicker material is used and greater accuracy is wanted we advise the use of a factor to give slight correction (e.g. inner diameter + 2x(f*thickness)) where the factor may typically be 0.4 – 0.5, often typically something like 0.47. This is material and forming process dependent and may be derived empirically so it is difficult to specify for every case but in the absence of empirical data through experiment there is enough advice available out there on that to help the user decide.

We have in the past enabled thickness of material and a factor as parameters that worked internally in this way but found it caused more complications (mainly by cluttering the parameter lists) than were necessary and it was simply better to train users to work this way directly.

I hope this answers your questions. Thanks for the article, it is good to see people like you taking an interest in our product/s. If you need further input please let us know.

Trevor Maddison

5-6-14 here is a response to Dennis from Ryan Gudorf in regards to a Tee. Thanks Ryan.


16 responses to “ATTENTION, Solid Edge Sheet Metal Developers Please Check In

  1. If you’ve got the flat pattern and the bend locations can’t you have your laser guy cut the part and scribe the bend locations on the flat. Then just form up in press? Although, that doesn’t really help you with a 3D model.

    • Hi Ryan,
      The problem is that SE apparently does not have the capability to create layouts with bend lines so it can’t provide the laser guys with anything useful.

  2. Can I upload a file to you? I think I have what you want, but its a bit tricky to set it up (and I just wasted an hour to figure it out).

  3. Hi Dave,

    Actually this is pretty easy to do,…..took me nearly all of 4 minutes.
    Two sketches & a lofted flange, then flat pattern, DONE!
    [let me know if you want my file for comparison also]

    • Hi Sean,
      Sure send it on. Remember now that I need nine bend lines per corner, the 12 round is offset to one 13.875″ end and centered and that I need two 180 degree segments. I know that SE can do the basic rectangle to round but no one has been able to do it just like the video in the post does it with layouts for the segmantal bends.

  4. Hi Dave,

    To have segmented bends, look in the lofted flange “options”, on the bending method tab. [Use triangulation check box…with number of lines]
    Make a flat pattern of the file I sent, and the bend lines will be there….if you only wanted a half segment, I would typically just make a cutout in the flat pattern state.

    • OK guys I see files from both of you and while the data is no where near as comprehensive as the two programs I mentioned I can see making it work. I will have to check back with Ally PLM and see why I was told what I was told. Matt Johnson is pretty sharp so there has to be a gotcha somewhere. Do you see any way to output a coordinate chart or to print a template to use for direct layout? Of course I never remember the ordered side of things because I just never go there. You may have provided a reason for me to consider doing so at least for sheet metal.

  5. When I’ve had to get one made by hand in our shop, I’d draw a grid [with suitable zone labeling] that was relative to printable size, using “Draw In View” then “print area” forcing 1:1 print scale on each region.

    • One of the conclusions I am coming to especially after your replies and Ryan’s reply is that yes this kind of work can be done but it is not like a program designed for doing this. The data I see with Sheet Lightning and Plate and Sheet which is created faster than SE could ever do is far more comprehensive and useful for production in a shop. I would guess that most shops that do a lot of this kind of work have third party software just as is the case at Ryan’s place. Sad to say I guess there are still reasons to keep ordered around. Thanks guys for reminding me by the way because I overlook anything in ordered, I just never use it.

      I don’t know at this time how to post these sheet metal files sent to me here so sadly I don’t have any examples to show.

  6. Dave,
    Solid Edge isn’t the best thing to use for these types of fittings, but if it’s all you have, it can do some amazing things. Like Sean, it took all of just a couple of minutes using the lofted flange command. Which I can post here if I can figure it out. I made it in half sections, so basically a left hand/right handed scenario. However, our shop would normally use the “4 parts on a diagonal” layout method (in your video example), not half pieces. For one reason only…they are easier to form. Yes, it adds two more weld seams, but we can do that faster than we can form in two pieces.

    Also, the lofted flange command will give you up to 24 bend lines per section, but since you normally bend to one location on the rectangular end, we would make that id radius very small as Edge insists on making the same amount of bend segments in the rectangle as well. Oh,,,and the Lofted Flange command will NOT give you bend data in the drafting environment like every other straight break sheet metal part will.

    HOWEVER, in a weird twist of irony…use the Part Environments “Lofted Protrusion” tool to create your part, then thin-wall it, convert to sheet metal and unfold it and viola, you get BEND ANGLES in drafting environment. Don’t ask me why…seems a little backwards to me!

  7. We do these types of fittings quite often, so we utilize a seperate CAM program called “Shopdata” (not cheap) to generate the flat patterns and generate nests and NC code. Our guys in the shop, including myself, went through a five year apprenticeship program where part of it was learning the old school hand layout methods and forming. So they really never wanted or asked for the bend dimensions. They mark the lines on there own and form to a radial template that they have on hand.

  8. Hi Dave, you guys are doing a great job, more strength to your elbows. i have passion for this job but i have difficulty in fabricating ”T BRANCH” please i need your help. thanks.

  9. in 1990 i wrote a Lisp program that appeared in Cadalist Magazine called “Flat Out”. it used some interesting mathematics.
    My approach was to draw a solid cone. then chop off the top ie cutting plane perpendicular axis of the cone. this gives a round to round transition. Then draw a square on the base of this cone. Then using the 3 points. 2 on vertex of the square side and the third point on the circumference of the round that is half way between the 2 points on the square in plan view… or the 3rd point on the circle that lies on a line perpendicular to the line midway between the 2 points on the square.
    Then you have a cutting plan defined by these 3 point on the solid. cut an delete that side of the cone. Then do that 3 more times and you get a square to round transition.
    But hats off to those write these programs there is a company in florida that use to sell one for 900$. but that was many years ago. The responce from Rev Cad seem vary logical. i noted bend allowance changes with material too. Aluminum hard steel and mild steel differ.
    I have an excel spread sheet giving press break angle given the equation between 2 planes and these 2 equations of planes are generated from 3 points x,y,z

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